April 28, 2020
Following directives and orders from the Illinois Supreme Court, the Governor’s office, and the ARDC’s Commissioners and Administrator, both the ARDC’s Chicago and Springfield offices are currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff is working remotely. There presently is no date set for reopening the offices and having staff return. However, the ARDC is still functioning as well as can be expected under the circumstances. Here’s an overview of what is happening at the ARDC.
Prior to the shutdown, much of the ARDC’s communications with lawyers and members of the public was done by U.S. Mail and telephone. During the shutdown, the ARDC has employed a company to retrieve and scan its postal mail for electronic distribution to the correct recipients. Telephone callers to the ARDC are connected to individual employee voicemails by receptionists working remotely, and employees receiving those messages are alerted when a voicemail is left. Additionally, the ARDC has also expanded e-mail communications with lawyers and the public.
The ARDC’s registration department is now functioning primarily by e-mail. Lawyers needing help from the registration department can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ARDC is continuing to process requests for investigation from the public, judges, and lawyers.
The ARDC previously accepted requests for investigation by U.S. Mail or fax but now accepts requests for investigation by e-mail at email@example.com. It also
communicates by e-mail with attorneys who are the subject of requests for investigation. The ARDC’s intake department noted a decrease in March 2020 requests for investigation, as compared to March 2019. Whether a similar downturn will continue into the coming months is uncertain.
The ARDC’s litigation caseload has been moving forward. Video conferencing is being employed for sworn statements and depositions when possible. Pre-hearing conferences, consent hearings, and default hearings before the Hearing Board, as well as oral arguments before the Review Board, are to be conducted remotely using audio or video conferencing until further notice. All contested hearings before the Hearing Board are continued until further notice.
Filing documents in Hearing and Review Board matters is done electronically, so “paper” discovery, motion practice, and brief-writing before those bodies can continue without significant change. Also, because the Illinois Supreme Court utilizes electronic filing, the ARDC’s practice before the Court continues largely unaltered by the shutdown.
Lawyers seeking information from the ARDC’s ethics inquiry program may continue to call the ARDC (312-565-2600 or 800-826-8625), or they now may send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Inquiring lawyers will receive a return telephone call from an ARDC
attorney to discuss their queries. Along these lines, the ARDC has prepared a handout entitled “Our Ethical Obligations During the Coronavirus Shutdown” that is available on the home page of the ARDC’s website, www.iardc.org.
As part of the its education and outreach responsibilities, the ARDC offers 17.25 hours of free MCLE-accredited courses on its website, including 1.25 hours of diversity and inclusion MCLE and 2.25 hours of mental health and substance abuse MCLE. The ARDC has been working with MCLE providers to convert previously-scheduled in-person speaking engagements to remote learning opportunities. ARDC attorneys have participated in approximately ten presentations via virtual platforms since the shutdown began. Notably, the MCLE Board of the Supreme Court of Illinois recently announced that it has been authorized to provide a three- month extension at no cost to attorneys with a June 30, 2020 MCLE compliance deadline (attorneys with last names beginning with A-M). Further details can be found at www.mcleboard.org.
Finally, the ARDC’s annual report, its comprehensive report to the Illinois Supreme Court encompassing all ARDC activities and initiatives, as well as an accounting of the ARDC’s finances, is on schedule to be published on the ARDC website on or about May 1, 2020. A short overview summary of the report, entitled “Highlights,” will also be available on the website at that time.