As we said farewell to 2014 and welcome 2015, we reflect on what has been accomplished and establish new goals for the future.
In 2014, the Clerk’s Office successfully managed the filings of more than 1.1 million new cases in Cook County circuit court. We will continue to work on not only enhancing the Clerk’s Office’s operations but also on improving the interaction amongst all key Cook County Criminal Justice stakeholders, including the Chief Judge’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, State’s Attorney Office and Cook County Bureau of Technology, to benefit public safety and administer justice, through the Cook County Integrated Criminal Justice Information Systems (CCICJIS) Committee.
This year, CCICJIS established several projects that improve the timely flow of accurate information among the different criminal justice agencies. One such project is the Electronic Mittimus (eMittimus) system that eliminates handwritten judge’s orders that inform the Sheriff’s Office if a defendant should be released or detained in custody. Through eMittimus, the court clerk electronically creates a clear, typewritten custodial order based on the judge’s ruling. On average, Cook County criminal court judges render more than 30,000 custodial orders per month.
Another CCICJIS initiative that was expanded in 2014 is the Electronic Tickets (eTickets) system that automates the creation, capture, transmission, and storage of a traffic-stop citation, from the squad car directly to the Clerk’s Office’s electronic docket. Adding to the eight Cook County municipalities already using the eTickets program, this year Glenview, Hillside, Morton Grove, Rosemont, Wheeling and Wilmette rolled out eTickets, and 10 other Cook County municipalities, and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office are now in testing for eTickets.
We are scheduled to launch one of our largest CCICJIS initiatives in 2015 with the implementation of the Interactive Orders System (IOS). IOS is a touchscreen technology that will replace paper court orders with electronically produced court orders. On computers on judges’ benches and the prosecution and defense tables, criminal court judges, state’s attorneys, public defenders, and in the second phase, private criminal attorneys, will be able to draft court orders and judges will use digital signature pads to electronically sign the orders. IOS will facilitate the accurate exchange of data amongst criminal justice partners.
In 2014, we used technology to consistently innovate the Clerk’s Office. We expanded our Imaging and Document Management System (IDMS) into the Criminal Department, and the Criminal and Traffic (felonies only) Divisions. Already in operation in the Chancery, Child Protection, Civil, Domestic Relations, Juvenile Justice, Law and Probate Divisions, IDMS is the process by which court documents are scanned and the digital images are stored in an electronic warehouse from which they can be searched, selected, viewed on public access computers, and printed. To date, the Clerk’s Office has digitized more than 120 million court documents.
Our Electronic Filing (eFiling) service was also expanded this year to include the Probate Division, the sixth civil case type available for eFiling. Via the Internet, eFilers electronically create and submit a court filing, pay associated filing fees, receive the file-stamped documents and if needed, may serve the opposing party. E-Filing is also available in the Chancery, Child Support, Civil, Domestic Relations and Law Divisions. Currently, there are more than 19,000 registered eFilers. Recently, the Illinois Supreme Court approved eFiling for criminal and traffic cases, and the Clerk’s Office is looking forward to expanding eFiling to these two areas in 2015.
Community service is an area the Clerk’s Office continues to develop each year. On June 7, 2014, we successfully hosted our 10th Annual Expungement Summit at Living Word Christian Center in Forest Park, IL. Since 2005, more than 25,000 individuals have been assisted, over the years, at our Expungement Summits, earning the Clerk’s Office’s summit national recognition as a model for other counties to replicate. To assist other jurisdictions to produce their own local Expungement Summits, this year the Clerk’s Office produced an “Expungement Summit Guide” booklet that gives step-by-step instructions on how to host successful summits.
Throughout 2014, one way the Clerk’s Office stayed connected with the public is through our mobile app: Court Clerk Mobile Connect. The app offers several features including options to search the court’s electronic docket for civil and traffic cases, search the court call roster, view current fee schedules, and locate and contact Cook County court facilities. More than 12,000 people have downloaded the free and convenient Clerk’s Office mobile app, so far.
In our other public services, this year the Clerk’s Office paid out more than $4.2 million dollars to individuals who were due mortgage foreclosure surplus funds, and remitted more than $29,000 in unclaimed child support checks to those rightful recipients, some of whom may have learned about these services through my columns here in the Chicago Defender. I greatly appreciate the Defender for granting me this opportunity to inform readers over the last 12 months about a wide range of topics, which included: how to use the Clerk’s Office’s public access terminals, navigating the Clerk’s Office’s mobile app, how to know if someone has unclaimed child support checks, and how to get a past criminal record expunged or sealed, to name a few subjects covered.
Be assured that with each new year the Clerk’s Office is developing improvements and innovations to benefit the citizens of Cook County. Best wishes to all for a healthy, safe and productive New Year!
Hon. Dorothy Brown is the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. For more information, visit www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like us on Facebook.com/cookcountyclerkofcourt. Follow us on Twitter@CourtClerkBrown.