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Parties in Springfield courthouse lawsuit ask for time to discuss remediation of mold, leaks

Roderick Ireland Courthouse in Springfield.
Creative Commons
Roderick Ireland Courthouse in Springfield.

A trial scheduled to begin this week over whether to shutter Roderick Ireland Courthouse in Springfield, Massachusetts, has been delayed. That's after plaintiffs and the state's trial court administrators asked the judge for more time to formalize a settlement.

A joint motion filed Monday said the parties have reached a preliminary agreement.

"The agreement includes remediation and deep cleaning of the Courthouse to address factors that may be negatively impacting indoor environmental quality, while permitting the Courthouse to remain open to continue administering justice for the people of Hampden County," the motion said. "Both sides are therefore of the view that resolving this matter through adoption of this agreement would serve the interests of justice."

The attorneys said they need two more weeks to iron out the details. An online docket for the case noted a delay was granted Monday, with a hearing now scheduled for May 3.

The plaintiffs include current and past workers at the courthouse. They have said longstanding mold issues and the overall air quality in the building has adversely affected the health of many employees.

Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni and Registrar of Deeds Cheryl Coakley-Rivera pulled staff from the facility, citing health and safety concerns. Last summer and again this spring, Sheriff Nick Cocchi also stopped sending people in his custody to the courthouse. A spokesperson for Cocchi, Rob Rizzuto, said appearances are conducted remotely, unless otherwise ordered by a judge.

"If that is the case, we have an arrangement with the judges where we bring the person straight to the courtroom at the exact time of their hearing and remove them from the building immediately afterward unless, of course, they are released by the court," Rizzuto said in an email. "The process is set up to limit the time our inmates and staff spend in the building while still ensuring that the pursuit of justice continues uninterrupted."

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal has also called for federal labor and environmental officials to get involved. Some local leaders have pushed for the state to completely replace the courthouse, instead of making extensive renovations.

Several officials with the state's Trial Court are named as defendants in the lawsuit. The court system recently posted a report online saying remediation efforts over water leaks and mold have been mostly successful.

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