Going to Court

Going to Court

I am going to court this week. The judge wants the opportunity to ask questions after reading all the briefs submitted in my most recent hearing.  That’s not what I want to talk to you about in this post. My upcoming court appearance gave me the idea that a posting about what you will encounter might help alleviate any nervousness you might have. This is a simple overview of what you will see when you go to divorce court.

The main court venue is in the Daley Center which is located at 118 North Clark Street. Originally known as the Chicago Civic Center, it was renamed the Daley Center after Richard J. Daley, longtime mayor and father of the former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Even if you have no reason to go to court, you would recognize the building for its large plaza out front. A seasonal farmers’ market and other cultural events are held here.

Upon entering the building you are required to pass through security checkpoints. These consist of magnetometers and x-ray machines. Everyone (except lawyers with proper ID) will be expected to empty their pockets of all objects (keys, coins, cigarettes, cell phones, etc) prior to walking through the magnetometer. Purses, briefcases, and all packaged items will be passed through the x-ray machine. Cameras, pocket knives, small tools, knitting needles, mace, and recording devices are not allowed into the facility and will need to be checked with the Sheriff’s Department holding area in room CL-132. If in doubt, leave it at home.

I always put my cell phone inside a purse that zips so it does not fall out by mistake. If I have a cup of coffee or iced tea, the guards are usually kind enough to let it pass through.  There is a Starbucks in the basement.

After you go through security, you will go to your assigned courtroom. Be aware that a morning rush exists here too when everyone is trying to get to court on time. There may be a huge backup at the elevators so plan to arrive early. After all, this is the main court facility for Cook County. All types of cases take place in its 120 court and hearing rooms.

The “domestic relations” (family law or divorce) courtrooms are scattered throughout the building.  Courtrooms are similar to what you see in movies and on TV. The judge sits center front and all participants in the proceedings have a place. Your lawyer will show you where you belong and explain the layout if you need it. Behind the “action” part of a courtroom is space for spectators, other lawyers, or people waiting to file papers with the court.

If you have never been in a courtroom before, I recommend that you take some time to go over and take a look.  You maybe be surprised to see that not every courtroom has a trial going on.  In fact, trials are the exception to the rule.  Many cases settle without one.  What is going on in the various rooms are “court calls” or sometimes referred to as status calls.   As a client, you do not usually go to these proceedings, unless there is some reason your attorney wants you there.

When you walk into a courtroom, you need to turn off your cell phone and generally conduct yourself as you would in any place that deserves respect.

There are restrooms on each floor.  I have found that excusing myself to go to the restroom a good way to escape tense courtroom moments or to regain my composure.

If you need to bring a child with you, There is a childcare room in Room 1319.  Call first for details, 312-603-6252.

Courts recess at lunch.  If you are on trial, you will probably want to have lunch with your lawyer in order to ask questions.

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