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Court closure causes delays

Long lines greeted jurors, parties and witnesses who came to the Milwaukee County Courthouse this morning.

The delays were caused by a new 35-hour work week imposed on most county employees, meaning courthouse doors opened 30 minutes later than usual.

An arbitrator threw out County Executive Scott Walker’s mandate later in the morning. But the change provided some early morning headaches for court staff.

Jury Services Coordinator Lorie Watson Schumann said she received numerous calls from jurors standing in line outside the courthouse, reporting that they were not going to wait to get inside.

“It took people well over an hour to get in,” Schumann said. “We had a lot of people worried they were not going to make their 8:30 court dates.”

Chief Deputy Clerk of Court Jim Smith said his office also received calls from a handful of people with early court appearances who were stuck in line.

He said judges were aware of the situation, and to his knowledge, no trials were disrupted or delayed.

Smith said the jury trial calendar was lighter than most weeks because of the upcoming July 4th holiday. “Fortunately, we had enough other jurors to meet the needs today.”

But he cautioned that some cases, especially those involving pro se litigants, may have resulted in default judgments if one party was there on time and the other was not.

“If people on the other side were there, the case may have been called and a decision made,” Smith said.

Normally, jurors and parties with early morning cases are allowed to enter the court starting at 7:30 am. But Walker’s order than county buildings open and close a half hour later meant that people were kept waiting at least an additional 30 minutes.

Schumann said at one point she counted about 130 people in line outside the Ninth Street tunnel entrance, and by 8:30 a.m. only about 100 jurors had checked in.

She said that on a normal Monday, at least 180 are checked in by that time.

Judges and attorneys were able to gain immediate access to the court with identification cards.
However, noted Schumann, “They may have been inside, but there were no jurors or parties in the actions.”

An arbitrator later dismissed Walker’s order, finding that it violated the county’s labor contract.

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