Pritzker must notify crime victims every time he releases a prisoner because of COVID-19

The governor has granted clemency to more than 1,000 convicts, including at least 64 murderers, to stop the spread of COVID-19. He has done so without notice to crime victims or their surviving family members.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker has diminished the confidence that victims of crime have regarding how our system of justice is rendered, writes retired Judge Daniel M. Locallo.

AP

When J.B. Prizker took his oath of office to become the 43rd governor of Illinois, he swore to uphold the Constitution of the State of Illinois. He has blatantly violated his oath of office as it relates to the treatment of crime victims, as guaranteed by Article 1, Section 8.1 (a) (6) of our constitution.

This article states that “crime victims, as defined by law,” shall have the “right to be notified of the conviction, thesentence, the imprisonment, and the release of the accused.”

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The governor has granted clemency to more than 1,000 convicts, including at least 64 murderers, to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Illinois prisons. His has issued these orders of commutation without any notice to either victims of crime or their surviving family members. His violation of the state Constitution has victimized victims or their surviving family members again.

For a governor who prides himself on transparency, why the secrecy? Pritzker has recklessly put the public in danger with the release of violent offenders. The Crime Victim’s Rights Amendment was passed so that crime victims would have a voice in the manner in which our criminal justice system works. Pritzker’s has surely diminished the confidence that victims of crime have regarding how our system of justice is rendered.

Follow the law, governor, and don’t reward those who don’t follow the law at the expense of crime victims.

Daniel M. Locallo, retired Cook County circuit court judge

We had a court plan

The Illinois Supreme Court foresaw the probability of disruptions to trial court operations when it issued standards that required preparation of a written plan “in the event a court facility is closed due to an emergency.”

Adopted in 2009, the Emergency Preparedness Standards for the Illinois Circuit Courts even discussed “Pandemic Plans,” noting that “pandemics have the potential to significantly affect court operations and court personnel, jurors and the public.”

In response to the current global coronavirus pandemic, Illinois courts have taken significant measures — including the postponement of trials and the adoption of video or telephone conferences — to adjust to the disruption brought about by the contagion.

Judges across the state have embraced technology as a means to hold hearings and conduct other judicial business while obviating the need for gathering in courtrooms.

Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans extended the continuance of minor criminal and many civil cases through May, but expanded the use of videoconferencing for necessary and emergency court matters. In addition, all detainees with bail hearings appear in court via video, shortening stays behind bars. Meanwhile, evictions and foreclosures have been deferred.

In other circuit courts, chief judges are employing remote access procedures for certain court hearings, but because access to the courts is a vital part of our democracy, emergency proceedings and matters affecting liberty remain in-person events. In these instances, courts have shown flexibility, doing away with certain formalities and mandating strict guidelines and procedures to ensure social distancing and safety.

When the Spanish flu struck in 1918, the United States Supreme Court curtailed its operations, meeting only to issue necessary orders and continue oral arguments until the crisis had eased. The National Center for State Courts considered history in issuing a planning guide for court emergency preparedness in 2007, referring to “concerns about a pandemic flu crisis,” among other disruptions.

Public access to the court system is an essential part to our democracy and cannot be cast aside. That’s why the courts have pro-actively planned for such events and sought to strike the correct balance between rights of individuals and the public during our public health emergency.

The legal system is a crowded place, making for an environment where a virus would thrive. But the American justice system cannot just shut down when a pandemic threatens it. Instead, Illinois courts and judges have worked nimbly not only to minimize risk, but to keep the system running and ensure the rights of individuals remain upheld. Illinoisans should be proud.

Judge Margaret J. Mullen (Retired)
President
Illinois Judges Association

Baseball means better times

I, for one, will not believe we’ve turned the corner in our battle with the coronavirus until I see for myself the return of baseball in front of paying customers. While Jared Kushner would like us all to believe the Trump administration’s efforts are a great success story, I’ll feel better when I see a long homerun followed by live cheers.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like baseball, hot dogs and a cold beer to put all our problems behind us, if only for the moment.

Bob Ory, Elgin

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