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A Critical Hire to Foster Accessible, Fair and Equitable Administration of Justice

9/29/2020

September 29, 2020

On June 22, 2020, the Illinois Supreme Court released a press statement on racial justice. While it was issued in acknowledgement of the organized protests and calls to action being made throughout the United States and beyond, the Court embraced the opportunity to speak to the history of “the disproportionate impact the application of certain laws, rules, policies and practices have had on the African American population, the Latinx community, and other people of color in Illinois and nationally.” The Court noted that racism undermines our democracy and the fair and equitable administration of justice.

The Court further referenced the Preamble to the Illinois Constitution – which speaks to assuring “legal, social and economic justice” – and noted the judicial branch’s “commitment to the protections and benefits extended to every citizen and court user through fair and equitable constitutional and procedural governance.” The statement identified several steps the Court already has taken in support of this commitment but, desiring to put concrete action towards the principles espoused in the racial justice statement, the Court announced the recruitment of the state judicial branch’s first Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer to work with leaders throughout the justice system to achieve the Supreme Court’s strategic goals related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

The position announcement attracted exceptional candidates whose resumes were rich with professional skills, knowledge and lived experience. On a personal note, I found the recruitment process for the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer to be one of the most interesting and rewarding hiring experiences that I have been privileged to be a part of.

And so, as a follow up to the Court’s recent announcement, it is my pleasure to welcome Vernadean “Deanie” Brown who will join the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts as the Supreme Court’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO) on Monday, November 2. Deanie will office at the AOIC Springfield but will travel to Chicago and other parts of the state, as needed, to meet with judges, judicial branch employees, and other court stakeholders.

Deanie is an Illinois lawyer with extensive diversity and inclusion experience and expertise. She has served as Associate Chancellor for Access and Equal Opportunity at the University of Illinois at Springfield since 2008, an executive leadership position in which she works as a diversity advocate involved in recruitment and hiring processes, complaint resolution and investigation, and compliance oversight. In this role she designed, implemented, presented, and promoted campus-wide diversity and intercultural competency programming and managed the Office of Access and Equal Opportunity and its staff, operations, and budget. She served as a member of the Chancellor’s Administrative Council and University of Illinois System executive committees. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law.

So what are the responsibilities and outcomes envisioned for the new CDIO position? Deanie will work with the Supreme Court and the AOIC to provide comprehensive, strategic, and programmatic leadership and vision that advances and promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion for the benefit of the Illinois Judicial Branch. She will serve as a strategic partner to judicial branch leadership - including the Court’s committees, boards and commissions – to guide and facilitate trust-building, relationship-building, cultural competency, and organizational awareness. As an example of practical application of this work, Deanie will develop and implement a results-focused comprehensive strategy to foster diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership and staffing for the Illinois Judicial Branch, including the hiring, retention and promotion of a diverse and inclusive workforce. She will lead the development and implementation of the Court’s strategic priorities, monitor progress towards goals and objectives and, importantly, develop metrics to measure our success.

Deanie will have both the challenges and benefits of being the first to hold the CDIO position, and I know that the Court, the justice system, and the public that we serve will greatly benefit from her knowledge and experience. Please join me in welcoming Deanie to the Judicial Branch. I look forward to the work that lies ahead.