Madison County's new circuit judges, Barbara Crowder and Dave Hylla, have posted their corner of the top courthouse floor as private property.
A notice appeared Jan. 3 on a door between the common area of the third floor and a maze of offices where Crowder, Hylla and others work.
In capital letters it said, "Private offices court officers only."
Crowder said she posted the sign after discussing it with Hylla.
She said, "Everybody doesn't get to just wander into your office. It is a little unnerving at times."
She said, "If you are announced or you have an appointment that's okay unless it's a litigant who wants to discuss a case."
She said she wanted to avoid communications with litigants acting as their own attorneys. She said, "It is better not to start that conversation."
Hylla said Crowder asked him if he would object to limiting access. He said, "I didn't have any problem with that."
He said, "I think her reasons are valid and it just sections off this whole wing."
He said, "People wandering in and out could be a problem."
Crowder said bailiffs have posted similar notices on second floor doors. She worked on the second floor as associate judge before voters promoted her in November.
The second floor needs security. Busy days in family court pack the common area with people unhappy over personal problems.
On the third floor hardly anyone moves but judges, staff and attorneys. Busy days in circuit court pack the common area with blue suits.
Judges depend on their bailiffs to handle unannounced visitors, but bailiffs cannot spend every minute between the public and the judges.
Hylla has no bailiff at all between him and the common area. He said his bailiff soon would move near his chambers and they might not need the notice any longer.
"We are public servants," he said. "Our offices are paid for by the taxpayers of Illinois. It is not private but judges are entitled to privacy."
He compared walking into a judge's chambers to walking into a teacher's classroom or the office of the county board chairman.
He said, "We should have some time when we can get our work done."
Former Circuit Judge Don Weber, who until November occupied the corner where Crowder and Hylla work, allowed public access.
Circuit Judge Daniel Stack allows public access.
Circuit Judges Nicholas Byron and Andy Matoesian could not post notices on doors if they wanted to. Visitors enter their mazes through lovely stone arches.
Prior to this only one third floor door wore such a notice. Court reporter Renee Jackstadt works in a little room with a private sign on its ornate old door.