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Domestic violence court protects accusers

Thursday, September 29, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

Time and again, a retired judge explained, domestic violence victims would draw up the courage to show up at the county courthouse at 1340 S. Michigan, ready to testify against their assailant.

And time and again, as victims mingled with the accused in the cramped lobby area, waiting for their case to be called, the victim would ultimately decline to testify.

"How many times was that because they were in such close proximity, and their security was compromised?" retired Cook County Judge Robert P. Bastone asked.

Standing in the lobby of a new domestic violence courthouse at 555 W. Harrison, Bastone said space and security concerns were a thing of the past.

'A comforting environment'

Cook County officials showed off the new courthouse Wednesday. In two weeks, all domestic violence cases will move into the $51 million facility, which has separate elevators and waiting areas for victims and the accused.

County capital planning director Michael LaMont called it 'a comforting environment' that includes an expanded children's room, where court staff "can provide a nice, quiet atmosphere for kids to play in while their parents are dealing with court issues."

The courthouse was built in the West Loop after Mayor Daley urged county commissioners not to move it to the Helene Curtis building downtown, as they had planned.

The 170,000-square-foot former warehouse on Harrison was finished in less than two years, was $13 million under budget, and is environmentally friendly, with solar panels, rainwater recycling and high-efficiency mechanical systems.



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