Dorothy Brown: Clerk of the Circuit Court Candidate


WTTW’s 2016 Voters’ Guide to the Primary is an online resource designed to inform voters about the candidates running for Cook County office in the March 15 election.

Every candidate running for a Cook County office was given two minutes to tell voters where they stand on the issues, why they feel they are best qualified and what they intend to do if elected or re-elected. The messages were recorded at the WTTW studios at no cost to the candidates. The Voters’ Guide is an online version of Candidate Free Time, pioneered by WTTW in the 1992 race for U.S. Senate. This year, we are proud to partner with the League of Women Voters of Cook County to give voters this guide to candidates for Cook County office.

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About this office: Clerk of the Circuit Court

The Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County is the keeper of the records of the Court. The Clerk is responsible for serving the court, the legal profession and the general public by recording court decisions and events; handling fines, bail bonds and other financial transactions; and supporting the court system with record storage, microfilming, automation and other services.

About this candidate:

Name: Dorothy A. Brown
Party: Democratic
Born: Sept. 3, 1953
Residence: Chicago
Family: married with one daughter
Occupation: Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County (2000-present)
Political experience: Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County (2000-present)

What is your vision for this office?
My vision for the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County is to make the Circuit Court record keeping for the office entirely electronic. I have already made great strides toward this vision.  First of all, I have implemented electronic filing in all but one of the civil case types, and we are currently in the process of implementing electronic filing for that division, the County Division; and in 2016, and early 2017, we will be implementing electronic filing for the criminal and traffic case types.  In addition, we already have an imaging and document management system which captures an electronic image of all documents that are not electronically filed.  We have captured almost 200 million electronic images since we commenced this effort.  In order to completely achieve this vision, I will do the following:

  • Purchase a state-of-the-art case management system that will be integrated with other justice agencies. The system will provide justice partners with upgraded management reports, permit general electronic filing for both attorneys and individuals, permit attorneys to file electronic draft orders and motions directly with judges, as well as permit judges to review orders and motions and rule on them electronically. The new system will expedite the administration of justice. Responses to a request for proposal that went out in the spring of 2015 are already in the process of being evaluated by a committee.
  • Work with the Chief Judge to make all courtrooms e-Courtrooms. This would enable judges, attorneys, parties to cases, and jurors to see electronic images of documents, evidence and exhibits on large screens and computers. There would be computers on attorney desks and a portable electronic podium for attorneys to see images while standing in front of the judge, or addressing the juror of examining or cross examine witnesses. I already have the commitment from a technology equipment supplier to retrofit and pilot, three e-Courtrooms. We are currently waiting on the Chief Judge to provide us with the court rooms he would like to include in the pilot.
  • Expand the Interactive Order System (IOS), we currently have in a pilot phase. This is a system built by the Clerk's Office using the specs of the judiciary. The IOS allows criminal court judges to enter court orders directly into a computer to produce electronic court dispositions for the Clerk’s electronic docket and various official court documents, such as half-sheets, bonding and warrant documents and orders. The judges sign and stamp the documents electronically.The system also permits the State’s Attorney and the Public Defender to draft orders for judges’ review and approval.
  • Request that the Illinois Supreme Court make the electronic record the official court record. This will permit court cases to move forward expeditiously; and provide great access to justice.  In addition, this would save the County money because we would no longer have to maintain the paper, and would not have to invest in brick and mortar for warehousing paper files. Currently, the Illinois Supreme Court even requires paper files for electronically filed documents.
  • The Clerk’s Office has the technology to permit single electronic images of court records of cases to be shown over the internet. In order to do so, the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court must issue a rule allowing the Clerk’s Office to show images to the attorney of record and the parties to the case. Also, the Illinois Supreme Court must issue a special exemption to the Clerk’s Office from the Electronic Access Policy to show images to attorneys who are not of record to a case. I will work to obtain these approvals so that attorneys and self-represented litigants can view civil case type court records of other cases over the Internet.

The Clerk’s Office is nationally renowned for the life-changing, Second Chance Expungement Summits. For 11 years, we have helped thousands of people get their lives back on track and become productive, law-abiding citizens. I want to partner with a legal aid agency to create an Expungement Center that will help people clear their criminal record and receive comprehensive services to turn their lives around.  

Also, I want to create a Task Force on Child Support Collections to fix the system once and for all for parents.

What is the most pressing issue facing Cook County, and how can you help address it?
The most pressing issue facing Cook County currently is the budget crisis. Although the unfunded pension is a major issue, the most pressing issue right now is with the budget crisis that has developed as a result of the state of Illinois not passing the budget. Many of Cook County’s agencies are funded by grants from the state of Illinois, specifically the Child Support departments for the Clerk of the Court, the Chief Judge and the State’s Attorney. To help address this crisis, my office is working with the County to determine how to keep the staff and services in our Child Support Division funded to perform these vital services for children, while we wait on the state to pass the budget. We are holding the line on staff and other expenditures in other areas, to help with this funding effort.

The major issue facing Cook County’s justice agencies is the continuing need to ensure that the systems are integrated. There is good news on this front. In December 2015, the Cook County Board finally approved funding for the purchase of an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) to facilitate communications between the different software applications used by the Chief Judge, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Public Defender, Sheriff, State’s Attorney and the Cook County Bureau of Technology.

The “Bus” was the brainchild of the Cook County Integrated Criminal Justice Information Systems (“CCICJIS”) Committee, which I organized and have chaired since 2002. Our goal continues to be, to develop an integrated criminal justice enterprise for Cook County. Together, the member agencies published a strategic plan and detailed plan of action, which have helped bring the entire justice system into the 21st century. However, much more work needs to be done to ensure that each agency reforms business processes to get the most out of the “Bus.” I will continue to chair CCICJIS to build effective and efficient processes.

CANDIDATE STATEMENT

Hi, I’m Dorothy Brown, your Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and I ask you for your vote, because, in these very serious times, especially for our criminal justice system, it's important that we have a Clerk of Court that will protect court records for all the people, not just for the privileged few.

Your Clerk of the Court needs to possess the unique qualifications needed to run one of the largest court systems in the world; a multimillion-dollar entity.

As an attorney, I understand the legal aspects of the office, and as a Certified Public Accountant and MBA, I am fully capable of managing its financial aspects. Additionally, having minored in technology in college and  worked as an internal and external auditor, I have a keen understanding of the complex business processes and systems.

These are the credentials I have used to effectively transform the Clerk’s Office, an environment where two areas were still using pen and paper to record the results of court cases.

Yes, I have had some challenges of late, but I am not concerned, because I know that I have handled things properly, with honesty and integrity, and will continue to do so.

As the Clerk of Court, I converted an historically antiquated system into a highly functioning, progressive 21st Century Office, that’s equipped with electronic filing, a mobile app for searching civil and traffic cases, almost 200 million electronic images converted from documents filed, Digital Access Terminals, Electronic traffic tickets, and several convenient online services.

We are nationally renowned for the life-changing Second Chance Expungement Summits we host annually, where we have helped thousands of people get their lives back on track to being productive, law-abiding citizens.

I have a heart for service; that’s what I have done and will continue to do.

As your Clerk of the Circuit Court, I have dedicated myself to helping fulfill our nation’s promise of “justice for all.”

I humbly ask you for your vote to continue this great public service.


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