July 25, 2017
The month of July has been a significant one for the judicial branch. For the first time since the 2015 fiscal year, we have received an appropriation from the General Assembly. That means we will once again be able to carry out our Constitutional responsibilities on behalf of the people of Illinois without having to rely on court orders or consent decrees to sustain judicial branch operations. While the amount of the appropriation is less than requested, it is in line with our FY2015 appropriation and the spending levels we have observed since the 2015 fiscal year concluded. And while the basic appropriation remains the same, the Legislature has increased – to the levels requested by the court – authorized spending levels for the court’s four non-general revenue accounts: Mandatory Arbitration, Special Purposes, Lawyers’ Assistance Program and Foreign Language Interpreter Fund. We appreciate the Legislature’s consideration and are grateful for the stability that the appropriation will provide as we plan for the future.
The court’s ability to weather the recent fiscal challenges has been due in large measure to the skill, diplomacy, ingenuity and determination of the veteran director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, Michael J. Tardy. Mike has served the judicial branch in various capacities over the past 40-plus years and been at the helm of the Administrative Office since September of 2011. During that time, the Third Branch of Illinois government has faced some of its greatest difficulties. Thanks to Mike, however, the court has not only met those challenges, but managed to successfully undertake a range of new initiatives critical to the administration of justice in Illinois. Mike has overseen the implementation of statewide electronic filing and the introduction of new measures to improve pretrial release practices. He has helped place Illinois at the forefront of initiatives to improve access to justice, and his contributions have been vital in helping the court implement new measures to ensure that Illinois judges receive the best possible training and education. It is an extraordinary record of accomplishment.
I mention this now because it pertains to another of July’s significant developments: Mike will be retiring at the end of the month. While he may continue to assist the court in completing some of the projects he has helped direct, Mike’s stewardship over the AO will, sadly, be coming to an end at the close of business on July 31.
I have admired Mike’s work throughout my tenure on the court. Since becoming Chief Justice, however, I have developed an even greater appreciation for his character and ability. In terms of day-to-day court administration, the director of the AO is a chief justice’s most important ally and assistant. I am the third chief justice to have had the good fortune of serving while Mike was director (the others being Justices Kilbride and Garman), and I know that all three of us have considered his wisdom, experience and good judgment to be indispensable in carrying out our administrative duties. He will be truly missed.
If there is any consolation in Mike’s departure, it is in knowing that the AO will be left in good hands. Marcia Meis, who currently serves as deputy director of the AO, has been unanimously selected by the court to take over when Mike retires. A graduate of the University of Missouri and DePaul University College of Law and a member of the Illinois and Pennsylvania bars, Marcia is a former law clerk to justices in three districts of the Illinois Appellate Court and a long-time member of the AO’s Executive Office team. She first joined that office in March of 1999 as a member of the legal staff, advancing to the position of Chief Legal Counsel in 2011. She has held the position of deputy director since May of 2013.
Many members of the Judicial Branch are already familiar with Marcia and her contributions to the court. During her 18-year tenure with the AO, she has assisted every division of that agency and worked with circuit judges and circuit clerks and appellate court judges and appellate court managers from throughout the state. She has a played a major role in virtually every major initiative undertaken by the Supreme Court in recent years, helped draft important new Supreme Court rules, and worked closely with the Supreme Court in carrying out its day-to-day operations. It is no exaggeration when I say that – aside from Mike Tardy – there is no person more knowledgeable about the duties and responsibilities of the AO and the operation of the Judicial Branch than Marcia. The Illinois Supreme Court is extremely fortunate to have a person of her extraordinary experience and ability to assist it in the formidable task of running what is one of the largest unified court systems in the United States.
Welcome Marcia, and best wishes Mike.