ROCK ISLAND -- Just days away from a date with the wrecking ball, the historic Rock Island County courthouse has received a stay of execution.
An emergency petition was filed late Thursday by Chicago law firm Jenner & Block, attorneys for the plaintiffs, with the Third District Appellate Court and approved on Friday.
Rock Island County State's Attorney John McGehee said the emergency petition will delay demolition for up to 10 days.
"The plaintiffs have been given a reprieve," McGehee said. "Demolition has stopped pending the appellate court's review and determination of what they want to do with the appeal. It stops all actions from going further until the appellate court can review all arguments of both parties."
Six plaintiffs filed suit Feb. 6 in a combined effort to stop demolition of the courthouse, built between 1895 and 1897.
Landmarks Illinois, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Rock Island Preservation Society, the Moline Preservation Society, the Broadway Historic District Association and Frederick Shaw, one of the bondholders in the Justice Center Annex project, filed the suit Feb. 6 in Rock Island County.
Diane Oestreich, a member of the Rock Island Preservation Society, joined as an additional plaintiff in the case as a taxpayer.
Jenner & Block argued that demolition would be in violation of the Illinois State Agency Historic Resources Preservation Act.
Peoria County 10th Circuit Judge Jodi Hoos dismissed the lawsuit March 19, saying local governments, including Rock Island County, are exempt from the Preservation Act. Hoos also vacated a temporary restraining order against demolition that was in place since March 6.
Valley Construction, the contractor tasked with demolition, placed a crane on the site several weeks ago.
Landmarks Illinois President Bonnie McDonald said Friday she was pleased the emergency petition was granted.
"Landmarks Illinois disagreed with the court’s decision to dismiss our case and firmly stands behind our lawsuit asserting the Rock Island County Board and Rock Island County Public Building Commission are in violation of state historic preservation law in their efforts to demolish the historic county courthouse," McDonald said.
McGehee said Illinois state statute gives both parties an opportunity to file additional documents within five days. The appellate court will then have five days to review paperwork and issue a decision whether the appeal will remain as an emergency petition or follow the standard appeal process.
"Generally, appeals can take up to six months," McGehee said. "This is one of those emergency orders and the appellate court wants to move quickly. Sometime next week we will have a better sense of what the appellate court wants to do with this.
"The way this whole thing has progressed, I would say everyone is being very careful and cautious. This gives both parties time to lay out their positions," McGehee said.
Moline Preservation Society President Diann Moore said she was thrilled to hear the emergency petition was accepted.
"Obviously I am very happy," Moore said. "We didn't agree with the judge's decision and this gives us a chance to appeal. I'm hopeful for a positive outcome."