Judge rejects delay in landlord trial; second judge rejects substitution

Judge rejects delay in landlord trial; second judge rejects substitution

URBANA -- Judge John Kennedy will continue to hear a bench trial regarding sewage problems at an apartment complex in northern Champaign County.

On Monday, Judge Jeff Ford denied a motion by Eduardo and Bernard Ramos, managers of Cherry Orchard Apartments, located between Rantoul and Thomasboro, asking for another judge to replace Kennedy.

The Ramoses, who are representing themselves, alleged prejudice in the case after Kennedy rejected a motion by Eduardo Ramos for a two-week continuance of the trial.

Eduardo Ramos said he needed the extra time to allow a representative of the Illinois Department of Public Health to testify about a Migrant Labor Camp Inspection Report issued to the facility in 2009.

"I have been a lawyer for many, many years and have not seen this type of verbal violence before," Eduardo Ramos said through an interpreter.

When Eduardo Ramos asked for the substitution of judges on Monday morning, Judge Kennedy called for a brief recess. Ford was called to the courtroom to consider the Ramoses' motion.

Ford asked Eduardo Ramos if he has practiced law in the United States. Ramos replied that he is a lawyer in Bolivia and has never practiced law in the United States.

Ford denied Eduardo Ramos' motion, noting that Ramos did not provide evidence that Kennedy was showing prejudice.

The Ramoses are charged with violating the Champaign County public health ordinance through unlawful discharge of sewage, unlawful rental of noncompliant property, failure to obtain a construction permit and unlawful repair or alteration of a sewer system.

Assistant State's Attorney Christina Papavasiliou is also seeking an injunction that would shut down the apartment complex until sewage problems are remedied.

Papavasiliou is also seeking fines of $500 per day until sewage systems are repaired, $500 per day until all tenants are vacated from the premises and one-time fines totaling $1,000. Restitution of $500 is also sought for expenses incurred by the public health department.

Papavasiliou said the trial was ordered after the Ramoses failed to live up to an agreement last fall to empty five of the eight buildings at Cherry Orchard Apartments of tenants because the property's sewer and septic system had an illegal connection.

When Kennedy returned to preside over the case on Monday, Bernard Ramos testified that he saw some "black water flowing" at the site, but he said the problem had been fixed.

Bernard Ramos also said he believed the problems at the site date back to 2007 when he said the Bank of Rantoul was given ownership of the property.

Bernard Ramos said he was getting what he called "the right permits" for Cherry Orchard Apartments from the state, not from the county.

The case is scheduled to continue on Friday.