DuPage, Lake Counties follow Cook County’s lead and (mostly) shut down court. Also Secretary of State and Federal Court

After holding off until this afternoon, both DuPage and Lake Counties announced today that they will suspend most court operations beginning tomorrow, March 17th due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The order in DuPage County is in effect until April 17th and in Lake until further notice.

As with other courts, there will still be some cases heard, particularly bond court and emergency motions.  Both DuPage and Lake will provide courtrooms for cases where there are speedy trial demands (where the parties cannot agree on a continuance).  Also, DuPage will continue to hold court for arraignments.

The full order can be found on the DuPage County Court website.

Lake County’s order can be found on its website.

Federal Court is also slowing down.  Here is a link to the Northern District of Illinois’ site where you can get all the information.

Also, I am told that the Secretary of State will not be conducting any hearings until at least April 1st.

Update: Kane County Courthouse to scale back most cases until Mid-April

From Kane County Court:

For Immediate Release Date:

March 16, 2020

Kane County Court Operations Scaled Back Due to Coronavirus

Clint Hull, Chief Judge of the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit in Kane County, has ordered that most criminal and civil cases be continued to dates after April 17, 2020. This decision was made in order to protect the health and safety of the general public and courthouse employees and made after consultation with the Presiding Judges and offices of the County Board, State’s Attorney, Public Defender, Court Services, Circuit Clerk, and representatives of the private bar.

The Kane County Courthouse (100 South Third Street, Geneva), Kane County Judicial Center (37W777 Route 38, St. Charles), and Kane County Juvenile Justice Center (37W655 Route 38, St. Charles) will remain open to hear those cases deemed essential and any emergency motions. Essential cases include but are not limited to in-custody criminal cases, order of protection hearings, juvenile delinquency, juvenile abuse and neglect, and emergency matters.

The Aurora Branch Court (1200 East Indian Trial Road, Aurora), Elgin Branch Court (150 Dexter Court, Elgin), and Kane County Branch Court (530 S. Randall Road, St. Charles) will be closed through Friday, April 17, and re-open Monday, April 20, 2020. All bond call matters that were previously heard at the Aurora and Elgin Branch Courts will be heard at the Kane County Judicial Center until April 20, 2020.

Courts take action to prevent spread of Coronavirus

As I sat in court the other day, in a packed courtroom filled with coughing and sneezing people (including myself and the judge), I received a message from another attorney that there was a rumor spreading about a member of the bench being diagnosed with COVID-19.  This rumor is still unconfirmed, but still, the idea that the courts would remain open in the midst of this spreading pandemic, was quite aggravating.  People feel compelled to appear in court, to avoid a warrant, a default judgment, having their case dismissed or some other bad legal outcome, and keeping the courts open means that those people will feel the need to come to court.  Some of them (perhaps unknowingly) will have the virus, and others will catch the virus, and then spread it throughout the rest of our community at large.  It is for these reasons that health experts have implored authorities to shut down large gatherings.

Even with our schools and major sports leagues shutting down, courts were still punishing people for failing to appear.  On Friday, I sat in a Chicago misdemeanor courtroom where a judge was issuing warrants.

Finally, some action has been taken.  Cook County has announced that it will suspend most court activities beginning Tuesday March 17th, through April 15th.

From Chief Judge Timothy Evans:

Many criminal and civil cases in the Circuit Court of Cook County will be postponed for a 30-day period starting Tuesday (March 17) due to the spread of the coronavirus, Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans announced today.

Court operations will proceed as scheduled on Monday (March 16). The 30-day period runs from March 17 through April 15….

No jury trials in criminal or civil matters will begin in the 30 days. Individuals who have been summoned to jury duty from March 17 through April 15 should not report for jury duty. They will receive a new date for service.

Grand jury proceedings will continue during the 30 days, and the proceedings may be held in courtrooms to provide more space and distance between people. Individuals who are currently serving in grand jury proceedings must report to court.

For all adult criminal cases, all trials and many hearings scheduled for the 30 days are postponed to a future date. Hearings that will proceed in the 30 days include bail hearings, arraignments and preliminary hearings. In addition, defendants may continue to enter into plea agreements to conclude their case. Any pretrial defendant may also request a bail review during this time.

In addition, for the 30 days, low-risk and medium-risk adults on probation do not need to meet with their probation officer in person. Probation officers have contacted clients to inform them that they will schedule meetings to be held either via video conferencing or phone conversation. Clients deemed high-risk will still be required to report to their probation officers in person.

All traffic and misdemeanor matters scheduled in the 30 days are postponed to a future date.

For delinquency and criminal proceedings involving juveniles, the only matters that will occur during the 30 days are demands for trial and detention hearings that determine if a juvenile is held in custody while the case is pending.

Judges will hear cases of child abuse or neglect in which the state seeks protective custody of a child, and judges will hear emergency motions in which children are allegedly abused in foster care.

For domestic violence matters, petitioners may seek orders of protection during the 30 days.Litigants may also seek an order of protection related to an existing civil domestic relations case (such as dissolution of marriage). Emergency petitions may also be filed in child-support matters.

For the 30-day period, all civil matters not deemed an emergency by party agreement are postponed to a future date. Emergency requests in civil matters will be permitted.

No orders for an eviction or foreclosure will be entered during the 30-day period.

Civil lawsuits may still be filed in person or via electronic filing.

For the 30 days, all courthouse Children’s Rooms will be closed. Individuals who have court business should not bring children to court.

After marriage ceremonies conclude Monday, March 16, judges will not perform marriage ceremonies during the 30-day period.

Though there will be fewer cases, all courthouses will remain open for the 30 days. Court employees who do not need to be in a courtroom or office will be encouraged to work remotely during this time.

In addition, Lake County has announced that it will close the Park City and Mundelein field courts on Thursday, March 19th and Friday March 20th, and Kane County has announced that it will close its branch courts beginning Monday March 16th through March 27th.  Their main courthouses in Waukegan and St. Charles remain open.  No word yet from DuPage County.

I will update this as news becomes available.

Chicago Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluation Ratings have been Released for the March, 2020 Primary

The Chicago Bar Association has released its ratings for the March, 2020 primaries.

I have been a long-time member of the Judicial Evaluation Committee, and am currently serving as a Vice Chair.  We have been working on these evaluations for the last eight months or so.  For each candidate that submitted a completed questionnaire, our volunteer members prepared an investigative report, which includes background and reference checks from attorneys who have worked with or were adverse to (or in the case of sitting judges, appeared in front of) the Candidate.  After that, the Candidate was brought before our Committee for a hearing where he or she could discuss his or her career and respond to our questions.

This election cycle, there are candidates for Illinois Supreme Court, Appellate Court and Circuit Court Judges.  Please take a look at our ratings at the CBA website by clicking here.  At the site, you can get our complete “smart guide” findings or the shorter, two page “pocket guide.”

Lake County (IL) will waive past due court fees for one week only starting July 15

From the Libertyville Patch:

LAKE COUNTY, IL — Past due fines owed in criminal and traffic cases in Lake County will be waived as part of the county’s amnesty week, officials said. Lake County Amnesty Week will run from July 15 to July 19 and is run in conjunction with the Lake County Circuit Clerk’s Office and the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office.

“During the week-long period, all collection fees and accrued interest will be waived on any past due fines owed on criminal and traffic matters in Lake County,” according to a news release…

Full or partial payments are accepted either over the phone or at any of our branch court locations. The Lake County Circuit Clerk has more information on Amnesty Week available on its website.

Lake County IL pilot program to help Defendants with court fines open through March 29

Exciting news from Lake County, where court fines are very high.  This is copied from a Lake County website:

Road To Reinstatement Pilot Program

Road-to-Reinstatement

Nationwide, individuals are unable to restore or renew their driving privileges based on inability to pay outstanding fees and fines. Unable to drive, this often prevents individuals from obtaining or maintaining employment so they can support themselves and their family. To combat this issue, Vice-Chair Mary Ross Cunningham and the Lake County Board, with support of its partners, are launching the new Road to License Reinstatement Pilot Program, which will provide qualified individuals the ability to get their license renewed or reinstated.

Apply for the Road to Reinstatement Pilot Program

  1. Complete the Personal Information Form and an Application for Waiver of Court Fees 
    Printed copies are also available at the Lake County Building, 18 N. County Street, 9th Floor, Waukegan, IL 60085.
  2. Obtain your Driving Abstract from the Illinois Secretary of State for $12.
  3. Return the completed documents no later than March 29 by email to communications@lakecountyil.gov, or mail or drop off the documents to the Lake County Administrator’s Office, 18 N. County St., 9th Floor, Waukegan, IL 60085.

About the Program

This program will provide Lake County residents who are unable to pay an opportunity to reduce outstanding costs and get their license renewed or reinstated. The following traffic offenses will not be eligible for participation in this program.

  • DUI citations
  • Habitual/dangerous offenders/offenses
  • Felony cases
  • Child support suspension
  • Financial responsibility suspension
  • Insurance suspension
  • Toll violations
  • Unpaid parking tickets
  • Citations issued outside of Lake County

Frequently Asked Questions

When will I know if I qualify for the program?
Applicants will be notified six to eight weeks after the documents are submitted.

How can I submit my documents? 
Fee waivers and driving abstracts from the Illinois Secretary of State can be submitted by email, mail or dropped off at the Lake County Administrator’s Office, 18 N. County Street, 9th Floor, Waukegan, IL 60085

How can I get my driving abstract?
Driving abstracts can be retrieved at a local DMV. Visit a facility or mail an abstract request form. The cost is $12.

When do I have to turn my documents in? 
All documents are due no later than March 29.

Who do I contact for further questions?
Contact Lake County at 847-377-2929