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Category: Updates from the Court

Ongoing Remote Court Appearances for Cook County Family Law?

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Written by Olivia Long on 8.16.22

If you’re working with a Cook county family law attorney because of a divorce, adoption, guardianship, or child custody matter, it’s likely that you’re confused about whether you need to appear in person or if you’re required to make a remote video court appearance. Here at O. Long Law, we understand that in Cook county and the surrounding counties, it can be confusing to know whether this time you should appear in person when last time you made a remote court appearance. And what about next time? Are ongoing remote court appearances here to stay in Cook county family law matters?

This article will explore what we know from Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke related to remote video court appearances, how video links work for the court, and whether video court hearings create a sense of burden or unfairness instead of equality.

This blog post is written for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. If you need legal advice related to Cook county family law matters, schedule a consultation with O. Long Law. We’ll help you understand the long and short of it. 

Illinois Remote Court Appearances:

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke’s Position

As the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, Anne Burke plays a vital role in how our entire court system operates. In June of 2021, Chief Justice Burke released a memo regarding remote court appearances. She supports using technology to allow the public to attend their hearings, citing a litigant who lived more than 50 miles from the court and had no way to make it to court. When he called the Illinois Court Help guide, he wasn’t advised to appear by phone or video. He was only told that he must find a way to appear in person. Chief Justice Burke also stated that continuing the use of remote video court appearances allows attorneys to control their time better while also being a better monetary value for their clients. She closed her memo by encouraging judges to continue to support the use of video appearances in the courtroom.

Related: Illinois Launches Court Help Service

How Do Video Links Work?

Video links for remote court appearances work using video conferencing technology. The court has partnered with a specific company that provides video conferencing software. When you are given a time to appear, and you know that you can appear remotely, you should also have a unique link that you can click.

However, you could be required to install an app such as Zoom to make your appearance. These apps do require that you set up an account, but that is at no cost to you since you are the person who is “invited” to participate (even if you are the defendant or you are otherwise subpoenaed or summoned to appear).

If you click the link early (which is probably best), you may not be allowed into the “meeting” early. It may tell you that you’re waiting for your “meeting,” “conference,” or “call” to start. Keep yourself muted so that no unfortunate misspeaks occur. Also, make sure that you’re not using any funny or odd backgrounds or filters. Treat your video appearance as you would if you were in court.

Once your video appearance ends, you can “exit” or “leave” the “call.” You should see an option for that. In most video conferencing apps, it’s usually red.

If you’re with your Cook county family law attorney when it is time for your remote appearance, they will walk you through how to use the app. If you’ll be appearing alone, but they will also be appearing, ask them for pointers if you’re unsure how to use the video link. Because they appear regularly, they should be able to walk you through it to help you become comfortable with the process.

Are Video Court Hearings Fair?

Chief Justice Burke’s memo addressed valid concerns about technology providing access to the courts for individuals without access to transportation. We also agree that keeping the option for video court hearings can benefit individuals who may have physical disabilities or illnesses that prevent them from traveling. Here at O. Long Law, we understand that there are a myriad of concerns and problems that video court hearings can ease.

But are video court hearings fair to everyone? We’ve all seen heart-wrenching commercials showing families in public places so that children can do their homework because there is no internet at home. So, as a society, we must ask yourselves the same question. If these families have a family law issue or any legal issue requiring them to appear in court remotely, would it be fair to them (or would it violate their rights in some way) if they had to do so using public wi-fi?

Then we must consider those without access to technology or living in areas where there is little to no internet. Suppose we adapt to a society that relies only on video court hearings. In that case, we neglect a specific subsection of our population that cannot afford what many of us see as necessities but are, in fact, luxuries. We also neglect a particular part of our nation that, although very small, does not have internet.

Finally, we move on to what happens during video court hearings in certain cases. The Brennan Center reports that:

  • A study of criminal bail hearings found that those conducted via video had much higher bond amounts, as high as 90% more, than those who had in-person hearings.
  • Detained immigrants were more likely to be deported during video hearings
  • It makes representing yourself more difficult because it’s hard to access court resources

 

While video court hearings aren’t perfect, they can bring access to justice to people in the right circumstances.

The Long and Short of It? Be Prepared: Free Initial Consultation

Many of the family law courts are still opting for remote appearances. The long and short of it is to make sure that you’re prepared for your case regardless of whether you appear remotely or in person. O. Long Law is here to help. Whether you’re going through a divorce, child custody, or child support matter, we can get you through it. Schedule your free initial consultation now.

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