Courthouse Issues

Courthouse Issues
his content was written by  County Board member Andrew Wheeler and has been taken from his facebook page…  Well worth a visit:  Andrew’s Facebook Page

Kankakee County has been put on notice by the IL Attorney General to address serious Americans With Disabilities Act violations in our Courthouse. There is now a mandate to fix all of these issues, and we have absolutely no choice but to comply. Some are easy fixes, and some are expensive…really expensive. The disabled are not able to work at or serve on juries in this 100 year old Courthouse, a building that is on the Historic Register. There were actual complaints filed with the State by disabled citizens, and that was the trigger for all of this. And these are but a few of the violations. The violation letter is on the County website here.


The count also are on notice to comply with IL Supreme Court Standards, rules that do not allow for defendants, judges, victims, witnesses, attorneys, and the public to all mill about the Rotunda in contact with each other. There are many other violations of these standards, such as jurors not being able to see people on the stand when they testify, and defendants being held in judge’s chambers, as well as victims and defendants riding an elevator together. We have 10 judges and 9 courtrooms. We have jurors sitting within arms-length of defendants. The judges are not able to see the entire courtrooms, and in turn, the public is blocked from viewing the litigation. Those standards are found here.

These are but a small sampling of what is going on with your Courthouse.

So, the county formed a Blue Ribbon Commission to analyze the whole picture. The commission was comprised of community and business leaders.  They met many times over the course of a year, and submitted a recommendation that it would be most cost effective and best for the County to save the Courthouse as a community centerpiece, but to construct a safe, compliant, and long-lasting expansion on the south side of the current structure. The public and press were invited to each meeting, but very few actually attended if at all. The Attorney Generals staff did come and lay out the violations. All of the minutes are on the County’s website here.

The next step was to put a number to the needs of the courthouse. The county needed to see how much it would cost to comply, as we went about the work of fixing what we could along the way. We secured DLR Group; a firm that specializes in space needs analysis and architecture for judiciary structures.

With their help, we now have an idea of the space needed to house our complete judiciary under one roof. With this knowledge, we have held to Community Focus Group Sessions, one in January 2014 and one in February 2014, with a third Focus Group to be held in early April. Those attending took tours of the Courthouse, were informed of all of the violations so they could experience them for themselves, and then given a clicker so they could electronically respond to survey questions about the entire situation and experience.

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