McHenry County offers remote court appearances for petty traffic cases
Anyone involved in a traffic case in McHenry County now has the option to appear in court virtually, in line with ongoing accommodations prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A virtual courtroom hosted by the video conference platform Zoom will allow anyone with a petty traffic citation to attend court remotely in courtroom 102 at the Michael J. Sullivan Judicial Center in Woodstock.
Parties aren't required to call the McHenry County's Circuit Clerk's Office to request a remote appearance. Instead, the virtual courtroom is accessible through any smartphone, laptop, or desktop browser by going to https://zoom.us/my/mchenrycourtroom102 and using the meeting identification, 890-297-5604 and personal link name, mchenrycourtroom102.
McHenry County has become a leader with virtual courtrooms during the pandemic, particularly in traffic court, McHenry County Circuit Clerk Kathy Keefe said.
"I have been contacted by circuit clerks from all over the state asking about our virtual traffic court, because we were one of the first counties in Illinois to give it a try," Keefe said.
Remote appearances will take place on the same date designated on the citation, 30 minutes after the listed time. Traffic court's high-volume docket typically draws hundreds of people to the building each week. Delaying virtual appearances by 30 minutes allows the traffic court judge to first handle in-person matters and maintain a reasonable flow of cases, according to a news release.
Once the judge opens the remote courtroom, participants will be moved from a "waiting room" into the "courtroom" where they can see the judge, prosecutor and other participants.
"Many have found remote appearances are more convenient than coming to court in-person," said Associate Judge Jennifer L. Johnson, who presides over traffic court. "Looking long-term, I am hopeful the option to appear remotely is an improvement that increases access to and participation in the justice system."
On May 20, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered that circuit courts may resume hearing court matters, whether in person or remotely. In anticipation of the order, the 22nd Judicial Circuit coordinated with stakeholders including McHenry County Emergency Management, to develop a Reestablishment Plan for reintroducing certain court services. Offering remote appearances for certain traffic, civil and family law matters has helped reduce the number of people coming to the courthouse, and limited COVID-19 transmission where possible.
Anyone who enters the courthouse is required to wear a mask, and asked not to bring bags into the building.
"This pandemic has caused the courts to become innovative and more responsive to the public when handling the business of the courts," Chief Judge James Cowlin said. "Remote appearances are a safe and efficient tool for court patrons."
Links to information about virtual appearances can be found on the McHenry County Circuit Clerk's website at www.mchenrycountyil.gov.