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posted: 11/16/2012 4:30 PM

St. Charles branch court reduction set aside

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New Chief Judge Judith Brawka is revising a plan that closed the Kane County Branch Court in St. Charles one day a week.

However, the starting Dec. 1 the Aurora and Elgin branch courts will be closed every other Friday.

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Brawka told the Kane County Judicial and Public Safety Committee Friday that changes in judicial staffing since the former chief judge announced the plan in October required adjusting the closures.

Since then, the former chief judge was assigned to the state appellate court; Brawka was selected to replace him; the Illinois Supreme Court has terminated all of the recalled judges it appointed in the state, including the one who has served Kane County for seven years; and two judges are retiring.

"I had to re-evaluate use of judge time ... I am no longer able to lose the Kane County Branch Court on Mondays. I need that court open, and I need that judge time," she said.

The branch courts typically handle traffic cases, misdemeanors and ordinance violations. Former Chief Judge Robert Spence said case volume had declined by more than 30 percent; he suspected that was because towns had cut back on police staffing, and so weren't writing as many tickets or filing as many charges.

Brawka said the St. Charles court likely will be kept busy with summary suspension hearings in DUI cases.

As for the judicial vacancies, Brawka said she expects to be fully staffed by the first week of February.

"It also opens up a grand opportunity to appoint some minorities to judicial positions," committee member Christina Castro of Elgin said.

Brawka said one of two applicants being considered to fill the first vacancy is Rene Cruz, from Aurora. "There is significant consideration being given" to minorities, Brawka said.

After the meeting, Brawka said she is also looking at increasing the availability of judges to perform weddings _ both by appointment and walk-ins _ at the courts. Currently, couples must make an appointment, and ceremonies are performed from 1:30 to 3 p.m. weekdays.

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