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CHICAGO — For weeks now, people have been showing up to the Daley Center in downtown Chicago for appearances in traffic court that are being handled entirely online or over the phone.   

Angelica Velez was among them. She received several citations after being involved in a traffic accident.

“I was told to get in the line and then they gave us a paper that says to do it over the phone,” she said.  “I could’ve stayed in bed to do this.”

Some have waited for several hours only to learn their online hearing took place while they were waiting in an actual line outside the courthouse. 

Leon Hendricks drove from Peoria to Chicago in early July for a court hearing he missed while standing in line. 

“That tells me there’s a huge communication gap going on in the Chicago court system,” he said.

Hendricks was profiled in the WGN Investigates original report. 

Imagine Hendricks’ surprise when he returned home to Peoria and two weeks later received a notice from the Cook County Court Clerk that his July 7 hearing would be held via Zoom.  The postcard was dated July 16, nine days after the court hearing had already taken place.

Court Clerk Dorothy Brown agreed to an interview with WGN Investigates in which she claimed “unconscious racism” was at the root of the questions and negative stories written about her during her nearly two decades in office. 

“My staff sent out almost a million postcards and emails,” she said. “And yet all this news story can focus on is one card they found they think was sent out in error because they think this black woman’s office had to have done something wrong.” 

She then went on to claim the late notification was sent out intentionally.  

For more information on which court cases are being heard online, over the phone or in person, click on the Cook County Clerk of Court website.

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