Supreme Court will soon hear arguments in Chicago

The Illinois Supreme Court’s May term will likely mark the last set of arguments the justices will hear in Springfield for at least a year.

The court’s more than a century-old building is scheduled to receive renovations sometime in June, although an exact date has not been set, said Tom Brauer, a principal at 4240 Architecture in Chicago.

While the building gets its face lift, Court Spokesman Joe Tybor said the justices will hear arguments in Chicago, where they will utilize a ceremonial courtroom in the Bilandic Building at 160 N. LaSalle St.

This courtroom, Tybor said, is where the Illinois Courts Commission has held its hearings and the court has hosted swearing in and other ceremonies.

Although rare, the Supreme Court has heard arguments in Chicago in the past, most recently with an expedited election matter.

Brauer said his firm is “about to issue the construction documents for bidding purposes” and that the project will “restore the historic spaces within the building” and replace all of the mechanical and electrical systems.

The project will also include asbestos removal, reorganization of offices and other rooms, replacement of more than 61 historic windows and selective remodeling to improve security and comply with code, according to his firm’s website.

Discussions over the need to renovate the court’s historic building began several years ago.

The legislature appropriated slightly more than $14 million for the project in the state’s capital projects initiative, which was approved in 2009 and provides for the construction and improvement of several state hospitals, libraries, parks, roads and schools.

One of a handful of the laws that created and funded the capital project was challenged and upheld by the court in 2011 in W. Rockwell Wirtz, et al. v. Patrick Quinn, et al.

Brauer said he won’t know the exact price tag of the project until the bids are in, but said it was initially awarded a total budget of less than $16 million, which includes all fees and other costs.

Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis late last month shared news of the court’s renovations with attendants of a Chicago reception hosted by the Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel (IDC).

While the court’s building is beautiful, Theis said, “If you’ve ever been there, it smells musty” and can see some of the marble and pillars, among other details, are in desperate need of repairs.

“It needs work like any old building,” she said, adding that "Ideally, we would close in May" after the term and move back in after the May 2014 term.

Theis, however, warned that like any construction project, the dates anticipated for the court’s renovation could change or face delays.

"Anyone who has had construction on their home, you know just what I am talking about,” she said, quickly adding that “this is going to happen at some point.”

And while moving arguments up to Chicago might add a few extra hours to the commute for Downstate attorneys appearing before the court, Theis said she hopes lawyers, school groups and the public in Chicago will take advantage of the opportunity to see the court at work.

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