A group of volunteer lawyers traded their suits for T-shirts and jeans yesterday to roll the first fresh paint on a new waiting room for children at the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse in downtown Baltimore.
The waiting room, being constructed in an office formerly used by attorneys, will have a bright atmosphere with donated books and toys that should offer a much-needed alternative to the dank, musty halls where children wait for juvenile court now, organizers said yesterday.
"A lot of people bring children to the courthouse for whatever reason," said Miriam Hutchins, a Baltimore Circuit Court domestic master who volunteered yesterday. "This is a place they can come where they can read and play. It'll be a reading and resource sort of room."
Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan, who as administrative judge of the court helped secure the space for the waiting room, pulled a T-shirt over his dress shirt to apply the first roll of purple paint. He was joined by Judge Martin Welch, who is in charge of the city juvenile court.
The room is scheduled to be open for children this month.
Yesterday's "paint-in" was sponsored by the Young Lawyers' Division of the American Bar Association, which will hold its mid-winter meeting in Baltimore this weekend. The committee has made the creation of courthouse waiting rooms for children a national project.
The project also is being sponsored by the Baltimore Circuit Court, the Baltimore City Bar and the Alliance of Black Women Attorneys. Materials and books are being donated by department stores and book stores. Volunteers will read to children in the waiting room.
The bowels of the Mitchell courthouse, where witnesses, defendants and parents in juvenile cases are thrown together to wait for court, have drawn complaints from juvenile advocates for years. Judge David B. Mitchell, administrative judge of the juvenile court for 11 years until last September, has compared the area to "a dungeon." Local attorneys and judges still are trying to find funding for an extensive renovation of the main juvenile waiting room.