DuPage chief judge: Traffic court judges get threats, need more security
Spurred by threats against fellow jurists, DuPage Chief Judge Kathryn E. Creswell is calling for increased security at all four county traffic courts, even if it means moving one of them to a safer location.
Creswell shared her concerns during a Tuesday budget presentation, telling the county board's judicial and public safety committee she's concerned for the safety of all those in the satellite courts.
"I don't think that the right question to ask is how many incidents (have happened)," Creswell told county board members, "but how can we prevent one from happening."
"It's not a question of if it's going to happen," she said. "It's a question of when."
Creswell said judges can become targets of "disgruntled litigants" and it can happen regardless of whether a judge is hearing a felony, divorce, foreclosure or traffic case.
She cited several examples in recent years where DuPage judges have been targeted by those threatening to cause harm.
In July 2013, a former Wheaton man, Gordon Vanderark, was sentenced to a maximum of 40 years in prison for soliciting a prison buddy in 2011 to kill a DuPage County judge, a prosecutor and two other people. Vanderark concocted the murder-for-hire plot while serving a lengthy prison term for his 10th DUI.
Last August, a former Western Springs man was sentenced to six years in prison after he pleaded guilty to stalking Creswell. John Euwema admitted to anonymously sending a package to Creswell's home in July 2013 while facing a felony driving charge in her courtroom.
Two judges currently have police paying extra attention to their homes because of threats, Creswell said.
Threats and sometimes even violence against judges are nothing new. In 2005, for example, the mother and husband of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow were killed in her Chicago home by a man whose lawsuits had been dismissed by Lefkow.
Creswell didn't suggest any specific security changes to the Addison, Glendale Heights and Wheaton field courts. The Addison and Glendale Heights sites are in village halls and the Wheaton traffic court is in the county administration building at 421 N. County Farm Road.
But Creswell made it clear she wants the Downers Grove traffic court moved from its location in American Legion Post 80 on Saratoga Avenue.
"Any improvement at Downers Grove is really just a Band-Aid," Creswell said. "That needs to be at a different location."
DuPage has one sheriff's deputy assigned to each of the four traffic court locations.
Board member Jim Healy said adding two or three more deputies and a metal detector at each of the four traffic court sites would cost an extra $1 million to $1.6 million annually.
"That's a huge number," Healy said.
Creswell acknowledges that cost is a concern, so she's asking county officials to focus first on moving the Downers Grove field court.
"I'm open to exploring any alternatives to make that happen," she said. "And I hope that the board will be supportive in evaluating the most effective way to provide security for a traffic court that serves that area."
She said she doesn't have an alternative location in mind.
At one time, traffic court was in Downers Grove village hall, she said, but it was moved during a building renovation and not invited to return when the work was completed.
Board member Jim Zay said the county may want to consider closing all four satellite courts and bringing them to the main courthouse, where there's a large amount of security.
Healy said the county board has to examine every option. "We need to have a discussion on all of our locations outside of the county complex," he said.