Despite the COVID-19 restrictions in place in Illinois, SFNR attorneys are active in successfully litigating remotely and in person.
Yesterday, attorneys Norman T. Finkel and Richard M. Goldwasser appeared in Lake County Circuit Court – in person – and defeated an Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order brought by an amalgam of tax and business consulting companies seeking to prevent their clients from operating a competitive venture. While litigating claims for unfair competition is normal fare for the Firm, what made this case quite remarkable is the litigation environment in which it occurred and the fact they appeared live to argue their case.
Most clients believe that civil courts across the country are largely closed for business. While it is mostly true in Chicago and the surrounding area, the extent to which courts are closed or open depends on the jurisdiction. Of course, what counts as open these days is subject to lawyerly interpretation. Residential eviction cases aside, Illinois courts are still accepting filings, including new lawsuits. And some Illinois judges are conducting hearings by Zoom or telephone. For example, last week, Finkel and Goldwasser argued a motion to dismiss in a telephone hearing in a case pending in the United States District of Delaware, a matter the district court took under advisement. Telephone or Zoom calls are proving stand-ins for actual court appearances, and attorneys are generally noticing increased collegiality during remote hearings. Attorneys are very conscious to not talk over each other and certainly make sure not to interrupt the judge, which hard to believe as it is, is not always the case for some attorneys when arguing live. Any courtroom attorney, however, will tell you there is no substitute for presenting a case live where they can read the judge’s body language, giving them instant feedback as to what arguments are landing and what issues need further clarification.
So, it was yesterday, Finkel and Goldwasser donned their masks and entered the court house to push back against the emergency request to shut down their clients. Raising both procedural deficiencies in their opponent’s moving papers and substantive holes in their case, they could sense which arguments drew the most interest from the judge. Meanwhile, they enjoyed a clear advantage over their opponents who appeared by telephone and could not see the judge’s facial expressions indicating skepticism of their argument or her head nods in response to Finkel’s and Goldwasser’s arguments, which was borne out in the judge’s ruling in favor of the Firm’s clients.