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Illinois Courts Response to COVID-19

Court Services Division | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

(217) 524-3072 (Springfield Office)

Nathan Jensen, Assistant Director

The Court Services Division in 2021, composed of the Special Programs Unit, the Recordkeeping and Technology Unit and those efforts directly under the Assistant Director continued their vital work in a diverse and
wide range of activities and projects affecting judges, circuit clerks, court administrators and other components of the judicial branch of government.

The Division is responsible for staffing a variety of Supreme Court committees or boards, the Judicial Conference, and the Conference of Chief Circuit Judges. The Division also serves as the primary liaison for the Supreme Court’s Peer Judge Mentoring Program, Judicial Performance Evaluation Program; and processes court requests for a judicial assignment outside the original court jurisdiction, as well as requests for the reimbursement of claims for persons subject to the Sexually Violent Person’s Commitment Act. Staff within Court Services frequently interacts and collaborates with several other divisions at the Administrative Office on a wide array of topics of interest to the operations of the Illinois courts, including serving as staff on multiple Standing Committees of the Illinois Judicial College. In 2021 Court Services Division assisted in moving forward three charges under the Strategic Agenda from the Illinois Judicial Conference; first was the development of statewide technology standards; second was facilitating the development of time standards through the Court Data and Performance Measures Task Force, and lastly, helping push forward the Weighted Caseload Study scheduled to take place in early 2022.

Throughout 2021, the Special Programs Unit [SPU] staff continued to host monthly meetings and assist the Illinois Judicial College’s Trial Court Administrator Education [TCAE] Committee with development, coordination, and presentation of several professional development webinars for all Trial Court Administrators [TCAs] and other justice stakeholders statewide. The 2021 menu consisted of: Seating a Representative Jury; Media & the Courts; Assisting the Self-Represented Litigant; the updated Recordkeeping Manual; and Administrative Issues & Speedy Trials. Additionally, staff attended the Illinois Judicial College Virtual Annual Meeting which provided opportunities for continued strategic review and facilitated discussions of the Committee’s charge, comprehensive education plan, and curriculum. Finally, since the TCAE Committee decided against hosting an in-person Court Administration Leadership [CAL] Academy in 2021, the planning began during the last quarter for the upcoming 2022 event.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still posing a threat, SPU continued to host various committee, commissions, and other meetings virtually. Staff hosted highly beneficial monthly meetings and provided guidance and technical assistance to the Mandatory Arbitration Administrators and their staff (11 centers across the state). All of the Administrators look forward to an in-person Annual Meeting soon. Monthly Statewide TCA Meetings continued with at least 38 participants at each meeting. Staff also continued to host the TCA listservs dedicated to TCAs, Deputy TCAs, and any other court staff that play the role of a court administrator, to allow for the exchange of ideas, suggestions, and information.

SPU staff was invited to join the Illinois Judicial Conference Court Access & Dispute Resolution Task Force since the unit has oversight over all mediation and mandatory arbitration programs. The Task Force was charged with examining dispute resolution programs statewide and offering suggestions to improve the programs in a report to the Supreme Court. In addition, staff was involved in assisting the Court’s COVID-19 Task Force with establishment of eviction mediation programs across the state. Meetings were held with all of the statewide organizations that were charged with dissemination of the funds provided by the federal government to all states.

The Recordkeeping & Technology Unit (RTU) provided an array of guidance and technical support services to courts and circuit clerks in 2021. RTU staff, as members of the Illinois Association of Court Clerk’s (IACC) Oversight Board, continued to work with the IACC in development of educational programs for circuit clerks and their staff, as well as coordinating the New Circuit Clerk Mentor Program. RTU further served as staff and advisors to the Illinois Judicial College Standing Committee on Circuit Court Clerk Education (CCCE). In 2021, the CCCE planned, created, and presented multiple education sessions related to recordkeeping, implicit bias, and human resources to circuit court clerks and staff.

The Manual on Fines and Fees, maintained by the RTU, includes more than 300 statutory citations and Supreme Court Rule references regarding the collection and distribution of fines, fees, penalties, restitution, assessments, surcharges, and costs which may be applied to cases in Illinois. RTU staff also serves as liaison to the Conference of Chief Circuit Judges Ad Hoc Committee on Article V Rules, which provides recommendations of updates to the Article V Rules, Uniform Citation Forms, and Electronic Citation Forms, as may be necessary.

The RTU continue to provide guidance to courts as electronic filing was expanded to criminal and juvenile cases via eFileIL, the Supreme Court’s Electronic Filing Manager (EFM), that took effect on January 1, 2018.

In addition, the Supreme Court’s statewide system called re:SearchIL effective July 1, 2018, a document repository where users can remotely access case information in a single place, across jurisdictions, regardless of which case management system used. RTU staff assist with providing guidance to courts regarding the Remote Access Policy (RAP) which governs document access over the Internet. The RTU further continues to assist local circuit courts with implementation, facilitates information sharing, and provides detailed and subject matter expertise for all other electronic business programs.

RTU continues to provide training, assistance, and oversight regarding the Supreme Court’s General Administrative Order on Recordkeeping in the Circuit Courts and instructions in the Manual on Recordkeeping (RKM). The updated RKM, effective January 1, 2022, was released in 2021. The updates include revised statistical reporting, new and revised case types, regrouping of case categories, and defining security access to records based on party types. The updates will improve guidelines for collecting standardized court data with a focus on judicial performance, accurate recording of post-judgment activity, increase transparency, and improve overall court efficiency.

The RTU continued to manage and update the Offense Code Table (OFT), which contains the coded listing of all criminal offenses reportable to four recipient state agencies through the Automated Disposition Reporting (ADR) Program. Additionally, RTU staff collected, compiled, and published quarterly and annual statistical information for the 2021 Statistical Summary by the Clerks of the Supreme, Appellate, and Circuit Courts, and other divisions of the Supreme Court and Administrative Office.

Annually, the RTU monitors the filing of the circuit clerks’ financial audits. The Unit compiled and distributed the Applicable Legal Requirements to auditors for their compliance testing and disseminated updated auditing guidelines to county boards and circuit clerks; and provided certified merged jury lists and Petit and Grand Juror Handbooks to all 102 counties, as requested.