Courtroom to get facelift

By Tom Bukowski

The NIU College of Law faculty has decided it is time to make renovations to the Francis X. Riley Courtroom, but the work itself will not begin for some time.

The initial decisions and planning to make renovations took place more than a year ago, said Robert Snow, assistant to the dean of the College of Law. This year saw the involvement of Cheryl Niro and Louis G. Apostol, both NIU College of Law alumni, in the renovation project. Co-chairs Apostol and Niro also were involved in the original dedication of the courtroom to Francis X. Riley.

According to Apostol, one of the major reasons for the renovation of Riley Courtroom is so it could be up-to-date in the American Bar Association standards for colleges. Law students in most states must have a degree from a college that is approved by the American Bar Association to take the bar exam, so the renovations are crucial to keeping NIU an attractive college to law students.

Installing computers at the teacher’s desk and other technology upgrades such as a large projection screen will make the room a “smart” classroom, Snow said. Other renovations in store for the courtroom include new carpets, improved seating capacity, reparation of existing walls and the ceiling, new tables, chairs and chalkboards and the installation of power outlets for most of the seats in the classroom.

Kim Sackmann, a second-year law student, is looking forward to the renovations. She dislikes Riley Courtroom’s current chairs, which are squeaky and uncomfortable, she said. Jennifer Gelman, a third-year law student, is looking forward to the addition of power outlets at the classroom seats.

Snow anticipates the College of Law will need to raise “a couple hundred thousand dollars in donations” to completely fund the renovations.

The College of Law is hoping to fund the renovations completely through donations by NIU alumni and anyone else willing to make donations through three-level increments. The higher levels of donation receive appreciation gifts and priority placement on the sponsored “Wall of Givers.” A bonus for those who donate $2,000 will receive a personalized nameplate that will be mounted on a seat in the Riley Courtroom.

The courtroom will be one of the last parts of Swen Parson Hall to be renovated, according to Greg Anderson, director of career opportunities and development. The renovations planned for Riley Courtroom are in many ways based on the renovations made to the Chessick Center courtroom also in Swen Parson Hall, he said.

The courtroom has served another purpose besides classroom and event room, according to Anderson. It has been home to the NIU College of Law moot competitions, where law students compete against each other in mock appellate court cases along with the other courtrooms inside Swen Parson Hall.

It is named after Francis X. Riley, one of the creators of the NIU College of Law. Riley taught full-time at NIU from 1973 to 1983 and consecutively won the College of Law Faculty Member of the Year award from the years 1980 to 1984. Riley also taught part-time from 1984 to 1987.

For more information regarding the renovations and donations, contact Anderson at 753-9604.