Caronavirus Fallout: Criminal Justice System Grinds to a Halt

Criminal-Defense-Lawyer-300x226As the Coronavirus spreads and the resulting crisis deepens, the impact to our Courts and criminal justice system are deepening. The Covid-19 virus has lead to the unprecedented closure of Courts throughout the State of Illinois. Every County Court system, as well as the Federal Courts, have been substantially impacted by this growing National crisis.

Courts that are regularly bustling with Defendants, Police Officers and Courthouse employees, have seen traffic come to a complete stop. Some Branch Courthouses in the area have been completely closed, while most of the main County Courthouses are open and operating with skeleton crews that are handling emergency matters and Bond Hearings for recently arrested Defendants. Courthouses that had numerous courtrooms open only have one courtroom open to deal with essential matters. Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening in the Chicago Metropolitan Area.

Cook County

On March 13, 2020, Judge Evans issued a Court Order closing the Cook County Courts from for 30 days starting on March 17, 2020. Judge Evans’ Court Order kept the Criminal Courts open for Preliminary Hearings, Bond Hearings, and Arraignments. Judge Evans was the first judge in the State of Illinois to issue such an Order. This week, Judge Evans extended the closure of the Courts to May 18.

Yesterday, Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ Office was notified that an employee with the Social Services Department at the Third Municipal District Courthouse in Rolling Meadows, tested positive for Covid-19. This is the ninth employee working under the Chief Judge of Cook County to test positive for Covid-19. The identity of the Social Services employee was not revealed. Court employees who may have had contact with this employee will be notified of the possible exposure. The Social Services employee that tested positive last reported to work in Rolling Meadows on March 31. The area where the infected employee worked was cleaned and disinfected after the positive result was revealed.

Yesterday, news reports came out that Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has announced that her office will stop prosecuting all but the most serious Domestic Battery cases in Cook County. An employee at the Domestic Violence Courthouse at 555 West Harrison in Chicago tested positive for Covid-19. In response, Kim Fox announced that she is removing all of her prosecutors from the Courthouse at 555 West Harrison for 14 days. Foxx advised victims of Domestic Violence to petition the Court for a Civil Order of Protection and contact her prosecutors after 14 days to pursue criminal charges. Domestic Violence advocates and Chicago Police are criticizing Foxx for her actions. They say that they were caught by surprised by the announcement. This comes during a big jump in the number of Domestic Violence cases throughout the nation. The isolation caused by the crisis is forcing victims and their abusers to be confined to their homes together with each other. The stress caused by the confinement, along with the economic stress caused by the resulting economic impact, could be creating a dangerous situation for Domestic Violence victims.

As of today, the Cook County Sheriff reports that 221 Cook County Jail inmates have tested positive for Covid-19 and 15 of the prisoners have been admitted to the hospital. 70 Cook County Sheriff employees have tested positive.

Circuit Court of DuPage County

The courts in DuPage County remain closed until after April 17, 2020. On March 16, 2020, the Chief Judge of DuPage County issued an Order closing the Courts in DuPage County until after April 17, 2020. The Courts in DuPage County remain closed except for certain emergency matters. All the Branch Court were closed and any emergency matters were moved to the DuPage County Courthouse on County Farm Road in Wheaton.

Circuit Court of Kane County

The courts in Kane County remain closed after the Chief Judge of Lane County issued an Order closing the Courts on March 17, 2020 until after April 17, 2020. All of the Branch Courts are closed and all Bond Hearings, and Arraignments, were moved to the Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles.

Circuit Court of Lake

Like all of the other Counties in the area, the Circuit Court of Lake County remains closed after the Chief Judge of the 19th Judicial Circuit issued an Order closing the Lake County Courts for 28 days starting on March 17, 2020. As with the other Counties, a Courtroom will be open at the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan with a Judge and a Courtroom staff to deal with Bond Hearings and Arraignments. Unlike the other Counties in the area, if a Defendant has filed a Speedy Trial Demand and the parties have not come to an agreement about continuing the case, the case will proceed to trial. As with all the other Counties, the Branch Courthouses in Lake County have been closed.

So far, Cook County has been ahead of all the other Counties when it comes to taking steps to close the Courthouses. The Chief Judge of Cook County was the first Judge to issue an Order closing the Courts. Cook County is the only County in the area to close the Courts until May 18. However, since the Governor extended the stay-at-home order to April 30, we should be seeing DuPage County, Kane County, and Lake County, extend the Court closings until after April 30.

James Dimeas, is a nationally-recognized, award-winning, criminal defense lawyer, with over-28 years of experience handling criminal cases in Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, and Lake County. Recently, James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer in the State of Illinois for the Year 2018 and 2019” by the American Society of Legal Advocates. James Dimeas was named a “Best DUI Attorney” and a “Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Chicago” by Expertise. James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer” by the National Trial Lawyers. The National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys awarded James Dimeas the “Top 10 Attorney Award for the State of Illinois.” James Dimeas is rated “Superb” by AVVO, the highest rating possible for any criminal defense lawyer in the United States. The American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys recognized James Dimeas as a “10 Best Attorney for Client Satisfaction.” Attorney and Practice Magazine gave James Dimeas the “Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorney Award for Illinois.

If you have a criminal case in Illinois, you can contact James Dimeas anytime for a personal consultation by calling him at 847-807-7405.

Additional Resources:

Report: Foxx Halts Domestic Violence Prosecutions For Two Weeks as Reported Cases Surge, CWB Chicago, April 2, 2020.

Rolling Meadows Courthouse Employee Tests Positive For Covid-19, by Barbara Vitello, The Daily Herald, April 3, 2020.

Some Cities See Jumps in Domestic Violence During the Pandemic, by Casey Tolan, CNN, April 4, 2020.