Judge: Illinois federal courts will look 'quite different' during COVID-19

The chief judge of federal courts in Northern Illinois says things will look “quite different” as some operations resume at courthouses in Chicago and Rockford.

Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer said in a video message released Monday that a task force has been planning for how courts can proceed safely during the coronavirus pandemic. She said the court will issue an order Tuesday outlining details.

Federal courthouses have been largely empty since mid-March. One emergency judge has been on duty at the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago each day, but most court proceedings have been conducted by paper filings, telephone or video. Under a court order, most hearings were rescheduled for after June 1 and trials were ordered rescheduled for June 29 or later.

Pallmeyer said in her video message that the task force has been working with public health officials to determine the safest way to screen visitors entering the courthouse, sanitize facilities and eventually resume jury trials. She didn’t say when jury trials will be resumed, but said the focus will be on scheduling criminal trials that have been delayed the longest amount of time.

Pallmeyer said emergency judges have handled over 500 motions since the pandemic started in Illinois. Since March 18, attorneys have filed more than 7,200 motions, judges have entered 34,200 orders and more than 1,350 new civil cases have been filed, she said.