Skip to Main Content

Details | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

Generative AI and improving juror experience highlight Illinois Judicial Conference’s 2024 Strategic Initiatives


By Marcia M. Meis, Director, Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts

The work of the Illinois Judicial Conference (IJC) was officially launched in 2019 with a mission to “protect the rights and liberties of all by providing equal access to justice, resolving disputes, and upholding the rule of law pursuant to the powers and duties entrusted to us by the Illinois Constitution.” Since that time, the IJC has taken on a number of issues impacting the Illinois Courts over the years and continues to be guided by the Supreme Court’s Strategic Agenda.

The current Agenda spans from 2022-2025 and is titled Charting the Courts: Innovations and Transformations within the Illinois Judicial Branch.

The Strategic Agenda identifies five overarching strategic goals:

  1. Accessible Justice and Equal Protection Under the Law
  2. Procedural Fairness, Timeliness, and Operational Efficiency
  3. Professionalism and Accountability throughout the Branch
  4. Understanding of, and Confidence in, the Judicial Branch
  5. Sufficient Funding and Effective Use of Judicial Branch Resources

To fulfill these goals, the IJC identified nine strategic initiatives for 2024. Each of these are assigned to an existing Supreme Court entity, such as the Illinois Judicial College, or to a Task Force newly-created to study and make recommendations on the assigned initiative.

Keeping in line with the Strategic Agenda theme of "Innovations and Transformations" - the following highlights a few of the exciting items the IJC will be working on this year.

One initiative for 2024 is Improve the Juror Experience in Illinois. This has been assigned to a new Juror Experience Task Force Chaired by Chicago attorney Tim Eaton with Judge Bianca Camargo (16th Judicial Circuit) serving as Vice Chair.

Jury service is the way many people experience the justice system. For some people, it is their only direct exposure to the courts. Out of respect for the time commitment and personal challenges many individuals must overcome in order to fulfill this civic duty, it is imperative to make each juror’s service experience the absolute best that it can be.

This initiative will focus on studying juror improvement efforts across the country, including research on effective reforms and best practices. This effort recognizes, for example, that past jurors can play a role as ambassadors of the court system in their communities and may help to ensure the jury pool reflects the diversity of the community. The task force will make recommendations for the implementation of proposed changes.

Another key initiative is Generative AI and the Illinois Judicial Branch. This has been assigned to the newly-created AI Task Force co-chaired by Williamson County Judge Jeffrey Goffinet and 17th Circuit Trial Court Administrator Tom Jakeway.

Generative AI is a powerful tool that is already revolutionizing many industries. The uses (and misuses) of the technology in the law and justice system are changing rapidly.

Because the technology changes so quickly, the Task Force’s focus will be less on educating about AI itself and more on exploring appropriate uses of this tool, recommending policy and guidelines for using it, and finding opportunities to use AI to enhance customer service and operational efficiencies in the courts. The challenge for this task force will be providing recommendations that will help the courts keep pace with this rapidly evolving tool.

Another strategic initiative recognizes that the judicial branch, like other public sector employers, struggles to fill vacancies amid unprecedented workplace disruptions over the last few years. Accordingly, the Recruitment and Retention of Judicial Branch Employees initiative was formed with me as Chair and McHenry County Circuit Clerk Kathy Keefe as Vice-Chair.

Our task force will be exploring and recommending innovative strategies and tools to help courts and court partners across the state more effectively attract, hire and retain talented and qualified applicants interested in public service jobs. WE know working for the courts is a challenging and fulfilling career, and this task force aims to spread that good news.

Another initiative is to Improve Policy/Practices Governing Judicial Branch Public Requests for Information. While not subject to FOIA, the Judicial Branch recognizes the need for clear and consistent policies and practices governing public requests for information from the courts. This task force is charged with creating a branch-wide policy or rule governing public requests for information and to make operational recommendations to encourage transparency.

Last, if you are a dog lover like me, the Courthouse Service Dog Program is a real treat. A few courthouses around the state have adopted facility animals to make court users feel more comfortable and have a positive court experience. A recent court video highlighting Forrest, the facility dog in the 16th Judicial Circuit, showed these programs are also a huge benefit to court employees. This program will identify ways to promote the expansion of successful service dog programs throughout the state courts to improve the court experience for both court users and employees alike.

From AI to jurors to facility dogs, the IJC has a full plate this year. I am consistently amazed, and eternally grateful, for the 29 dedicated IJC members who have put forth such visionary initiatives, and a special thanks to the 100-plus task force members who work so hard to make them a reality.