* This is welcomed news. Tribune editorial board…
Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride, in a Sept. 26 letter, has called for Chief Judge Timothy Evans, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, Sheriff Tom Dart, Public Defender Abishi Cunningham and court administrator Michael Tardy to meet with the members of the state Supreme Court. The purpose: frank talk about the operations of the criminal courts.
Kilbride has also invited Eric Washington, chief judge of the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals, who is well-versed in court management issues. Make no mistake, this is an extraordinary turn of events. The Illinois Supreme Court generally is quite reluctant to step into the operations of local courts.
It didn’t have much choice in this case, not after Preckwinkle pleaded for help in a Sept. 12 letter to Justice Lloyd Karmeier. She requested that a judge from outside Cook County be assigned to help process delayed criminal cases. She also asked the court to convene a commission to audit the system and to develop long-term solutions to the problem. […]
The sheriff’s office reports that more than 300 inmates have waited three years or more for their cases to conclude, 55 of them for five years or more. On the civil side, many people who rely on the courts to settle their cases — divorces, child custody, foster care — face a long, expensive haul from start to finish.
The entire system is a freaking mess. The circuit court clerk should also be involved, however, because her office is about as antiquated as they come. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I’ve heard about people getting caught up in the county judicial system.
This isn’t uncharted territory. Other counties and other states have improved efficiency by implementing electronic case filing, video conferencing of bond hearings and cameras in the courtrooms, which let the public see how the courts are working. The leaders of other court systems have forced lollygagging judges to step up and put in a full day’s work.
In New York City, court officials frustrated with the slow pace of justice in Bronx courtrooms put an outside judge in charge. In less than a year, Justice Patricia DiMango transformed the Bronx courts into a fair and efficient system, resolving hundreds of cases that had lingered for two years or more.
If an outside judge is what it takes, the powers that be should make it happen. ASAP.
* Speaking of Tribune editorials I like, here’s one about child abuse…
Three out of every four deaths linked to child abuse involve households that had no prior contact with the department. While DCFS gets its share of blame for child deaths that could have been prevented, the fact is most abuse is never brought to the department’s attention. According to a recent report, 70 percent of all child abuse in the U.S. goes unreported.
According to DCFS, children tell an average of seven adults they are being mistreated before it gets reported to authorities. Seven adults.
DCFS installed a new phone system last fall, after the Tribune reported that an unreliable, outdated hotline was preventing callers from getting through. The new system ensures a live person will answer promptly and start a quicker DCFS response. We tested it on a busy Friday afternoon and reached a dispatcher after waiting less than two minutes. Use it.