Cook County Criminal Court Gets Jeers for Not Modernizing Records

The Cook County Criminal Court is still on paper while nearby suburban areas have modernized records. With accusations flying among officials, some say paper records are more ‘feature’ than state legal delay.

Earlier this month the Chicago Tribune ran a report about Cook County’s antiquated criminal records system:

“While the throwback methods are the frequent butt of jokes — a county government official must have a relative who owns a carbon paper company, attorneys jest — critics say it is detrimental to the criminal courts’ productivity and keeping vital information out of public view,” wrote reporter Megan Crepeau.

The article detailed accounts of family and lawyers having to go to the courthouse to find out about charges. It also discussed the back and forth between Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown and Chief Judge Timothy Evans, though the former claims a new electronic criminla case management system will be ready by March 2019.

Brown also compared Cook County to the rest of the country: “this system, along with the rest of the country’s case management systems, (is) in a transitory state of conversion.”

Disservice to Residents

Not everyone is buying that it’s delay by the Illinois Supreme Court to allow statewide e-filing standards, as Brown told the Tribune.

An article on the Techdirt blog, Everyone In the Cook County Criminal Court System Too Busy Pointing Fingers To Fix Its Antiquated Records System, said it’s hard to imagine a county court system more backward than Cook County.

While author Timothy Geigner acknowledges “The country is a veritable panoply of an access spectrum, with some districts offering modern e-filing systems and websites to review documents, while other districts are far more antiquated and restrictive,” he suggested it’s potentially “Chicago machine” subterfuge, but definitely, a lack of service to residents.

Geigner argues:

The suburban counties all have modern e-filing systems in place, after all, including several rural counties that don’t have nearly the breadth of resources afforded to Cook County. What should be kept top of mind, however, is the tax all of this puts on the public and its interest in justice in the county.”

Learn about implementing public records management systems and other ways to improve the speed of government services:

CTO Download: Improving the Speed of Government Services


About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.