By Marcia M. Meis, Director, Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts
Beginning in 2019, the Illinois Supreme Court began unprecedented efforts to identify, collect and make publicly available, comprehensive data regarding court system operations throughout Illinois. These efforts to upgrade existing technology and to streamline data collection and sharing efforts will bring about a sea change in the availability of statewide data by replacing static, manual reporting with dynamic, online reporting. Our enhanced understanding of the justice system landscape will bring tremendous benefits to the courts and court users and allow us to better respond to ever evolving needs in our rapidly changing world.
The Court currently collects data through a variety of reporting programs. For example, the Annual Report and Statistical Summary provides a general overview of court operations across Illinois and is compiled from thousands of individually submitted reports from circuit clerks, court administrators, probation managers, and other court partners. With 102 counties and at least 24 unique court and probation case management systems across our vast state, timely and accurate data collection has always presented significant and unique challenges for the Illinois courts.
Notwithstanding these challenges, and in order to bring to life the Court’s interest in enhanced data collection, the AOIC has studied the options to facilitate data collection and reporting within our patchwork of various case management systems. The work includes building a comprehensive data management platform where court system data from throughout Illinois will be housed.
In the past year, the AOIC convened focus groups and town hall meetings with chief judges, court administrators, circuit clerks, and probation managers, gathering feedback and developing sample reports. The AOIC provided comprehensive tables of requested information, comprised of hundreds of unique data elements to circuit courts, as well as probation and pretrial departments, to begin integration efforts. The tables provide standards for each case management system to integrate with the Court’s centralized data management platform. AOIC staff also communicated funding options to assist courts and offices with integration efforts. In the current fiscal year, courts and probation and pretrial departments can apply for reimbursement from the AOIC for making data elements available to the platform. Over the next several months, the AOIC will continue to work closely with each court and case management system to certify connection and perform data integrity checks to ensure accuracy. A change this significant will take time and some jurisdictions will need more time than others, depending on current capabilities and resources.
Following integration, every court will be given access to custom dashboards, allowing them to assess the current landscape, identify any trends, and make well-informed court management decisions. Eventually, the Supreme Court and the AOIC will no longer need to rely on manual submission from counties and will be able to provide judges and justice partners more detailed insight into Illinois Judicial Branch operations.
In addition to tools for local courts, the AOIC intends to develop statewide public dashboards, providing access to caseload statistics and other information in a dynamic online format. With this change, the Supreme Court aims to improve court transparency, aid policymakers in making informed decisions, and reduce the burden of local courts in responding to media and research requests.
While the goal of thorough, complete, and accurate statewide court data collection and reporting may not be fully achieved for some time, the Supreme Court will continue to lead this critical effort to keep our courts informed and responsive to future justice system needs.