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McHenry County courthouse to delay jury trials amid COVID-19 resurgence

Video options now available to petitioners seeking emergency orders of protection

The Michael J. Sullivan Judicial Center, formerly known as the McHenry County courthouse is seen in March.
The Michael J. Sullivan Judicial Center, formerly known as the McHenry County courthouse is seen in March.

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The Michael J. Sullivan Judicial Center will delay jury trials scheduled on or after Nov. 30 in light of rising COVID-19 cases, Chief Judge of the 22nd Judicial Circuit James Cowlin announced Monday.

Cases set for jury trials will be continued for either a new status or trial date, according to Cowlin’s administrative order. Grand jury proceedings scheduled on or after Nov. 30 are similarly suspended until further order.

Additionally, anyone seeking an emergency order of protection, stalking no-contact order or civil no-contact order can do so remotely by video effective Monday, according to a separate order.

Continuances arising from the COVID-19 resurgence will not toll against defendants’ speedy trial demands per a May 20 order from the Illinois Supreme Court.

Conversations about improving safety measures at the courthouse are always ongoing, McHenry County Court Administrator Dan Wallis has said.  The most recent delay of jury trials is intended to “protect potential jurors from possible exposure to the spread of the novel coronavirus,” according to Cowlin's order.

The Woodstock courthouse took similar action in March when McHenry County began seeing its first positive cases of COVID-19. The Michael J. Sullivan Judicial Center began expanding its services again in June, including the launch of a pilot program that would allow for virtual court appearances on certain matters. An apparent resurgence of the virus, however, has led to renewed limitations.

McHenry County’s test positivity rate was 21.2% as of Nov. 13, the latest day data is available, according to the seven-day rolling average calculated by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Regionally, the area encompassing Lake and McHenry counties had a test positivity rate of 17.1%. That’s well above the 8% threshold that triggered mitigation efforts for the region effective Oct. 31.

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