Jacob J. Meister, Candidate for Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court

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Monday, February 15, 2016

Candidate Full Name: Jacob J. Meister

Office: Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court

Party: Democrat

Email Address: jacob@jacobmeister.com

Web Site: www.jacobmeister.com

Campaign Name: Friends of Jacob Meister

Campaign Office Mailing Address: 2129 N. Western Ave, Chicago IL 60646

Phone: 7732786556

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.

I am an attorney and a longtime advocate for social justice. I have lived in Chicago most of my adult life. Growing up I was the youngest of 5, including 3 older sisters. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go to college and work on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. before returning to the Midwest to earn my law degree.

As far back as I can remember I have had a calling to help people. This has translated into being a lawyer and advocate. For example, I fought an insurance company refusing to fund a lifesaving heart transplant for an infant, and won. I battled with the Chicago Public Schools to get fulltime aids for autistic children, and won. I have taken on dozens of employers, including public employers, for discriminatory workplace practices. I was also at the forefront of the successful fight for marriage equality.

Now I hope to have the opportunity to bring the passion I have for justice to the Clerk of the Circuit Court's office, an agency that a respected journalist referred to as "a patronage den and bureaucratic disaster of disappearing files and dinosaur age technology."

Over the past 25 years, I have practiced in almost every division of the Cook County courts and in courts around the nation. I am intimately familiar with the operations and procedures of the courts and understand how the Clerk's role in the justice system needs to be changed in order to meet the needs of all constituents who rely on the system.

In addition to being an attorney and advocate, I have worked at all levels of government (city, county, state and federal) and have significant administrative experience having been the hiring manager of a 350 attorney law firm and the Chief Operating Officer of a multistate development company.

I am the only candidate in the Clerk of the Circuit Court race with the credentials, credibility and experience needed to fix the office.

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

There is near universal recognition that the Clerk of the Circuit Court's office is broken, both operationally and ethically, steeped in cronyism and riddled with inefficiencies and antiquated technology. I have seen firsthand how lost paperwork and hastily scrawled handwritten notes can leave cases and lives in limbo. I have seen countless litigants frustrated and unable to navigate an often overly bureaucratic system. I have seen how the inefficient paperbased system wastes the time and resources of every individual and entity who deal with the court system, on top of costing taxpayers and businesses millions.

For the operational problems to be resolved, the ethical issues must also be fixed. The issues are intertwined. The Clerk's office needs a truly independent Inspector General, with investigative and enforcement authority, to oversee issues of ethics, hiring and firing and political activity done on County time.

Contemporaneous with addressing ethical issues, I will focus on fixing office operations by introducing technology, prioritizing customer service and increasing transparency. I will immediately begin the process of modernizing the Court's financial and case management computer systems. My goal is to move the Clerk's office to a paperless record keeping system, in line with other court systems around the country and Illinois. Other reforms will include making sure the Clerk's office moves swiftly toward complying with FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, updating customer service training for employees and making more foreign language interpreters available.

Over time and by consistently making meaningful and measurable improvements, in both ethics and operations, the office will better serve all Court constituents litigants, lawyers, judges, police officers, municipalities, and other Cook County and state government agencies. I will fix the Clerk's office so it can operate effectively and efficiently so the focus is on justice instead of bureaucracy.

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

Although every county in Illinois elects their Clerk of the Court, the office in Cook County has become far too political and has lost sight of its essential role in the judicial process. I would seriously consider supporting and promoting legislation in Springfield that calls for the Clerk to be appointed for a term of either 4 or 6 years by the Circuit Judges, provided that the Clerk is able to maintain a degree of autonomy to preserve the checks and balances envisioned in the Illinois Constitution.

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?

I have no intention of running television ads based on halftruths and innuendo. However, it would be disingenuous of me, or any other candidate, to promise to not say anything negative about our opponents. My main priority is to demonstrate that I am the best choice to be Clerk of the Circuit Court, but this cannot be done in a vacuum. Voters need to compare and contrast the candidate's respective qualifications, experience, ethics and proposals to make an informed decision. My commitment is to running a factbased campaign, utilizing news stories and published reports to draw a contrast between myself and my opponents.

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