ANNAPOLIS -- Anne Arundel County's historic Circuit Courthouse will soon be losing the judges, clerks and juries who have worked to administer justice there for 166 years.

County and city officials announced last week that they are abandoning long-standing plans to expand the old courthouse in favor of building a new one across from the county goverment center on Calvert Street.

When the project is completed in 1993, all court offices will be moved out of the old Church Circle building. The 19th Century structure will then be restored to its original condition and used to house several county functions, including the County Council, and possibly non-profit groups such as the Historic Annapolis Foundation.

County Attorney Stephen R. Beard said officials changed their plans -- after spending $800,000 planning an addition to the current courthouse -- when they realized it would be cheaper to build another facility outside Annapolis's historic district.

According to Beard, the addition would have cost about $32 million, while the new courthouse and the renovation combined will cost about $23 million. The saving is largely attributable to the $5.5 million it would have cost to build an underground parking garage at the old site. The county already owns a parking garage next to the new location.

Beard said the new courthouse, with 12 modern courtrooms, will provide more space and better security than the six-courtroom addition would have provided.

The existing courthouse was last expanded during the 1950s and since then, an increase in the number of judges and cases tried there has outgrown the space, Beard said.

"The place has the sense of a stockyard at times when you have 100 or 200 jurors over there for a trial," Beard said. He said witnesses, lawyers, jurors, and defendants "all have to roam the same hallways and there is little privacy."

Anne Arundel has nine Circuit Court judges who are now operating out of eight courtrooms.

Construction is expected to begin in two years.