Chief Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer delivered the 2023 State of the Court Address on June 14th. Hosted by the Federal Bar Association, this annual event emphasizes major developments throughout the Northern District of Illinois.
This year, Judge Pallmeyer discussed the easing of COVID-10 measures, along with the District’s continual adaptation. Furthermore, she spoke about the District’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Notably, the event also revealed the latest insights on some of the District’s architectural plans.
Easing of COVID-19 Measures and Continued Adaptation
In her speech, Judge Pallmeyer emphasized the court’s successful efforts in easing COVID-19 measures. Since April 1, 2023, the court has returned to pre-pandemic operations. However, some changes, such as telephonic and video hearings for routine proceedings, remained in place due to their convenience and efficiency.
Notable statistics highlighted by Judge Pallmeyer included a 4% increase in civil case filings in 2022. Moreover, criminal case filings experienced a 26% decrease. The court conducted a substantial number of jury trials, with 42 civil and 36 criminal trials in 2022. Overall, this marked a significant increase from the combined total of 50 trials in the previous year.
The lifting of COVID-19 precautions for juries in December 2022 allowed the court to summon jurors at pre-pandemic levels and conduct trials in a single courtroom. As a result, 24 criminal and 22 civil jury trials took place in the first five months of 2023.
Judicial Changes and Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
During her address, Judge Pallmeyer expressed the court’s deep sadness at the passing of Judge William Thomas Hart, a devoted advocate for preserving and celebrating court history. A memorial service to honor Judge Hart will take place later this year at the Dirksen Courthouse.
The Northern District of Illinois also witnessed significant changes in its judicial composition. Judge John Z. Lee was nominated by President Biden and confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. In addition, Judge Norgle assumed inactive senior status, and Judge Ronald Guzman transitioned to inactive senior status. Judge Robert Dow, Jr. accepted the role of Counselor to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Thus, this leaves a vacancy on the bench. Meanwhile, Judge Gary Feinerman retired and returned to private practice. Furthermore, Judge Thomas Durkin will assume senior status on December 26, 2023, and Judge-designate Jeremy C. Daniel is expected to be sworn in as a District Judge in the coming months.
The court made efforts to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion. Judge Pallmeyer acknowledged the District Court Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, chaired by Magistrate Judge Gabriel Fuentes, for providing training to judges and court staff and organizing community-focused programs.
The committee hosted several events in collaboration with organizations like the ABA and the Federal Bar Association to promote inclusivity and honor historic figures such as Judge Blanche M. Manning during Hispanic Heritage Month and Judge Henry Williams Blodget, Judge George E.Q. Johnson, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, and Judge James Wilkerson through a photo exhibition.
2023 State of the Court Address Focuses on Architectural Security and Preservation
During her State of the Court Address, Chief Judge Pallmeyer emphasized the Northern District of Illinois’ unwavering commitment to security and preservation. One notable project highlighted by Judge Pallmeyer is the demolition of dilapidated buildings adjacent to the Dirksen Courthouse.
Primarily, this project enhances security measures surrounding the courthouse, ensuring the safety of all those within its premises. By removing these vacant structures, which were originally purchased by the General Services Administration (GSA) in 2005 as a security buffer, the court aims to eliminate potential security risks and fortify the overall protection of the courthouse. In addition, the demolition project presents an opportunity to create vibrant green spaces in the area between the courthouse and State Street. The envisioned plaza, once realized, will serve as a symbol of rejuvenation and renewal within the Chicago Federal Center Complex.
Also, this project seeks to restore the architectural vision of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a renowned 20th century architect. The removal of the dilapidated buildings helps restore the original design principles and open appearance of the courthouse, which is considered a mid-century modern architectural treasure. By preserving the unique architectural elements of the courthouse, the project pays homage to the cultural significance of the area. Notably, the court, along with the City of Chicago, the GSA, and all consulting parties, are following the necessary procedures mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Looking Ahead After the 2023 Annual State of the Court Address
By addressing these major developments and future plans, Chief Judge Pallmeyer showcased the Northern District of Illinois’ commitment to efficient operations, diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as security and preservation.
The court’s successful adaptation to post-COVID operations, increased jury trials, and initiatives to promote diversity demonstrate its dedication to providing justice and maintaining the highest standards within the legal system.
To read the full court release, please visit https://www.ilnd.uscourts.gov/.
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