Beginning Dec. 1, branch courts in Aurora and Elgin will be closed every other Friday and the Kane County branch court in St. Charles will be closed Mondays.
Robert Spence, chief judge for the 16th Judicial Circuit, said the move is needed because cases involving traffic tickets, misdemeanors and ordinance violations that are handled in the branch courts are down about one-third since 2007 because there are fewer officers on the streets writing tickets.
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"It's well over 30 percent and close to 40 percent," Spence said Wednesday. "The volume in all the branch courts is down. We thought we could make more efficient use of resources. I've been wanting to do this for quite some time because I felt the branch courts are underutilized. I've always questioned whether they were utilized to their full capacity. It just became obvious that there were certain court days that were underutilized."
The Elgin Branch Court, 150 Dexter Court, will be closed on the first and third Friday of every month. The Aurora Branch Court, 1200 Indian Trail Road, will be closed on the second and fourth Friday of each month. Both locations will be open if a month has a fifth Friday.
The new Kane County Branch Court, 560 Randall Road, St. Charles, will be closed every Monday.
Spence said no workers will be laid off or have their hours reduced, and that the move was not necessarily designed to save costs.
He said closing the St. Charles branch on Mondays will allow more court security personnel to work at the Kane County Judicial Center on Mondays, which is the busiest day because of trials beginning and potential jurors reporting for duty. The move, Spence said, also will provide an additional judge that normally would be at a branch court to fill in for sick or vacationing judges on Fridays and Mondays.
"We're really just shifting resources to be used in a different manner," he said. "It allows us to provide more coverage of other court calls when (judges) are on vacation, which allows the system to move more efficiently."
Spence predicted that as the economy improves and cities hire more police officers, the number of cases in the branch courts would rebound. Spence said the reduced hours of branch courts does not contradict plans to build an addition onto the judicial center.
He said adding courtrooms where felony cases are handled helps move cases forward and reduces expenses for defendants being held at the county jail while awaiting trial.
Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said the change will allow prosecutors to spend more time out of court preparing for other cases or to help in other high-volume courtrooms.
"We're all under budgetary pressures. If I can redeploy people and resources to other locations, I'm going to do that," McMahon said.