WGN Investigates: Confusion at the courthouse

WGN Investigates
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CHICAGO — As courts in Cook County slowly reopen, those with cases have encountered long-lines, mixed messages and missed court appearances.

A spokesperson for chief judge said they’ve been trying to get the word out that all traffic cases are being heard via Zoom.

But the long lines indicate  that word isn’t reaching everyone.

WGN Investigates had several people report that after standing in line for hours, they then received a piece of paper and were told the only way to see the judge is online.

Leon Hendricks and his fiancée live in Peoria and drove three and a half hours to Chicago last week to resolve two traffic tickets, only to wait several more hours in line.  When they got to the front, they were told their hearing was scheduled on Zoom, an hour earlier.

“We passed at least  a dozen court officers while in line who all told us we had to remain in line until we got to the end,” he said. “It was a very disheartening ending to say we missed court.”

The notification Hendricks received told him to report to the courthouse and makes no mention of an online hearing.

“Never or anywhere on that document does it say you can check your status online,” he said.  “When I got the ticket from the officer he told me it’s a ‘must appear.’”

All of it, adding up to courthouse confusion in the midst of COVID.

  Court personnel are encouraging anyone with a court hearing to double check on the court clerk’s website to see whether their case will be heard online or in person.

A spokesperson for Cook County Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, which handles notifications, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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