Attorney who worked at DuPage courthouse while awaiting COVID-19 test result causes a stir

  • Mark Black/mblack@dailyherald.comThe DuPage County Court building or otherwise known at The Henry J. Hyde Judicial Office Facility in Wheaton.

    Mark Black/mblack@dailyherald.comThe DuPage County Court building or otherwise known at The Henry J. Hyde Judicial Office Facility in Wheaton.

 
Posted7/17/2020 5:28 AM

An attorney who continued to attend to criminal cases at the main DuPage County courthouse while awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test prompted a lengthy letter to all the courthouse workers.

On Wednesday, Chief Judge Daniel Guerin notified scores of courthouse personnel they might have come in contact from mid-June to early July with the attorney, who tested positive for the virus.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The letter names the attorney, with the attorney's permission. The attorney agreed to speak to the Daily Herald on condition of anonymity.

The letter notes the DuPage County Health Department calculated the man was contagious from June 24 to July 6, and that his last appearance during that period was July 1.

The letter says the attorney experienced symptoms of the disease. But the attorney says he did not.

He took the test June 28. Late in the afternoon July 1, he received word he was positive. He retook the test and was told July 3 he was negative.

"I was never sick," he said, adding he relied on "bad advice" from medical experts when he decided to continue to go to work while awaiting results. He said he also expected the June test to come back negative.

He declined to say why he got tested.

When he found out he was positive, he notified assistant state's attorneys with whom he had dealt in Kane and DuPage counties. They in turn notified the respective chief judges.

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Guerin was told July 13. The letter was sent to all courthouse personnel -- lawyers, clerks, support workers, deputies, probation officers and more -- plus to the DuPage County Bar Association.

Guerin said there is no policy or law requiring lawyers to tell his office if they have tested positive. His office is taking guidance from the DuPage County Health Department on COVID-19 matters, he said.

Guerin's letter points out that the attorney wore a mask; that everyone in the courtroom wore a mask; that the court dates were brief; and that no evidence or paperwork was passed around.

As in every other court in Illinois, there are notices posted on the courthouse entrances saying you should not come in if you have a fever. There are body scanners that detect temperatures, and anyone who has a temperature of 100.4 or higher is to be denied entrance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In Kane County, Chief Judge Clint Hull said that he notified only specific people who were in courtrooms with the attorney. In Kane County, everyone who enters a courtroom has to give his or her name and email address to a bailiff, in case the county's health department wants to do contact tracing. Hull's office figured out where the attorney had been, reviewed the contact sheets and notified people. He also turned the information over to the Kane County Health Department.

Steve Splitt, spokesman for the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, said he wouldn't expect the agency to bring a complaint against a lawyer under such circumstances.

"Disciplinary action would not be likely unless it's absolutely clear the attorney tried to infect people on purpose or acted maliciously," Splitt said.

Activate Plexiglas!

Overheard in a DuPage courtroom this week: a defense attorney objecting to COVID-19 rules for jurors, witnesses and attorneys in an upcoming trial. The judge agreed to prosecutors' requests that attorneys be allowed to take off their masks during the trial, and that witnesses be told to remove their masks. They also asked that jurors be told to take off their masks, but the judge refused, saying that jurors can remove them if they want.

The defense attorney strenuously objected to the orders, saying he wanted everyone in the room to be wearing a mask.

As for the plastic glass separating the witness box, the court reporter, the judge and the clerk from each other and the rest of the room?

"Plexiglas is not a force field" of protection, he said.

Task force paying off

Back when he was supervisor of the Kane County sheriff's narcotics unit, Ron Hain saw firsthand the benefits of the office's participation in the federal Homeland Security Investigations Task Force.

Courtesy of Kane County sheriff's officeA member of the Homeland Security Investigations Task Force poses with drugs seized through one of its operations. After several years away from the task force, the Kane County sheriff's office recently rejoined, sending one deputy to work with it full time and another part time.
Courtesy of Kane County sheriff's officeA member of the Homeland Security Investigations Task Force poses with drugs seized through one of its operations. After several years away from the task force, the Kane County sheriff's office recently rejoined, sending one deputy to work with it full time and another part time.

So when he was elected sheriff in 2018, Hain told us this week, he made it a priority to reverse his predecessor's decision to leave the task force.

The decision, Hain said, already has paid big dividends. Since two of his deputies joined the task force in January -- one full time, the other part time -- they and their partners have seized more than 1,100 pounds of illegal drugs and 11 firearms.

The task force also includes members from the Elgin, Aurora and Hoffman Estates police departments, as well as the Cook County sheriff's office and federal Homeland Security agents. Its mission is to target high-level narcotics operations active in the Chicago area. Among its successes was helping to take down notorious cartel boss Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.

"It gets a large amount of drugs off the street and stops high-level activity in our area," Hain said.

As part of their work with the task force, Deputies Ryan Wasson and Ryan Monaghan last week officially received federal credentials. That's key, Hain said, because their work often takes them outside their current jurisdiction.

• Have a question, tip or comment? Email us at copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

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