Court Administration: News
Final State of the Circuit
Mar 4, 2013
THE STATE OF THE 10TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT 2012-2013-A Report from the Chief Circuit Judge
SYNOPISIS: The 10th Circuit Court serves Peoria, Tazewell, Marshall, Putnam, and Stark Counties. Chief Circuit Judge Michael Brandt reports: “Although our five counties are diverse, the judiciary, court administration, circuit clerks, and all other county stakeholders have exhibited, and continue to exhibit, cooperative efforts to maintain and improve services to our courtroom consumers.” The report on the state of the courts of the 10th Circuit is as follows:
- Specialty Criminal Courts. In 2012, Chief Judge Brandtestablished a new specialty criminal court--the 10th Judicial Circuit Veterans’ Treatment Court adding on to the existing DUI court, drug courts and mental health treatment courts. Specialty courts are designed as problem-solving and budget-friendly, targeting a non-violent criminal offender population—in this case veterans-- for concentrated, rehabilitative services. Judge Brandt has personally presided over the Peoria County Mental Health Treatment Court where he noticed that some veterans were defendants. Judge Brandt: “I was very pleased to participate in the tremendous growth and success of Mental Health Treatment Court. The viability of Peoria County Drug Treatment Court has been maintained and Tazewell County now has its own Drug Treatment Court. I am hopeful that our 10th Circuit Veterans’Treatment Court will include the first active veterans’ mentoring component of any Veterans’Treatment Court in this State.”
- The Integrated Criminal and Civil Justice System Project. PeoriaCountyis proceeding forward with a November, 2013 projected start-up. The project is a multi-million dollar computer/software building contract integrating the computer systems of the circuit clerk, court administration, probation, and state’s attorney’s offices. Other judges and court administration have pitched in on this project along with the project principals. A paperless courtroom is targeted. And, one major component of the project is the 10th Circuit’s promotion of e-filing, and ultimately e-record-keeping, resulting in substantial cost-saving efficiencies.
- New Local Rules. The 10th Circuit’s local practice rules are in the process of being revised and updated. The last update was back in 2003. Existing rules were reviewed, redrafted, or newly formulated. Draft rules were submitted to the judges, attorneys, and bar association committees. The 10th Circuit judges are now finalizing the new rules.
- Access to Courts and Courthouses. The 10th Circuit’s comprehensive/updated Protocol for Access to the Courts by Persons with Disabilities was drafted and approved by Judge Brandt. The policy went into effect last month Input and cooperation came from judges, the Sheriffs’ offices, local court administration, and each county’s disability coordinator. Although a protocol was mandated by the Supreme Court, it has always been an important policy of the 10th Circuit that access to the courts for all persons is firmly established.
- Court Case Management. Case management was altered this past year inPeoriaCountyto direct scheduling with each courtroom clerk using e-mail as a tool. The circuit clerk’s office assisted with a seamless transition. Scheduling became much more efficient. Also, steps are being taken to transition into the new Integrated Civil and Criminal Justice System Project later this year followed by aPeoriaCountye-filing project. E-filing in the other counties will be discussed this year with the circuit clerks, county administrations, and the bar associations.
- Improvements to Court-related Facilities Part 1. The classic wood paneling in older courtrooms in the Peoria County Courthouse was completely refurbished using shared savings funds from the court Administration’s budget in prior years.
- Access to Justice Part 1 and Improvements to Court-related Facilities Part 2. In full support of the Illinois Supreme Court’s initiative on Access to Justice, the Peoria County Self-Help Center and Law Library is being is being improved and updated and will be completed soon. The renovations were undertaken for much-needed replacement of ordinary wear-and-tear items and to reflect its evolving usage from a book depository library to an online depository library andSelf-HelpCenterfor pro se persons in civil cases unable to afford an attorney or otherwise needing access to legal information.
- Access to Justice Part 2. The 10th Circuit court administration in cooperation with the Peoria County Circuit Clerk, and the Center for Prevention of Abuse expanded computer access terminals for victims of domestic violence seeking an order of protection.
- Access to Justice Part 3. The 10th Circuit has a large number of never-married, pro se litigants that have custody and visitation issues and therefore subject to court-ordered mediation. Many of these litigants are indigent and have no funds to pay a private mediator. InPeoria and Tazewell counties, court administration obtained a State grant expanding access to court ordered mediation to include that group at no cost to the parties.
- Residential Foreclosures. The Peoria County Mandatory Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program was formed byJudge Brandt’s administrative order in June of 2011 in conjunction with an initiative of the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court and was fully up and running in 2012. The program appears to be very successful. Debtors have a viable tool to communicate with lenders and make reasonable attempts to save their homes. The cost of mediation is paid by filing fees paid by the lenders.
- Cameras in the Courtroom. The 10th Circuit, starting withPeoriaCounty, plans to complete its initiative for extended media coverage (cameras in the courtroom) for submission to the Supreme Court within the next month. According toJudge Brandt: “The local media have been very cooperative to orderly bring extended media coverage our courts.”
- Holding the Budget. In PeoriaCounty, the 10th Circuit’s Court’s responsibility for budget preparation and details has been undertaken primarily by the Court Administrator, the Director of Court Services, and staff. Similar administrative offices in the other four counties covered by the 10th Judicial Circuit likewise operate. Judge Brandt said: “Peoria County has a court administrator, John Flynn, who, over the last 20+ years, has worked well with seven prior chief circuit judges and scores of Peoria County and 10th Circuit Court officials. For the 2013 fiscal yearPeoriaCounty administration was extremely pleased with the court’s budget ‘holding the line’ while maintaining the court services mandated by law.”
Chief Judge Brandt congratulates and thanks all of the judges of the 10th Judicial Circuit, elected officials including all of our 10th Circuit Clerks of the Court, members/employees of court administration, and others who continue to strive to improve our local courts.
FOR ANY QUESTIONS PLEASE CONTACT:
Judge Michael Brandt
Chief Circuit Judge
10th Judicial Circuit
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