VERMILION COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — In response to Governor JB Pritzger’s stay-at-home order Friday, most Vermilion County government offices have been closed to the public until further notice.
Vermilion County Board Chairman Larry Baughn Jr. said in a press release Friday he was officially closing the following buildings “by means of public access” until further notice: The Vermilion County Administration Building, the Vermilion County Animal and Control Shelter, the Vermilion County Highway Department and the Vermilion County Coroner / Veteran’s Assistance Commission.
“Essential services will still be supported by appointment only. Essential services will be determined by the elected office holder or department head.”
The Rita B. Garman Vermilion County Courthouse and the Vermilion County Health Department remain open to the public for essential needs, the release added.
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A press release from Judge Thomas M. O’Shaughnessy announced Thursday the Vermilion County Courthouse would remain open to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, but many criminal and civil cases would be postponed “out of an abundance of caution.” According to the release, the Illinois Supreme Court recommended courts to practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings. It also authorized courts to avoid risk to participants, staff and the public by rescheduling their events to a later date, “especially jury trials and large docket calls.” Courts can alternatively hold proceedings via telephone or video conferencing where possible.
O’Shaughnessy said their courthouse performs essential governmental and judicial functions and operations. The courthouse must remain open for business, but it will do so with limitations and restrictions. “We are attempting to keep the courts available to the fullest extent, but remain cognizant of the need to secure public safety,” O’Shaughnessy said.
Restrictions and limitations on courthouse access began Wednesday. They demand the following to not enter the courthouse: Persons who have traveled to China, Italy, Iran, Japan, or South Korea (or another place the federal government has imposed travel restrictions on) within the last 21 days; those who reside or have had close contact with someone who has traveled to one of these restricted areas within the last 21 days; those who have been asked to self-quarantine by a medical professional; those who have been diagnosed with or had contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, or has had flu-like symptoms. Those persons should call the Court Administrator at (217) 554-7830 for instructions.
Some of the postponed events include non-emergency civil matters, including civil jury trials, as well as small claims, evictions, probate, chancery, tax, adoption, traffic, and misdemeanor cases. Some felony matters, including jury trials for defendants who are not in custody or who have not demanded a speedy trial, are also postponed.
Some of the cases to be heard as scheduled include grand jury proceedings, all bail and bond review hearings and arraignments, hearings related to violations of supervision and probation for in-custody defendants, subpoena returns for in-custody defendants, criminal felony jury trials for defendants either in custody or who have filed speedy trial demands, or petitions for orders of protection or no-contact.
Since trial by jury is a constitutional right, the court system cannot function without juries. “The court shall, however, minimize the need for jurors to be summoned to the courthouse,” the release stated, adding that reducing the numbers summoned will lower on-site congestion and increase the amount of personal space for those who are summoned.
Director of Probation Tom Gregory plans to limit in-person contacts and suspend certain large group meetings. Probation officers will schedule meetings with clients by telephone. Probationers deemed high-risk may still be required to report to their probation officers in person.
The Juvenile Detention Center may implement emergency visitation and transport procedures for minors in their custody to limit COVID-19 exposure. Non-essential personnel or visitors may not be allowed to enter the facility to ensure the safety of juvenile detainees and detention center staff.
The offices of the State’s Attorney and Public Defender will remain open but in-person appointments will be subject to the determination of their respective department heads.