We became aware this week of a “pilot program” being initiated in the first municipal district (Daley Center) of the Circuit Court of Cook County to deal with jury demands in forcible entry and detainer (eviction) cases. On March 7, 2013, the Presiding Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County’s First Municipal District entered General Order 2013-01 establishing the procedure. Positioned as a way to “improve the judicial process and efficiency, and, eliminate a backlog of current and future cases awaiting jury trials”, the order will radically modify the way cases are handled after a jury demand is filed in Cook County evictions.
Under the previous system, when a litigant requested a jury trial, the case was transferred to courtroom 1304 for reassignment to Judge Leonard Murray’s trial call to be heard one week later in Courtroom 1404. From there, an initial scheduling order was entered to allow the parties to initiate discovery, provide time for the defendant to answer or otherwise plead, and to allow the plaintiff to bring a motion for “use and occupancy”, set a briefing schedule, and to order either a continuance for status or for a hearing on the motion for use and occupancy.
The general order provides that under the new system, when a jury demand is filed, the case will be transferred to the Presiding Judge immediately for reassignment to courtroom 1501, instanter. That means the transfer will happen on that date. It seems that the attorneys handling the case will immediately deliver the transfer order to courtroom 1301 and then to 1501 for the case to be re-assigned. Any use and occupancy hearings or other issues will also be heard by the trial judge who is then assigned to the case. After a trial, any further proceedings, such as motions for extensions of time will be heard by the court originally assigned to the case.
The order provides that all pending jury trial cases now called for hearing and all cases having jury demands filed after March 7, 2013 are transferred to courtroom 1301 for “immediate assignment” to courtroom 1501 at 9:00am on the next scheduled court date which shall be a Tuesday or Wednesday within 10 days of the transfer. In addition, notices will be posted outside and inside Judge Murray’s courtroom 1404 informing “recently assigned jury trial litigants” that their pending jury cases have been transferred to Courtroom 1501.
What does this mean for the jury trial system for Cook County evictions and will it speed up the process? I really don’t know yet. I’ve heard rumors that the judges will no longer be allowing for discovery in these cases, but I have not had any experience with the new system yet, so, for now, that;s just a rumor. I can’t imagine that either the landlord or the tenant bar is very happy with the new procedure. Stay tuned here for additional information.