July 29, 2019
It has been just over nine months since the Supreme Court announced the reconstitution of the Illinois Judicial Conference (IJC). As provided in amended Supreme Court Rule 41, “[t]here shall be a Judicial Conference to consider the work of the courts and to suggest improvements in the administration of justice. The Judicial Conference shall be the body to strategically plan for the Illinois judicial branch.”
In order to accomplish this charge, the IJC was restructured to include 29 voting members – 15 judges and 14 non-judges. The multi-disciplinary members (you can view the roster by Clicking here) includes judges, court clerks, court administrators and members of the public.
Notwithstanding the incredibly busy schedules of these impressive members, I am both thankful and gratified to report that their dedication to this initiative has resulted in nearly 100% attendance at all of the IJC meetings convened to date. This is a testament to the leadership of the Supreme Court, in particular Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier who Chairs the IJC, and it reflects the importance of this historic undertaking.
Why Strategic Planning?
In Federalist No. 78, Alexander Hamilton wrote that the Judiciary branch of the proposed United States government would be the weakest of the three branches because it had "no influence over either the sword or the purse ... It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment."
Of course, our federal and state courts have evolved through the last 200-plus years into sophisticated systems of governance in support of their role of rendering judgment. State courts have developed many different structures and models to provide court users with constitutional protections such as due process and equal protection, as well as access, impartiality, and fair and timely resolution.
It used to be that state courts didn’t spend much time educating the public and the other branches of government on the current and future needs of the judicial branch of government. State court leadership typically would make the case for a funding request of state legislators without utilizing long-term plans or performance data.
For the last few decades, however, both the fiscal environment and the public’s expectations have motivated courts to create a process for long and short-term strategies that will support and sustain the court’s mission - delivery of justice - in an ever-changing environment. Achieving access to justice and public trust and confidence in our courts calls for a different approach to court governance – strategic management.
A strategic plan establishes the shared vision and strategies that the court system will utilize to achieve its goals. The IJC has been hard at work over these past months on preparations for this plan, including a survey of court stakeholders, trends analysis and organizational assessment. The results of these exercises were used to craft mission and vision statements and a set of core values for the Judicial Branch. These served as the foundation for development of the Strategic Agenda.
As Chief Justice Karmeier has noted, “Strategic planning is critical to the health and vitality of any large organization – and the Judicial Branch is no exception… This Strategic Agenda will help us anticipate and prepare for the future.”
The Illinois Judicial Branch Strategic Agenda will be unveiled at the IJC’s next meeting on Oct. 2. That will set the stage for the next and perhaps most exciting phase of the three-year plan: implementation. Implementation is expected to begin later this year and continue through 2020.
Change, whether driven by technology or other factors, is constant in our society and courts must recognize the necessity of keeping pace. Responding to change is the key to ensuring that the courts deliver justice and remain responsive to the public we serve. The Strategic Agenda is the blueprint for how we get there.
It is an exciting time for the Illinois Judicial Branch. We look forward to sharing the Strategic Agenda with you in October and partnering with state and local justice stakeholders to ensure that our court system is the very best it can be.