The Illinois Supreme Court has issued a new order allowing Illinois courts to begin opening on June 1. Under the order, chief judges in each of the judicial circuits have authority to implement plans for each of the counties they serve based on a set of specific factors. Social distancing measures are likely to remain in place and courts will look for ways to reduce the number of people physically present in court facilities while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Since March 17, the justices ordered Illinois courts to limit in-person proceedings to only essential matters, delaying most other matters and shifting a healthy share of the courts’ business to videoconferences. According to the Order, remote hearings should continue where appropriate. But the new guidelines suggest that the current limits on in-person hearings will be “relaxed in accordance with a chief judge’s local plan.” In addition, chief judges can still continue trials as they see fit, and those continuances won’t run afoul of speedy-trial rules until further order of the high court.
The guidelines include a section about how courts can address the back-log of cases generated over the nearly three-month shutdown of the state’s judicial system. It is likely that addressing the back-log will differ among the various court jurisdictions. Johnson & Bell will continue to monitor the re-opening process to ensure clients’ legal needs are addressed. If you have questions about the re-opening process, please contact the Johnson & Bell attorney with whom you regularly work.