February 24, 2020
In my first Illinois Courts Connect newsletter last October, I mentioned that a key initiative during my term as Chief Justice would be to participate in a Listening Tour visiting judicial circuits across the state. Today I want to share more information about this initiative.
The Listening Tour is being hosted by the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA). As a guest of the ISBA, I will accompany ISBA President David Sosin and other ISBA members as we travel across the state to visit various judicial circuits. The ISBA, with the assistance of the Chief Judge of the judicial circuit being visited, will select a venue where a session of the Listening Tour will be held. Once a venue is selected, invitations will be sent to the judges, court staff, and justice partners within that judicial circuit and other neighboring circuits. Through this, we hope to hear from each of the 24 judicial circuits in the state over the course of my three-year term as Chief Justice. Of course, anyone who is interested in attending any of the sessions is welcome to do so.
The purpose of the sessions of the Listening Tour is to learn about how the court system operates on a local level within the 24 judicial circuits that make up the five Appellate Judicial Districts of this state. Because methods that might be appropriate for large urban areas may not work in small rural areas, we are interested in hearing from those who are working within the judicial system in every area of the state. Perhaps some circuits see a need for implementing new rules or procedures to make the system operate more efficiently or perhaps rules already in place have presented challenges. We also would like to hear any suggestions on how the judicial system can be more user-friendly and increase access to justice for all. The sessions are intended to be conversational. Therefore, the sessions will likely follow an open forum or townhall meeting format with an ISBA leader serving as moderator.
Now that you know a what the Listening Tour is all about, I am excited to announce that, after much planning and coordinating by the ISBA, the Listening Tour is about to commence! The inaugural session of the Listening Tour has been set for March 19, 2020, and will be held at the Madison County Courthouse in Edwardsville. Madison County is located in the Third Judicial Circuit, within the 5th Appellate District. Judges, court staff and justice partners from the Third Judicial Circuit, as well as St. Clair County and other surrounding counties, are being invited to attend this session.
In addition to Madison County, three additional sessions have also been scheduled. On April 6, 2020, the second session of the Listening Tour will be held in Quincy – the "Gem City" and county seat of Adams County in the Eighth Judicial Circuit within the 4th Appellate District. The next sessions will then be held on April 21, 2020, in Kankakee, the county seat of Kankakee County in the 21st Judicial Circuit within the 3rd Appellate District; and on April 22, 2020, in Morrison, the county seat of Whiteside County, in the 14th Judicial Circuit within the 3rd Appellate District. The ISBA is currently working with the Chief Judges of the respective judicial circuits to select venues for the April 2020 sessions.
News and updated information about these and future sessions of the Listening Tour will be available on the ISBA's website www.isba.org/accesstojustice. Invitees and anyone wishing to attend one or more of these sessions should go to this website to register, confirm attendance, indicate whether you wish to speak and, if so, the topic you plan to address.
It is our hope that the Listening Tour will be a catalyst for increasing cooperation and collaboration among our courts and our justice partners. We all have a stake in seeing that our justice system operates fairly and efficiently. All citizens of this State must be able to enter our courtrooms with confidence that they will be heard and that justice will be delivered. This can only occur if we work together to provide greater access to justice to all the people of Illinois. We hope that each of you will make time in your busy schedules to attend one or more sessions of the Listening Tour.