Courts to be closed due to sub-zero weather

Cook County has announced that courts will be closed Wednesday, January 30, 2019 and Thursday, January 31, 2019 due to expected sub-zero degree temperatures.  The only exception will be bond court at 26th Street and 555 W. Harrison.

This link will take you to Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ order, which includes information concerning rescheduled court dates.

Other courts have officially announced that they will be closed Wednesday, including the Federal Court in Chicago and state courts in DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties.  You can find information about court closures here:  http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/

 

Two Chicago Branch Court locations have closed

As of yesterday, January 7, 2019, two Chicago Branch Courts have been officially closed.  The courthouses were located at Belmont and Western and at 51st Street and Wentworth.

Misdemeanor cases from Belmont and Western (Branch 29), will now be heard at Branch 23, located at Grand and Central.

Felony cases from Belmont and Western (Branch 45), will now be heard at the Second Municipal District Courthouse located at 5600 Old Orchard Road in Skokie.

Cases that were previously heard at 51st and Wentworth will be divided up between the Branch courthouses located at 3150 W. Flournoy (Flournoy and Kedzie) and at 727 E. 111th Street.  If you are not sure which courthouse to go to, call the criminal court clerk at (312) 603-4641.

Cook County Branch Courts at Belmont and Western and at 51st St to close January 4th

From the Cook County Courts website:

The Circuit Court and Cook County have finalized the scheduled closing of two Chicago branch court locations – 155 W. 51st St. and 2452 W. Belmont Ave.  – to take effect after court concludes on January 4, 2019.

The two branch court closings, which were finalized as part of the budget litigation settlement between the county and the court, will help the county avoid $9.2 million in repairs, renovations and maintenance that would be necessary to keep the two buildings safe, operational and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The matters now heard at each city branch court are misdemeanor bail hearings, misdemeanor trials and felony preliminary hearings.

The upcoming changes are:

  • Starting on December 10, 2018, all misdemeanor bail hearings at all five city branch court locations will move to the Leighton Criminal Court Building, 2600 S. California Ave. This brings all Chicago bail hearings to one location, as is currently done on weekends and holidays.
  • Starting on January 7, 2019, all other misdemeanor matters (such as misdemeanor trials) and felony preliminary hearings at 155 W. 51st St. will move – depending on the location of the alleged offense – either to the branch court location at 727 E. 111th St. or the branch court location at 3150 W. Flournoy St.
  • Starting on January 7, 2019, all other misdemeanor matters (such as misdemeanor trials) at 2452 W. Belmont Ave. will move to 5555 W. Grand Ave. The felony preliminary hearings at 2452 W. Belmont Ave. and 5555 W. Grand Ave. will move to the Skokie courthouse, 5600 Old Orchard Road, which is where those two branch courts’ cases already go when they advance to trial. Felony matters that arise in Chicago and are already heard in Skokie do not include Chicago murder charges and Chicago sexual assault charges, which are currently only heard at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.

Defendants should check their bail bond slip, summons, ticket or notice-to-appear documents for the correct court location. Those whose court locations may change will receive notice by mail from the Clerk of the Circuit Court. Defendants may also contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court’s Criminal Department at (312) 603-4641.

 

Two Cook County Branch courthouses to close

It is official:  the Cook County branch courthouses at “Belmont and Western” and “51st and Wentworth” are going to be closed in cost-cutting moves.  Both locations have two courtrooms, one for misdemeanors and the other for felony preliminary hearings.

According to the Chicago Tribune:

Despite the closings, no Circuit Court of Cook County workers will face layoffs this year. But all employees will have to take 10 unpaid furlough days, a move that will save the county $6.2 million. The settlement between Preckwinkle and Chief Circuit Court Judge Timothy Evans also will close one housing unit within the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, and its 22 vacant positions will be eliminated.

It has not yet been announced when the courthouses will close, or where the cases will be transferred.  It is expected that the closings will occur by the end of August.

Cook County in talks to close two branch courts

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chief Judge Timothy Evans have reached an agreement to close the branch courthouses at Belmont and Western and at 51st Street by September.  Both branch courthouses have two courtrooms apiece, one that handles felony preliminary hearings and one that handles misdemeanors.  The cases will be moved to other courthouses.

Cook County pays out 3.25 million to woman assaulted in Markham lockup

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Nine officers of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office are still on the payroll even though the county unanimously voted Wednesday to pay $3.25 million to a woman who was sexually assaulted on their watch in the lockup at the Markham Courthouse.

Cara Smith, chief policy adviser to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, said Wednesday that the office is seeking to terminate the officers, a decision that was made after an investigation by the Sheriff’s Office of Professional Review. The office was investigating how the woman came to be locked in a small cell with two men — and why none of the deputies assigned to the courtroom at the time noticed the assault as it was taking place.

…Last June, Hamidullah Tribble, 21, and Nelon Drake, 23, were charged with sexually assaulting the female inmate on May 2 in a holding cell adjacent to a courtroom in the south suburban courthouse.

Investigators with the sheriff’s office found that Tribble, “under the guise that he needed to use the toilet,” had sheriff’s officers escort him from his cell to another one nearby that had a bathroom — where the victim was located at the time. It was in the bathroom that Tribble allegedly committed the sexual assault.

Once Tribble was returned to his cell, Drake, who was held in the same one, also told sheriff’s officers he had to use the bathroom, records show. He was taken to the same one, where the woman remained. Once inside, “he had [the victim] perform an act of oral sex on him.”

…The Office of Professional Review found that the four named officers violated several sheriff’s office policies and standards. The complaints against them — all of which were sustained — cited: Inattention to duty, failure to follow policy and procedure, failure to report an incident, neglect of duty, falsifying a report, conduct unbecoming and being less than truthful, records show.

Read the whole story here:  https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/sheriff-moves-to-fire-9-officers-after-sex-assault-of-inmate-in-lockup/amp/?utm_source=Chicago%20Sun-Times&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1960368_morningedition111617&ID=1960368_morningedition111617&dm_i=2JCP,160MO,7FJHLL,3MOXE,1

Close the Bridgeview Courthouse? It makes no sense

Bridgeview2

According to media reports, Cook County is consider closing the Bridgeview courthouse as a cost-cutting move.  Even though it is unclear whether the move would actually save money.

Situated in the southwest suburbs, Bridgeview is one of five suburban Cook County Courthouses.  There are five criminal courtrooms that handle both suburban and Chicago felony cases, plus a felony bond room and another room that handles specialty  calls like juvenile, drug and veterans’ court.  There are also five misdemeanor courtrooms, four minor traffic courtrooms.  In addition, there is a courtroom that handles domestic relations and child custody, another that handles domestic violence, and three courtrooms that handle civil cases, such as personal injury and evictions.

Cases from the following municipalities have cases at the Bridgeview Courthouse:  Alsip, Bedford Park, Bridgeview, Burbank, Burr Ridge, Chicago Ridge, Countryside, Crestwood, Evergreen Park, Forest View, Hickory Hills, Hinsdale, Hodgkins, Hometown, Indian Head Park, Justice, LaGrange, Lemont, Lyons, Merrionette Park, Metra, McCook, Morton College, Oak Lawn, Orland Hills, Orland Park, Palos Heights, Palos Hills, Palos Park, Stickney, Summit, Tinley Park, Western Springs, West Haven, Willow Springs, Worth.  In addition, traffic and criminal cases brought by the Cook County Sheriff, Cook County Forest Preserve, Secretary of State, Illinois Commerce Commission, and Illinois State Police Districts – 3 and 15 are heard there too.

The Courthouse is a fairly large and spacious building.  It is near I-294 and major streets like 95th Street and Harlem Avenue, so it is not too hard to get to.  There is a large parking lot adjacent to the courthouse, although this lot can get filled up on busy court days.  As far as I know, the building is in good shape.

I can’t think of a particularly good reason to close this courthouse.  My totally unofficial guess is that it ranks somewhere in the middle of the the five suburban courthouses in terms of how busy it gets.  Markham is well-known for being the busiest of the courthouses, and my unofficial guess is that Rolling Meadows and Skokie are the slowest.

If Bridgeview is closed, where would the cases go?  It would make sense for some of these towns to send their cases to Markham (in fact, some of them used to go to Markham until they were moved to Bridgeview to ease overcrowding a few years back).  The rest would presumably go to Maywood, which is a much smaller courthouse and has an even worse parking situation.  In addition, the Maywood courthouse is in deteriorating shape and would be a good candidate to be torn down and rebuilt, if the money were there.

For those reasons, if I had to pick a courthouse to close, it would be Maywood.  Some of the Maywood cases could be sent to Bridgeview, some to Rolling Meadows, and maybe even a few to Skokie.  But Maywood has some extremely busy court calls, like Cicero, the State Police, Berwyn and Riverside.  I don’t see how the Bridgeview or Rolling Meadows parking lots could handle the additional traffic, let alone adjudicate all the cases.

A better idea might be to consolidate some of the Chicago area branch courts, but there wouldn’t be as big of a savings compared to closing one of the big suburban buildings.  There are branch courts at 111th Street, 51st Street, Harrison and Kedzie (Flournoy), Grand and Central and Belmont and Western.  Some of these could be consolidated or moved to the main criminal courthouse at 26th Street, the Domestic Violence courthouse at 555 W. Harrison, or the Daley Center.

Another possibility that has been floated to reduce expenses is to cut back court to three or four days of the week.  The obvious math means that court calls would be increased by 20 to 40%.  But you can’t do 20 to 40% more trials with the same staff and courtrooms that you had before.  And some of these court calls are overcrowded already.  Some of the worst court calls that I have ever seen are the State Police, Cicero and Riverside calls at the Maywood courthouse.  People are standing in the hallway because there is no room inside the courtroom, even to stand in an aisle.  There might be 8 or 12 cases set for trial, but it takes hours before all the cases on the court call have been called once and  even one trial has been completed.

All of these proposals will result in jammed up court calls, lengthy continuances, and more aggravation for all parties concerned.  None of them are palatable.  They are the opposite of the orderly administration of justice.

My preference?  Find other places to cut the budget.  Closing a suburban courthouse will be a major setback for residents and is the epitome of “penny wise, pound foolish.”