Suffredin- An Advocate for All of Us  
 

Accountability
Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions
Unsung Heroine

 

   
 
   
   
 
   
     
  Office phone numbers:  
   
 
 

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.

   
 

Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

   
  Eighteen of the 20 largest banks in the world and more than 50 foreign banks have offices in Cook County.
   
     
     
     



Circuit court clerk's failed cash grab
Cook County official quietly angles for millions to get her house in order

Sunday, June 09, 2013
Chicago Tribune
by Patrick McCraney & Patrick Rehkamp

Magicians call it misdirection.

When the audience is distracted looking one way, the "magic" happens. Sometimes, politics is no different.

The focus on pensions, gun permits, gambling and same-sex marriage during the just-finished General Assembly session created the perfect distraction for politicians looking to slip in other bills under the radar.

Enter Dorothy Brown, the clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court.

The Better Government Association found Brown quietly lobbied lawmakers to let her office raise millions in new revenue, pushing four money-generating bills in Springfield. All of them thankfully died as quietly as they were introduced.

Brown's office — which handles court filings such as lawsuits, and is the keeper of millions of court records — is as bad as a bureaucracy gets in Illinois. Visit her main offices in the Daley Center in the Loop, and you'll see workers standing around, more interested in talking to one another than helping long lines of customers.

You'll see computer terminals with blinking black and green screens, so outdated it's a wonder they're even working. And, if you're lucky enough to actually get your hands on the court file you're looking for (many are lost), there's no guarantee it will be complete.

Efficiency is the answer, not more money.

But Brown soldiered on in Springfield. One of her bills called for hiking two court filing fees — for automation and storage — by as much as $10 each, so they'd be $25 apiece.

Right now, filing a civil lawsuit can cost as much as $337, depending on the type of case. Lawyers say Cook County has some of the highest filing fees in the country.

And these high fees don't just affect attorneys. They affect anyone trying to use the courts, whether it's for a simple divorce, a small-claims lawsuit or a probate case after an elderly loved one passes away. Raising fees could deter people from using the courts, and put a greater burden on the poor.

Brown's office says the storage and automation fee hikes would have generated an extra $13 million a year, to be used to rent more warehouse space to hold paper records and to expand automation (i.e. completely overhauling the antiquated computer system that's now being used to manage and look up documents.)

Automation, plus e-filing, would bring electronic access to court records. Right now, nearly all Cook County court filing needs to be done in person. E-filing would let lawyers and others file paperwork over the Internet. Automation and e-filing are crucial steps to modernize the office. Federal courts have been automated for years. Other county court systems are leaps and bounds ahead of Cook, too. While automation is great, Brown should look to trim her 1,800-person staff before she asks to hike fees.

But that would mean cutting back on patronage, the friends and political supporters who make up a large chunk of Brown's workforce.

"We get complaints about lost files (and) poor customer service," said Malcolm Rich, executive director of the Chicago Council of Lawyers, a nonpartisan lawyers group that focuses on improving the court system. "You start wondering about the needs for these kind of (court fee) increases."

Brown's operation is so bad, one high-ranking Cook County court official told the BGA, that Brown's staff has stamped court papers with the wrong years, creating even more headaches.

Despite the fact that automation would bring greater efficiency, Brown says she has no plans to cut the number of employees.

"We (are) hurting tremendously right now," Brown claims, referring to recent budget cuts mandated by Cook County government. "There are not enough efficiencies in the office that we could find."

Brown also brushed aside questions about an Alabama company, On-Line Information Services, hired by her agency to handle an e-filing pilot program that started in 2009.

The company and people affiliated with it have donated more than $16,000 to Brown's campaign fund since 2001, state records show.

One of Brown's top aides, Bridget Dancy, is a village trustee in Matteson, and her campaign fund accepted another $1,500 in donations from people affiliated with the firm.

Brown says the donations had nothing to do with hiring the company.

Let's hope On-Line Information Services and Brown can make e-filing work, although we have our doubts. In the meantime, Brown should find the money to automate her office without raising fees.

Brown's office plans to push these bills to raise fees again, so the next time there's magic in Springfield, we should all be watching.



Recent Headlines

Re: Property Taxes IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM COMMISSIONER SUFFREDIN
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Special to suffredin.org

What's at stake in latest census numbers
Monday, April 22, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

Legislation aims to make water rates across Illinois more affordable and equitable
Monday, April 22, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Dorothy Brown worker who allegedly lied to federal grand jury set for trial
Sunday, April 21, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Time is running out for an affordable housing fix
Friday, April 19, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

Cook County Assessor’s Office Publicly Releases Residential Assessment Code and Models
Thursday, April 18, 2019
Special to suffredin.org

Women Prisoners in Cook County Jail Curate Global Film Festival
Thursday, April 18, 2019
WBEZ Chicago Public Radio

EDITORIAL: Long in the MWRD pipeline, IG plan needs a yes vote
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Health Cuts Ribbon on Outpatient Center in Arlington Heights
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Daily Herald

Celebrate Earth Day with the Forest Preserves of Cook County
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Special to suffredin.org

Homeowners in Chicago have just a few weeks to get current on their 2017 property taxes - or risk losing their homes. WBEZ’s Odette Yousef reports.
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
WBEZ Chiacgo Public Radio

Editorial: The Foxx-Smollett questions for Inspector General Blanchard
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Cook County pet owners warned of spring coyote dangers
Monday, April 15, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County inspector general to review prosecutors' handling of Jussie Smollett case
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Foxx requests Cook County IG investigation into handling of Jussie Smollett case
Friday, April 12, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

A challenge to one of Chicago's biggest draws for companies
Friday, April 12, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

What Evanston's assessments tell us about the new assessor's new math
Friday, April 12, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

Vote for your favorite presidential candidate. The Illinois Democratic County Chair’s Association wants to know who you want to be the Democratic nominees for President and Vice President. Vote here.
Friday, April 12, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

$3.85 million granted in lawsuit against ex-Cook County forest preserve worker charged in fatal on-the-job crash
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Chicago Tribune

A Day in the Life of a Cook County Burn Crew
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
WTTW News

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.
^ TOP