Federal courts in Chicago and Rockford will virtually shut down for at least three weeks, in response to the effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to an order issued Monday by the court’s chief judge.
In the order, Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, who oversees the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, said the order comes amid a ramped up response by the federal government and the state of Illinois to restrict the spread of the novel coronavirus.
She said the order was necessary to further restrict activities at the courthouses beyond the limitations put in place just four days earlier, because of the actions by the Centers for Disease Control and Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker to limit the size of groups that may meet and to close schools throughout Illinois until at least March 30.
U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer
The order follows a similar pause in proceedings slapped on late Friday by the Cook County Circuit Court, which all but shut down until April 15.
Among other items, the order cancels all deadlines in civil cases, and automatically bumps all deadlines back 21 days.
All hearings, trials and settlement conferences scheduled from March 17-April 3, have been wiped from the calendar, and will be rescheduled by judges hearing those cases after April 6, according to the order.
Deadlines for appeals, however, remain in effect.
And the judge said the order does not impact the ability of judges to enter orders in any case.
The judge said documents can continue to be filed electronically, though the clerk’s office will be closed to the public. Documents can also be left in certain designated dropboxes.
As for criminal cases, Judge Pallmeyer said grand juries will continue to meet, and judges will continue to review requests for search warrants and wiretaps and other similar requests from law enforcement.
All plea hearings and sentencing hearings scheduled to begin between March 17 and April 3 will be canceled and rescheduled after April 6, the judge said.
Some criminal proceedings may be heard by “emergency district judges” in Chicago.
But all other criminal matters have generally been “immediately suspended and held in abeyance,” the judge said.
Pallmeyer said the court will hear emergency petitions for relief from the order.
The judge said the order is scheduled to remain in effect until April 3, though it could be further amended or extended at that time.