Responsive, caring bureaucrats could put muckraking journalists out of business.

I thought I’d have a field day criticizing the poor service at Maybrook Courthouse.

It was March 9, about 3 p.m., when I arrived at the clerk’s office to review a criminal file. The clerk was waiting on number 42, when I grabbed number 46.

Forty-five minutes later, I was still waiting. Reviewing the file was only going to take five minutes, so I found the delay intolerable. The problem, as usual, was that the clerk’s office only had one line to serve the public. Every other courthouse I visit has separate areas for criminal, traffic and civil cases. Imagine going to the bank to cash a check and being stuck behind someone applying for a mortgage.

To make matters worse, the man who held number 45 was monopolizing the attention of the clerk who was waiting on the public. He was trying to solve his own traffic court problems, along with those of a friend he was speaking to by cell phone. “Dude, they found a gun in your car,” was one of his bulletins.

I was so exasperated that I asked another clerk if anyone complained about their system. She told me they didn’t get any complaints and didn’t need to hear mine. I mentioned that I was paying her salary. She told me she paid taxes, so she was paying my salary but this didn’t make sense, because I don’t work for the government.

After finally reviewing the court file, I called Dorothy Brown’s office. I was referred to Bryant Payne, in media relations. Payne said he was familiar with the Forest Park Review. After I recovered from my shock, I told him my complaints. He seemed caring and professional and said someone would get back to me.

Before the day was out, I received a call from Jackie Marshall, of the clerk’s office, who told me the powers that be at Maybrook would contact me. Associate Clerk Dawn Porter later called me. Ms. Porter said they had already created designated areas for criminal, traffic, civil and domestic relations and erected signage to guide the public.

She also addressed my concern about banning the use of cell phones at the counter. She said they were considering making this a rule at all their facilities.

See what I mean? How are you supposed to muckrake with people like this taking positive action? I went back to the clerk’s office to make sure the changes had been made. Sure enough, there were easy-to-follow signs and people standing in separate lines.

This is progress. So is the bridge that is being constructed from the CTA terminal to the courthouse, which should alleviate the parking squeeze. As for the courthouse, some problems remain. The building is undersized and never should have been stuck in the middle of a ComEd plant. However, Brown and her staff seem to be making the best out of a difficult situation. They’re even going to speak with the clerk who’s paying my salary.


John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.