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Fed bankruptcy court may lose Will County courtroom space

Updated: September 29, 2011 12:53AM

JOLIET — A federal bankruptcy judge soon could be looking for new chambers as Will County eyes his courtroom.

The space where the U.S. Bankruptcy Court holds its calls in Joliet is actually owned by Will County. It’s found on the second floor of the county’s annex building at 57 N. Ottawa St.

A three-year extension on its lease will end soon, and Will County Judge Gerald Kinney said he needs the courtroom to accommodate his own crowded court system.

“At this point, I have little choice,” Kinney told Will County board members last week.

Kenneth Gardner, clerk of the bankruptcy court in Illinois’ northern district, said the courtroom has been there since the 1990s, before the county bought the building. He said 7,548 cases were filed there last year from Grundy, Kendall, LaSalle and Will counties. It was the court’s busiest year since 2005. The federal court pays $1,159 a month to use the courtroom once a week, Gardner said. Workers compensation cases are handled there the other days of the week.

Though Kinney told county board members the bankruptcy court’s cases could wind up in Chicago, Gardner said it would seek a new courtroom in the area to keep them local.

“Our intent, for sure, is to stay there,” Gardner said.

Kinney said Will County’s main courthouse already is crowded and fails to meet security standards set by the Illinois Supreme Court. He also said the county is in line to receive five new judges next year because of its population growth. He made his comments as county board members considered a long-term plan for capital development, including a proposal for a 10-story, $174 million courthouse.

“I need the courtroom,” Kinney told the board members.

But Kinney also said he’d work with the bankruptcy court. He didn’t rule out a year-to-year lease if necessary to give it time to relocate.

“I’m certainly not going to evict them,” Kinney said.

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