Dear Justice Corner:
I have a case where one side is represented by an attorney and one side is pro se. When scheduling a continuance for a status date, the pro se litigant asked if he could call-in rather than come in person to court to avoid taking off a whole day of work. May I let him do that?
Dear Judge Courtbyphone:
Yes. The Illinois Supreme Court Rules allow for two types of remote access to the courts. Rule 185 provides for telephone conferences by stating that "the court may, at a party's request, direct argument of any motion or discussion of any other matter by telephone conference without a court appearance." The commentary for the rule indicates that the rule was adopted as part of a package of measures to increase the use of technology to make court appearances more simple and efficient. Additionally, Rule 241 provides for video conferences by stating that "[t]he court may, for good cause shown in compelling circumstances and upon appropriate safeguards, permit presentation of testimony in open court by contemporaneous transmission from a different location."
There are a number of reasons why a court should consider allowing more remote appearances rather than requiring everyone to be in court. Primarily, it helps the lawyers and litigants by saving time and expense of coming to court for a single short matter. Represented litigants can pay less for their lawyer and self-represented litigants will not have to take off time from work, pay for child care, or pay for parking or public transportation. It also helps the court by reducing the numbers of persons who have to pass through security, fill crowded courtrooms, and require assistance from persons throughout the courthouse to find the right courtroom and to appear at the correct time.
The practical logistics of how to implement these Rules will vary in each courtroom. Consider reaching out to whoever is in charge of technology in your facility to learn about the technological capabilities of your courtroom. Also consider whether this is something you'd want to do on a one-time basis, or more widespread, and how the calls will be handled (who calls whom, when during the call, etc). The Commission can to assist you if you want to utilize remote access appearances in your courtroom, so please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Justice Corner, Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice Court Guidance and Training Committee
- Chief Judge Michael J. Sullivan, McHenry County
- Presiding Judge Clarence M. Darrow, Rock Island County
- Presiding Judge Sharon M. Sullivan, Cook County
- Chief Judge Kevin P. Fitzgerald, McLean County
- Judge William G. Schwartz, Jackson County
- David Holtermann, Lawyers' Trust Fund, Chicago
- Joseph Dailing, Legal Aid Consultant, Rockford