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In-Person Jury Trials Resume in Illinois

September 2021

By: Jeffrey F. Clement

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, courts throughout Illinois have enacted a patchwork of procedures for court appearances, hearings and trials. Early on, this resulted in a complete suspension of jury trials. Then, courts moved to remote procedures and/or a hybrid approach where a personal appearance was optional. More recently, many courts throughout Illinois have started in-person appearances and trials. Yet, Cook County lagged with enacting any procedures to specifically resume in-person jury trials.

It appears those days are now behind us. On September 8, 2021, the Circuit Court of Cook County entered a new General Administrative Order (GAO) allowing all court proceedings to be conducted in person, remotely or in a hybrid of the two. Most importantly, the Court is expanding operations in all district and divisions to accommodate in-person jury trials.

How will it work? First, the 6 feet social distancing requirement will be modified to 3 feet between persons. Also, jury assembly areas at the Daley Center will be expanded to include designated courtrooms on the 22nd floor. Moreover, 86 courtrooms have been designated for trials, 76 of which may be used for jury trials. All participants, including witnesses, are required to continue to wear face masks, but may remove their mask when speaking on the record behind a plexiglass shield.

With the backlog of cases that never went to trial, the first to be addressed are those cases that had originally been set for trial from March 17, 2020 through March 31, 2022. All such cases will be scheduled for a “trial setting call.” The expectation is that such cases will be set for trial as “expeditiously as possible.” At the jury trial setting call, we’ve seen several of these cases set for jury trial as early as October or November of 2021. As a result, we expect a flurry of activity for those cases that could not be settled but have sat in limbo while waiting for a trial date.

In conducting these jury trials, many challenges await the court, the litigants and the attorneys. For example, it is going to be a challenge getting enough jurors to show up for jury duty to accommodate all these trials. Moreover, compelling the attendance of witnesses will be difficult given the various attitudes and comfort levels with in-person activities. As such, we anticipate this will continue to be a “work in progress” and procedures will be modified as we move forward.

  • Chicago Bar Association
  • Workers' Compensation Lawyers Association
  • IRTB
  • DRI - The Voice of the Defense Bar
  • The Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel
  • Illinois Self-Insurers' Association
  • Chicago Bar Association
  • Workers' Compensation Lawyers Association
  • IRTB
  • DRI - The Voice of the Defense Bar
  • The Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel
  • Illinois Self-Insurers' Association
10 South LaSalle Street, Suite 900
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: 312-425-3131
211 Landmark Drive, Suite C2
Normal, IL 61761
Phone: 309-862-4914
One Metropolitan Square
211 North Broadway, Suite 2200
St. Louis, MO 63102
Phone: 314-300-0527
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