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Coronavirus update: In the courts

Courts postponing cases, county offices limiting public interaction

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DIXON – Many civil and criminal cases will be postponed in the 15th Judicial Circuit that includes Lee, Ogle and Carroll counties.

Cases will be postponed or suspended starting Monday and running through April 17 because of coronavirus concerns, and teleconference communication is encouraged.

The Illinois Supreme Court advises limiting nonessential in-person court proceedings, especially jury trials and large docket calls.

Case postponements and suspensions began Monday and will continue through April 17. The move is being made “out of an abundance of concern for the health and well-being of the citizens of Carroll, JoDaviess, Lee, Ogle and Stephenson counties, and is consistent with the recommendations of the Illinois Supreme Court as well as the county health departments within our circuit,” Chief Judge Robert T. Hanson said.

Essential proceedings such as certain criminal cases, juvenile temporary custody hearings, temporary restraining orders and injunctions, juvenile detention hearings, family violence protective orders, and certain mental health screenings “shall occur in a manner consistent with the policy of mitigating the impact of COVID-19.”

According to the policy:

• No new jury trials will begin during this period, and those summoned for jury duty will be given a new date.

• All trials and many hearings for criminal cases will be suspended.

• Those that will continue to go forward include bail hearings, arraignments and preliminary hearings. Defendants can enter into plea agreements, and pretrial defendants can request bail review.

• Probation officers will contact clients to schedule phone conversations, and some may be required to report in-person.

• All traffic, DUI and criminal misdemeanor cases will be rescheduled, except for hearings on petitions to rescind summary suspensions.

• For juvenile matters, only demands for trial and detention hearings that determine whether a juvenile is held in custody will be heard.

• Judges will hear cases of child abuse or neglect where the state seeks protective custody of a child, and judges will hear emergency motions in which children are allegedly abused in foster care.

• Hearings on domestic violence orders of protection will be heard, and emergency petitions may also be filed in child-support matters.

• All specialty courts will be continued.

• New civil suits may be filed electronically.

• Marriages will continue as needed.

Whiteside County

The Fourteenth Judicial Circuit, which includes Whiteside County, also advises rescheduling court hearings to after May 4 and is asking attorneys to request hearings by phone, if applicable, to reduce the number of people in the courthouse.

Those called for jury duty who are feeling ill should immediately contact their coordinator, and their service will be deferred.

People who need to submit court documents should contact their circuit clerk office and send them by mail.

“These precautionary measures taken to protect court users, court staff and citizens are subject to change in relation to the developments regarding COVID-19,” 14th Circuit Chief Judge Frank Fuhr said in a news release.

Whiteside County Jail

The Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department and jail will not allow visitors until further notice.

“We recognize the importance of visitation as an essential component of rehabilitation, family connection and quality of life for those in our care,” Sheriff John Booker said in a release.

“Our top priority is the health and safety of those who live and work in our facility, and we are hopeful this policy change will be short-lived.”

Attorneys still are permitted, but will be screened upon arrival.

Booker encourages families of inmates to write letters as often as possible.

Meanwhile, at Thomson and all other federal prison nationwide, visits from family, friends or attorneys will not be allowed for at least 30 days.

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