State appellate courts are attempting to keep cases moving forward in the wake of the coronavirus, though with a few delays and restrictions.
Illinois’ five intermediate courts from Mount Vernon to Chicago announced last week they will remain open, though oral arguments are being postponed or canceled in some cases and filing deadlines are pushed back.
Four of the five appellate court districts in Illinois publicly announced interim procedures, echoing similar messages that their clerk’s offices are remaining open, but certain filing deadlines will change and access to the physical courtrooms will be restricted.
The 3rd District Appellate Court in Ottawa had not issued a release as of press time. But its upcoming oral argument schedule has been revised, and a spokesperson for the Illinois Supreme Court said on Monday the court is open and working with a reduction in staff.
“The appellate courts do have some leeway and are all using Supreme Court guidance to make decisions (they follow the Supreme Court orders that have been issued),” high court spokesman Chris Bonjean said in an email. “Each appellate court has a [Continuity of Operations] plan they are following and have a presiding justice who operates similar to the chief justice for the Supreme Court.”
The 1st District Appellate Court in Chicago announced on Wednesday it will remain open until further notice, and the clerk’s office is open during regular hours.
“In all civil cases, and criminal cases where the defendant/petitioner is represented by private counsel or is self-represented, the court will allow a brief due date extension of 30 days. This extension applies to all appellant and appellee briefs due on or before April 17, 2020. Further, the requirement of First District Appellate Court Rule 39, that six duplicate copies of briefs shall be field with the Court is waived through April 17, 2020,” the announcement also stated.
“The March oral argument settings have been revised and all cases previously scheduled for oral argument will now be rescheduled or taken as non-oral cases.”
Whenever arguments are rescheduled, the 1st District release stated, access will be limited, and any attorney or member of the public with flu-like symptoms, who had been directed by a healthcare professional to stay isolated, or who had been diagnosed with or was in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, should not enter the building.
The restriction will similarly apply to anyone who was in China, South Korea, Italy, Japan or Iran within the previous 21 days, or anyone who had contact with someone who’d visited those countries in that same time period.
The 2nd District made a similar announcement about remaining open, but restricting building access, on Tuesday. It initially stated that no filing extensions would be granted except upon motion, but followed that up on Wednesday by announcing that “for any brief electronically filed on or after March 16, 2020, through March 31, 2020, the filing party shall have 14 days, instead of the 5 provided by Local Rule 101(c), to provide the clerk’s office with 5 duplicate paper copies.”
The Springfield-based 4th District Appellate Court remains open with the same rules governing building access as the aforementioned courts, and all filing deadlines remaining in effect. In Mount Vernon, the 5th District Appellate Court announced it would close the building to the general public entirely.
“Out of an abundance of caution, all courthouse tours are cancelled and entry to the courthouse will be restricted to employees, the cleaning staff and third-party commercial carrier services (UPS and FedEx). All deliveries by UPS and FedEx are to be dropped off with the security guard at the front door.”
Bonjean also noted the Illinois Supreme Court Judicial College presented a webcast last week on emergency courthouse operations called “Access to Justice and Emergency Preparation in a Pandemic.” The presentation covers issues on minimizing the number of people in court, speedy trial rights and other topics.