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Evans escalates feud with Preckwinkle

Saturday, December 21, 2013
Chicago Sun-Times
by Becky Schlikerman

The ongoing feud between Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans escalated Friday when Evans issued a scathing statement that said Preckwinkle “is not completely faithful to the facts.”

“I am open to any meaningful suggestions as to how our judges hearing criminal matters can more efficiently handle their ever growing workload,” Evans said. “However, progress is stalled when we are cutting corners and receiving only five cents of every tax dollar from the County Board President.

The two have been at odds regarding the backlog of court cases and the subsequent jail population.

Preckwinkle on Friday shot back and said through a spokeswoman that the county has increased the chief judge’s budget and the state’s attorney’s budget in the budget passed last month.

And she pointed to the county’s ongoing work with the Illinois Supreme Court regarding Cook County’s justice system. She contacted the justices in September seeking their help.

Now retired Illinois Chief Justice Ben Miller and retired U.S. District Court Judge David Coar are working on proposed improvements and will report back in February, officials said.

“Reaching out to the Supreme Court was the action I considered necessary in light of the inability of the stakeholders to make a dent in the population on our own,” Preckwinkle said in a statement.

In the lengthy salvo Evans issued, he said: “The President wants the public to believe that the jail is overcrowded because judges are not doing their jobs.”

That, he said, is ”simply not true.”

He said “From June 1, 2013, through November 30, 2013, more than 33,000 persons had bond hearings in that five month period. Of those, judges gave recognizance bonds to 6,430, electronic monitoring to 5,552 and D-bonds [which requires the person to post 10 percent of the bond amount] to 5,882, potentially diverting more than 17,800, or 53 percent, from the jail.”

Evans also said Cook County judges are meeting the national standard in disposing of 80 percent of the felony cases filed within one year, though “there is always room for improvement.”

But Preckwinkle said that doesn’t show the entire picture of what’s going on in the courts.

She points to a report authored this fall by Loyola University Professor Don Stemen.

“What we have learned from Stemen’s report is that the courts have less work and are taking longer to do it. Judges also are spending more time on the least important cases. This is a recipe for fiscal disaster. It will take more analysis to understand why this is the case. What we know is that growing delays in the court system lead to higher costs for taxpayers,” Preckwinkle said in a statement.

The judge said Preckwinkle’s office needs to pay up if it wants results. She took office in 2010.

“Since I took office in 2001, the court’s operating budget has been cut 24.4 percent — from $178.9 million to $135.6 million,” Evans said.

He added: “We believe the court should receive the necessary funding from the County Board and the Cook County Board President to help judges do justice for the people of Cook County.”

Preckwinkle’s office, though, said the chief judge’s budget this year is $141,576,048.00.

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