On Wednesday, the monthly Cook County Board of Commissioner’s meeting was very interesting to say the least. Between the applause section for animated but consistent citizen speaker, George Blakemore, the countless speakers testifying on behalf of Commissioner Boykin’s youth job resolution—the hot topic was Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown.
What many had expected to be a public dissemination of the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk’s office turned out to be match flame lit in a pool of ice-cold water. Republican Commissioner Peter Silvestri’s proposed resolution of new item 16-3142—the petition to make the office of the Cook County Circuit Clerk an appointed office and no longer an elected one was immediately withdrawn before the board meeting started.
As concerned Chicagoans were called to the microphone to address their statements and questions to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the entire board of commissioners—many shared their disdain for the initial proposal being considered in the first place.
Making a brief appearance, Brown was noticeable wearing a smart, green suit in attendance. Although, she was listed as one of the speakers–she chose to refrain from making any comments at the meeting.
As one young activist stood in the board room meeting chambers asking Preckwinkle what if it were her son that ended up like Laquan McDonald? Elected officials began to grow irritable at the line of questioning, steered off of the topic of discussion.
Commissioner Robert Steele clarified to attendees that it is the state that legislates the office of the Circuit Court Clerk, not the Cook County Board therefore they have no jurisdiction to eliminate the seat. In other words, it’s important to know the legislative process before flying off the handle.
Not to let such shade go unnoticed—Clerk Dorothy Brown released an official statement to the board in upholding the elected office in which she’s served since 2000.
She clarified, “The Circuit Court of Cook County is the court of first impressions for the citizens of Cook County. We maintain the original records, exhibits, wills, and evidence for court cases. Unlike the Appellate and Supreme Court, where the original record from the Circuit Court is reviewed. These records can make a difference in whether a person goes free or is incarcerated; they can make a difference in them losing their homes to foreclosure, getting evicted, paying large sums of money – the records hold information that can affect people’s lives, as a result it is important that the office is independent and is accountable only to the people.
In February 2014, the Chicago Bar Association Board of Governors considered the same resolution, and Commissioner Sufferdin was also on that board, as a lobbyist, so he can tell you that they took that proposal off the table because they realized that it would disenfranchise voters, for a position that is vital to their lives,” said Brown. “In these times, when people are calling for more decisions to be taken out of the hands of politicians, like electing school boards, this is not the time to attempt to take power from the people.”
Brown went on to acknowledge that in February 2014, the Chicago Bar Association Board of Governors considered the same resolution, and Commissioner Sufferdin was also on that board, as a lobbyist. She said, “He can tell you that they took that proposal off the table because they realized that it would disenfranchise voters, for a position that is vital to their lives. In these times, when people are calling for more decisions to be taken out of the hands of politicians, like electing school boards, this is not the time to attempt to take power from the people.”
The Chicago Defender first reported the Commissioner Silvestri’s new item added to the agenda on Tuesday. In explanation, the Cook County Board of Commissioners are an administrative body that manage and regulate county business—this latest move would need Democratic support on both the county level and influence Springfield.
This require state legislature to be passed by a majority Democratic General Assembly.
Brown is no stranger to adversity and has become a target on both sides of the aisle with the Cook County Democratic Party endorsing Alderman Michelle Harris over her in the primary race. The federal probe of alleged patronage hiring and questions surrounding her husband’s business deals—she won overwhelmingly with 48 percent of the vote in March.
For those who may not be a starch Brown support—she is undoubtedly resilient and has maintained public appeal. “I say to the Cook County Board of Commissioners, please do not petition the General Assembly to make a change in the law that would not only take away a right to vote from the citizens of Cook County, but would also jeopardize their court records.” She concluded that although Silvestri’s resolution said that it would be a cost savings, the Clerk made it clear that it should not be a price on justice.
“The person over an office that can affect their freedom, their finances, and their lives in general,” Brown says.