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$36 million computer upgrade panned

Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* While new systems are almost always difficult to use, this one may take the cake

The rollout of a long-awaited upgrade to Cook County courts’ archaic case management system by beleaguered Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s office has caused disarray at the county’s main criminal courthouse on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

Attorneys and clerks interviewed by the Tribune since the rollout two weeks ago complained the supposed advancement has instead resulted in incomplete case information, poorly trained staff and lengthy delays in securing the most basic documentation.

One lawyer said he waited 45 minutes for paperwork that under the old system would have taken just a few moments to obtain. With some routine tasks now taking far more clicks to complete, clerks reportedly have worked late into the night to finish the same workload they routinely completed during a normal workday. […]

To the surprise of veteran lawyers interviewed by the Tribune, the new criminal case management system does not even provide for electronic filing of court documents — the standard in federal courts for years and already mandatory in many Cook County civil divisions.

Go read the whole thing. Crazy.

…Adding… Press release…

- Progressive reformer and Democratic candidate for Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court, Jacob Meister has issued the following statement about Dorthy Brown’s troubled rollout of the county’s new case management system:

“The rollout of the case management system in the criminal courts has been a disaster that many of us who regularly practice in the county courts saw coming down the road for a long time.

“Judges, lawyers and those who have to live with the clerk’s decisions were not consulted about the new system and users were not adequately trained. The system wasn’t designed to meet the realities of our fast-paced and often overcrowded court calendars, which is the second-largest court system in the country.

“The clerk’s office sufferers from a serious leadership problem, with decisions being made in secret, without transparency or an inclusive process. In order to avoid any more damage, the clerk needs to take a step back and address these issues before the case management system is rolled out in other divisions of our courts.”

…Adding… Press release…

Statement from Mike Cabonargi, candidate for Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County

“We cannot achieve access to justice by amplifying the already existing problems in an office plagued with patronage hiring, a lack of transparency, and an outdated system. The newest broken system, highlighted in today’s Chicago Tribune, does nothing to restore the trust between the people of Cook County and the Circuit Court. It would be irresponsible and a misuse of taxpayer money to expand a system that’s already proven to be a failure. The office needs leadership that’s ready to usher in a new era of credibility and reform - and it’s why I’ve released a Reform Plan to lead on day one.”

       

17 Comments
  1. - Anon - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 11:26 am:

    How is it that Cook County cannot implement a real unified electronic filing system? Federal courts started using Pacer 25 years ago.


  2. - Anon - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 11:28 am:

    I always enjoyed the reaction of non-Chicago attorneys first learning that the lawyers - not the judge - wrote up the judge’s orders and that lawyers had to use carbon paper to make three copies.


  3. - the Edge - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 11:29 am:

    -Anon- one word, err, two words: Dorothy Brown


  4. - Chicagonk - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 11:31 am:

    @Anon - Because the Cook County Clerk office’s purpose is not to run an efficient system, but to employ politically connected individuals.


  5. - City Zen - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 11:41 am:

    Maybe the applications aren’t certified to run on Windows NT 4.0.


  6. - Well - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 11:49 am:

    Is this any shock? Dorothy Brown couldn’t even implement a jeans day properly.


  7. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 12:07 pm:

    This sounds like one of those projects where the specifications were not properly illicited. Don’t speak to the political types. Speak with the line people. And explain that if they want a good system design, they’ll need to sitdown and work through making sure the system designers understand what they want.

    Too late now.


  8. - Scott Knitter - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 12:41 pm:

    Imagine how bad this would be if Cook County had one of the world’s largest court systems…oh, wait…


  9. - A Jack - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 12:48 pm:

    Carbon paper? Mimeograph machines were built in Chicago. They should be able to find one in a museum and only be one hundred years out of date.


  10. - question - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 12:54 pm:

    it’s not like these people are trying to replace the property tax system.


  11. - Stones - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 1:02 pm:

    There are jurisdictions downstate that don’t have 1% of the resources that Cook County does that are light years ahead in Court technology.


  12. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 1:03 pm:

    Is it time yet for the General Assembly to do a deep dive into the local government statutes? Cook County can’t afford to have separate elected officials independently operating their little fiefdoms and sending the bill to the taxpayers.

    Let the Board President appoint with Board approval the Clerk of the Court, the Recorder, the Treasurer. We can elect a sheriff and chief judge, but they should put the jail under the Board president’s control to put the major cost under the official responsible for funding its budget.

    It’s almost 2020. It’s well past time to bring our county government in the 20th century.


  13. - SAP - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 2:11 pm:

    I told Dorothy not to use DO IT.


  14. - revvedup - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 2:59 pm:

    I’ll bet there was no User Acceptance Testing done post-build to see if everything worked, far less worked correctly before going live. If it was done, the recommendations were ignored as “we’ll fix that later” or “too late to change it now”. Then they did the “What, user training?” Reinventing the wheel is so common for Cook County agencies.


  15. - Powdered Whig - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 4:02 pm:

    === Let the Board President appoint with Board approval the Clerk of the Court, the Recorder, the Treasurer. ===

    Come next year, Cook County won’t have a separately elected Recorder anymore - the office will be merged with the Clerk’s Office.


  16. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 4:36 pm:

    I happened to get stuck in front of a judge while hewaited for a clerk to get some papers and while talking to him seeing a termianl on his desk asked aabout the system which he replied are you kidding me this paper weight has been on my desk for 2 years never worked.


  17. - CCapilla - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 6:22 pm:

    I can’t speak directly to the filing system for criminal matters as we don’t practice in that area but I can confirm that the electronic filing/case management system for civil cases was updated about a year and a half ago and it is worse than the system it replaced by a wide margin. Pacer is not great but it runs well and it is fairly consistent across federal districts. Wisconsin’s court system runs a statewide platform that also works pretty well. Illinois has a series of unconnected systems and Cook’s is probably the worst, in no small part due to the volume of matters active at any given time.


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