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Chief’s Column: An introduction to the Supreme Court Clerk and the Clerk’s Office

8/30/2022

In my articles to the Courts Connect newsletter, I have introduced several key members of the Supreme Court support staff and vital heads of the divisions of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts in an effort to provide the legal community a greater understanding of the many facets of the Supreme Court. As guest columnists, they have provided information about their positions and how the work they do assists the court in its operation. This month I invited Cynthia A. Grant, Clerk of the Supreme Court, to be my guest columnist. I wanted her to share with you some information about her position, her duties and responsibilities, and the work that is done by the Office of the Supreme Court Clerk.

The Supreme Court appointed Cynthia to her position on December 1, 2021, upon the retirement of Carolyn Taft Grosboll, who served with distinction as Supreme Court Clerk for more than 10 years. The transition from Carolyn to Cynthia was seamless due to Cynthia’s experience and knowledge, having served as Assistant Clerk of the Court since 2013.

Cynthia obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She then earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Cynthia A. Grant.

Prior to the 1970 Constitution, the Clerk was an elected office and anyone seeking the position had to run statewide. Fae Searcy, who was elected Clerk in 1956, was the first woman in Illinois to be elected to any statewide office. She served as Clerk until her death in 1968. After Justin Taft won his election for Clerk of the Court in 1968, he became the last person to be elected by popular vote to the position under the 1870 Constitution.

The 1970 Illinois Constitution dispensed with statewide elections for the Clerk of the Court and instead gave the Supreme Court the power to appoint its own Clerk. Although Justin Taft was the last elected Clerk, he was not the last Taft to serve in that role – in 2011, Taft’s daughter, Carolyn Taft Grosboll, was appointed by the Court and served as Clerk until her retirement in 2021.  

The Clerk’s Office is located within the Supreme Court Building in Springfield. The Illinois Attorney General previously shared space in the Supreme Court Building with the Clerk’s office until 1972 when a new building for the Attorney General’s office was completed in Springfield. Former Clerk Juleann Hornyak (1982-2011) oversaw the creation of a satellite office and, in 1985, the Clerk’s Chicago satellite office opened, initially in the Daley Center, and now, in the Bilandic Building.    

The Clerk, alongside a staff of 13 highly specialized deputies, serves the Court by processing court filings and maintaining the Court’s dockets. Although the Court’s general docket – matters consisting of criminal and civil cases – make up the lion share of the Court’s caseload, the Court keeps three other dockets: (i) the miscellaneous docket, (ii) the miscellaneous record docket, (iii) and the proposed rule docket.

The miscellaneous docket is a forum for pro se incarcerated individuals to file matters generally related to their incarceration. The miscellaneous record docket, commonly known as the MR docket, primarily consists of attorney disciplinary cases to be considered by the Court pursuant to its inherent authority to regulate and discipline attorneys. The Court’s numerous committees and commissions are also tracked using the MR docket as each committee is assigned its own MR number. The proposed rule docket is governed by Supreme Court Rule 3, which requires the Clerk to docket proposed rules from the Rules Committee. The proposed rule docket allows the Clerk’s office to monitor the status of proposals pending before the Rules Committee.

Statements containing the declarations of economic interest for each of the state’s more than 900 judges are also filed with the Clerk’s office annually. Beginning in 2019, these statements were permitted to be submitted electronically and, in 2022, approximately 70% of judges took advantage of this electronic filing process. While the Illinois Judicial Conduct Code of 2023, effective January 1, 2023, will bring changes to the statement of economic interests form, the Clerk’s office will remain responsible for filing those statements.

The Clerk’s office also handles the annual Rule 721 registration of approximately 5,000 law firms, maintains the roll of Illinois attorneys, processes the licensing of newly admitted attorneys, and preserves historically significant documents with assistance from the Illinois State Archives.  

While it is commonly understood that the primary responsibility of the Clerk’s office is to assist the Court in the management of its caseload, the office also supports the Court in fulfilling its administrative functions. My staff and I take pride in carrying out the operations of the Clerk’s office and would welcome the opportunity to answer any questions you might have.