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New Lake County divorce courtroom aimed at speeding up process

Judges (from left) Charles JohnsDavid Brodsky Jorge Ortiz check out new courtroom bench as Marjorie Sher (second from right) Judge

Judges (from left) Charles Johnson, David Brodsky and Jorge Ortiz check out the new courtroom bench as Marjorie Sher (second from right) and Judge Donna Jo Vorderstrasse watch. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 16, 2013 3:03AM

People in divorce cases in Lake County may soon find that things are moving quicker now that a new $800,000 family courtroom opened Monday.

Fred Foreman, chief judge of the 19th Judicial Circuit, said the new Courtroom 102 on the first floor of the Lake County Building in downtown Waukegan was needed to help move cases along and that its construction did not run into any problems.

“It was a seamless operation that came in on time,” he said thanking the Lake County Board, contractors and county administration that oversaw the work.

Judge Jay Ukena, presiding judge of the family division, said the extra courtroom was needed because there were many times where court officials had to find an open courtroom to conduct a final hearing or other divorce court business.

“This new courtroom is going to help us tremendously to get cases done in a timely manner,” said Ukena.

He described how the four family court judges have to handle a high volume of cases — approximately 2,600 per year — which means each judge has about 650 new cases annually, or about 54 per month. They juggle about 700 cases (pre-decree and post-decree) each year.

“It’s one of the highest calls in the collar counties,” said Ukena. “With the new Courtroom 102 and implementation of the trial call system, we should reduce needless delay.

“This allows us to help families move through the system more efficiently,” he said, adding the trial call system was implemented last fall, but the new courtroom is key to getting trials underway and keeping them on track.

In the past, pre-trial and post-trial motions were made in the morning, while afternoons were for trials. Now the trial can start in the morning and keep right on going, said Ukena.

He explained the new courtroom is where the Kid’s Corner and court technical support used to be housed. Kid’s Corner is still on the same floor.

The new courtroom also has an adjoining conference room that will make it easier for clients to have a place to talk and hopefully resolve their differences, and then have it certified in the courtroom.

Marjorie Sher, president of the Lake County Bar Association and a family attorney, said there were not enough courtrooms to have divorce cases heard and justice was not being served.

“Everyone deserves and needs access to justice. They need cases handled in an expeditious and fair manner,” she said. “We are incredibly grateful to have a new courtroom to erase the backlog and give greater access to justice for all the citizens of Lake County.”

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