The Cook County Circuit Court will limit its caseload to critical criminal and emergency matters starting March 17.
The court will operate normally on Monday, but starting Tuesday will trim back most courthouse operations through at least April 15, according to a court announcement issued Friday night.
The court facilities themselves will remain open, though court employees are encouraged to work remotely if practical.
The changes come in an effort to mitigate the spread of the pandemic COVID-19 virus, following a similar approach already announced by the federal court and other government offices.
Until at least mid-April, civil matters not deemed an emergency by party agreement will wait. Emergency requests in civil matters will still be permitted.
“We are modifying court operations to protect the public, court staff and the judiciary,” Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans said in a written statement. “We will continue to identify the appropriate balance between allowing access to justice and minimizing the threat to public health. I am also asking everybody in the justice system to exercise patience and flexibility as we move forward in these unpredictable times. This is an unprecedented situation, and we may need to make more changes in the days ahead.”
For the next month, no jury trials or civil matters will start. There will be no jury duty.
Grand juries will continue. Evans’ announcement said the grand jury hearings will move to the most spacious available courtrooms to allow more distance between individuals — a practice recommended by public health officials to limit person-to-person viral exposure.
The court will put on hold eviction and foreclosure matters.
In the criminal court, trials and most hearings will go on pause. Bail hearings, arraignments and preliminary hearings will continue over the next month, and pretrial defendants can continue to request bail reviews.
The court will also limit face-to-face probation meetings to the most high-risk individuals, shifting other probation meetings to phone or video chats.
Traffic court and misdemeanor matters will all be postponed. In juvenile court, cases are on hold except for demands for trial and detention hearings for juveniles being held in custody.
The court will continue hearing child abuse cases where prosecutors seek protective custody, as well as emergency motions for alleged abuse in foster care.
For those looking to tie the knot, judges won’t be available to perform marriage ceremonies. But for those getting a divorce, the Domestic Relations Division will allow orders of protection during the 30-day window and will still hear emergency child-support petitions.
Barring a follow-up order from Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans, the court would go back to normal operations on April 15.
Cook County Court Clerk Dorothy A. Brown announced Friday that the clerk’s office will remain open and staff will continue regular operations, but urged patrons to take advantage of technology and minimize in-person contact when practical.
“To protect the public and our employees at this time, we are asking attorneys and self-represented litigants to, as much as possible, limit their visits to the Clerk’s Office,” Brown said in a written statement.
E-filed documents will be reviewed and approved as normal, Brown’s office said.
Select services are available to customers via email including copies of documents and court files, certified copies of documents and certified copies of divorce decrees. Requests for copies and certifications must be paid in advance and can be done by phone.
Those who need to pay traffic ticket fines, request traffic safety school or request a traffic court hearing date can do so at .