Cook County courts extend COVID-19 precautions into July, further delaying most criminal, civil cases

The Circuit Court of Cook County is set to postpone most civil and criminal cases another month as a precaution against the COVID-19 pandemic, while continuing to hear new cases and hold emergency hearings.

Chief Judge Timothy Evans is currently postponing most cases until May 31, but is expected on Thursday to extend the modified schedule order to July 6, Office of the Chief Judge Pat Milhizer said in a statement.

The current order allows for emergency and criminal pretrial hearings to be held on the online videoconference application Zoom. Seven court rooms currently broadcast proceedings publicly on YouTube.

The new order will reschedule all law and chancery division cases beyond July 6.

Since modified court operations began March 17, judges have heard more than 111,000 criminal matters either in person or on Zoom, Milhizer said.

Chief Judge Evans considered resuming some proceedings on June 15, but “decided to extend the date to July 6 to allow enough time for all justice system stakeholders to ensure that more proceedings will be conducted in a way that protects everybody,” Milhizer said.

Evans has asked judges to review pending cases with attorneys by telephone or videoconferencing to determine when cases can be scheduled after July 6.

The court is also seeking more Zoom licenses to further expand live streamed court proceedings, Milhizer said. The court has 50 licenses, and is negotiating with Zoom for 350 more, he said.

At least 38 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Office of the Chief Judge.