The Crusader Newspaper Group

Cook County courts reopen after four-month closure

THE RONABy Isi Frank Ativie

The Cook County government has made moderate and slow progress, recommencing the mandated orders to reopen all circuit court operational buildings on Monday. This demand includes courthouses in Chicagoland suburban areas such as Skokie, Markham, Bridgeview, Rolling Meadows, and Maywood.

On March 17, the Illinois Supreme Court postponed conduct hearings and various scheduled arrangements in Cook County due to the current coronavirus pandemic. The announcement was declared by Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans four days prior. This postponement was apparently ordered to be a 30-day period through April 15.

From March 25 through June 26, 617 Cook County employees tested positive for COVID-19. Chief Judge Evans and his administration announced there are 30 cases of employees who also tested positive for this contagious virus around that three-month span.

On March 30, Evans obtained an order for all court proceedings to be conducted as video conferences only. His plan was to limit the number of individuals in the Circuit Court of Cook County courtrooms. By this past April, 16 employees from Evans’ office staff eventually tested positive as well.

All court matters will continue to be held as remote video conferences. Last week’s resumption allows the Circuit Court of Cook County to conduct more proceedings that do not include jurors. Judges will be available for in-person or remote hearings that apply to all divisions, districts, and departments in this county.

Teleconference court matters are other options for Cook County residents. Misdemeanor and traffic cases will resume until any further order of court; especially urgent emergency proceedings. These regulations have been established by Chief Judge Evans.

Facility staff members from the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center on Chicago’s near West Side had an eventful month this past March.

On March 16, 23 pubescent individuals were released from custody by Cook County judges; it was the largest one-day release total in March. A total of 190 juveniles were released by the end of March.

From March through June, the Cook County facility tested at least 200 juvenile residents for COVID-19. Most of their laboratory results were eventually listed as positive. From March 16 through April 27, 698 juvenile residents were released from the detention center. However, the facility admitted 222 new juveniles during that exact timeframe.

The Cook County Human Resources personnel made remarkable effort, contacting individuals who unknowingly infected unfortunate employees with the corona virus. They worked relentlessly, disinfecting various work stations at several Cook County jurisdictional facilities in the city, such as the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, Richard J. Daley Center’s Social Services Department, and the Leighton Criminal Building’s Adult Probation Department.

The Human Resources personnel also sanitized work stations of the Social Services Departments at the Bridgeview and Markham courthouses.

Black Chicago and Cook County residents are eager to quickly serve their sentences and attend scheduled court hearings in order to complete those responsibilities and move onwards with their livelihoods.

Employees who work for the Cook County court system are also currently handling the pressure by maintaining their jobs and natural well-being. The exposure of COVID-19 has dangerously affected the health of Black individuals currently incarcerated and confined.

African-American residents who have arranged court proceedings and other matters are literally engulfed in a monstrous complex. Many have dealt with deferrals and different accommodations during the last four months. The Black community has sustained through this Cook County court postponement.

This reopening sequence will allow African-Americans to fulfill their instructed duties as given by judges from this region.

As one of Chicago’s Black newspapers with a citywide distribution, our mission is to provide readers with factual news and in-depth coverage of its impact in the Black community. The Rona Reports are stories of Black resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. This Rona Report is made possible by the Chicago COVID-19 Journalism Fund, which is a grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

First published in the print edition of the Chicago Crusader Newspaper on July 25, 2020. 


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