SKOWHEGAN — The Somerset County Superior Courthouse, which was built in the 19th century in Skowhegan, is due to get a $45 million replacement.

The aged courthouse at the corner of Court and High streets is to be replaced with a three-story, 30,000-square-foot addition to the Skowhegan District Courthouse across High Street.

Construction is expected between April 2026 and December 2027, according to plans.

The Maine Legislature passed a bill earlier this year to raise $205 million in bonds for renovations to court facilities in Androscoggin, Hancock and Somerset counties. It became law May 1, without Gov. Janet Mills’ signature.

“It needed to be taken care of,” Rep. Jennifer Poirier, R-Skowhegan, said. “Otherwise, things are going to continue to go downhill.”

Sen. Brad Farrin, R-Norridgewock, and delegates from the other counties where courthouse renovations are planned also sponsored the bill.


Clerks at both Skowhegan courthouses now work in cramped offices, causing some to move their desks into hallways, Poirier said.

And it has been a challenge to staff court security at two courthouses, drawing concern from judges. Court security in Somerset County is provided by the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office.

There is also a problem with bats, which have infested the upstairs at the Superior Courthouse, where old files are stored.

The addition to the District Courthouse, which will be called the Somerset Judicial Center, is supposed to address the issues.

Plans include four new courtrooms, at least eight conference rooms and a larger clerk of court’s office, according to the Judicial Branch.

Security upgrades include a secure parking area for judges and staff members, a new prisoner holding areas and an expanded entry screening area. The design is also expected to allow for separate circulation routes within the building for court staff members, the public and incarcerated defendants.


Plans call for the new building to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, an improvement over the courtroom on the second floor of the Superior Courthouse.

To build the addition, the state acquired the residence at 55 Court St., which is between the District Courthouse, built in 1997, and the large parking lot on Court Street.

“It’s a perfect scenario to add on,” Poirier said.

The Somerset Judicial Center will be the latest consolidated court facility in the state. Since 2000, the Maine Judicial Branch has reduced its court facilities from 48 to 31, according to testimony before the Legislature from State Court Administrator Amy Quinlan.

Combining courthouses is more efficient, Quinlan said, because it allows court clerks to work out of one office, requires judicial marshals to staff only one buildings and reduces what the state pays in operational costs, such as maintenance and heating.

It also makes sense to no longer have the District and Superior courthouses in two buildings, Quinlan said, because Maine’s legal system has largely done away with the distinction between the two courts.


In 1999, the appeals process from District Court to Superior Court was eliminated. In 2015, all criminal cases were combined into one unified docket.

The new courthouse will be owned by the state, rather than Somerset County, which owns the Superior Courthouse. A 1976 law establishing a statewide, unified court system forced some counties, including Somerset, to provide facilities for state courts — without compensation — in what was expected to be a short-term solution, Quinlan said.

“Over the years, this arrangement has led to an untenable situation: 19th century buildings occupied in great part by the state courts — but owned by the counties — are in great need of modernization and are falling into disrepair,” Quinlan said in her testimony.

Somerset County receives no money from the state for the use of the courthouse, but maintenance and operational costs are minimal, County Administrator Tim Curtis said.

After the court moves, the county’s administrative offices will continue to be housed on the lower floors at the existing Superior Courthouse, Curtis said.

This winter, county officials will likely begin to consider a plan for the upper floor, which houses the courtroom, district attorney’s office and judge’s chambers, Curtis said.


“We have just started talking about that,” he said.

Most of the building was built in 1873 in the Italianate style. It features “round arched and segmental window caps, brick corbelling and a wood cornice supported on brackets,” according to a 1973 application to the National Register of Historic Places.

Former Gov. Abner Coburn, a Skowhegan resident, offered to pay for its construction to settle a dispute between the towns of Norridgewock and Skowhegan, according to the application.

In 1872, the county seat of Somerset County was changed from Norridgewock to Skowhegan, but Skowhegan needed a suitable space to hold court. Skowhegan offered temporary facilities, which were deemed unacceptable by county commissioners. This led to extensive litigation, before Coburn stepped in, according to the National Register of Historic Places.

As activity increased at the courthouse, additions were added in 1904 and 1938.

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