It is a pleasure and a privilege to address this impressive group about the State of the Courthouse. A scant 12 months ago I stood before you and said that the State of the Courthouse was GOOD. It is still GOOD.
But today I stand here to tell you that the State of the Courthouse is leaner, more technological and getting better.
Throughout the last year, every division and office in the courthouse has aspired to improve our services and court facilities. I believe we have made substantial progress. We will not rest on our laurels; we continue to seek improvements in this new year.
This will not be an ordinary year. There are new challenges ahead. We face unprecedented budget cuts which have forced us to take a critical look at the way we do our business and deliver service to members of the bar, litigants, witnesses, jurors, sentenced offenders and the public. We have just begun to realize the ripple effect of those cuts. I am painfully aware of the consequence of those budget cuts and hope that the impending loss of staff and reduction in resources is temporary.
On the other hand, I have great faith in the people who work in the courthouse. They are our lifeblood and I believe they will step up and make us proud even in the face of our financial struggles.
So as we face leaner days, we are embracing technology and valuing our employees. So…the state of the court house is GOOD and getting better all the time.
We have made great strides on the fourth floor. The construction of the two new courtrooms on the fourth floor is nearing completion. The official word tells me that we are still on track to open these courtrooms near April 1, 2007. These courtrooms will be jury courtrooms with galleries that can comfortably seat 70 and 100 persons respectively. With these courtrooms in place, we will be prepared to handle the large volume of misdemeanor cases filed each year, and to accommodate multiple high profile cases that demand seats for the parties, public and press.
Last year the Illinois Supreme Court allocated a new Associate Judgeship to the 18th Judicial Circuit. The decision was made to alleviate the burden on the two most crowded courtrooms in the building, the Statutory Summary Suspension rooms. Effective January 1, 2007, these two calls were redistributed into three much more manageable calls, headed by Judge Kelsey, Judge Guerin and Judge Kinsella. This change should dramatically improve the orderly flow of DUI arraignments, hearings on Petitions to Rescind and bench trials. So far it is working well, and we welcome your input.
Judge Burke welcomed new judges to his division. In addition to Judge Guerin in the SS call, Judge Sheen and Judge Sutter have been assigned to misdemeanor calls. Judge Burke has also introduced a new concept. It is a team approach to the trial calls in the misdemeanor division. The teams will be available to take trial overflow. This is a novel but effective tool to make a trial date a date everyone can count on. We will do everything in our power to get you to trial on the day your case is set for trial.
The computerized sentencing orders are here to stay. Together with the Clerk’s office, we hope to introduce additional automated orders including the Conditions of Probation, IDOC sentence and Restitution orders in the very near future. The dramatic increase in computer use in the criminal courtrooms brought new focus on the need to move forward to rewire the building to bring our facility into the new millennium.
Rewiring the building is an extraordinary undertaking which we are excited to begin this year. We hope to introduce wireless computer capability into our courtrooms to allow for the maximum use and maximum flexibility. We want to be able to move computers and work stations without the need to rewire for each modification or change in courtroom use. Our goal is to not only build for our needs today but to build for the foreseeable future.
So… the State of the Courthouse on the fourth floor is better and technology has arrived to stay.
Our MICAP and Drug Court Programs will soon be located on the third floor. The new Program Coordinator will oversee both of these extraordinary programs, and continue to seek the very best treatment and service providers for your clients. We will shortly have in place staff to accommodate new applications for MICAP and Drug Court, and we will continue to offer the highest level of support, supervision and effective treatment together with favorable disposition for offenders who successfully complete these programs.
As you know, drug abusers and the mentally ill struggle in the criminal justice system and are among the least likely to succeed without serious intervention and support. It is an honorable thing to help someone overcome their demons or disabilities and leave the criminal justice system rejoining society as a productive member. So we remain committed to continue these programs in the face of budget cuts. We had help. I would be remiss if I did not publicly thank the County Board for their support of these programs. A resolution, effective January 1, which allows a $10 fee on criminal cases to be assessed and used solely for the support of MICAP and the Drug Court Program will provide the funding necessary to support these programs in the future.
The Domestic Relations division has new members. Judge Konetski, Judge McKillip and Judge Davenport moved into divorce calls, together with Judge Austin who returns to Juvenile court. Ordinarily these moves would not be newsworthy. However, the ARC may no longer be the most stylish place on the third floor. I am led to believe that the redecorating of at least two of the chambers on the third floor may become a new pilot show on HGTV. Toms Price Furniture Store was seen delivering wonderful things down the secured corridor. For those of you who don’t do divorce work, it is worth venturing into the north end of the third floor, just to visit the chambers of Judge Davenport and Judge McKillip.
Effective this January 1, the new Supreme Court Rules on Child Custody cases went into effect. Our local rules and mediation program are in accord with the mandates of the Illinois Supreme Court. Upon completion of the second half of the GAL and Child Rep training this spring, we are in full compliance. The Court enacted these rules to expedite the resolution of child custody cases. We are mindful that these rules not only affect the courts - these rules also will affect your practices. We accept the challenge of the Illinois Supreme Court to resolve these cases within 18 months and believe with your cooperation we will meet that challenge.
In this vein, you will see more and more computers on the bench and our judges using them to access case histories. They are now going to know how many times you’ve said, "we just need a short date judge… we’re close to settling this case". Get ready for some trial settings!
Certainly the biggest news in the Domestic Relations division is the After-Hours Pro-Se Court, anticipated to open on March 1, 2007 at 4:00 p.m. in courtroom 1003. The court call will be limited to 25 cases to start, and will be held each Thursday evening. This court is the result of the efforts of the Domestic Relations Division, who saw the need to address the struggles of the pro-se litigant in their courts. Many stepped forward to make this a reality. The Circuit Judges have enacted local court rules governing these cases. The third floor judges have enthusiastically accepted the challenge of an after-hours court. Circuit Clerk Kachiroubas and Sheriff Zaruba will staff it, and you, our bar members, have volunteered to attend these court sessions as scriveners to assist pro-se litigants in drafting accurate orders. Thank you!
Our Juvenile courts have completed the transition begun last spring through which the duty of three judges is now the work of two. Yet our Juvenile Division continues to provide some of the most outstanding services available in the state, and we enjoy a notable reputation throughout Illinois. That goodwill is the product of everyone who participates in the juvenile justice system including the court, the attorneys and of course the Department of Probation and Court Services - Juvenile division.
The Court Reporters Office brings great news. We currently have a record in every courtroom except Addison, Glendale Heights and Downers Grove Field Courts. Even Small Claims has a record for the moment. We are experiencing technical difficulties with CourtSmart and the DUCS system….stay tuned.
Over the last year we hired many highly skilled, experienced and professional reporters. Many have real-time skill levels and are available for real time reporting when needed. One of our reporters is certified as a CART (Communications Access Real time Translation) reporter which makes her able to provide services for hearing impaired witnesses and litigants.
Our excellent and extremely efficient staff delivers requests for transcripts on time with absolute accuracy. Expedited orders are taken in stride and completed as promised. The luxury of a full staff allows us to offer daily copy in both live and CourtSmart courtrooms as requested. As you know, freelance reporters charge additional fees and although they produce an accurate transcript, it is not the official transcript, and cannot be used as the record on appeal. Our court staff is prepared to provide daily copy and produce the official record, and alleviate the need for your clients to pay additional fees for daily copy.
So the State of the Courthouse on the third floor is better, and becoming more technologically savvy all the time.
There are some new faces in the Law Division. Judge French assumed a Law call, and Judge Ferguson is currently in courtroom 2001, the temporary home of Small Claims Court. There has also been some courtroom shuffling on the second floor. Judge Kilander is in courtroom 2011 until the new rooms are completed on the fourth floor. He is prepared to switch with Judge Popejoy in 2009 if a jury box is needed. I know they won’t miss a beat.
The Civil, Law and Chancery Divisions have been the beneficiaries of an expansion of the categories eligible for voluntary e-filing. In addition to domestic relations, CH, TX & some MR cases may now be e-filed. As you are aware, the DuPage County Bar Association has been one of the motivating forces in expanding and promoting the use of e filing. With Chris Kachiroubas and the Office of the Clerk of the Court, much has been accomplished. The court stands ready and willing to assist in any way as we collectively move forward.
Clearly this is the wave of the future, and some would argue the future is already here. On a cold and snowy January day, just like today, your e-filed documents could arrive in the clerk’s office before you can get your coat. Another benefit of e-filing is that with an e-filed notice of motion, e-filed with the appropriate three days notice, your case will make the call.
Documents which are e-filed, assuming they are accepted and applicable fees paid, are available for viewing in about 24 hours. We all know it will take substantially longer than 24 hours for your paper document to see the inside of the paper file. How many times have you been in court where the paper filed document is not in the file? With the short turn around, an e-filed document is "in court" viewable through the computer on the day you are there.
There are many advantages to using e-filing. Those of you who are already using this tremendous tool know the benefits. For those who have not yet ventured into e filing, I hope you will attend some of the scheduled training sessions and take the plunge.
It has been a year since the Supreme Court rules governing the SC, SR and AR cases went into effect. Thanks to the joint efforts of Loretta Glenny at the Arbitration Center, Judge French, Judge Abraham and Judge Bongiorno, we have met the challenge. The additional arbitration hearings were taken in stride and resolved in a timely fashion. Once again, I would like to thank the attorneys who serve as arbitrators and mediators in the 18th Judicial Circuit. You do a great job and insure that our program continues to be one of the best in the state.
Often overlooked on the second floor, the staff in the Office of the Chief Judge is a remarkable group of individuals who complete an enormous amount of administrative processing. It is they who keep the courthouse operating and improving. The creation of new court calls, opening new courtrooms and rearranging schedules doesn’t just happen. Although the staff makes it appear seamless, an incredible amount of work is done behind the scenes to make it all happen. One new project will be updating our website in an effort to keep the most accurate information available to you and the public. You and I are fortunate to have such a great staff working in the administration of this circuit.
The Family Violence Coordinating Council collaborated with other groups to organize multiple training sessions on domestic violence. Together with State’s Attorney Joe Birkett, Coordinator Linda Cline, a multitude of agencies came together to revise and update the DuPage County Domestic Violence Protocol. Just this week we welcomed a new coordinator, Ms. Lisa Panuska. She joins a great staff in the Chief Judge’s office.
So the State of the Courthouse on the second floor is better, and using technology in new and better ways all the time.
As our mind’s eye travels down the escalator to the first floor the view is much improved. The front door entrance leading to the escalators has a better appearance and is in fact much more secure. My thanks to our Facilities Department for that work.
Our front door is operating well, the public is admitted into the building as quickly as possible. The Sheriff and the courthouse deputies are to be complimented on their efforts. The amendment to the use of the surface parking lot next to the courthouse together with the recent paving of the fair grounds parking lot has alleviated some of the congestion and back up of cars entering our facility. My thanks to the County.
Our traffic courts have also embraced technology this year. Payments may now be made on Visa credit and debit cards. Just think, we truly have entered a new age when you can pay your speeding ticket and get air miles too. We successfully collaborated with other agencies to install access to the Secretary of State’s Office in our field courts. This will facilitate the flow of accurate drivers’ abstract information for those in court.
The Clerk’s office now offers an "Attorney’s Line" to allow you to do your brief business in the courthouse without waiting. The CRIS system allows judges and attorneys alike to view entire files from their own personal computers. Again, those who have begun to use this, wonder how they got along without it. Try it. There is no cost, so call the clerk and sign up.
Thank you for your interest in the State of the Courthouse and allowing me to address your membership today.