Circuit Court of Cook County seeks to implement 24-hour access for “Emergency Petitions” in domestic violence cases

Released On 08/02/2021

Responding to the need to protect the health and safety of victims of domestic violence, Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans on Monday announced efforts by the Circuit Court of Cook County to enable 24-hour, 7-day-a-week access for “emergency petitions.” 

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the Domestic Violence Court has remained open to hear all matters, including petitions for civil “emergency orders of protection,” “no contact” orders, and “no stalking” orders. Judges have conducted proceedings both remotely (utilizing virtual platforms such as Zoom) and in-person. Court documents filed remotely or in person before 3 p.m. are currently assigned to a judge for a hearing the same day. Even in instances when cases are filed after 3 p.m., the court has been able to offer in-person petitioners the chance to appear in court via Zoom through 5 p.m. “Zoom Rooms” or Zoom stations staffed by court personnel are available in all courthouses to allow those without computer or telephone access to participate in court proceedings. 

However, the court recognizes that weekday, business hours may not be sufficient for some domestic violence victims who are trying to keep themselves and their families safe, and that some petitioners may need extended hours. 

“Based on conversations with domestic violence advocates, we know that some victims arriving after hours have encountered difficulty filing an emergency petition, thus depriving them of an opportunity to have their cases heard, and potentially putting themselves and their families at risk,” Judge Evans said. “Therefore, this court will find a way for petitioners to have their cases heard at any time, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. In the interests of justice, the court must ensure that this is done in a way that is both accessible and fair to all sides in a dispute.” 

Working with our judicial stakeholders, representatives of the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Cook County Public Defender, victim advocates, and members of the private bar, the court will work to quickly and carefully develop best practices to allow for 24-hour access to emergency domestic violence proceedings. Certain court proceedings, such as hearings to determine probable cause in criminal cases, already are conducted on a 24-hour basis, and the court may be able to adapt practices used in these hearings to the Domestic Violence Court. 

Other jurisdictions around the country already have some form of 24-hour access for emergency domestic violence proceedings, including Maricopa County, Arizona; Miami-Dade County, Florida; Los Angeles County, California; and Harris and Dallas Counties, Texas. Procedures vary – for example, Miami-Dade County has a slate of emergency judges available for after-hours matters, and emergency injunctions are valid for 15 days until a court hearing is scheduled. In Texas, orders of protection are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, if the perpetrator is arrested. The Cook County Circuit Court is studying procedures in other jurisdictions to determine what will be most effective here, in compliance with Illinois statute. 

The Circuit Court of Cook County will issue an update on its efforts to enable 24-hour emergency access to domestic violence proceedings in the coming months. 


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