Future Law

Illinois Supreme Court Issues Pandemic-Related Court Orders, Expands Criminal Appeals Pro Bono Program

illinois supreme courtThis week, the Illinois Supreme Court issued two orders that support the expansion of remote court operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic 

The Order on Remote Jury Selection in Civil Matters permits circuits to conduct jury selection in civil cases via video conference. This expands upon rules that were amended in May to support the use of remote hearings.  

The order addresses jury selection in civil cases, which have been mostly on hold during the pandemic. It doesn’t address any other part of the jury trial or whether this method of questioning potential jurors is permissible in criminal jury trials.  

“The order allows for a flexible approach to implementing remote jury selection, affording individual circuits discretion to determine if it is an appropriate tool based on each circuit’s local conditions and constraints,” the press release says. Guidelines for remote jury selection can be found here 

The Order on Remote Service in Protective Order Proceedings permits remote service of process of the protective order or personal service of the protective order so long as the operative terms of the protective order are read to the respondent in open court during the remote court appearance. The order directs the Clerk of the Circuit Court to take appropriate action once remote service has been achieved so the necessary authorities are updated. 

Both orders were proposals from the Illinois Judicial Conference’s Court Operations During COVID-19 Task Force, which was established in June to address challenges related to resuming court operations amid COVID-19.   

Expanding the Criminal Appeals Pro Bono Program 

The Illinois Supreme Court also announced this week the expansion of its Volunteer Pro Bono Program for Criminal Appeals to include the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Appellate Districts. The expansion will go into effect on December 1, 2020.  

The Court launched the program in February as a six-month pilot in the Illinois Appellate Court’s First and Second Districts. Volunteer attorneys were tasked with helping to reduce the backlog of criminal appeals pending with the Office of the State Appellate Defender (OSAD). Seventy-five attorneys were approved to participate in the pilot and 42 cases were assigned. A total of 18 appellant briefs were submitted, all of which are still pending before the Appellate Court. 

Interested attorneys can fill out the application hereApplicants must have appellate experience, be willing to work under the supervision of counsel approved as a volunteer attorney in the program, prior experience clerking for a Supreme Court or Appellate Court justice, or working in the appellate division of a state or federal agency. Other criteria include up-to-date malpractice insurance, no ARDC disciplines, and five years’ experience as a licensed attorney with no ARDC disciplines. 

Attorneys who don’t meet eligibility requirements can still participate under the supervision of an eligible attorney or can qualify by completing a five-week OSAD training course. More details can be found on the Court’s website 

“The pilot program has worked in reducing the backlog of criminal appeals cases,” Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne M. Burke said in a release. “I would like to thank everyone involved for their hard work in getting the pilot program up and running and now organizing for a successful rollout for the rest of the state.” 

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