Justice Denied? The Ripple Effect
In concerted efforts to restore the most crucial systems back to order and to best keep cases preceding to resolution, The Circuit Court of Cook County has released a general administrative order in efforts to address the ever-changing landscape in the Circuit Court of Cook County caused by COVID-19.
While we are still bobbing and weaving as a city, state and nation, to determine when and HOW we can safely return to our most essential services, the latest order looks to better define and offer guidance moving forward in the legal arena. While there is still no in-person hearings on any motions including emergency motions, this order directs that beginning April 15, 2020, all emergency motions will be heard remotely through telephone or video.
In a more fluid sense, cases that were set for trial between March 17, 2020 and August 14, 2020, will be reset for a trial setting (NOT a trial) on a date between June 29, 2020 and August 14, 2020. At this time, those cases can expect an actual trial date to be set within 60 days of the trial setting date, assuming normal court operations have resumed.
While this seems to offer at least a partial return to the semblance of law and order, it is crucial to note that while this provides a broad spectrum for moving forward, the devil is in the details.
“Most of our clients who were set to go to trial in late March, April or May, have already been waiting for their chance to be heard for up to four years,” says Jeffrey Kroll, Partner with Kaveny + Kroll Trial Attorneys (www.kavenykroll.com) in Chicago. “Due to the usual traffic of the court system, civil cases in Cook County generally experience a 2-4 year lag from file to trial,” says Kroll. “That translates into families who are living with the severe injury or death of a loved one not getting their day in court until much later than expected. Consider the case of a child egregiously injured at birth. Until a case is tried and found for the plaintiff, the family must pay for all the health and maintenance of their child’s care, costs that can easily be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Covid-19 has extended this timeline even further, albeit with reasons of safety and public health in mind.”
Even with the tentative schedule in place, Kroll cautions the public to not assume that all will be business as usual…even on a delayed schedule. “There are so many considerations beyond the opening of the court systems, whenever that happens,” says Kroll. “Multiple expert witnesses who were lined up to present on a certain date, now have to rearrange and coordinate their schedules for a new trial date. Jury work also takes on an entirely new realm as many who have not been working during the pandemic will be hard-pressed to come back to serve on a jury…for $17 dollars a day.
The safety issues are an entirely other ‘court’ to contend with. From the close quarters in the courtroom to the jury room, the threat of contagion must be considered. “Ultimately, we will get going again,” says Kroll. “But, in the case of COVID-19, the wheels of justice may move quite slowly to ensure public safety.”
Kaveny + Kroll Trial Lawyers (www.kavenykroll.com) is a leading boutique medical malpractice and personal injury law firm in Chicago. They were established in 2019 by award-winning attorneys Elizabeth A. Kaveny and Jeffrey J. Kroll. The firm is driven by a commitment to justice and the need to fight for victim’s rights and financial recovery. At Kaveny + Kroll, we believe a valued law firm should take your case personally … because it is.