While the courthouses will remain open, Cook County’s court system will all but shut down for at least a month, in response to the widening spread of coronavirus in Chicago and beyond.
Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans announced the pandemic response plans on Friday evening.
According to a statement from Judge Evans’ office, the county’s circuit courts – the second largest court system in the U.S. – will postpone nearly all criminal and civil cases for at least 30 days, beginning March 17.
The pause in proceedings is planned to be lifted on April 15.
“We are modifying court operations to protect the public, court staff and the judiciary,” said Evans in the prepared statement. “We will continue to identify the appropriate balance between allowing access to justice and minimizing the threat to public health.
“I am also asking everybody in the justice system to exercise patience and flexibility as we move forward in these unpredictable times. This is an unprecedented situation, and we may need to make more changes in the days ahead.”
According to the release, the county will begin no jury trials, either criminal or civil, before April 15. Those summoned for jury duty should not report until they receive a new date to serve.
Grand juries will continue meeting, and grand jurors must continue to report for service, the judge said.
All criminal trials and most hearings will be postponed.
Bail hearings, arraignments and preliminary hearings will proceed, according to the release.
All traffic cases and misdemeanor cases will be postponed until after April 15.
All non-emergency civil matters will be postponed, the judge said. Emergency requests in civil matters will be heard, the judge said.
Civil lawsuits can still be filed in person or by electronic filing, according to the statement.
The courthouses themselves will remain open, the judge said.
Additionally, the Cook County Circuit Court has advised that no one should enter the courthouses if they meet any of the following criteria, including:
- Have been in China, South Korea, Italy, Japan or Iran in the past 21 days;
- Reside or have close contact with anyone who has been in one of those countries in the past 21 days;
- Have been directed to quarantine, isolate or self-monitor at home for the coronavirus by any medical provider;
- Have been diagnosed with, or have had close contact with, anyone diagnosed with COVID-19; or
- Have flu-like symptoms including fever, cough or shortness of breath.