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Cook County court system eyes July reopening, mostly via video

Friday, June 26, 2020
Chicago Tribune
by Megan Crepeau

Almost all Cook County court functions can resume, mostly via videoconference, on July 6, according to an order signed Friday by Chief Judge Timothy Evans.

The reopening comes after more than three months of widespread shutdown across the court system due to concerns about COVID-19.

While jury trials will not go forward, bench trials — in which a judge, not a jury, makes the decision on guilt — can resume. Those may be conducted via videoconference if all parties agree, according to Friday’s order.

No date has been set to resume jury trials.

In addition, the Cook County Sheriff will not enforce eviction orders until after July 31, the order states.

But many of the nuts and bolts of criminal cases can resume: plea hearings, legal arguments, bail violation hearings, arraignments and more.

Temperature checks will be conducted at courthouses, and people will be barred entry if their temperature measures at 100.4 degrees or higher, according to a news release from Evans’ office. Courtrooms will feature plexiglass barriers on the bench, and everyone will be required to wear face coverings inside courthouses.

The vast majority of court operations were put on pause in mid-March in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. At the Leighton Criminal Court Building, one of the nation’s busiest felony courthouses, cases outside of bond court were heard on an emergency basis. Proceedings have been conducted by the videoconferencing app Zoom, and many are live-streamed to YouTube to ensure public access.



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