judges forum Feb2020
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Homewood to host panel of judges to help residents understand judicial system

Four Cook County Circuit Court judges will appear Monday, Feb. 24, for an informational panel discussion aimed at helping residents better understand how the court system works. The forum from 7 to 9 p.m.  will take place at Irwin Community Center, 18120 Highland Ave. in Homewood.

 

Four Cook County Circuit Court judges will appear Monday, Feb. 24, for an informational panel discussion aimed at helping residents better understand how the court system works. The forum from 7 to 9 p.m.  will take place at Irwin Community Center, 18120 Highland Ave. in Homewood. (Provided photos)

Judges can have an immediate, sometimes profound effect on people’s lives, yet residents often are not well informed about the judges they might face and the courtroom procedures they manage, according to attorney and Homewood Trustee Barb Dawkins.

That’s why Dawkins and the village have organized a forum from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24, in Irwin Community Center, 18120 Highland Ave. in Homewood.

Four local judges will appear on a panel, and each will provide a description of the type of court they preside over and what residents should expect if they ever are required to appear there.

Judges include Lloyd Brooks, municipal division; Sondra Denmark, second subcircuit; Sheree Henry, traffic section; and Nichole Patton, 15th subcircuit.

“I think it’s important for us to be armed with information,” Dawkins said. “These people represent us, so we should be able to ask them, “If I come to traffic court, what should I expect? What should I bring? Do I need a lawyer?”

Dawkins said she sees more and more people who find themselves in court but are unable to pay an attorney to represent them. For those who represent themselves, understanding how the system works is especially important.

Judges have the authority to take away a person’s liberty or property or children, depending on the circumstances, she said.

“If you don’t understand the system, you don’t know whether it’s fair or not, and you’re at a disadvantage,” she said. “We have rights and we should know what they are.”

But the forum is for all residetns. She said judges are elected in Illinois, but voters often know very little about their qualifications and abilities. 

“They are at bottom of ballot. People unfortunately seem to vote on the sound of the name,” she said. “This isn’t going to be a political situation. It’s an informative thing, so residents can arm themselves with information.”

Dawkins said the forum would begin with a brief introduction followed by comments from each panelist. After that, she will open the floor to questions from the audience.

Although the judges won’t be able to refer to any specific case, they can talk about the rules, procedures and expectations for their courtrooms, information residents need to know if they ever find themselves in court.

All four judges will be on the March 17 primary ballot.

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