As a Mount Vernon, Illinois attorney, I travel throughout the state practicing law and meeting with clients on topics ranging from bankruptcy to estate law, from divorce to litigation. In my travels, I enjoy seeing the courthouses of our county seats. Occasionally in my blog I will stop to describe these wonderful buildings and the towns and cities in which they set.
Benton is a lucky town: it has two active courthouses. It is the county seat of Franklin County and has the circuit (state) courthouse in the town center. You can read about the courthouse and Benton in general here.
It also has the federal courthouse for the Southern District of Illinois Eastern Division. I have appeared at this courthouse on a near-weekly basis for over 21 years! This is the courthouse in which bankruptcy hearings in the eastern part of southern Illinois are heard.
In these hateful times I am leery of taking photographs and describing federal courthouses. So, the photo in this blog is from the internet – not my own (the photographs from the rest of this series are mine). The following description is from Wikipedia:
“The Benton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse is located a block from the town square … . Constructed in 1959, the two-story building houses U.S. District and Bankruptcy courts. The Benton Courthouse was constructed in 1959 from steel and block with brick veneer and clip-on aluminum panels.”
For security and safety’s sake I will not describe the interior in detail, but I will say the courtrooms are large and grand – mostly decorated in bright colors (as opposed to deep brown and burgundy walls, for example) – with plenty of seating and stations for the clerks before the large judges’ benches.
The rest of the courthouse is not as ornate as, for example, the federal courthouse in East St. Louis – there is no large echo-y central lobby. Because it is a fairly new courthouse, there are no lines of portraits of former judges or historical features. On the other hand, it is not utilitarian either. It has been my home courthouse for over 20 years and I always feel safe and comfortable there.
It is the courthouse in which I learned of the attacks of 9/11. I never saw so much activity in the building than that day – there were more than the usual (always polite and courteous) guards and bailiffs. Some were dashing through the hallways. The judge (since retired) explained what had happened and said we would get through the docket quickly and then close for the day.
It was also the courthouse in which I was sworn into the federal bar.
I spent that morning at my uncle’s funeral. He died suddenly and was a shock to the entire family. He was beloved by all and we still mourn his passing.
That afternoon, while the family attended the dinner for us sponsored by our local church; I and two other friends/fellow law school graduates drove to the federal courthouse in Benton. We met our sponsor – a law school professor and good friend – and were sworn into the federal bar. The funeral dinner was wrapping up when I returned home.
But just before the swearing in, my friends and I walked through the swinging gate that separated the benches and the attorney tables in the main courtroom. I was the last of the four to walk through. The low swinging door swung back and banged into my left heel – I had not yet made it through the courtroom divider. The force was so great it split the back seam of my dress shoe and broke the skin of my heel through the sock (I did not realize it did that until I got home). It hurt like heck and I limped a bit but I made it through the swearing in. Later, a band-aid and anti-biotic cream helped heal my heel. My shoe was ruined.
I lost my uncle, I lost a good pair of shoes. I gained a membership to the federal bar.
Hardly an even trade …
No offense to the federal bar, of course. In this courtroom bankruptcy, federal criminal and civil cases are heard. The website for the Northern District of Florida gives a good list: “Federal court jurisdiction is limited to certain types of cases listed in the U.S. Constitution. For the most part, federal court jurisdictions only hear cases in which the United States is a party, cases involving violations of the Constitution or federal law, crimes on federal land, and bankruptcy cases. Federal courts also hear cases based on state law that involve parties from different states. While federal courts handle fewer cases than most state courts, the cases heard tend to be of great importance and of great interest to the press and the public.”
It is one of the few courthouses I call home.
Michael Curry of Curry Law Office in Mount Vernon, Illinois (http://michaelcurrylawoffice.com/) has helped thousands of individuals, family and small businesses in southern Illinois find protection under the Bankruptcy Code for almost twenty-five years. He is also available to help individuals and families with their estate planning (wills, power-of-attorney) and real estate and other sales transactions.
He is also the author of books on finance and bankruptcy available on Kindle through Amazon!
Whether you live in Logan, West Frankfort, Centralia or anywhere in Southern Illinois call Curry Law Office today at (618) 246-0993 and Finally Be Financially Free!
You can also access my website at http://www.mtvernonbankruptcylawyer.com