Waukegan courthouse to reopen virtually next week
After about 10 weeks of lockdown-induced stasis, most court cases will begin moving through the Lake County courthouse once again Monday using the virtual meeting platform Zoom, court officials announced Tuesday.
Those scheduled to appear before a judge in family court, civil court, small claims court, criminal court or for matters concerning orders of protection will be able to do so over the popular free program. Matters in other courts and cases set to go before a jury remain on hold.
The new system is accessible by going to 19thcircuitcourt.state.il.us and clicking "remote court hearings." The court staff has set up virtual meeting rooms and YouTube pages for each courtroom. Those set to appear in court will navigate to the Zoom meeting, where they will wait for the judge to let them into the virtual courtroom. The public can watch court proceedings live on the YouTube pages except for cases happening at branch court locations or at juvenile court.
Those without internet access will be allowed to visit the Waukegan courthouse and use computers there.
Several judges and court officials produced a lighthearted two-minute YouTube video titled "Got Court? No Worries. Just Zoom In" as a brief walk-through of the new system.
Court spokeswoman Kasey D. Morgan said staff members have been working with their justice partners to set the system up since the courthouse closed to the public in March.
"It's really been a collaborative effort so far," Morgan said, noting the participation of the Lake County Bar Association, the circuit clerk's office, the public defender office, the state's attorney's office and others. "Everyone sees the need for safety measures in court."
Morgan said everyone is trying to get court back on track.
"Obviously there will be some sort of backlog," Morgan said. "We are working not only to catch up but to stay on track."
Other aspects of court remain on hold including the use of juries. On Friday, court officials announced the formation of a task force of judges to help decide how jury trials will resume. Morgan noted there is a five-week lag between when jury summonses go out and when a jury can be formed.
Morgan said people with questions about the new system can call court administration at (847) 377-3600.