August 21, 2020
Thousands of litigants appear in the Illinois courts without an attorney every year. The growing number of self-represented litigants (SRLs) in court is not unique to any one circuit, county, or case type. The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice (ATJ Commission) and the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts Access to Justice Division recognize, given the size and diversity of Illinois, that local partners are critical to fully understand and address the needs of the SRL population.
The first program to serve SRLs locally was Illinois JusticeCorps, a partnership between the ATJ Commission, Illinois Bar Foundation, and Chicago Bar Foundation, that currently serves 13 courthouses in 11 counties. You can read more about previous JusticeCorps fellows for 2018 and for 2019. Three years ago, the ATJ Commission launched the Self-Represented Litigant Coordinator grant program which is the second program to serve SRLs. You can read more about the previous grantees in Illinois Courts Connect newsletters for November 2017, November 2018, and December 2019.
This year, to fulfill a major goal of the Illinois Judicial Conference’s strategic agenda, the ATJ Commission expanded these existing networks to encompass representatives in all 24 judicial circuits. This Court Navigator Network (Network) of clerks and court staff based in courthouses throughout the state serves as a bridge, linking their courthouses with others throughout the state to share ideas, develop new resources, and establish programs for assisting SRLs, perhaps through additional and new methods because of COVID-19.
Last week, the Court Navigator Network met via Zoom for orientation to cover topics such as information vs. legal advice, implicit bias, and surviving and thriving during crisis. The Network will continue to receive training throughout the year as well as have opportunities to collaborate and share resources with their cohorts across the state.
Several Court Navigator Network members during an orientation session.
Below are the participants in the newly expanded Court Navigator Network:
First Judicial Circuit: Received SRL Coordinator grant funds for Brenda Sprague, Administrative Assistant to the Chief Judge, to serve all nine counties in the circuit to determine the needs of SRLs and provide training to community partners.
Second Judicial Circuit: Wayne County Circuit Clerk Pamela Southerd is participating in the Network.
Third Judicial Circuit: Received SRL Coordinator grant funds for Law Librarian Angela Wille to create a new system for assisting patrons with Order of Protection cases in Madison County. Additionally, Illinois JusticeCorps fellow Baily Morse will serve Madison County.
Fourth Judicial Circuit: Montgomery County Circuit Clerk Holly Lemons is participating in the Network.
Fifth Judicial Circuit: Coles County Assistant Court Administrator Jessica Elliot is participating in the Network.
Sixth Judicial Circuit: Champaign County Circuit Clerk Katie Blakeman received SRL Coordinator grant funds to upgrade and launch an advanced text message reminder and notification system. Trial Court Administrator Lori Hansen also participates in the Network and Illinois JusticeCorps Fellow Brittany Underwood will serve Champaign County.
Seventh Judicial Circuit: Received SRL Coordinator grant funds for the Trial Court Administrator Suzann Maxheimer to coordinate videoconferencing equipment in Macoupin and Greene counties.
Eighth Judicial Circuit: Adams County Circuit Clerk Lori Geschwander is participating in the Network.
Ninth Judicial Circuit: Received SRL Coordinator grant funds for Trial Court Administrator Sandy Redington and navigator Deja Jenkins to create an online presence for self-help information for the whole Circuit and revamp the self-help space in the Knox County Courthouse. Illinois JusticeCorps fellow Deja Jenkins will serve Knox County.
Tenth Judicial Circuit: Received SRL Coordinator grant funds for Trial Court Administrator Rena' Parker to serve Peoria & Tazewell Counties by continuing an Online Dispute Resolution Program, finalize an Order of Protection Guide & File interview, and explore other technology advancements. Stephanie Dwyer, Jody Keller, and Lori Shelton also participate in the Network.
Eleventh Judicial Circuit: Received grant funds for Mary Sellmyer, Library Navigator, to assess SRL needs in all 5 counties and explore a chatbot platform. Additionally, Illinois JusticeCorps fellow Colin Kolodziej will serve McLean County.
Twelfth Judicial Circuit: Received SRL Coordinator grant funds for Caitlin Schaffer to serve as a new Remote Services Coordinator to help the library and self-help center provide remote services. Law Librarian Jeane Fillipitch and SRL Coordinator Alfreda Baran also participate in the Network and Illinois JusticeCorps Fellow Hannah McLaughlin will serve Will County.
Thirteenth Judicial Circuit: Trial Court Administrator Lori Wakeman is participating in the Network.
Fourteenth Judicial Circuit: Rock Island Circuit Clerk and Access to Justice Commissioner Tammy Weikert is participating in the Network.
Fifteenth Judicial Circuit: Received SRL Coordinator grant funds for Trial Court Administrator LeAnn Brandenburg to supervise Resource Person Helen Doig to serve SRLs in all five counties remotely.
Sixteenth Judicial Circuit: Received SRL grant funds for Law Librarian Halle Cox to serve Kane County by improving messaging and information for SRLs and purchase more technology equipment for SRLs. Additionally, Illinois JusticeCorps fellow Sarah Kane will serve Kane County.
Seventeenth Judicial Circuit: Received SRL Coordinator grant funds for Deputy Trial Court Administrator to oversee the development of an Online Dispute Resolution program. Law Librarian Brian Buzzard also participates in the Network and Illinois JusticeCorps Fellow Haley Swanson will serve Winnebago County.
Eighteenth Judicial Circuit: Assistant Court Administrator Sue Makovec is participating in the Network.
Nineteenth Judicial Circuit: Received SRL Coordinator grant funds for Beth Bogie and Frances Paparigian to continue the early resolution program for divorces and develop an online chat function on the court’s website. Additionally, Illinois JusticeCorps Fellow Alex Akre will serve Lake County.
Twentieth Judicial Circuit: Perry County Circuit Clerk Kim Kellerman is participating in the Network.
Twenty-First Judicial Circuit: Received SRL Coordinator grant funds for Administrative Assistant to the Chief Judge Lori Wolf to install printer stations for SRLs to be able to print forms and information. Additionally, Illinois JusticeCorps Fellow Joshua Zaucha will serve Kankakee County.
Twenty-Second Judicial Circuit: Law Librarian Susy Huffman will continue to run the early resolution program for divorce cases where both sides are SRLs and Illinois JusticeCorps Fellow Nina Wilson will serve McHenry County.
Twenty-Third Judicial Circuit: Marci Vose, Trial Court Administrator and Marilyn Stromborg, Legal Counsel for DeKalb County Circuit Clerk are participating in the Network.
Circuit Court of Cook County District 1 - Chicago: The Domestic Relations Division received SRL Coordinator grant funds for Nairee Hagopian and Lauren Wynne to equip hearing officers and mediators with Zoom licenses and equipment to continue the early resolution triage program (in Chicago and some suburban districts) and mediation services remotely. Additionally, the Circuit Clerk’s Office received SRL Coordinator grant funds for Dawn Porter, Associate Clerk of the Family Bureau to purchase equipment to have a self-service center with digital access terminals for SRLs in tents outside of Daley Center. Four Illinois JusticeCorps Fellows will also serve the Daley Center: Lauryn Wengert (who will also serve at Leighton Criminal Courthouse), Marnie Leonard, Ruby Valle, and Thea Gonzales.
Circuit Court of Cook County District 4 - Maywood: LaShanda O'Quinn continues to participate in the Network and maintain the SRL equipment in the family law courtroom.
Circuit Court of Cook County District 6 – Markham: Illinois JusticeCorps Fellow Natisha McAdams will serve at the Markham Courthouse.
Please join us in welcoming this year's Court Navigator Network members and encouraging their efforts to make Illinois courts better, easier, and more accessible for self-represented litigants. If you have any questions or are interested in joining the Network, please email Jill Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org