Courthouses navigate COVID-19, most court hearings going remote

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Paul Gilfillan, Chief Judge of the 10th Circuit said Tuesday a new administrative order started.

The order will help reduce the number of in-person visits in the court house.

Court staff, similar to this past spring, will be relying heavily on virtual tools.

However, the Peoria County Courthouse is not shutting down at this time.

“We have learned so much in the past 8 months, so we are able to keep all 14 courtrooms in Peoria open,” Judge Gilfillan said.

The chief judge said contracting COVID-19 is almost inevitable.

“Assume that you’re going to get it, assume that the next person has it,” Judge Gilfillan said.

He is urging people to stay distanced and wear masks.

Chris McCall, attorney with McCall Law Offices, P.C. even while following guidelines, it’s possible to contract the virus.

“The court system and the constitution really did not account for a worldwide pandemic it just doesn’t and so we can do the best we can but sometimes the best we can is not good enough,” McCall said.

McCall is one of the people victim of the spread. He recently recovered after learning he tested positive for COVID-19.

“You can wash your hands all you want to, but what if someone touches their eyes, touches their nose…then very well the germs could be on their hands and then you touch a paper that another person has then you could be transmitting [COVID-19] and that’s the scary thing,” McCall said.

Court rooms are taking the path of least resistance. Most hearings and court business will be conducted remotely.

Jury Trials will be on hold for the next five weeks in the five-county 10th Circuit. The purpose is to keep jurors out of the courthouse and away from potential exposure.

The chief judge said this is not the court’s first-go-round and he is confident that staff are more prepared than before.

Although the court is limiting persons admitted and recommending virtual hearings, some larger criminal cases will still be held in-person.

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