July 28, 2020
The re-constituted Illinois Judicial Conference (IJC) unveiled an inaugural, 3-year Strategic Agenda for the Illinois Judicial Branch in October 2019. The IJC is a multi-disciplinary body of 29 members – 15 judges and 14 non-judges – and is chaired by the current Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. The IJC convened regularly and deliberated in many voices while developing the Strategic Agenda.
Upon completion, the IJC unanimously supported and forwarded the Strategic Agenda to the Illinois Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also adopted the Strategic Agenda unanimously. The Strategic Agenda is serving as a strategic plan – a blueprint – to guide the Illinois Judicial Branch over the next three years and into the future. Implementation of strategies to achieve each strategic goal in the Strategic Agenda will allow judicial officers, court personnel, and justice partners to come together to think beyond day to day problems, allocate and use limited resources, and sustain internal and external cooperation and collaboration to improve the delivery of justice and better serve the public.
The strategic planning process included a review of external and internal trends data as well as results of a wide-reaching strategic planning survey. Judicial officers, court managers and employees, probation officers, court clerks, attorneys, and other justice system partners were surveyed. The data was used by the IJC to understand internal trends, identify implications of external trends on the future of the judicial branch, and identify strengths of the branch and areas for improvement. In all, the data helped shape the future direction and priorities of the Illinois Judicial Branch.
After careful thought and much deliberation, the IJC crafted mission and vision statements and a set of core values which are included in the Strategic Agenda:
Mission: To protect the rights and liberties of all by provided 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.
Vision: To be trusted and open to all by being fair, innovative, divers, and responsive to changing needs.
Core Values: Fairness, Accountability, Integrity, and Respect
Additionally, the IJC identified five strategic goals, which represent key areas for making improvements in the years ahead. They are:
- Accessible Justice and Equal Protection under the Law.
- Procedural Fairness, Timeliness, and Operational Efficiency.
- Professionalism and Accountability throughout the Judicial Branch.
- Understanding of and Confidence in the Judicial Branch.
- Sufficient Funding and Effective Use of Judicial Branch Resources.
The IJC also identified 15 strategic initiatives to be completed within the first year of implementation. The initiatives span the five strategic goals listed above. The 15 initiatives, now 16 with the addition of an initiative to address the COVID-19 Pandemic and Court Operations, were assigned to eight (now nine) newly formed, multi-disciplinary Task Forces and other existing bodies including Commission on Access to Justice, Commission on Professionalism, Conference of Chief Circuit Judges, and Judicial College Board of Trustees.
The Strategic Agenda and At-a-Glance Operational Plan (showing the list of strategic initiatives and Task Force/existing body assignments) are available at: http://illinoiscourts.gov/SupremeCourt/Jud_Conf/default.asp
Since December 2019, the Task Forces and existing bodies have been working on the strategic initiatives. Great progress is being made despite the pandemic. While the expectations and the timeline for completing the strategic initiatives have been relaxed as needed due to the pandemic, all are on track for completing their first-year priorities in the fall of 2020 or early 2021. The IJC will review the reports and recommendations of the various Task Forces and will continue to monitor the work of other Task Forces and existing bodies at upcoming meetings. Following deliberation among IJC members, Task Force reports and recommendations will be referred to the Illinois Supreme Court for review and appropriate action.
This is both an exciting and challenging time for the Illinois Judicial Branch. The major disruptions have had unprecedented effects on the branch and courts around the state. Despite these trying and interesting times, the Illinois Supreme Court, the IJC, and countless other justice system leaders and partners across the state remain steadfast in their commitment to using the Strategic Agenda to make continued improvements and bring about further reform while responding to immediate crises. The IJC looks forward to sharing future improvements and accomplishments in the coming months.