Chief judge’s order nearly brings Chicago’s federal court to a halt

Arraignments may occur by video; emergency judges will handle criminal cases that can’t wait

SHARE Chief judge’s order nearly brings Chicago’s federal court to a halt

Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn St. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Sun-Times Media

Chief U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer handed down an order Monday believed to be unprecedented in the modern history of Chicago’s federal court, largely putting civil and criminal cases on hold in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The order appears to cancel hearings in several public corruption cases, as well as the sentencing hearings for convicted Chicago Police Sgt. Xavier Elizondo and Officer David Salgado. It would also appear to put off the sentencing of ex-Ald. Edward R. Vrdolyak.

Among the public corruption defendants whose hearings appear to be delayed are former state Rep. Luis Arroyo, state Sen. Thomas Cullerton and Patrick Doherty, chief of staff to Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski.

Pallmeyer’s order also appeared to cancel a status hearing set for Wednesday in Chicago’s lawsuit against actor Jussie Smollett.

However, the order allows for arraignment by video with the permission of a defendant. So it’s unclear whether the arraignment of developer See Y. Wong — who secretly recorded then-Ald. Danny Solis and House Speaker Michael Madigan — will go forward on March 24, as scheduled. 

Pallmeyer’s order canceled civil hearings and trials set between March 17 and April 3. It also said criminal proceedings that cannot be delayed will be handled by emergency judges. She delayed all plea hearings and sentencings set to begin before April 3, unless a judge is told the hearing must go forward. 

“All other criminal hearings are immediately suspended and held in abeyance,” Pallmeyer wrote. 

The chief judge also suspended public gatherings at the federal courthouses in Chicago and Rockford, noting that her order would either be amended or canceled by April 3. She also created a special docket where lawyers may appeal her order. 

Richard Cahan, who co-authored a recent book about the history of the court titled “Chicago Rules,” said Monday, “I don’t know of any time that the court was closed, even in part, for an extended period of time.”

The Latest
The Shindellas in concert, ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ the stage musical, and three world premieres at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago are among the highlights in the week ahead.
Trenz Beauty Academy, with a location in Calumet City and another on Chicago’s South Side, is one of five schools nationwide chosen by the singer’s foundation, BeyGOOD Fund, to be eligible for $250,000 in scholarships.
Firefighters responded just before 4 p.m. to a fire at a building in the 7100 block of South Jeffery Boulevard.
One day after Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and his entourage traveled to Springfield to begin the uphill battle for $1 billion in state funding, Johnson was considerably more receptive to the concept of using city tax revenue for new stadiums — either for the Sox or the Bears — than Gov. J.B. Pritzker and some legislators have been.
An expected property tax bill around $11 million is well above what team leaders were hoping to pay as they weigh the possibilities of building a dome either in the suburbs or along Chicago’s lakefront.