McHenry County courthouse open for 'essential' matters

The McHenry County courthouse in Woodstock will continue to hear only emergency and essential matters through the duration of Gov. JB Pritzker’s extended stay-at-home order.

The Michael J. Sullivan Judicial Center and the 22nd Judicial Circuit will remain open, although changes in scheduling are likely to occur in order to limit the spread of COVID-19, according to a news release sent Monday.

Pritzker announced Thursday that Illinois’ stay-at-home order, originally slated to end April 30, will now continue through the end of May. In response to the governor’s extension, 22nd Judicial Circuit Chief Judge James S. Cowlin announced Monday that cases scheduled for trial through May 29 will be continued to a new date set by the judge assigned to the case.

Parties involved in civil and family cases should use remote access tools to obtain a new status or trial date. As for criminal matters, any delay resulting from the “emergency continuance order” will not be tolled against speedy trial demands, according to the release.

Anyone with a previously scheduled court date should contact their attorney or visit the McHenry County Circuit Clerk's website to check if their case has been rescheduled.

Additionally, an eight-hour traffic safety school previously hosted at McHenry County College, now is available online. Anyone required to take the course should call the college at 815-479-7777, or email them at for further information.

When the courthouse returns to full operations at an undetermined date, cases will be staggered to manage the flow of visitors in the building, according to the news release. For that reason, anyone scheduled to make a court appearance should check the circuit clerk’s website to confirm the time of their hearing.

Cowlin has also asked that anyone required to make a physical appearance at the courthouse not bring friends or family into the building. People experiencing flu-like symptoms including fever, cough or shortness of breath, those who traveled to high-risk countries within the past three weeks, and anyone who has been medically advised or directed to quarantine or self-isolate are discouraged from entering the building. The same recommendation applies for those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been close to someone with a confirmed case, according to the release.

“The court continues to communicate with its justice partners, County Administration, and Emergency Management in order to evaluate this ever changing situation,” Trial Court Administrator Dan Wallis wrote in the release. “The Court has had a Pandemic Continuity of Operations Plan for a number of years and has planned for this type of emergency situation.”

Communications from the Court will be available online at the the 22nd Judicial Circuit Facebook page; @22ndJudCircuit on Twitter;; and other social media platforms.