October 25, 2017
On October 19, 2017, the membership of the Illinois Judicial Conference (IJC) convened for an annual meeting mandated by the Illinois Constitution “to consider the work of the courts and to suggest improvements in the administration of justice ***.” Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, §17. This mandate – initially created through an amendment to the 1870 Illinois Constitution and substantially retained in the new 1970 Illinois Constitution – is intended to provide an important forum for discussion and recommendations for the Illinois courts as guided by the general administrative authority vested in the Supreme Court.
The theme of this year’s conference – Sustainable Court Governance: The Critical Role of Strategic Management – recognizes that a state court’s vision for the future can enhance its capacity to define and deliver desirable outcomes, even in the face of profound and continued fiscal challenges. While the Supreme Court has explored the topic of strategic management at past events, including the 2013 “Shaping the Future of the Illinois Courts: Visions, Values and Strategies” conference, the annual meeting provided an opportunity for the IJC membership to share ideas on development of a statewide strategic plan for the Illinois judicial branch.
The inspirational opening address delivered by Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier was followed by a presentation from guest speaker Mary McQueen, President of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). President McQueen discussed guiding principles of court governance amid the reality of courts as “loosely-coupled” organizations and the challenges of communicating a court’s vision and putting strategies into action. The panel discussion which followed, moderated by retired Illinois Appellate Court Justice S. Gene Schwarm, featured Chief Justice Karmeier and President McQueen, as well as U.S. District Court Judge Eric Washington and Dr. Cheryl Bailey, who focused discussion on their experiences with strategic planning and implementation in the District of Columbia court system. Chief Justice Karmeier answered questions and provided insights on the challenges for implementing a strategic plan in the Illinois courts at both the state and local levels.
The afternoon portion of the meeting included breakout discussions by preselected groups of 12-15 IJC members and facilitators. The members were asked to consider the “mission, vision, what and how” of strategic planning for the Illinois Judicial Branch. Oral reports presented by representatives from these group discussions, which capped the annual meeting, were insightful and creative, providing a springboard for this strategic planning initiative.
The 2017 Illinois Judicial Conference Annual Meeting was a prelude to the larger step of planning how the judicial branch can better meet the future. The Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts has formed a small work group to initiate development of a plan that will eventually be presented to the Supreme Court for approval. I look forward to this challenging project and I am confident it will result in meaningful and lasting improvements to our court system.