Dorothy Brown, Candidate for Cook County Circuit Court Clerk

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Candidate Full Name: Dorothy Brown

Office: Cook County Circuit Court Clerk

Party: Democrat

Survey Questions (Character limit of 2,000 per response)

1. Please tell us about yourself, your background and why you believe you are qualified to hold this office.

These are very serious times, especially for our criminal justice system. We need a Clerk of Court that will protect court records for ALL the people, not just the privileged few. That is what I have done during my years of service and will continue to do.

I possess unique qualifications for running one of the largest court record systems in the world. Every case file represents the fate or fortune of a person's life. As an attorney, Certified Public Accountant and MBA, I can manage the legal, technological and financial aspects of the office. As the Clerk of Court, I converted an antiquated system, where two areas were still using pen and paper to record the results of court cases, into a highly functioning, progressive 21st century Office.

Today, the Clerk's Office has electronic filing, almost 200 million digitized documents, Digital Access Terminals, and automated servicessuch as Electronic Case Management Notices. I am one of only three Clerk of Courts in the entire country that offers a mobile app for the public to search civil and traffic case information while on the go. I have several convenient online services, including:

Online Traffic Ticket System for pleading or paying traffic tickets or scheduling Traffic Safety School;

Online Order of Protection forms to prepare applications for protective orders;

Mortgage Foreclosure Surplus Search, which allows indiviudals to learn whether they have money due from a property previously lost to foreclosure; and

Unclaimed Child Support Search that enables custodial parents to search for child support payments they may not have received.

The Office is nationally renowned for the life-changing, Second Chance Expungement Summits. For 11 years, we have helped thousands of people get their lives back on track and become productive, law-abiding citizens.

I have a heart for serving people. I want to to partner with a legal aid agency to create an Expungement Center that will help people clear their criminal record and receive comprehensive services to turn their lives around. Also, I want to create a Task Force on Child Support Collection to fix the system once and for all for parents.

Yes, I have had some challenges of late, but I know that I have handled things properly, with honesty and integrity. I am proud to have served the people of Cook County and want four more years to continue moving forward.

2. Upon election, what immediate steps would you take to improve the efficiency of the Clerk's operations?

The core function of the Office is record keeping. The mission is to ensure that all record keeping services are timely, accurate and complete. I will continue improving the efficiency of court case management from case initiation to disposition. To improve case management, I will increase automation capacity, update existing management processes and promote 100% user acceptance of existing green technology. I will:

Purchase a state-of-the-art case management system that will be integrated with other justice agencies. The system will provide justice partners with upgraded management reports, permit general electronic filing for both attorneys and individuals, permit attorneys to file electronic draft orders and motions directly with judges, as well as permit judges to review orders and motions and rule on them electronically. The new system will expedite the administration of justice.

Work with judges to make all courtrooms e-Courtrooms. This would enable judges, attorneys, parties to cases, and jurors to see electronic images of documents, evidence and exhibits on large screens and computers. There would be computers on attorney desks and a portable electronic podium for attorneys to see images while standing in front of the judge.

Expand the Interactive Order System (IOS). Currently in a pilot phase, IOS allows judges to enter court orders directly into a computer to produce dispositions for the Clerk's electronic docket and various official court documents, such as half-sheets, bonding and warrant documents and agency draft orders.

Request that the Illinois Supreme Court make the electronic record the official court record. This will permit court cases to move forward expeditiously because there would not be any papers to process.

The Clerk's Office has the technology to permit single electronic images of court records of cases to be shown over the internet. In order to do so, the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court must issue a rule allowing the Clerk's Office to show images to the attorney of record and the parties to the case. Also, the Illinois Supreme Court must issue a special exemption from the Electronic Access Policy to show images to attorneys who are not of record to a case. I will work to obtain these approvals so that attorneys and self represented litigants can view all civil case type court records.

3. Some experts say that the Clerk's operations would be better served by a non-elected technocrat than a politician. Would you favor converting the office to a non-elected position before the next election cycle?

The Clerk of the Circuit Court should remain an independent, elected official. This will continue to ensure the independence of court clerks and the neutrality of the Clerk's Office in the judicial system. The State Court is the court of first impressions. In other words, this is where the case is first heard and it is important that the record is properly maintained and preserved to ensure proper justice. This Office should be accountable to the people through elected office. There are too many ways that a party to a case could be disadvantaged if records were unfairly handled.

By remaining independent, the Clerk's Office can control the process of assigning clerks to court rooms and maintain the integrity of the court records. I have followed a policy of rotating court clerks in and out of specific courtrooms. This helps individual clerks maintain their independence from the judiciary and to concentrate on the mission of the Clerk's Office: to maintain and keep accurate and complete court records. Furthermore, as a matter of sound internal control, the judiciary should not be responsible for both entering orders and recording and storing those orders. The judiciary would be able to change the document at will if they had responsibility for maintaining court records.

4. Voters say they are turned off by the negative and misleading TV ads that dominate the air waves. However, campaign and election experts say candidates rely on them because "they work." Will you and your campaign agree to refrain from running negative ads from now until the election?

Yes, I agree to refrain from running negative ads from now until the election. Voters have a right to know where the candidates stand on the issues, the relevance of their work experience and educational background to the office they seek, and how they plan to improve the lives of all citizens. TV ads can clearly show voters the contrast between candidates on these topics. My ads will clearly show the contrast between my opponents and me, albeit not in a negative manner.

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