Timothy C. Evans
Timothy C. Evans

Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans offered more details just before noon Friday about the court’s July 6 reopening.

Effective July 6, “circuit court will begin hearing all matters in all Districts and Divisions of the court with the exception of jury trials,” the latest order says.

For the most part, matters should be handled by videoconference, but judges have discretion to proceed in-person when necessary, after considering party objections.

For those inside court facilities, face coverings are required, except when people are speaking on the record or are using sign language interpreters.

“As we continue to navigate these times, the court will allow access to justice to the extent we safely can,” Evans said in a written statement accompanying his order. “We will continue to hold many hearings via videoconference, and we remain committed to ongoing efforts to protect the health of everybody in our system of justice.”

In all civil matters, the order says discovery should continue as scheduled, except for oral depositions, which may be taken by videoconference.

“Where it is not reasonably possible to conduct an oral deposition for reasons related to the COVID-l9 emergency, the parties shall use their best efforts to postpone the deposition by agreement and stipulation for a period not to exceed 60 days; absent such agreement, the proceedings shall be deferred until such later date as the court can review the matter and issue appropriate directives,” the order says.

There won’t be any penalty for delayed discovery compliance except where good cause is shown. Presiding judges in the various parts of the court system are directed to issue more specific procedures for the matters in their respective district or division.

In the Chancery Division, foreclosure proceedings will remain stayed through at least July 31. [O]ther contested motions may continue to be litigated and ruled upon by the court, including, but not limited to, discovery motions, special representative motions, and receiver motions,” the order reads.

Many non-emergency court operations were halted or scaled back in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the middle of March.

Under an Illinois Supreme Court order issued May 20, chief judges in each judicial circuit have authority to implement plans for each of the counties they serve based on a set of specific factors.

Evans opted to extend his existing orders an additional month, giving the court system more time to develop plans and procedures that protect the health of people inside the county’s several courthouses.

On May 29, Evans amended General Administrative Order 2020-01 to reschedule all matters — with some exceptions — an additional 30 days from the date currently scheduled or a date that is no more than 30 days after July 6, whichever comes first.

The latest order, General Administrative Order 2020-02, supersedes the May 29 order and takes effect on July 6.