“Before the pandemic, people would have to take a day off of work. We used to hear stories sometimes that if people were on probation with a job, they would lose their job because they had to take a day off work to come to court. We used to hear mothers of young children tell us that they had to bring all their kids down to court because they can’t find a babysitter,” Marsalek said. Many people complained of how expensive and incon- venient it is to find parking downtown or to use public transportation. “A lot of these people have very limited financial re- sources. This has basically alleviated all those concerns and those problems because people now are Zooming in from their homes or from their job.” Although there was initially a learning curve, Marsalek perceives a level of comfort with the system now. “Overall, the lawyers have told me they’re very happy that the cases are still moving, and that there is this huge
choose to show up or dial in. From his perspective, hybrid arrange- ments present more of a challenge than choosing one way of op- erating or the other. The task force will present its professional perspective to the Illinois Supreme Court in September. It will examine issues beyond
remote appearances, so its recommendations will be on a wider array of pandemic-era measures, Doherty said. “The big-picture sense is the change that can seem im- possible, can still be achieved when it’s necessary. ... That we can respond to a chal- lenge, that the judicial system is flexible enough to meet the challenges that we couldn’t have foreseen — we have that arrow in our quiver. And so that knowledge is invaluable for future challenges.” Theis said the transforma-
backlog that some other areas are expe- riencing because they weren’t moving as many cases through as we did. We’ve been able to really get a lot of cases disposed of during the pandemic, thanks to Zoom.” The Illinois Su- preme Court has been working on initiatives prior to the pandemic to set time standards for case closures in trial courts across the
Eugene Doherty Chief Judge, 17th Judicial Circuit
tional period of the courts has been both amazing and frightening. While every courthouse in the state shut down on March 17, 2020, the road ahead appeared very unclear. As the pandemic loomed over court operations, all services felt essential. “We thought, well, people can be locked in their houses; we need domestic violence courts. People may have psychotic breaks; you need mental health courts. Vulnerable people can be isolated; we need guardianship courts. Crime is still going to happen; we need those courts,” Theis said. “The big lesson is that everything we do is essential, especially at a time of crisis.” A SPUR TO UPGRADE Some judges would prefer that hybrid courtroom operations remain in place, and the creation of the Remote Proceedings Task Force is evidence they will likely continue in some form. Chief Justice Anne M. Burke has made several statements advancing the idea of hybrid court operations since the onset of the pandemic. In a 2021 letter to judges and court personnel across the state, Burke said the significant benefits of remote proceedings cannot be ignored. She noted the option to appear remotely “will continue as a key component in keeping our court system open and accessible.” Tailor believes remote hearings present the opportunity for effi- ciencies in the system. He said judges in the County Division appear in person two to three days a week. Even when in the building, they hear cases remotely as well. “It doesn’t make sense to require a lawyer or a pro se litigant to come down to the Daley Center for a two-minute hearing when they can do it from the comfort of their office or home.” But at the same time, he noted, there’s tremendous value in having an in-person hearing in select situations, particularly in a dispositive motion type setting or a trial. Diann Marsalek, presiding judge of the Traffic Division in Cook County Circuit Court, said litigants have adapted well to remote court proceedings in her division and she anticipates that all minor traffic cases will remain remote.
Diann Marsalek Presiding Judge, Traffic Division, Cook Circuit Court
state. It also created the Technology Modernization Pro- gram, which has given chief judges and trial court admin- istrators the opportunity to thoroughly assess technology needs and request funding for upgrades. “A lot of courts were probably getting maximum use out of the technology they had before they would replace it. It’s common to wait until something fails to upgrade it,” said Vancil, the chief judge in Macomb. “But with the various sources of funds that were made available, it sped that process up tremendously.” Technology upgrades will allow the courts to operate when a physical location is closed for any reason, be it the pandemic, a snowstorm or any other event, he noted. The Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts brought on enterprise technology provider Guidehouse as con- sultant for the upgrade program. “They came around to each of the circuits and visited with chief judges, trial court administrators, our IT people and circuit clerks, and did a survey of things, technology wise, that we needed,” Vancil said.
CHICAGO DAILY LAW BULLETIN • LAW DAY 2022 11
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