OTTAWA — The case of a funeral director accused of fleecing clients won’t go to trial in May — and nothing else will, either.
The judicial circuit that includes LaSalle, Bureau and Grundy counties has halted all trials through May 30, an infection-control measure added to Ottawa, Princeton and Morris courtrooms that already have been limited to must-do cases only.
Among the spotlight cases that won’t happen in May is that of William “B.J.” Elias, 51, of Streator. Elias appeared April 30 for a motions hearing ahead of a May 11 trial for 14 counts of theft and violating the Illinois Funeral Funds Act. However, the novel coronavirus pandemic has pushed his case back indefinitely. By agreement, Elias will next appear for a June 18 status hearing.
Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. expanded pandemic rules to include the halting of trials through the end of May, by which time stay-at-home orders will either have been lifted or extended based on the progression of COVID-19.
“The (Illinois) Supreme Court has given the Circuit Courts permission to suspend trials and adjust the speedy-trial deadlines accordingly,” Ryan said in a press release. “Because jury trials involve the presence of multiple people ... delaying them is a prudent decision to guard against transmission of the virus.”
The suspension of trials is new. Otherwise, defendants and litigants can expect the same rules in force since the pandemic surged in mid-March. Since that time, the only cases to proceed are matters with individuals in custody, felonies, juvenile custody (shelter care) and detention cases, plus any emergency hearings such as an order of protection. Grand juries still convene, too.
Most other case classes are postponed. These include all non-emergency civil court appearances (civil jury trials, probate, small claims, family court), traffic cases, misdemeanor cases and civil weddings.
Anyone who is ill but remains scheduled for court is urged to contact his or her attorney (or the opposing side) to determine if a continuance can be agreed upon and submitted for court approval.
In cases where a continuance cannot be agreed to, contact the clerk of the judge assigned to the case to report your illness. Judges will consider on a case-by-case basis whether a continuance will be granted.
The following individuals should not enter the courthouse and their appearance in court will be waived if they:
• Have been out of the country within the last 21 days, or
• Reside or have close contact with anyone who has been out of the country within the last 21 days; or
• Have been directed to quarantine, isolate or self-monitor at home for coronavirus by any medical provider; or
• Have been diagnosed with, or have had close contact with anyone diagnosed with, COVID-19; or
• Have flu-like symptoms including, fever, cough, sneezing, or shortness or breath.
Healthy people summoned for jury duty should plan to report, the office noted.