Newest DuPage courtroom designed with pandemic safety in mind

  • DuPage County Chief Judge Kenneth L. Popejoy talks about the changes made to the main courthouse in Wheaton, including building a new courtroom.

      DuPage County Chief Judge Kenneth L. Popejoy talks about the changes made to the main courthouse in Wheaton, including building a new courtroom. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • DuPage County Chief Judge Kenneth Popejoy discusses the construction of a courtroom designed with COVID-19 pandemic-related safety issues in mind.

      DuPage County Chief Judge Kenneth Popejoy discusses the construction of a courtroom designed with COVID-19 pandemic-related safety issues in mind. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • DuPage County Chief Judge Kenneth Popejoy, left, shows a new courtroom to Illinois Supreme Court Justice Michael Burke.

      DuPage County Chief Judge Kenneth Popejoy, left, shows a new courtroom to Illinois Supreme Court Justice Michael Burke. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/24/2021 6:37 PM

When jury trials resume Monday in DuPage County, participants may find themselves in a new courtroom designed with pandemic safety in mind.

Chief Judge Kenneth Popejoy on Wednesday marveled at the courtroom's size and technology as he showed it to reporters and Illinois Supreme Court Justice Michael Burke.

 

Courtroom 3011 features a 14-person jury box, where chairs are 6 feet apart in every direction. There are several large television screens mounted on the walls. There are four lawyers' tables instead of the usual two. Each is wired to accept HDMI cables from computers for showing exhibits to judges via video instead of walking up to the bench.

There are also 16 individual seats in the gallery, unlike the theater-style rows of seats in other courtrooms.

The new courtroom is among several improvements DuPage made to the main courthouse in Wheaton, using $13 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

"I would joke you could get a good Wiffle ball game going in here," Popejoy said of the size of Courtroom 3011, which was built where office and training rooms for the DuPage County Regional Office of Education were located.

Popejoy gave credit to his predecessor as chief judge, Daniel Guerin, and courts administrator Suzanne Armstrong, for their work on the project, as well as what they did to keep the courts running when the pandemic hit.

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"They moved us through the pandemic," Popejoy said. "I became chief judge in December, and it's my job to move us out."

He also thanked the DuPage County Board for its support of the work.

Before the pandemic, DuPage courts averaged about 100 jury trials a year, Popejoy said. Last year, it could only have 22. Popejoy said the new courtroom will help judges clear the backlog.

The county also used the CARES Act money to speed up replacement of the 30-year-old building's original heating, cooling and ventilation system. The new system has bipolar ionization and ultraviolet light devices to purify the air.

"We're going to protect them (litigants), protect our jurors and protect everybody who comes into this building," Popejoy said.

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