The Covid world is new for all of us and constantly changing. I, along with just about every attorney I know, supported the closing of the courthouses while we got things under control. Cook County was extra cautious and kept the courts mostly closed until this week. Some emergency hearings took place, some Zoom status calls happened, but most cases were just simply continued.
Now in Will County, DuPage and every place else things are getting back to normal. If you had a case scheduled for trial, it can happen. There are precautions in place and Zoom and other remote access services are being used for great benefit.
But in Cook County, Judge Evans has declared that every case set for trial is automatically continued until 2021. There is no way we can have the mass of usual people in the Daley Center and smaller courthouses right now. But there certainly is a way to make sure plaintiffs have access to justice. Currently if a defendant demands a jury trial, justice is not possible. It’s being abused by insurance companies to pressure injured people to take terrible settlement offers. When you have no leverage there isn’t much you can do.
Unusual times call for creative thinkers. In just downtown Chicago alone, there are scores of hotels within walking distance of the Daley Center. How easy would it be to use a ballroom or meeting room for a jury trial? You could easily social distance everyone while giving all parties their fair day in court. I’m not talking about cases that got filed yesterday, I’m referring to cases that have been waiting for trial and didn’t proceed because of Covid.
Delaying these cases does nothing but overwhelm the court system and force good people in to unfair situations while insurance companies and bad actors get away with not being held accountable.
McCormick Place is another option that would seem to work. It’s huge, has security in place and I can’t imagine it’s in high demand these days.
If you want to have a hearing outdoors I’d bet places in Grant Park could work or even some rooftop deck areas.
The point is that doing something is better than doing nothing. We could even do a trial run of smaller cases on Zoom to see how that goes.
Why we are trying nothing boggles my mind. I’d think most people would even be in favor of trials at the Daley Center if we limited cases to parties directly involved in the case which would greatly reduce foot traffic.
I’m not optimistic because it’s Cook County, but here’s hoping that we get back to a true level playing field for all parties and that our legal system can get back on track. Doing nothing is going to have ripple effects for years.