Riding the Circuit: Benton, IL Part 2; of Beatles, Charlie Birger and Bankruptcy

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.

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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.

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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

 

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Riding the Circuit: Benton, Illinois

Of Beatles and Charlie Birger…

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-Franklin County

Benton, Franklin County, IL

Benton is the county seat of Franklin County, Illinois

From Wikipedia:

“Benton … took its name from the prominent senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton. The village of Benton was organized in 1841 …

Franklin County was platted in 1818, the year Illinois became a state, at twice its current size. It included the territory that is now Williamson County. In 1839 the county was split roughly in half and the county seat was permanently fixed “at a hill at the south end of Rowling’s Prairie”, the site of the future city of Benton.

The Franklin County Courthouse sits in the center of the Public Square. It is the third courthouse that has served the people of Franklin County. The Italianate building was constructed in 1874-75 …

On April 19, 1928 Benton was the site of the last public hanging in Illinois, when local gangster Charles Birger was executed on the gallows next to the county jail for the December 12, 1926 murder of Joe Adams, mayor of nearby West City, Illinois. A replica of the gallows and hangman’s noose … remain standing today next to the old Franklin County Jail turned Museum.

In September 1963, George Harrison of The Beatles visited Benton while on vacation, the first time any member of the group visited American soil. … ” (The Museum still has the DJ booth and equipment from the time of his visit, it reminds me very much of the equipment I trained on back in the Stone Age)

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The Benton Courthouse is old and lovely and chocked full of history. The walls are filled with photographs and documents of Charlie Berger and his trial as well as past judges, sheriffs, etc.

Twice since 2015 the voters rejected tax hikes to upgrade the current courthouse and/or to build a new facility.  I’m glad I got to stroll the old building while I could still do so.

The square surrounding the courthouse is typical of smaller counties: attorney’s offices, banks, antique shops and restaurants circle the roundabout, where two major Illinois routes meet. Further west is Interstate 57, which means fast food, a Wal-Mart and other franchises thrive a few miles from the city square.

Benton it a lovely and friendly town and it is a pleasure to practice there. The town has the honor of housing two courthouses – one state and one federal. I’ll discuss the federal court in part 2 …

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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

Riding the Circuit: Albion, Edwards County, Illinois

As a Mount Vernon, Illinois attorney, I travel throughout the state practicing law and meeting with clients about topics ranging from bankruptcy to estate law, from divorce to litigation. In my travels, I enjoy seeing the courthouses in our county seats. Occasionally in my blog I will stop to describe these wonderful buildings and the towns and cities in which they set.

***

Edwards County, Illinois was founded in 1815, before Illinois became a state, and encompassed the northern and central portion of Illinois. By 1821 it had been carved to its present location plus what is now Wabash County.

Edwards_County_Illinois_1815

From Wikipedia:

“In 1821, the county seat of Edwards County was moved from Palmyra to Albion. However, residents of Mount Carmel felt their town should be the county seat. Four companies of militia marched from Mount Carmel towards Albion to seize the county documents stored in the courthouse. The situation was eventually resolved in 1824 by separating Wabash County from Edwards County at Bonpas Creek. The resulting counties remain two of the smallest in Illinois.”

Albion was founded in 1818 made the county seat six years later. The familiar green town limit sign says the population is 2,000. The 2010 census says the population is a more exact 1,988. Abraham Lincoln once visited:  per the Illinois Historical Marker near the school, Lincoln “(s)poke in the oak grove of General William Pickering north of here in the presidential campaign of 1840. He was stumping southern Illinois as a Whig elector for General William Henry Harrison in the Tippecanoe and Tyler Too campaign. In 1861 Lincoln appointed Pickering Governor of Washington Territory.”

Albion Lincoln

The Courthouse was built in 1888 and is the third courthouse to set on its current site. The town square is lined with antique shops, attorneys and doctor’s offices, title companies and (about a block away) a Chinese restaurant! It is nice to see an active downtown in a small town.

The parking lot surrounding the courthouse is brick-lined. There is a huge grandstand in the southeast corner of the courthouse grounds. The grounds also contain the sheriff’s office and the historical society.

The courthouse itself is a large brick building topped by a clock tower. It would fit in nicely at Colonial Williamsburg. The southern part of the courthouse still retains its old charm – creaking and winding staircases and that “old building smell” familiar to anyone who tours eighteenth century buildings.

The northern section of the building was added in 1983 and is thoroughly modern – the courtroom is spacious and comfortable.

Oddly I have not appeared in Edwards County as an attorney often. But I do enjoy wandering the beautiful courthouse – both inside and outside!

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About the blogger:

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 Grayville, West Salem, 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

Illinois County Courthouses: Lovely Louisville!

As a Mount Vernon, Illinois attorney, I travel throughout the state practicing law and meeting with clients about topics ranging from bankruptcy to estate law, from divorce to litigation. In my travels, I enjoy seeing the courthouses in our county seats. Occasionally in my blog I will stop to describe these wonderful buildings and the towns and cities in which they set.

***

Louisville, Illinois is the county seat of Clay County. The green city limits sign, so familiar to anyone who travels Illinois’ highways, says its population is 1,200. Wikipedia says 1,139.

Clay county

The courthouse is a few blocks east of the major highway (US 45) running north and south of the town. It sets on a hill overlooking the town square. In its prime it must have been the place to be. It takes little imagination to see the townsfolk sitting on its benches laughing, talking and solving all the problems of the world. Children playing tag; men playing checkers; picnics on the lawn during the 4th of July with fireworks blasting overhead.

From Wikipedia:

“The Clay County Courthouse, located at 300 Broadway Street in Louisville, is the county courthouse serving Clay County, Illinois. Built in 1913, the courthouse was Clay County’s fourth courthouse; it has served continuously as the seat of Clay County government since its opening. Architect Joseph W. Royer, who planned several other Illinois courthouses, designed the Classical Revival building. The courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.

Clay County was formed in 1824, and its county commissioners established its first county seat in Hubbardsville the following year. Local landowner Daniel May donated the land for and built the county’s first courthouse, a wooden building; the county seat was renamed Maysville in his honor. The Illinois State Legislature ordered a meeting of the county commissioners in 1841 to discuss relocating the county seat, and the commissioners decided to move the seat to Louisville. After some legal difficulties, Louisville’s first permanent courthouse opened in 1846. Clay County received its third courthouse in the 1870s, when a two-story Italianate building replaced the 1846 courthouse. Throughout the late 19th century, the citizens of Flora attempted to relocate the county seat to their city; however, Louisville won two relocation votes in 1861 and the early 1900s and kept the seat. The county planned to remodel its courthouse; however, it ultimately opted to build an entirely new building. This building, the current courthouse, was completed in 1913. Louisville’s newspaper, the Southern Illinois Record, initially showed some editorial skepticism as to the need for a new building; by the time of its completion, though, it had rallied behind the new courthouse, which it described as one of the finest in Southern Illinois. The 1913 courthouse has housed the county’s many government functions and kept its public records since its construction.

Architect Joseph W. Royer of Urbana, Illinois designed the courthouse. Royer designed many government buildings across the Midwest throughout his career; his other designs in Illinois included courthouses in Champaign, Douglas, Marion, and Piatt counties. Royer used the Classical Revival style, which became popular in America in the 1890s and remained so through the 1940s, for the courthouse. The building is situated on a mound in Louisville’s village square and is the highest and most prominent building in the city’s downtown. The two-story structure has a square main block with slightly shorter wings on the east and west sides. The main entrances to the courthouse are located on the north and south sides of the building; the south entrance, which was originally the front entrance, has more ornamentation than its northern counterpart. Both sides have three bays in the central block and one each on the wings; the central bays are demarcated by four Tuscan columns. Both entrances are topped by a transom and segmental arch, with a panel between the two on the south side; windows with bracketed entablatures adjoin each entrance. A balustrade encircles the roof’s edge and is punctuated by a pediment with a cartouche above the south entrance. Interior decorations include Doric columns, fretwork floor tiles, Roman-style grilles, and architrave trim.”

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The courthouse sets in a brick-lined square surrounded by antique stores, title companies, attorneys’ offices and the local newspaper. In the northwest corner of the courtyard sets some millstones from (at the latest) 1880.

The courthouse building is pillaried and stately.  The interior opens into a huge lobby ringed with courtrooms and clerks’ offices. The tiled floor looks original and is lovely. Equally impressive are the courteous deputies at the entry and in the courtrooms and the friendly and very helpful clerks.

I enjoy listening to the echoes while standing in the huge lobby; it takes you back to the beginning of the twentieth century. You expect to see Gregory Peck in a seersucker suit walking down the winding staircase. The building conveys dignity. I love the place and am always pleased when I know I am heading north to practice before their bar on some motion or other hearing.

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About the blogger:

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 Flora, 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

27 Counties and counting!

Before I opened my own law office, I practiced exclusively in bankruptcy in southern Illinois. I did that for twenty years and over 5,000 bankruptcy filings.

The most obvious advantage is gaining more knowledge about the bankruptcy code and caselaw than an attorney that only dabbles in bankruptcy.

Another advantage is I only had to appear in one of two (formerly three) federal courtrooms.

A disadvantage is that I only had to appear in one of two federal courtrooms.

There are 102 counties in Illinois, 102 county seats and 102 courthouses (or court complexes).

Since I opened my solo office in April of 2016, I have appeared in 27 Illinois counties. On a whim I started keeping a map

IL counties

 

(Map courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000)

I have been to many more courthouses throughout the state: before September 11th, back when you were allowed to wander the halls and enter the courtroom as a tourist. Those days are, unfortunately, long gone.

I’ll be eventually writing 27 blogs (and hopefully more) describing the courthouses and the county seats in which they set; their history as well as what the towns are like now. From quaint and quiet towns to mid-size city court complexes; from thriving communities to villages long past their prime (most of them have still kept their charm notwithstanding).

If I can I will describe the history of the courthouse building itself. Here I need to ask your forgiveness: I am no architect and would not know a Federal-style from a Neo-Gothic (or even if such kinds of architecture even exist)! But I will try to describe the buildings as best I can – inside and outside.

Thank you for joining me on my travels!

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About the author: Michael Curry of Curry Law Office in Mount Vernon, Illinois 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 Centralia, Salem, or anywhere in Southern Illinois call Curry Law Office today at (618) 246-0993 and Finally Be Financially Free!