Court Services Division | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts
(217) 524-3072 (Springfield Office)
Nathan Jensen, Assistant Director
The Court Services Division is organized into multiple working groups (the Courts, Children and Families Unit; the Special Programs Unit; and the Recordkeeping and Technology Unit) and is involved 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 2019, the Program Unit underwent a slight name change to further reflect its diverse nature of assigned programs and projects. The Special Programs Unit staff was assigned as liaison for the Supreme Court Committee on Illinois Evidence. Throughout the year, the Committee worked on draft amendments to several Illinois Rules of Evidence: Rule 613 – Prior Statements of Witnesses; Rule 901 – Requirement of Authentication or Identification; and Rule 1101 – Applicability of Rules. The proposed amendments were adopted by the Court and effective in September.
With the sunsetting of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinating Committee last year, SPU staff have taken a more proactive role in overall guidance and oversight of mandatory arbitration programs. Staff have begun in-person visits to each arbitration center, as well as a review of each program’s local rules. In addition, staff responded to a comprehensive audit conducted on each of the 16 programs; there were ultimately no material audit findings.
Throughout the year, SPU staff continued to serve in an advisor role to the Illinois Judicial College's Trial Court Administrator Education Committee. Staff took part in several professional development workshops throughout the year, designed to assist the Committee in acquiring the skills needed to effectively develop and/or teach a course. Subsequently, the Committee developed a three-year educational curriculum that was approved by the College’s Board of Trustees and will begin course offerings in March 2020. The Courts, Children and Families Unit (CCFU) oversees the administration of the federally-funded statewide Court Improvement Program (CIP). The unit works to support the mission, vision, and core values of Illinois' CIP of ensuring safety and stability for children and families involved in child abuse and neglect proceedings by managing the programmatic and fiscal components of three grant awards (Basic, Data and Training). In the past year, the CCFU continued to develop the foundation and infrastructure for improved court practices in child protection cases by concentrating its efforts on addressing timely permanency in Illinois, continuing the Child Protection Data Courts Project, and collaborating with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services on the Child and Family Services Review Program Improvement Plan and implementation of the Family First Prevention and Services Act. In addition to providing continuation funding for long-term projects, including the Family Advocacy Clinic at the University of Illinois School of Law and the Juvenile Justice Clinic at Southern Illinois University, the CIP funded new projects aimed at enhancing representation for children. The Manager of the CCFU also serves as staff and an advisor to the Illinois Judicial College Standing Committee on Guardians ad Litem Education (GALE) and the Supreme Court Committee on Juvenile Courts.
Child Protection Data Courts Project (CPDC):
Through the CPDC Project, the CCFU continued to collect and analyze child protection court performance measures, demographic information and case characteristics in child abuse and neglect cases. Currently, ten counties collect CPDC Project data. The CPDC Project sites track case demographic information as well as 18 of 30 nationally recognized child protection court performance measures. The project sites are implementing action plans developed, by each county, based on the collected performance measure data that includes a project initiative with goals, action items, responsibilities, timelines, and outcome measures.
Collaboration with the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (IDCFS):
In 2019, the CCFU continued its' working relationship with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS) by assisting with the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) Program Improvement Plan (PIP) development. The onsite review occurred in spring 2018 and developed court related interventions for the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) aimed at addressing compliance issues identified during the CFSR. Lastly, several representatives of IDCFS are members of the Court Improvement Program Advisory Committee.
Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) Implementation:
FFPSA, enacted in February 2018, shifts the focus of child protection to include prevention services. Beginning Oct. 1, 2019, Title IV-E funding can be used for evidence-based prevention services if doing so allows the child to remain safely in the home. In addition, FFPSA seeks to curtail the use of congregate or group care for children, and instead places a new emphasis on family foster homes. Reimbursement will only occur for Qualified Residential Placement Programs (QRTP). Justice partners created forms for the court to use when making required findings approving or disapproving of placement in the QRTP. The CIP will be providing training for judges and attorneys in 2020 on the FFPSA.
The Recordkeeping & Technology Unit (RTU) provided an array of guidance and technical support services to courts and circuit clerks in 2019. 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 staff served as staff and advisors to the Illinois Judicial College Standing Committee on Circuit Court Clerk Education (CCCE). In 2019, the CCCE reviewed results of the needs assessment conducted in 2018, developed a Comprehensive Education Plan, and continued the process of developing a 3-year curriculum and associated courses. In preparation of Education Conference 2020, RTU staff began working with the Judicial Education Division to plan multi-disciplinary sessions to be held as part of the ongoing expansion of education opportunities available to court clerks and other justice partners.
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. With the enactment of the Criminal and Traffic Assessment Act in 2018 (Public Act 100-0987, effective July 1, 2019), staff began preparations to disseminate information regarding the systematic and procedural changes at the circuit court level resulting from the Act. 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 Illinois Supreme Court's Order directing statewide mandatory electronic filing in civil cases took effect on January 1, 2018, and via eFileIL, the Supreme Court's Electronic Filing Manager (EFM), the RTU provided guidance to courts in their implementation of new civil e-filing code configurations. In addition, the Supreme Court implemented a statewide system called re:SearchIL effective July 1, 2018, which is a document repository where users can remotely access case information in a single place, across jurisdictions, regardless of which case management system used. 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.
The Unit continues to provide assistance and oversight in regards to the Supreme Court's General Administrative Order on Recordkeeping in the Circuit Courts and instructions in the Manual on Recordkeeping, as well as managed and updated 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 2018 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, 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. Lastly, the RTU has provided support to the Illinois Judicial Conference’s Court Data and Performance Measures Task Force, which is undertaking the significant task of updating the Manual on Recordkeeping and making recommendations to the Judicial Conference on appropriate performance measures and reporting.