Coronavirus Sparks 2-Week Shutdown Of Lake County Public Defender's Office

photo of lake county courthouse
Most cases in Lake County courts are on hold until attorneys in the public defender's office can return to work. [Tony Ganzer / ideastream]

The Lake County Public Defender’s office is shut down for two weeks after two likely cases of the coronavirus have been reported.

The self-quarantine of the office's 22 staff members began March 27 and is based on advice from the local health department, according to Lake County Court of Common Pleas Administrative Judge Patrick Condon.

All court cases involving the public defender are on hold, Condon said. About 90 percent of the cases that come through his courtroom have representation from the public defender’s office.

“I have reset the hearings for the week that they come back,” Condon said, adding that additional delays might be necessary if attorneys in the office are recovering. “But it is important to us that their clients — and I know it's important to them — that their clients have their day in court as soon as possible.”

The state prison authority has also stopped all transfers from Lake County jail during the quarantine period, according to Sheriff Frank Leonbruno.

“The state was concerned about an infection coming from someone in the public defender’s office,” Leonbruno said.

The jail population in Lake County is down to about 200 — half its capacity — and there are no reported cases among inmates or staff.

Leonbruno put in place uncommonly strict measures to prevent an outbreak in the jail.

“New arrests coming into the jail all go into isolation for 14 days,” Leonbruno said. “Anyone coming back from the courthouse also goes into quarantine.”

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