The roughly 2,500 square foot Courtroom 3011 at the DuPage County Judicial Office Facility (JOF) gives a glimpse of what future courtrooms may look like due to the impacts of COVID-19.
New DuPage County Courtroom
“Our jury box seats 14 so we can have 12 jurors plus two alternates,” said Chief Judge for the 18th Judicial Circuit Kenneth L. Popejoy. “Everything is plexiglass. We have four council tables that can be socially distanced, and we still have 16 gallery chairs that can be socially distanced.”
Judge Popejoy said every other courtroom at the JOF also has plexiglass, and has been reconfigured to allow for social distancing.
The Need For JOF’s Renovations
Courtroom 3011 will be used for large felony and multi-party civil trials. It is also outfitted with new technology that allows for Zoom hearings and trials, which is helpful since the county has hundreds of backed-up trials.
“We do want to rush to get the judicial system starting to function again,” said Judge Popejoy. “We have people that have been waiting a long time for their cases to go to trial. We have defendants sitting in jail, who are innocent until proven guilty, and need their day in court.”
Popejoy said the county is planning to have eight to 16 jury trials scheduled every week.
Funding For the DuPage County Courtroom
The JOF also has a new $7.6 million HVAC system, which was the most expensive renovation to the building. Overall $13 million of federal CARES Act funding was poured into the center thanks to the DuPage County Board.
“This is our third branch of government,” said DuPage County board member Mary Ozog. “A million people come through this facility every year for various legal needs, so it was a big priority.”
How HB3653 Effects the JOF
Judge Popejoy said the newly signed HB3653 will have some effects on the court’s budget and personnel, but they’ll be ready for it.
“We’re taking this one step at a time,” said Judge Popejoy. “We don’t want to re-write the judicial system. We want to get it back the way it was, and at the end of this calendar year then we’ll reevaluate and see where we’re going. And we can do more planning for what’s going to take place a year from next January, that’s when a lot of this bill takes effect.”
In-person jury trials in DuPage County are set to resume on March 1.
Naperville News 17’s Christian Canizal reports.
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