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Details | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

Leading Change at the 2024 Judicial Education Conference


The biennial Education Conference is the flagship program of the Supreme Court of Illinois Judicial College. The week-long program is held over two sessions, winter and spring, and brings together over 800 participants each session, including the entire judiciary and invited justice partners. The Education Conference serves as the primary forum for Illinois judges to complete their continuing education requirements through over 90 course offerings, including multi-disciplinary courses attended by justice partners. Justice partners in attendance includes broad representation from trial court administrators, circuit court clerks and deputy clerks, guardians ad litem, probation officers and managers, assistant state’s attorneys and public defenders, court reporters, court interpreters, and other judicial branch staff.

With support from the Illinois Supreme Court Judicial College, The Leading Change: Improving Illinois Courts’ Response to Mental Illness and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders initiative plans to have a strong presence at the 2024 Judicial Education Conference as the following courses have been approved.

Judicial Work at the Interface of Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice

As leaders in their respective fields, judges and psychiatrists are in a unique position to champion initiatives that address the overrepresentation of people with mental illnesses who are involved in the criminal justice system—initiatives that would ultimately enhance people’s quality of life, improve public health, increase community safety, and use public resources more effectively.

Hon. Steven Leifman and Dr. Michael Champion of the Judges and Psychiatrists Leadership Initiative (JPLI) will facilitate the Judicial Work at the Interface of Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice session.

The Judges and Psychiatrists Leadership Initiative is a partnership of the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation. It is funded by Janssen Charitable Contributions to create a community of judges and psychiatrists, increase the reach of training, and develop educational resources.

The JPLI aims to stimulate, support, and enhance efforts by judges and psychiatrists to improve judicial, community, and systemic responses to people with behavioral health needs who are involved in the justice system by:

  • Creating a community of judges and psychiatrists through web-based and in-person trainings and the development and distribution of a newsletter to judges and psychiatrists;
  • Increasing the reach of trainings to build the non-clinical skills of court professionals, which will help improve individual and public safety outcomes; and
  • Developing educational resources to increase judges’ and psychiatrists’ understanding of the latest research and best practices for people with mental illnesses involved in the justice system.

Navigating the Fitness to Stand Trial Process

Competency to stand trial (CST), also known as “fitness,” refers to the constitutional requirement that people facing criminal charges must be able to assist in their own defense. A criminal case cannot be adjudicated unless this requirement is met. In Illinois, the statutory scheme is set out in Article 104 of the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure, Fitness for Trial, to Plead, or to be Sentenced. 725 ILCS 5/104-10 et seq. The scheme covers initial considerations of fitness, fitness determination, different periods of treatment, and restoration to fitness.

Improving operational knowledge of the complex processes set forth in the statutory scheme is essential to improving the courts’ response to mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorders.

Opioid Crisis & the Criminal Justice System

The opioid crisis creates challenges throughout our justice system and is an issue in all types of cases on a judge’s docket. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, in 2021, there were 3,013 fatalities due to opioid overdose in Illinois. This represents a 2.3% increase from 2020 and a 35.8% increase from 2019. Opioid use and opioid fatalities are spread across the state and high opioid overdose rates occur in both urban, small urban, and rural counties. This unfortunate reality demands the judicial branch to continue developing its understanding of opioids, the signs and symptoms of opioid use, and the resources available to help save lives and support recovery.

For more information see IDHS SUPR Opioid Resources