Since the creation of Johnson County in 1855, the county court system has occupied three different facilities. The building that was demolished in 2021 had housed the Tenth District Court of Kansas for more than half a century.
In the beginning, Johnson County used space on the second floor of the Harry Case Building (built in 1859) as the county courthouse.
Then county voters approved a special tax to build the first official county courthouse at a cost of $36,414. Located north of the present courthouse, the three-story brick building opened in 1892.
The current courthouse opened in 1952. When construction began in 1951, the court system had only three judges. The county population was approximately 63,000. The facility had nine floors and almost 235,000 square feet of space. Besides the court system, the courthouse housed most county government departments.
In 1954, the county made an addition to the building, followed by a third wing in 1968. By 1975, the courts had expanded to eight judges. The county population had increased fourfold — to more than 237,000 residents. In need of more space, the county added an eight-story tower onto the east side of the building.
Through the years, the building evolved to address the continual need for more space. The jail moved from the fourth floor to new detention centers in Olathe and Gardner.
As of 2016, the courthouse had 19 district courts, four magistrate courts and three hearing officers. It saw about 400,000 visitors per year. It housed the law library, the Clerk of the District Court and District Attorney’s Office.
In 2005 and 2008, studies and master planning concluded the courthouse was “inadequate and fails to meet even the current space requirements of the Johnson County Courts.”
The studies cited inefficiencies in:
- Security, including movement, transportation and separation of inmates between visitors and court officials
- Costly mechanical systems
- Failing to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements
- Serving the general public
Studies also concluded that as the population grows, the county will need more space for court hearings.
The fourth courthouse in the 166-year history of Johnson County opened in January 2021 after more than two years of construction.
The new Johnson County Courthouse is across Santa Fe Street north of the old courthouse and west of Olathe City Hall. The address is 150 W. Santa Fe St.
The 356,821 square feet, seven story courthouse building includes 28 courtrooms, secure in-custody circulation, state of the art technology, public gathering spaces and a parking lot.
The old courthouse was demolished, and work remaining within the J.E. Dunn design-build contract includes development of a county square.
The cost is $193 million. The design/build team is led by JE Dunn Construction. The architects are TreanorHL & Fentress Architects.
The new courthouse addresses issues of concern for the community and residents, and it:
- Separates inmates and criminal defendants from victims, witnesses, jurors and others in courthouse corridors.
- Replaces the aging, overcrowded courthouse with a more efficient, high-performing building.
- Is fully Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant.
The courthouse will meet Johnson County's judicial needs for more than 75 years as the county expects to add 10,000 residents each year. Its design will also allow for the addition of additional courtrooms later as needed.