As we observe Law Day 2022, the 1st District Appellate Court can look back and be justifiably proud of our commitment to keep cases moving even during a pandemic, while at the same time looking forward to coming out of the COVID cocoon to serve the people of Cook County.
Starting under the leadership of executive committee chairs Justice Maureen Connors (2019-2020) and Justice Mary Kay Rochford (2020-2021), the Justices and staff of the 1st District have worked tirelessly throughout this COVID period to fulfill our commitment to provide access to efficient, fair, service-oriented appellate proceedings for the lawyers and litigants in our community.
For the period January 2021, through March 14, 2022, the justices of the 1st District conducted 302 video-conferenced oral arguments and closed 2,598 cases. We appreciate the cooperation of the attorneys who participated in the oral arguments.
During a program started by Justice Bertina Lampkin, we watched with gratitude as private attorneys stepped up and offered pro bono assistance to criminal defendants as the Office of the State Appellate Defender faced unprecedented staff shortages affecting its clients. We are pleased to report that OSAD has notified us that it is now able to handle its full caseload without the assistance of the volunteer attorneys.
We actively participated in the development of Illinois Free Legal Answers. The online project, with the assistance of the ABA, Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, Public Interest Law Initiative, and private attorneys has provided virtual assistance to appellate litigants.
And we are grateful to our exceptional staff. Their cooperation in maintaining good public health and safety protocols resulted in a fully functioning court, which minimized the need to close our court to only four days for COVID issues. E-filing and lobby drop-off boxes allowed for all documents to be processed with same-day file stamps.
Finally, we thank the other stakeholders in the Appellate process, the trial court judges and staff, the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Court Reporters’ Office of Cook County, the State’s Attorney, the Public Defender, the Office of the State Appellate Defender and private attorneys for doing everything possible to keep the court system in Cook County up and running during these difficult times.
We are looking forward to returning to normal!