Impact of Covid-19 on Illinois Courts & Status Information
Normal courthouse operations throughout Illinois have been suspended because of the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes both state, federal, and appellate courts. This does not mean that the entire judicial process has come to a halt. It does mean that certain types of hearings and jury trials are postponed, while others may occur over the phone or Zoom.
It is important to check the local rules and administrative orders for the particular court system that has jurisdiction over your matter because procedures between the judicial districts may vary. You cannot assume that the procedures for one court will hold true for another.
What you should do is stay on top of your legal deadlines, especially when it comes to statutes of limitations. Just because the court is not holding hearings does not mean that the clock is not ticking.
Below is some additional information about various courts in Illinois along with links to the website where you can find the most current guidance.
Cook County Courts
Criminal cases and civil cases in Cook County, IL are currently postponed. No new trials may begin. The original postponement was through April 15. Now, this has been extended through May 18. This is not a complete closure of the court system.
Court proceedings that are deemed to be an emergency can proceed through videoconferencing. Judges may still be present in the courtroom if the hearing cannot be conducted through video conferencing so long as there are no more than ten people in the courtroom and social distancing is maintained. Judges are still available in person for emergency matters
In Cook County, some criminal hearings that may proceed right now include:
- Bail hearings
- Preliminary hearings
- Emergency matters
All civil matters that are not deemed emergency are postponed in Cook County. Civil lawsuits may still be filed during this time.
Here is some more information about various types of proceedings currently in Cook County
- Traffic and misdemeanor cases are currently continued through the date of the court closure (currently May 18, but may be extended under a further order of the court)
- In civil cases, discovery proceeds as scheduled with the exception of oral depositions. There are no penalties for discovery delays for reasons related to COVID-19. Civil cases themselves are currently postponed.
- There is a moratorium for final judgments and executions of judgment in mortgage foreclosure cases.
- Probations meetings are to occur only by videoconference.
- No new grand juries may be empaneled so long as these emergency procedures are in place (the current date is May 18)
- In some Cook County districts, criminal defendants participate in their bail hearing by videoconference.
These are the Cook County Court System's emergency procedures.
Illinois Court Closures Related to Covid-19
Most Illinois courts are currently closed for many types of trials. However, the justice system in the State of Illinois continues to work. Each circuit in Illinois is issuing its own procedures and rules for how to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
Thus, there are no uniform rules for Illinois state courts. Check here for a listing of each circuit's procedures. Most courts in the state are issuing continuation for trials. The Illinois Supreme Court has given permission to the courts in the state to delay criminal jury trials.
Each circuit is determining on its own which type of trials to continue. The guidance from each circuit is controlling in the courts within the circuit. Make sure to check your particular circuit for the relevant guidance.
Illinois Supreme Court
The Illinois Supreme Court is still continuing to hear cases during COVID-19. The Court has given some extensions of deadlines for litigants. The Supreme Court recently announced that it will begin to hear oral arguments through Zoom for cases during its May sessions.
Here is a list of all of the orders that the Supreme Court has issued with regard to COVID-19 and its legal proceedings. The Court is still operating for all cases, albeit not through in-person arguments and with some flexibility for deadlines.
The Seventh Circuit is still operating and hearing cases. Like the Illinois Supreme Court, the Seventh Circuit is also conducting oral arguments through Zoom. Each counsel will learn the details of their own oral argument from the Clerk's Office.
The Seventh Circuit has currently suspended paper copy filing requirements for electronic briefs. The current courthouse closure is through May 2020, but extensions of the closure may be announced at the end of May if conditions have not improved.
Workers Compensation Hearings
The Illinois Workers Compensation Commission has suspended regular operations through May 2020. The only Emergency Motion Calls that will be held during this time are ones that were previously scheduled.
The Commission can decide cases that had oral arguments scheduled for March and April that were canceled if counsel agrees to waive the oral argument. If counsel wishes to keep the oral argument, the case cannot be decided until the regular operations resume.
There are limited in-person hearings available at certain times. In Chicago, the hearings are held at the IWCC's offices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The lawyer must make a motion for an emergency hearing, and only one person per party may attend.
Social security has suspended all of its in-person operations at all of its offices across the country. You may still use online services and should call on the phone if you cannot be helped online.
During this time, social security is not conducting any non-disability hearings. It also will not start or complete any current medical continuing disability reviews. Hearings will only be held once the offices re-open to the public.
You may be able to have your hearing through the telephone if you choose. You can also request a postponement until you can have an in-person hearing or have your case heard by video.
Here is a list of FAQs from the Social Security Administration about COVID-19 procedures.