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Local News

Kendall, DeKalb County courts emergency plans extended to May 1

Kendall County Chief Judge Robert Pilmer talks during a Jan. 14 court hearing at the Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville. All traffic school classes for Kendall County and DeKalb county courts at Waubonsee Community College are canceled through the end of March due to COVID-19 outbreak concerns, according to a general order.
Kendall County Chief Judge Robert Pilmer talks during a Jan. 14 court hearing at the Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville. All traffic school classes for Kendall County and DeKalb county courts at Waubonsee Community College are canceled through the end of March due to COVID-19 outbreak concerns, according to a general order.

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UPDATED 2:52 P.M. FRIDAY, APRIL 3:

The 23rd Judicial Circuit Court, which includes DeKalb and Kendall counties, has extended the emergency preparedness plans timeline for those courthouses due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Kendall County Chief Judge Robert Pilmer signed the general order on Friday, April 3 that extends those emergency plans for the courts through end of business May 1. That comes after Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker extended his statewide stay-at-home order through April 30.

Pilmer wrote in the Friday order the Illinois Supreme Court previously advised all courts that non-essential in-person court proceedings may pose a risk of infection of COVID-19 to court participants, staff or the public.

"Courts may avoid risk by rescheduling court events to a later date, especially jury trials and large docket calls, or, alternatively, by conducting proceedings via telephone or video remote appearance where feasible and subject to constitutional limitations," Pilmer wrote.

The extension comes after Pilmer previously issued a general order for the emergency preparedness plans for the courts ending on April 17.

Pilmer wrote in the Friday order that each county may adopt procedures permitting essential court matters and proceedings to be heard remotely and that non-essential court matters should be continued or conducted remotely. Those remote means would include via telephone, video or other electronic means whenever feasible and subject to constitutional limitations.

Category 1 essential court functions include criminal trials with speedy trial concerns, along with criminal hearings for defendants in custody including bail hearings, according to the order. Issued and recalled warrants also fall under the same category.

Juvenile detention and shelter care hearings, along with issuing orders of prtection and those related hearings, also are considered a Category 1 essential court function.

Secondary essential functions include felony trials for those who are not in custody, serious criminal misdemeanor cases, temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions, juvenile abuse and neglect hearings and mental health hearings and commitments.

Pilmer wrote in the Friday order each county may continue performing marriages in the courthouse if needed, subject to the discretion of the presiding judge.

Pilmer said that, under the emergency plan, non-essential court matters include traffic offenses, minor criminal misdemeanors and probate matters. Eviction orders also will not be executed through May 1, he wrote in the Friday order.

Pilmer said non-essential court matters also include "almost all civil matters" like child support enforcement and divorce cases. Regarding visitation or parenting time, he said, the courts are still trying to figure out what that courts response will look like and the hope is to have that in place by next week.

"We believe most people make good faith efforts to comply with these orders, but there will be some individuals that will attempt to deprive a parent of parenting time trying to use governor's order as an excuse," Pilmer said.

Pilmer said he is unaware of any area courts, including DeKalb and Kendall counties, having to implement these plans for anything before the COVID-19 pandemic. He said

everybody is dealing with the affects of in different ways, including unemployment, where legal proceeds aren't necessarily at the top of anyone's list to deal with during this kind of unprecedented time.

"We're attempting to deal with this in the best possible way so that things that people need to have resolved aren't unnecessarily or unduly delayed that could cause a greater hardship," Pilmer said.

Pilmer said he appreciates peoples' patience in the courts, like most entities, learning how to deal with these changes in the courts moving forward. He said it's a learning experiece for court officials but he thinks it's important for society as a whole to come together.

"I think that, ultimately, we will get through all of this ... and hopefully we'll be better people for it," Pilmer said.

• This story has been updated to include additional comment from Kendall County Chief Judge Robert Pilmer.

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