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November 8, 2016 — Illinois Elección General
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Cook CountyCandidato para Clerk of the Circuit Court

Photo de Dorothy A. Brown

Dorothy A. Brown

Demócrata
Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County
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Mis 3 prioridades principales

  • Continue to implement a comprehensive electronic records management program. See my position paper
  • Create the Cook County Expungement and Records Relief Center to assist individuals with criminal records become productive members of society. See my position paper
  • Continue to ensure sound financial management and accountability measures

Experiencia

Experiencia

Profesión:Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County
Chair, Cook County Integrated Criminal Justice Information Systems Committee — Cargo elegido (2003–current)
General Auditor, Chicago Transit Authority (1991–2000)
Senior Manager, Odell Hicks and Company (1984–1991)
Manager and Senior Auditor, First National Bank of Chicago (1981–1984)
Auditor, Arthur Andersen and Company (1977–1980)
Accountant, Commonwealth Edison and Company (1975–1977)

Educación

Kent College of Law J.D., law (1996)
DePaul University M.B.A., finance (1981)
Southern University B.A,, accounting/computer science (1975)

Actividades comunitarias

Board Member and Secretary, COGIC Charities, Incorporated (National) (2002–current)
Board Member (Trustee) , King of Glory COGIC (1997–current)
Board Member, First Jurisdiction of Illinois, COGIC, Inc. (2001–current)
Board Member –, Moriah Community Development Corporation (2001–current)
Board Member, Citizen’s Action Illinois (2003–current)

¿Quién apoya a este candidato?

Featured Endorsements

  • Mayor Andrew Przybylo, Niles
  • Congressman Danny K. Davis
  • Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr.

Organizaciónes (9)

  • Personal PAC
  • Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
  • Independent Voters of Illinois--Independent Precinct Organization
  • Italian American Political Coalition
  • Gospel Tribune of Chicago newspaper
  • Black Coffee Democrats
  • Jewish Chicago Newspaper
  • Crusader Newspaper
  • South Suburban News newspaper

Funcionarios electos (39)

  • Trustee Bridget Dancy, Village of Matteson
  • President Tony Bass, Rich High School District 227
  • Alderman Jason Ervin
  • State Representative LaShawn Ford
  • State Representative Monique Davis
  • Village President Andre Ashmore, Matteson
  • Village President Rich Reinbold, Richton Park
  • Mayor Krzysztof Wasowicz, Justice
  • Alderman David Moore
  • Mayor Eric Kellogg, Harvey
  • Mayor Vernard Alsberry, Hazel Crest
  • President Tracy Fox, Elementary School District 159
  • President Princess Dempsey, Lindop School District 92
  • President Katrina Arnold, Broadview Library Board
  • Trustee Tiffany Henyard, Village of Dolton
  • Clerk Lena Moreland, Village of Bellwood
  • Trustee Isaiah Brandon, Village of Maywood
  • Trustee Tara Brewer, Village of Broadview
  • Trustee Andre Satchell, Village of Matteson
  • Trustee Michael Smith, Village of Dixmoor
  • Trustee Stanley Brown, Village of Dolton
  • Board Member Pamela Walker, Elementary School District 159
  • Board Member Randy Alexander, Rich High School District 27
  • Mayor Tyrone Ward, Robbins
  • Mayor Ford, Country Club Hills
  • Clerk Garnett Walters, Village of Broadview
  • Mayor Joe Tamburino, Hillside
  • Mayor James Discipio, Lagrange Park
  • Mayor Sam Pulia, Westchester
  • Mayor Frank Pasquale, Bellwood
  • Mayor Ben Mazzulla, Stone Park
  • Mayor Edwenna Perkins, Maywood
  • Mayor Riley Rogers, Dolton
  • Mayor David Webb, Jr., Markham
  • Mayor Vivian Covington, University Park
  • Mayor Robert E. Lee, Berkeley
  • Mayor Ronald Serpico
  • Commissioner Frank Avila, Sr.

Individuos (5)

  • Reverend Dr. Clay Evans
  • Former Committeeman Rocco Terranova
  • Tio Hardiman
  • Reverend Emma Lozano
  • Reverend Walter (Slim) Coleman

Preguntas y Respuestas

Preguntas de Chicago Sun-Times (7)

Around the country, online court docket systems make electronically filed documents in a case instantly available with the click of a computer mouse to judges, lawyers and the public. Why are many such documents, once filed, not as readily accessible in the Cook County courts?
Respuesta de Dorothy A. Brown:

The Illinois Supreme Court Electronic Access Policy does not allow the Cook County Court, or any Illinois Circuit Court, to allow anyone to view all electronic documents over the internet, even though the DuPage County Circuit court does provide access to registered attorneys.  The Cook County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office has been imaging documents, as early as 2005 for the County Division.  Currently, the Clerk’s Office  has 370+ million electronic images of court records through both the Imaging and Document Management System (IDMS) and the Electronic Filing System (e-filing), available to judges in their chambers and on their benches, and to lawyers and the public on the digital access terminals at every courthouse.

The Clerk’s Office is currently working with the Chief Judge’s Office on a General Administrative Order, and a policy to provide attorneys and self-represented litigants as their own attorneys, with internet access to electronic images for which they are the attorney of record, in accordance with the Illinois Supreme Court Electronic Access Policy.  In addition, the Clerk of the Court is working with the Chief Judge, to forward a letter of request to the Illinois Supreme Court, for a variance, similar to DuPage County’s, from the Electronic Access Policy, to permit, at a minimum, registered attorneys, internet access to all electronic images, regardless whether they are the attorney of record of record or not.

 

Please note however, if both parties to a case electronically files into a case, and opts in for electronic service, then both parties can have access to the images for the entire case in our system as it exists today.

Assuming that approval of the Chief Judge is granted, would you commit to making court statistics and related court data publically available to the extent permitted by law? And would you include data provided from contractors?
Respuesta de Dorothy A. Brown:

Currently, the Clerk’s Office provides statistics upon request to the judiciary and the public.  Data is collected with each court filing.  A request from the public goes to the Chief Judge for approval, and then upon approval, the statistics are prepared and distributed.  Requests from the judiciary come directly to the Clerk’s Office, and are handled accordingly.  A request number is assigned to each request, and then the requests are fulfilled according to a priority established by the Management Information Systems Department based on all requests and the availability of programmers. The process of distribution of statistics to the public is already in place, and is based upon a General Administrative Order requested by the Clerk’s Office and issued by the Chief Judge many years ago. 

 The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) has identified ten effective and easy-to-use measurements for trial courts.  I support adoption of the ten measurements.[1]

1. Access and fairness; 2. Clearance rate for cases; 3. Time to disposition; 4. Age of active pending caseload; 5. Trial date certainty; 6. Reliability and integrity of case files; 7.Collection of monetary penalties in criminal cases; 8. Effective use of jurors; 9: Court employee satisfaction; and 10. Cost per case.

The judiciary should have access to all of the ten measurements listed aboe.  Bar associations and the general public should have access to the statistics that relate to costs and output, including case filing statistics, court costs, and number of users of the court system.  The information should be provided electronically.

Yes, I support release of data by contractors.

[1]See http://www.courtools.org/Trial-Court-Performance-Measures.aspx

 

 

 
The Appellate Public Defender said publicly in 2014 that more than 120 prisoner appeals had been stalled for more than a year because files were missing. Why are files missing? What would you do to prevent files from going missing in these and all other cases?
Respuesta de Dorothy A. Brown:

The files mentioned by the Appellate Public Defender related to cases prior to my implementation of the Imaging and Document Management System. We have researched the issues and determined that, in some cases files were missing because they were in the hands of other agencies, judges, public defenders, states attorneys, etc, and some simply could not be located.  Since that time, I have put in several new process improvements and tracking mechanisms to prevent this from occurring.  All documents are now imaged at the time of filing.  In addition, prior to a file being forwarded to the Appellate Public Defender, it is again imaged, in its appeals format.  This second imaging is being done, because it was determined that many of the files that were missing had previously been forwarded to the Appellate Public Defender. 

 

I recognized a long time ago, the challenges in ensuring the completeness of court files. Since court files are public and must be made available to anyone, this makes the content of files vulnerable to being stolen or destroyed.  I determined that the only way to ensure complete records are always available is through having documents electronically filed, or immediately imaged in the case of paper filings.  This is  why I worked hard to get the funds to implement the Imaging and Document Management system (IDMS) and to get electronic filing approved in Cook. 

The Clerk of the Circuit Court is responsible for collecting and disbursing more than $300 million every year. If elected, will you commit to making all financial records of the clerk's office available for public review under the Freedom of Information Act?
Respuesta de Dorothy A. Brown:

I will make all records available as permissible under Illinois law.

 

 

 

 

According to an October 2015 audit of the Clerk of the Circuit Court's accounting systems, the accounting processes utilized are not part of a single unified accounting system, "are not operating in the most efficient manner" and involve "an extremely labor intensive manual process where some areas are not using automated spreadsheets and completing reconciliations in pencil by hand." If elected, what will you do to ensure that the clerk's accounting systems are modernized and fully integrated?"
Respuesta de Dorothy A. Brown:

Unfortunately, the County Auditors did not verify their findings with upper management prior to release of their report.  In our response to the audit finding, we informed the auditors that the cashiering software is a single unified accounting system for the 1st Municipal District civil areas of law, the Civil, Domestic Relations, Chancery, Probate, County, and Law divisions, and thus not labor intensive for those areas.  However, due to limitations in the current cashiering system, the software for criminal, traffic, and the civil areas of law for the suburban districts do not interface with the general ledger, and thus is not as efficient.  Please note that, although some of the areas do not have the single unified accounting system, the reconciliations are performed using automated spreadsheets.  The use of pencil by two employees at one of the suburban districts was an aberration from the authorized accounting procedures.   

To make the entire Clerk’s Office accounting system a single unified accounting system, I have already commenced the purchasing of a new case management system which includes a single unified cashiering and accounting system

 

 

 

 

Should files for open cases be kept at the courthouse where the case is pending rather than moved off-site?
Respuesta de Dorothy A. Brown:

Ideally, open case files should be kept at the courthouse where the case is pending.  However, due to severe space shortages at outer courthouses and the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago, and the fact that some cases may last past the time period for which space is available to store files, the Clerk’ Office five stores some active files at off-site storage facilities.  The off-site storage facilities contain built-in shelving systems that facilitate the use of the Clerk Office’s barcode scanning system for efficient tracking and retrieval of court files.

 

The Clerk’s Office is in the process of training all judges to use our Imaging and Document Management System (IDMS), so that judges may retrieve the electronic image of documents as opposed to using the paper file for all cases that commenced after the date of the new IDMS.  In addition, for active cases, commenced before the implementation of IDMS, and stored off-site, we are working on a process whereby we will image the file and forward it electronically to the courthouse, as opposed to having the paper file delivered to the courthouse.  This process would be in place until the Clerk’s Office can obtain funding to digitize all pre-IDMS court files.

Article VI, Section 18(b) of the Illinois Constitution states that, "The General Assembly shall provide by law for the election, or for the appointment by Circuit Judges, of clerks and other non-judicial officers of the Circuit Courts and for their terms of office and removal for cause." Should clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County be changed from an elected office to one appointed by the Circuit Judges, as allowed by the Illinois Constitution?
Respuesta de Dorothy A. Brown:

The Clerk of the Circuit Court should remain an independent, elected official.  This will continue to ensure the independence of court clerks and the neutrality of the Clerk’s Office in the judicial system, thus ensuring equal protection of the law for all citizens. The Clerk of Court is a check and balance for the judiciary, thus ensuring that judges are not both issuing the orders and maintaining the record of the orders at the same time, thus opening records up for tampering without detection.  The State Court, unlike the Appellate Court and the Illinois Supreme Court,  is the court of first impressions, in other words, the State Court is where cases are first heard and where all the original records are presented, and many times is the only copy of the record and exhibits, especially for self-represented litigants.  Thus, if court records are manipulated, a case could be irreparably changed.  The Clerk of the Court should not be accountable to anyone but the people.  There are too many ways that a party to a case could be disadvantaged if records are tampered with.

Having Clerks of Court be independent, is also in line with the Greylord case from the 1980s, where there was collusion between judges, attorneys, and court clerks.  The Greylord case is the reason why we have a practice of rotating court clerks.  I have followed a policy of rotating court clerks in and out of specific courtrooms.  This helps individual clerks maintain their independence from the judiciary and to concentrate on the mission of the Clerk’s Office: to maintain and keep accurate and complete court records. Furthermore, as a matter of sound internal control, the judiciary should not be responsible for both entering orders and recording and storing those orders.

 

Citizens are already concern about the integrity of the court system, especially the criminal court system; and especially in the case of bench trials.  The risk of court record manipulation would be extremely high, when a case is handled by a judge without a jury, and the same judge also controls the court records.  Most cases in civil courts are handled without a jury and a court reporter, thus the risk of case file tampering, even in civil cases would be high.

Creencias poliza

Filosofía política

In these very serious times, especially for our criminal justice system, it's important that we have a person in the Clerk of Court position, like me, who is dedicated to fulfilling our nation’s promise of “justice for all.” I have dedicated my life to ensuring justice and fairness for all people, so I take very seriously what I teach my staff—that every case file represents the fate or fortune of a person’s life.

 

I have effectively run one of the largest court systems in the world, a multi-million dollar entity.  As an attorney, Certified Public Accountant and MBA, I can manage the legal, technological and financial aspects of the office. As the Clerk of Court, I converted a historically antiquated system, where two areas were still using pen and paper to record the results of court cases, into a highly functioning, progressive 21st Century Office. Today, the Clerk’s Office has electronic filing, almost 200 million digitized  documents, Digital Access Terminals, and automated services such as Electronic Case Management Notices. I am one of three Clerks of Courts in the entire country that has created a mobile app. Now, the public can search civil and traffic case information while on the go.  Also, I have several convenient online services, including:

 

·         Online Traffic Ticket System for pleading or paying traffic tickets or scheduling Traffic Safety School;

·         Online Order of Protection forms to prepare applications for protective orders;

·         Mortgage Foreclosure Surplus Search, which allows individuals to learn whether they have money due from a property previously lost to foreclosure; and

·         Unclaimed Child Support Search that enables custodial parents to search for child support payments they may not have received.

 

 

I have a heart for service and will continue to provide the best service possible.  I want to partner with a legal aid agency to create an Expungement Center that will help people clear their criminal record and receive comprehensive services to turn their lives around. Also, I want to create a Task Force on Child Support Collection to fix the system once and for all for parents.

Documentos sobre determinadas posturas

Promoting Second Chances for Individuals with Criminal Records

Summary

This paper shows that I will work with law enforcement and justice agencies to promote second chances for individuals with criminal records.  Together, we we will create an Expungement and Records Relief Center that helps individuals legally clear their criminal record and begin the process of reintegrating into productive society.  At the Center, individuals will be able to access their rap sheets and criminal case records, as well as receive free legal assistance from attorneys, who will help them begin the process of clearing their records. 

EXPUNGEMENT

Promoting Second Chances to Benefit Families and Communities

I believe in promoting second chances for individuals with criminal records. People who have paid their debt to society deserve a second chance to provide for and be a positive influence in their families and communities. Simply put, promoting second chances is both a moral and economic imperative that paves the way for persons with criminal records to become productive members of society.

As Clerk of the Circuit Court, I will promote second chances by expanding access to expungement and records relief services in Cook County.

 Integrating Technology and Service for Persons with Criminal Records

There is a great unmet need for expungement, sealing and otherrecords relief services.  As of 2012, more than 6.2 million individual offenders had a criminal record on file with the Illinois State Police.[1]Many of the individuals may be eligible for expungement or sealing—and thus be given a second chance of becoming a productive member of society.

To promote second chances, I propose that the Clerk’s Office, law enforcement, and the legal community harness the power of information technology to help more individuals clear their record legally. We should work together tocreate a year-round Expungement and Records Relief Center that provides comprehensive service to individuals with criminal backgrounds. 

I have always believed in a Clerk’s Office that provides excellent technology and service to law enforcement agencies, attorneys, litigants, judges and the general public.  During my terms in office, I have implemented new services such as e-filing, e-plea, e-tickets and document imaging to improve the efficiency of operations.  I will continue to upgrade and improve these services and work with partner agencies to meet the evolving needs of current users.

Also, I believe in a Clerk’s Office that promotes second chances. Since 2005, the Clerk’s Office has organized annual Expungement Summits that have helped individuals legally clear their criminal records. Using Clerk’s Office technology and services, individuals have obtained certified copies of dispositions, met pro bono attorneys to review their record, and have begun the legal process of filing for records relief.  The Summits have given individuals a second chance to become productive members of society.

The time has come to use technology to promote second chances. Expungement and records relief should be made available through a “one-stop” service center for the millions of residents with criminal backgrounds.  The technology is available; only the political will is needed to create the center.

 What is Expungement and Records Sealing in Illinois?

Expungement means the removal of an arrest and/or conviction from a person’s criminal record. Expunged records are available to law enforcement for limited offenses and are not available to employers.  Sealing means the act or practice of officially preventing access to particular records in the absence of a court-order. Sealed misdemeanor and felony conviction records and dismissals/acquittal are available to law enforcement. Sealed misdemeanor and felony conviction records are available only to employers authorized by law.

In Illinois, if there are no convictions on a criminal record, then arrest(s) can be expunged. If there are convictions on a criminal record, then some offenses can be sealed. All misdemeanor convictions and supervisions can be sealed EXCEPT

  • Crimes of violence - Domestic battery, violations of orders of protection, violations of stalking non-contact orders,
  • Sex crimes -Solicitation of prostitute, patronizing a prostitute, public indecency, and
  • Offenses against public morals -DUI, reckless driving, dog fighting, animal cruelty.

 The following Class 3 and Class 4 felonies can be sealed:

  •          Class 3 or 4 - Forgery; retail theft; theft and deceptive practices
  •          Class 3 - Possession of controlled substance with intent to deliver     
  •          Class 4 - Prostitution; possession of controlled substance; possession of cannabis; possession of burglary tools; carry/possess firearm (if convicted between 1995 and 1999) 

Why Expungement and Records Sealing is Good for Individuals, Employers and Communities

Individuals with a criminal record experience serious difficulty in finding jobs.[2]  A 2010 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found 98% of public and private organizations who conduct background would not extend a job offer to applicants who have been convicted of non-violent felonies, such as fraud and embezzlement. Also, 73% of the organizations would be less likely to extend an offer to applicants convicted of non-violent misdemeanors, such as criminal damage to property, retail theft, assault and disorderly conduct.[3]Unless these records can be legally expunged or sealed, the job applicant with such a background faces bleak job prospects.

As bleak as this may be for individuals, its ramifications for families and communities are much worse. Individuals with criminal records who cannot find jobs are significantly more likely to commit crimes or, in the case of ex-offenders, recidivate.[4]When ex-offenders commit crimes, communities bear the costs of apprehending, processing, prosecuting, and, in many cases, incarcerating them.

Crime is expensive.According to the US Department of Health and Human Services the tangible costs of crime per incident in 2008 dollars is as follows: Murder ($1,278,424); Sexual Assault ($41,247); Aggravated Assault ($19,537); Robbery ($21,398); Motor Vehicle Theft ($10,534); Arson ($16,428); Household Robbery ($6,170); Larceny/Theft ($3,523); Stolen Property ($7,974); Vandalism ($4,860); Forgery/Counterfeiting ($5,265); Embezzlement ($5,480); and Fraud ($5,032).[5]If this initiative were to result in minimal reductions in crimes in these categories it would more than offset the costs of establishing an Expungement Center.

When individuals are caught up in a cycle of perpetual incarceration or unemployment they cannot provide financially or emotionally for their families. Additionally, non-custodial parents who cannot pay child support face additional sanctions, including incarceration, further alienating them from their children, family, and community.

Liberals and conservatives agree that increased parental involvement improves mental health, self-esteem, and educational attainment while reducing delinquency, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse.[6] When individuals and families are in crisis, communities have to pick up the slack by providing services and support.What makes all of this even worse is that individuals and families in crisis, as well as recidivists contribute little, if anything, to the tax base, thus creating a downward spiral of increasing poor outcomes for children and families, poverty, and crime. Adding to this cycle, ex-offenders who return to struggling communities have a higher risk of returning to prison for a technical violation or engaging in criminal conduct.[7]

The existence of a criminal record also creates hiring difficulties for employers.[8]  A recent survey in one state found that one of the main reasons why companies could not fill open positions is that qualified individuals had a criminal record.[9]

Opportunities will increase for individuals to find jobs and employers to hire qualified individuals when criminal records are legally expunged or sealed. Once employed, these individuals will be able to provide for their families and pay taxes, providing more resources for communities to improve the lives of their people as opposed to mitigating problems.

 The Cook County Expungement and Records Relief Center

The Center would provide “one-stop shopping” for expungement and other forms of records relief.  Basically, individuals who meet eligibility requirements would go to the Center to file a request for access and review of their rap sheets and certified case dispositions, be fingerprinted, and meet with pro bono attorneys, who would review the official records and advise individuals of their eligibility for expungement or other forms of relief.  Ifclients are eligible, then they can begin theprocess of filing petitions to the Circuit Court of Cook County for relief.  All appropriate fees would be collected and the filing accepted. The petition for record relief, rap sheet, certified disposition and fee payments would be electronically submitted to all appropriate agencies and a court would be scheduled.

Access to rap sheets and the criminal docket would be provided via the internet. Using the internet approach, a group of computers at the Center would be connected to the Clerk’s Office docketing system and the Chicago Police Department criminal history records via a virtual private network (VPN) over the internet.  The VPN would pass through Cook County’s firewall.  On each PC at the center, the Clerk’s Office would install software to pull up the electronic docket.  An advantage to this approach is that costs of setting up a VPN would be negligible in comparison to the creation of a designated new network.

 Establishing a Governing Board

I propose that a governing board consisting of the Chicago Police Department, suburban Cook County law enforcement agencies, the Cook County Bureau of Technology, the Clerk’s Office, legal aid agencies, and community groups be created under law to provide direct oversight for the Expungement and Records Relief Center. 

 Staffing the Center

The Center would require administrative staff as follows:

 ·         An Executive Director would oversee day-to-day operations of the Center, which would be located centrally in Chicago to provide wide access for Cook County’s residents. Other administrative staff would assist in managing the work flow of the Center.

 ·         Trained non-sworn law enforcement professionals would take individual’s fingerprints, process Request for Access and Review documents, and collect the fees for the rap sheets. These functions would be performed on-site at the Center, but under the auspices of the Chicago Police Department.

 ·         Trained Clerk’s Office professionals would identify, retrieveand certify the dispositions for the criminal cases. These functions would be performed on-site at the Center, but under the auspices of the Clerk’s Office.

Much of the day-to-day work of counseling individuals would be provided by pro bono attorneys and/or law clerks.  Continuing legal education (CLE) credits should be awarded to attorneys who participate in the service to encourage their participation.

 Costs and Funding the Center

The majority of costs would be for personnel.  There would be one-time costs for setting up the Center, including installation of T1 lines, phones, furniture and other non-personnel costs.  Funding would come from a variety of sources, including the City of Chicago, Cook County, private foundations and federal and state grants, such as funds under the federal Second Chance Act.

 My Pledge

As Clerk of the Circuit Court, I will lobby the President of the Cook County Board and the Mayor of the City of Chicago, as well as the legal aid community, foundations and legislators to endorse and promote the development of the Cook County Expungement and Records Relief Center.

 



[1] U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2012.

[2] http://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/reentry/pages/employment.aspx

[3] http://www.shrm.org/research/surveyfindings/articles/pages/backgroundcheckcriminalchecks.aspx

[4] http://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/reentry/pages/employment.aspx

[5]See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835847/ for details. Tangible Per-Offense Costs include: Crime Victim, Criminal Justice System, and Crime Career Costs (see table 3). Once intangible costs are factored in (see tables 4 and 5) the figures increase significantly for Murder ($8,982,907); Sexual Assault ($240,776); Aggravated Assault $107,020); Robbery ($42,310); Motor Vehicle Theft ($10,772); and Arson ($21,103).

[6] http://familyfacts.org/briefs/40/parental-involvement-and-childrens-well-being

[7] http://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/reentry/pages/employment.aspx

[8] http://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/reentry/pages/employment.aspx

[9]NC Commission on Workforce Development, 2014 Employer Needs Survey, August 2014, p. 9

Electronic Records Management in the Circuit Clerk's Office: A Blueprint for Change

Summary

This paper reviews accomplishments to date in bringing electronic records management to the Circuit Clerk's Office and lays out a 4-year plan for buidling on these successes. 

ELECTRONIC COURT RECORDS AND SYSTEMS

Accomplishments and Goals

Electronic records management is one of the major accomplishments of the Clerk’s Office.  Under my leadership, the Clerk’s Office has implemented e-filing for the majority of its civil cases, and is working with justice agencies to develop e-filing in criminal and traffic cases, pursuant to an enacted administrative rule of the Illinois Supreme Court.  We have patiently built the necessary infrastructure for an effective electronic records management program that has saved taxpayer dollars, improved the speed of service, and made records more accurate and complete for all types of court cases.

Document Imaging Accomplishments

Ensuring Accurate and Complete Records

Long ago, I recognized the challenges in ensuring the completeness of civil, traffic and criminal cases. The only way to ensure complete records are always available is through imaging all documents when they are filed.  This is the reason why I implemented the Imaging and Document Management system (IDMS).

This system enables the Clerk’s Office to image every document that is filed over the counter, thus enabling the Clerk’s Office to produce a certifiable copy of the document as needed.  The imaged document is inserted into the electronic docket to create a seamless web of complete information about a court case.  With this system, the judiciary, the attorneys, parties to a case, and the public all have access to digital images of court documents.  In 2015, I installed a new and easy searching capability for the electronic docket and images.

We currently have almost 200 million electronic images of court records through both the Imaging and Document Management System (IDMS) and the Electronic Filing System (e-filing).  These documents can already be viewed online on the access terminals at the courthouses, in accordance with the Illinois Supreme Court Public Access Policy.

Court Call Search: Litigants can conduct online searches on the Clerk’s Office’s website to find the date and location of their court case.  The search can be conducted by case number or name of litigant.

Online Orders of Protection: Victims of domestic violence can prepare online, the form for an Order of Protection, on the Clerk’s Office’s website. The website provides a three-step, do-it-yourself user guide of the process.

Information Kiosks: Under my leadership, the Clerk’s Office installed information kiosks at 26th and California, where felony cases are heard.  The kiosks permit easy case lookup and retrieval in Spanish, Polish, and English.

Civil Case Accomplishments

E-Filing, E-Notices, and Online Case Searches

E-filing is one of the biggest accomplishments in the Clerk’s Office. In September 2002, the Illinois Supreme Court approved e-filing of civil case court documents as a pilot program. Under my leadership, Cook County was one of the five original counties selected to pilot e-filing.  The other 4 counties were Du Page, Madison, St. Clair, and Will Counties. The Supreme Court approved e-filing for all 102 counties in Illinois, based on the success of the pilot programs. As of October 2014, Cook County was one of 11 Illinois counties that had permission from the Supreme Court to electronically file all civil cases.  The other counties are DeKalb, Du Page, Kendall, Lake, Madison, McHenry, Montgomery, Moultrie, St. Clair, and Sangamon. As of 2016, there are only 15 Clerk’s of Court in the State of Illinois with electronic filing. It is important to note that Cook County is the Largest court system in the country with electronic filing in the majority of its civil case types. Los Angeles County, the only court system larger than Cook County, only has e-filing for one of its civil case types Small claims.

Working with local bar associations and other parties, the Clerk’s Office has implemented e-filing in the Chancery, Child Support, Civil, Domestic Relations, Law and Probate Divisions, pursuant to the Circuit Court of Cook County’s General Administrative Order No. 2013-07, Electronic Filing (e-filing) of Court Documents. As of October 2015, more than 250,000 filings have been processed and more than 41,000 motions have been spindled.  E-filing is available 24/7 and new users have access to 24 hour online webinars.

As of October 2015, there were more than 29,500 registered users of e-filing. Most registered users are attorneys.  They represent a majority of the potential pool of attorneys in Cook County. As of October 2013, there were 45,306 active and inactive attorneys registered in the First Judicial District (Cook County) of Illinois.[1] I will continue to promote the availability of e-filing and increase the number of registered users for civil cases.

Since 2013, attorneys in Civil, Civil Suburban, Law, Chancery and Domestic Relations cases have been able to register online to receive case management notices via email (e-notices)  The service replaces post card notices. In coming months, the service will become available to pro se litigants.  As of October 2015, more than 91,000 notifications have been sent out.  This initiative is a major “green” success.

The Clerk of the Circuit Court now offers on-line access to the full electronic docket for cases filed in the Civil, Law, Chancery, and Domestic Relations divisions and partial docket information in the Probate and County Divisions. The electronic docket search includes information similar to that found on the Clerk's Digital Access terminals located in the various courthouses. Cases can be searched by litigant name, case number, or filing date.

 Traffic Case Accomplishments

E-Filing, E-Pleas and Online Case Searches

Under my leadership, the Clerk’s Office has partnered with 18 law enforcement agencies to automate the electronic transfer of traffic-stop citation data and digital images, from the squad car directly to their office and to our case management system. As of October 2015, more than 56,000 e-tickets have been filed and more than 48,000 warnings have been processed.  I will continue to partner with suburban agencies to expand the number of participating municipalities on this initiative.

Under my leadership, the Clerk’s Office has developed and implemented E-plea, an online traffic ticket system that enables plaintiffs and defendants to conduct business successfully without having to come to the courthouse.  As of October 2015, more than 108,000 customers have been able to enter guilty pleas and pay their traffic ticket online; more than 163,000 requests for Traffic Safety School have been processed; and litigants have made more than 31,000 court hearing requests.

Also, citizens can conduct online searches of their traffic cases on the Clerk’s Office’s website and on the Clerk’s Office mobile app.  Searches can be conducted by traffic ticket number or driver’s license number.

I will continue to promote these traffic case management services as needed.

 Criminal Case Accomplishments

E-Mittimus and Integrated Justice Systems

E-Mittimus: A mittimus is one of the most important documents produced by a judge in criminal cases.  The document authorizes the Sheriff to take a defendant into custody, or release a defendant from custody, upon completion of a court hearing.  Under my leadership, the Clerk’s Office has produced and transmitted electronic mittimus data, along with an image of the document, to the Cook County Department of Corrections and the Illinois Department of Corrections. As of October 2015, more than 61,000 electronic mitts have been transmitted, which has helped to expedite processing of prisoners and improve public safety. I will upgrade this vital service as needed.

Integrated Justice Systems: As chair of the Cook County Integrated Criminal Justice Information Systems Committee (CCICJIS), I am proud to have led the long and complex effort to integrate communication systems between justice agencies.  In December 2015, the Cook County Board approved purchase of an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) to facilitate communications between software applications used by the Chief  Judge, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Public Defender, Sheriff, State’s Attorney and the Bureau of Technology.  I will diligently oversee implementation of this critical piece of integrated technology in the coming months.

 Goal for the Next Four Years

Establishing Fully Integrated Court and Information Systems

The Circuit Court of Cook County is the second largest unified court system in the United States. Under my leadership, the Circuit Court of Cook County has worked with the Illinois Supreme Court and various law enforcement agencies to implement numerous technological innovations. My goal over the next four years will be to shift the Circuit Court of Cook County from using technology throughout to being a fully integrated electronic entity with links to other law enforcement agencies that is fully accessible to the public.

Establish an Official Electronic Court Record:  I propose that the Illinois Supreme Court make the electronic record the official court record. This will permit court cases to move forward expeditiously because there would not be any papers to process.

Electronic Filing in Criminal and Traffic Cases: In September 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court amended its rules to permit e-filing in criminal and traffic cases.  Until then, only civil cases could be e-filed in the Circuit Courts. To implement criminal case e-filing, the Chief Judges and the Clerks of the Circuit Courts in Illinois must engage local bar association(s), the state's attorney and the public defender in the planning and development process for criminal case types.  In 2016, I will work with the partner agencies to implement e-filing in criminal and traffic cases.

Increase Electronic Access: The Clerk’s Office already has the technology that would permit single electronic images of records of court cases to be shown on the internet. In order to do so, the Clerk’s Office needs: A local court rule authorizing me to show the images to attorney of record for a case and the party to the case (Currently have a request in to the Chief Judge to issue this rule); and A special exemption from the Electronic Access Policy of the Illinois Supreme Court, to show images to attorneys who are not of record to a case.

Electronic Integration between Justice Agencies: Purchase a state-of-the-art case management system that will be integrated with other justice agencies. The system will provide justice partners with upgraded management reports, permit general electronic filing for both attorneys and individuals, permit attorneys to file electronic draft orders and motions directly with judges, as well as permit judges to review orders and motions and rule on, and sign, them electronically.  The new case management system will speed up the administration of justice.

Electronic Courtrooms: Work with the judiciary to make all courtrooms e-Courtrooms. This would enable judges, attorneys, parties to cases, and jurors to see electronic images of documents, evidence and exhibits on large screens and computers.  There would be computers on all attorney desks, and there will be a portable electronic podium for permitting attorneys to see images while standing in front of the judge, or addressing the jury. The witness would have a computer for viewing images and evidence, and expert witnesses would be able to testify via video conferencing.

Electronic Court Orders: Expand the Interactive Order System (IOS). Currently in a pilot phase, IOS allows judges to enter court orders directly into a computer to produce dispositions for the Clerk’s electronic docket and various official court documents, such as half-sheets, bonding and warrant documents and agency draft orders.

Electronic Case Assignment: Work with the judiciary to ensure speedy trials by assigning criminal cases based on the type of crime.  For instance, felony murders take a longer time to adjudicate than class 4 felonies for marijuana possession. Cases would be assigned to court rooms based upon the amount of adjudication time. Less serious cases would be assigned to one courtroom to reduce the amount of time between filing and final disposition.

 In Conclusion

The core function of the Clerk’s Office is recordkeeping.  The mission of the Office is to ensure that all recordkeeping services are timely, accurate and complete. I will continue improving the efficiency of court case management from case initiation to disposition. To improve case management, I will increase automation capacity, employ cutting edge technology, update existing management processes and promote 100% user acceptance of existing green technology.



[1]Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, Annual Report of 2013, Chart 4: Registered Active and Inactive Attorneys by County for 2012-2013

 

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