Madison - St. Clair Record

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Southern District of Illinois federal court remains open, though limitations in place until April 3; All civil matters are continued

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By Ann Maher | Mar 16, 2020

Chief Judge Rosenstengel

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, including the courthouses in East St. Louis and Benton, remain open and continue to perform essential functions amid circumstances associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. 

According to a release issued Sunday afternoon, the Court is adjusting its staffing and operating procedures in order to protect the public health as well as fulfil its constitutional duties. 

Administrative Order No. 261 has been entered detailing procedures for civil and criminal cases, public events, the receipt of filings and payments, and health-related limitations on entrance into the East St. Louis and Benton courthouses, and will be in effect until April 3. At that time it will be terminated or amended as the public health situation warrants. 

The following principal measures are being taken at this time: 

• All public events and ceremonies (with the exception of Naturalization ceremonies) are canceled, subject to being reset. 

• Naturalization ceremonies will proceed pending further Order of the Court, but only necessary officials and applicants may attend for the administration of the oath of citizenship. 

• Filings will continue to be processed in civil and criminal cases via the Case Management/Electronic Case Filing (“CM/ECF”) system and by mail. Paper documents will be received in drop boxes located just inside the East St. Louis and Benton courthouses. Payments will be processed via credit card utilizing Payments by check or money order will be accepted by mail or the courthouse drop boxes. Cash payments will not be accepted during this period. 

• All civil matters, including trials, hearings and settlement conferences, scheduled for an in-court appearance before any district or magistrate judge in the East St. Louis or Benton courthouses are continued pending further order of the Court. Judges shall have discretion to utilize videoconferencing or telephone conferencing. 

• The Central Violations Bureau docket in East St. Louis and Benton is continued until further order of the Court. Payments will continue to be processed electronically (instructions appear on each citation). 

• With regard to criminal matters before the Court, only essential in-court proceedings will occur. 

• Entrance into the courthouses in East St. Louis and Benton will be limited to those with the following risk factors: Persons who have traveled outside the United States within the last 14 days; persons who reside or have had close contact with someone who has traveled abroad or to a location with a known outbreak within the last 14 days; persons who a doctor, hospital, or health agency has asked to self-quarantine; persons who have been diagnosed with, or have had contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with, COVID-19; persons with fever (low grade or high), cough, or shortness of breath; persons who will be required to fly for the schedule proceeding; any other persons who would raise a reasonable concern of exposure. 

• Due to the possibility that the Court’s ability to obtain an adequate spectrum of jurors will be reduced, and the effect of public health recommendations and restrictions on the availability of defendants, counsel, Court staff, and witnesses to be present in the courtroom, the Court will assess proceeding with jury trials on a case-by-case basis. Any time period of the continuances implemented by this Administrative Order or other orders of the Court will be excluded under the Speedy Trial Act, as the Court specifically finds that the ends of justice—in terms of the nationally recognized public health dangers and constitutional aspects of summoning a jury—are served by ordering the continuances outweigh the best interests of the public and any defendant’s right to a speedy trial, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §3161(h)(7)(A). 

• All judges and counsel are encouraged to utilize videoconferencing and teleconferencing to the extent possible to avoid unnecessary disruption in the cases. 

• Announcements regarding any further restrictions to Court services will be posted on the Court’s public webpage 

• Notices, announcements, and updates will be posted on the Court’s public web page 

The Clerk’s Offices in East St. Louis and Benton, although closed to walk-in traffic, remain in operation and are available by telephone to offer assistance: East St. Louis: 618-482-9371 and Benton: 618-439-7760.

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U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois