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updated: 1/31/2012 11:24 PM

Night court again a hot topic in Kane County

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  • Bob Spence

      Bob Spence

 
 

Dust off your briefcase, John Larroquette. Night court may become a reality in Kane County after all.

Two years ago, Kane County Board members squashed the idea of creating night court to help solve the problem of cramped spaces at the judicial center.

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At the time, Chief Judge F. Keith Brown told them night court wouldn't work because people don't want to spend all day working only to come to court at night. Brown also hinted that lawyers, court security and circuit court clerk employees wouldn't be fans of the later shifts either.

But faced with a pitch to fork out $500,000 in 2012 toward pushing a $80 million to $100 million judicial center expansion forward in the future, night court seemed more appealing to several county board members Tuesday.

New Chief Judge Robert Spence suggested the $500,000 expenditure in an effort to get a scaled-back solution to his perceived lack of space at the judicial center solved.

Spence pointed out that all courtrooms are in use as well as other spaces that have been converted to courtrooms.

He suggested a small addition to the judicial center could buy another five years for the county before it must move forward on a larger, more costly addition.

"I want you to know we are mindful of the financial considerations that the county has," Spence said.

But board members suggested changing the court call system rather than opening the county's purse might be a better temporary solution. The county already has some limited night court offerings once a week. Board members pointed out that the courthouse is mostly empty for more than 12 hours a day. Board Member T.R. Smith said that's the cheapest of all short-term solutions to the space problem in his mind.

"However, I realize the attorneys and the judges think night court is an immoral proposition," Smith said of changing the current culture of the local courts.

Spence said lawyers and judges will appear in court as they are called to do so. The real push-back on night court will come from local municipalities who don't want to pay officers overtime to testify at night court calls, Spence said. He also pointed out that circuit court clerk employees don't currently have any night time employees.

Smith wasn't buying that argument. He said police officers with a night court call can simply work the second shift, eliminating the need for overtime. Ditto for court security or circuit court clerk staff.

As Smith stated his case, other board members seemed to warm to the idea. Board members such as Deb Allan began to ask questions about what kinds of cases could be handled at night and what sort of time schedule could be worked out for a night court venture.

That put Spence's idea of spending $500,000 this year on the back burner and unresolved. Both night court and Spence's proposition will likely be discussed at upcoming meetings of the county board's Judicial and Public Safety Committee.

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