An eclectic band of Cook County Board commissioners is seeking to halt plans to close suburban courthouses on weekends.
The board will discuss the proposal at Wednesday's meeting.
The initiative is sponsored by Elmwood Park Republican Commissioner Peter Silvestri, but is co-sponsored by Democrats Larry Suffredin of Evanston and John Daley of Chicago as well as Bartlett Republican Timothy Schneider.
Last month, Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans issued a notice to suburban law enforcement officials that the Bridgeview courthouse would no longer operate on the weekends starting Jan. 7. That closure has been implemented. Evans also noted that eventually the four other suburban courthouses would close on weekends, leaving open just the courthouse at 26th Street and California Avenue on the city's southwest side. The move was estimated to save the county $1.9 million.
This announcement ruffled the feathers of scores of suburban police officials, who complained about the time and distance involved in transporting arrestees to the city courthouse for weekend bond hearings.
"We are asking for a comprehensive study to be done so we can see what we can do to mitigate the impact the closures of these courts will have on suburban police departments," Schneider said. "Let's slow the process down since we've heard from the police departments that this is a problem."
Silvestri and the other sponsors are asking for the chief judge's office to suspend any plans for weekend closures at other courthouses until a study is completed that looks at four possible scenarios:
• Geographic closures that leave suburban courthouses open in the north, south and central parts of the county.
• Keeping the Maywood courthouse open.
• Alternating weekend closures based on geography.
• Keeping all courthouses open, but only for bond court and no other business.
Schneider said the commissioners also want to look into transportation alternatives for arrestees and law enforcement officers.
Approval by the board would require the study to be completed by March 1 and halt any plans to close suburban courthouses on the weekends in the meantime.
Schneider said he was told 80 to 110 bond hearings are held on Saturdays and Sundays at the six county courthouses, on average. That requires the county to staff a judge, at least three clerks and at least seven deputies at each courthouse, Schneider said. Assistant state's attorneys and public defenders also must be on hand.
In addition to bond court, weddings are also performed during the weekend morning sessions, as well as a small amount of other court activities.