Hearing on Banks’ will might be moved to help claustrophobic witness

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A witness in the bitter dispute over Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks’ will has “crippling claustrophobia,” an attorney told a judge Thursday.

The witness, who was not identified by name during a morning hearing, can’t reach the 18th-floor Daley Center courtroom where the details of Banks’ will are being hashed out, according to an attorney for Banks’ caretaker, Regina Rice.

The attorney, Linda Chatman, said the witness can’t ride in an elevator to get to a proof-of-will hearing expected to play out Tuesday.

“I’ve got a nice corner office,” Cook County Probate Court Judge James G. Riley said as he tried to figure out arrangements.

“The problem is getting up here,” Chatman said.

The judge eventually said he would try to make arrangements to hold the hearing in a traffic courtroom on the Daley Center’s lower level — which the witness can access by escalator.

The ugly fight over the beloved Cubs icon’s estate was triggered when, just three months before he died, the ailing Banks signed a will that left all of his assets to Rice — a will his family learned of only after his death.

Rice says she was Banks’ trusted confidante and that he wanted her to have everything. But Banks’ estranged wife, Liz Banks, and his sons say they are “suspicious” of Rice, who they believe took advantage of Banks by coercing him into signing the will.

Liz Banks’ attorney, Tom Jefson, said last month he was concerned that Chatman estimated Ernie Banks’ estate was worth just $16,000.

“There’s no allegation of fraud or embezzlement,” Jefson said at the time. “We’d just like to know what happened.”

Contributing: Kim Janssen

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