Cook County Courts Go Virtual Where Possible to Prevent Spread of COVID-19 Illness

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176 Court Employees, 12 Judges Have Tested Positive Since the Start of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Due to the surge in COVID-19 cases across the state, Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans on Tuesday, November 24, 2020 entered an order that all matters shall be conducted by videoconference except in “extraordinary or compelling circumstances.”

The Office of the Chief Judge also announced that a judge and three employees recently tested positive for COVID-19.

The judge typically works out of the Daley Center, but has not worked from the courthouse since March 2020.

One of the employees works for Family Mediation Services and also has been out of the office since March.

The second employee works for the Adult Probation Dept. at the Criminal Court Administration Building, lower level. The third employee works as a court reporter at the Maywood Courthouse.

For all confirmed reports of COVID-19, Human Resources personnel contact any individuals identified as having had close contact with infected person(s) in the workplace and potentially were exposed to the virus. Deep cleaning of any affected areas is requested upon receipt of notice of a COVID-19 case in the workplace.

A total of 176 employees working under the auspices of the Office of the Chief Judge have tested positive for COVID-19, including 73 with the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. Additionally, 12 judges and 62 JTDC residents have tested positive since the start of the pandemic.

According to the news release, cases in which an individual tested positive twice, that individual is only counted once in totals.

It was also ordered on Tuesday, November 24, 2020 that the court’s judges and court employees, except those performing essential operations, shall work remotely and conduct business by telephone or videoconference. The order does not infringe on the discretion of individual judges to conduct a teleconference or videoconference from the courthouse.

The order also holds that no bench trials in criminal cases or jury trials of any kind shall be held until further order of the court. While jury trials have not proceeded during the pandemic, bench trials had been allowed in all cases if all parties agreed.

Plea hearings in criminal matters may be conducted by Zoom, under procedures outlined in an order effective on Monday.

The Office of the Chief Judge has been working with the justice system stakeholders – the sheriff, clerk, state’s attorney and public defender – on the use of video appearances throughout the pandemic, and most proceedings have been conducted through video conference since March.

“These actions are needed to protect public health, as we continue to monitor this pandemic,” Chief Judge Evans said. “Our system of justice has continued to hear all necessary and urgent matters, and today’s order does not change that. I commend everybody in the justice system for their flexibility in this unprecedented period of history.”

To help increase safety in Cook County Jail, the court ordered that all prosecution and defense counsel review their cases and determine whether a change of circumstances may support a change in bail that would allow defendants to secure release from jail.

Priority will be given to motions to reduce bail for:

Persons at elevated risk for contracting COVID-19, due to age or underlying health condition

Pregnant women

Persons confined only on misdemeanor charges

Persons confined on non-violent Class 3 and 4 felony charge who are eligible for probation

Persons confined because they cannot afford monetary bond set in their cases

Persons released on electronic monitoring who have been compliant with bail conditions

Persons confined on a warrant or allegation of violation of parole or probation who are not charged with or suspected of a crime of violence

Persons in jail or on electronic monitoring with no place to stay

The court further ordered that probation officers and social service caseworkers hold essential meetings with clients only by videoconference or teleconference whenever reasonably possible.

Anybody seeking information about when they need to attend court should visit the website of the Clerk of the Circuit Court – – for details on how to receive court dates via email and text message. Information is also available by calling 312-603-5030.

Marriages shall be performed by videoconference and only by appointment.

No cases that only involve traffic tickets or misdemeanor charges will be heard in person until further order. Nobody should attend court in person if they have a traffic or misdemeanor matter. These matters will be held via videoconference, and parties will be notified by mail of their next court date.

In courthouses and courtrooms, everybody is required to wear a facial covering and maintain physical distancing. Temperature checks are conducted, and nobody will be permitted to enter a courthouse with a temperature of 100.4 or higher, according to a Cook County Court news release. People traveling to court should plan on allowing additional time for entry into the building. Courtrooms are equipped with plexiglass barriers on the bench and decals indicating where individuals should stand and sit. Courthouses have signs describing and directing physical distancing.

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