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Delays continue in wake of Milwaukee courthouse fire (UPDATE)

Anthony Rogers (right) and Joseph Vance pick up ceiling tile pieces as they clean offices at the Milwaukee County Courthouse on July 9. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

Proceedings in the Milwaukee County Courthouse are inching toward normalcy Tuesday as court personnel continue to grapple with delays that resulted from a July 6 electrical fire.

Clerk of Circuit Court John Barrett said all court divisions are up and running, except for the civil courts system.

Civil courts will not operate at least through Friday, he said, though proceedings hopefully will resume Monday. Clerk of Court staff are working to notify plaintiffs and defendants of new dates.

The criminal division has resumed after a week of closures, he said, though parties involved in cases with court dates last week were given new dates. Criminal, small claims and family court are all running a week behind as a result of the delay, he said.

Other proceedings and divisions, including preliminary hearings, intake court, temporary restraining orders, mental health commitments and the children’s courts were not affected by the fire, he said.

“We were functioning, but we had to make decisions on what were our priorities,” Barrett said.

Portions of the courthouse reopened Monday, though much of the building is being powered by generators while crews continue to repair damage.

Those going to the courthouse may see larger-than-normal crowds in the hallways, as the elevators are running at a slower pace. The air-conditioning system is operational, Barrett said, though the building is not as cool as normal. Fans were put in several hallways to cool off the hot and humid temperatures.

“It’s crazy, and we’re just doing the best as we can to make sure everyone is satisfied as they can be in these conditions,” Barrett said.

County officials said the damage from the fire, which investigators attributed to a short circuit in a courtroom outlet, will cost about $2 million to clean up and repair.

Ceiling panels throughout the building are being replaced, carpets are being cleaned or replaced, and walls and furniture are being washed to get rid of smoke damage.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.


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