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Evans reshuffles bond court; meet the ‘Pretrial Division’

Friday, September 15, 2017
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
by David Thomas

A new slate of seven Cook County judges will evaluate whether defendants will be free before trial as part of the circuit court’s newly christened “Pretrial Division,” the chief judge’s office announced Friday.

The staffing announcement from Cook County Circuit Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans comes as the court begins to implement changes in its cash-bail policies.

On Monday, judges who hold that defendants charged with felonies can be free pre-trial by posting cash bail have to have that bail set at an amount they can afford.

The policy will go into effect for defendants charged with misdemeanors on Jan. 1.

“As we continue our efforts to enhance the pretrial process in Cook County, this new division will play an important role in upholding the court’s focus on justice and fairness,” Evans said in a statement. “All defendants are assumed innocent until proven guilty, and nobody should be held in jail simply because they cannot afford bail.”

Evans in the announcement said he would continually evaluate the division and the judges, including how their decisions affect the population of the Cook County Jail and whether defendants actually come back to court.

The new policy and the new pretrial division is the latest step by the Illinois judiciary to move away from the practice of cash bail, which critics have described as being overly harsh toward poor, nonviolent defendants.

In October 2016, the Illinois Supreme Court pledged to overhaul its pretrial and detention practices by 2020.

In June of this year, Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx said her prosecutors will no longer seek cash bail for defendants with no history of violence, are accused of committing either a misdemeanor or a low-level felony and are not considered a flight risk.

Circuit Judge John P. Kirby will oversee the newly organized Pretrial Division.

He joined the Cook County bench in 1998, and since then has served in he First Municipal District, the Criminal Division, the Law Division and the Central Bond Court — the Pretrial Division’s predecessor.

The announcement from the Cook County Circuit Court touted Kirby’s designation as the 2016 judge of the year by the Illinois Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, as well as his honoring by the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice and the Chicago Council of Lawyers in 2010.

“One of my goals is to help the public better understand the bond system and how judges must balance the desire for one’s freedom before trial and the need to protect the public,” Kirby said in a statement.

Joining Kirby in the Pretrial Division are associate judges Sophia J. Atcherson and Mary Catherine Marubio, and circuit judges Michael R. Clancy, John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr., Stephanie K. Miller and David R. Navarro.

These judges have been trained in using a system that assesses the risk of releasing defendants before trial, including how likely they are to return for future dates or commit violent crimes, according to the circuit court.

The Illinois Supreme Court in April of this year ordered all 24 Illinois judicial circuits to begin adopting risk assessment tools. The Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner gave their approval to this effort with the passage of Senate Bill 2034 in June.

The seven judges will take over for the current slate of bond court judges on Monday. Associate judges Adam D. Bourgeois Jr. and Donald D. Panarese Jr. and circuit judges James R. Brown and Laura Marie Sullivan will go to the 1st Municipal District. Associate judges Peggy Chiampas and Maria Kuriakos Ciesel will serve in the Criminal Division.

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