Court Services Division

(217)524-3072 (Springfield Office)

Nathan Jensen, Assistant Director

The Court Services Division is organized into multiple working groups (the Courts, Children and Families Unit; the Special Programs Unit; and the Recordkeeping and Technology Unit) and is involved in a diverse and wide range of activities and projects affecting judges, circuit clerks, court administrators and other components of the judicial branch of government. The Division is responsible for staffing a variety of Supreme Court committees or boards, the Judicial Conference, and the Conference of Chief Circuit Judges. The Division also serves as the primary liaison for the Supreme Court's Peer Judge Mentoring Program, Judicial Performance Evaluation Program; and processes court requests for a judicial assignment outside the original court jurisdiction, as well as requests for the reimbursement of claims for persons subject to the Sexually Violent Person's Commitment Act. Staff within Court Services frequently interacts and collaborates with several other divisions at the Administrative Office on a wide array of topics of interest to the operations of the Illinois courts, including serving as staff on multiple Standing Committees of the Illinois Judicial College.

The Special Programs Unit continues to monitor all courts' submission(s) of mediation programs' data, statistics, or financial sustainability plans and respond to all local rule requests submitted that pertain to mediation programs, including residential mortgage foreclosure mediation, general civil mediation, small claims mediation and child custody and visitation mediation. Oversight and support of all Mandatory Arbitration programs in the state, including the guidance and collection of arbitration program statistics, also continues to rest within the Special Programs Unit responsibilities. The Special Programs Unit Manager also serves as staff to the Trial Court Administrators Education (TCAE) Standing Committee of the Illinois Judicial College.

The Special Programs Unit also assists the Supreme, five Appellate and twenty-four Circuit courts with the development and annual updates of Emergency Preparedness-Continuity of Operations [EP-COOP] Plans for each court in the event of a catastrophe or disruption. The Special Programs Unit continued to maintain the list of Court Disability Coordinators for all circuit courts in the state and serve as a liaison to the Illinois Attorney General's Office with regard to circuit court inquiries about disabilities and accommodations. Additionally, Special Programs Unit staff prepared an update of Supreme Court's Minimum Courtroom Standards for the Court's consideration and adoption, as well as reviewed requests for waivers from the Minimum Courtroom Standards regarding courthouse construction or renovation projects. Lastly, staff within this unit worked on development of the Supreme Court's Lactation Room or Area Minimum Standards for use in all courts throughout the state.

The Courts, Children and Families Unit (CCFU) oversees the administration of the federally-funded statewide Court Improvement Program (CIP). The unit works to support the mission, vision, and core values of Illinois' CIP of ensuring safety and stability for children and families involved in child abuse and neglect proceedings by managing the programmatic and fiscal components of three grant awards (Basic, Data and Training). In the past year, the CCFU continued to develop the foundation and infrastructure for improved court practices in child protection cases by concentrating its efforts on addressing timely permanency in Illinois, continuing the Child Protection Data Courts Project, and collaborating with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services on the Child and Family Services Review and implementation of the Family First Prevention and Service Act. Other local court longterm projects received continuation funding, including the Family Advocacy Clinic at the University of Illinois School Of Law in Champaign County, the Juvenile Justice Clinic at Southern Illinois University in Jackson County, and the Winnebago County Guardians ad Litem Project, a project aimed at quality enhancement and development of best practice models in GAL representation. The Manager of the CCFU also served as staff and an advisor to the Illinois Judicial College Standing Committee on Guardians ad Litem Education (GALE), which was launched in July, 2017 and staff to the former Illinois Judicial Conference Juvenile Justice Committee and the Special Supreme Court Committee on Custody and Visitation.

Child Protection Data Courts Project (CPDC): Through the CPDC Project, the CCFU continued to collect and analyze child protection court performance measures, demographic information and case characteristics in child abuse and neglect cases. Currently, ten counties collect CPDC Project data. The CPDC Project sites track case demographic information as well as 18 of 30 nationally recognized child protection court performance measures. The project sites are implementing action plans developed, by each county, based on the collected performance measure data that includes a project initiative with goals, action items, responsibilities, timelines, and outcome measures.

Collaboration with the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (IDCFS): In 2018, the CCFU continued its' working relationship with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS) by assisting with the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR). The onsite review occurred in spring 2018 and CCFU staff participated as reviewer and assisted with the organization of court related stakeholder interviews. CCFU staff participated in a facilitated process to develop court related interventions for the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) aimed at addressing compliance issues identified during the CFSR. Lastly, several representatives of IDCFS are members of the Court Improvement Program Advisory Committee.

Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) Implementation: FFPSA, enacted in February 2018, shifts the focus of child protection to include prevention services. Beginning Oct. 1, 2019, Title IV-E funding can be used for evidence-based prevention services if doing so allows the child to remain safely in the home. In addition, FFPSA seeks to curtail the use of congregate or group care for children, and instead places a new emphasis on family foster homes. Reimbursement will only occur for Qualified Residential Placement Programs (QRTP). The court will be required to make findings approving or disapproving of placement in the QRTP. CIP is required to provide training for judges and attorneys on the FFPSA. CCFU has been working closely with IDCFS and justice partners to create forms and training development.

The Recordkeeping & Technology Unit (RTU) provided an array of guidance and technical support services to courts and circuit clerks in 2018. RTU staff, as members of the Illinois Association of Court Clerk's (IACC) Oversight Board, continued to work with the IACC in development of educational programs for circuit clerks and their staff, as well as coordinating the New Circuit Clerk Mentor Program. RTU further staff served as staff and advisors to the Illinois Judicial College Standing Committee on Circuit Court Clerk Education (CCCE). In 2018, the CCCE reviewed results of the needs assessment conducted in 2017, developed a Comprehensive Education Plan, and began drafting a 3-year curriculum and associated courses. In preparation of Education Conference 2020, RTU staff began working with the Judicial Education Division to plan multi-disciplinary sessions to be held as part of the ongoing expansion of education opportunities available to court clerks and other justice partners.

The Manual on Fines and Fees, maintained by the RTU, includes more than 300 statutory citations and Supreme Court Rule references regarding the collection and distribution of fines, fees, penalties, restitution, assessments, surcharges and costs which may be applied to cases in Illinois. With the enactment of the Criminal and Traffic Assessment Act in 2018 (Public Act 100-0987, effective July 1, 2019), staff began preparations to disseminate information regarding the systematic and procedural changes at the circuit court level resulting from the Act. RTU staff also serves as liaison to the Conference of Chief Circuit Judges Ad Hoc Committee on Article V Rules, which provides recommendations of updates to the Article V Rules, Uniform Citation Forms, and Electronic Citation Forms, as may be necessary.

The Illinois Supreme Court's Order directing statewide mandatory electronic filing in civil cases took effect on January 1, 2018, and via eFileIL, the Supreme Court's Electronic Filing Manager (EFM), the RTU provided guidance to courts in their implementation of new civil e-filing code configurations. In addition, the Supreme Court implemented a statewide system called re:SearchIL effective July 1, 2018, which is a document repository where users can remotely access case information in a single place, across jurisdictions, regardless of which case management system used. The RTU further continues to assist local circuit courts with implementation, facilitates information sharing, and provides detailed and subject matter expertise for all other electronic business programs.

The Unit continues to provide assistance and oversight in regards to the Supreme Court's General Administrative Order on Recordkeeping in the Circuit Courts and instructions in the Manual on Recordkeeping, as well as managed and updated the Offense Code Table (OFT), which contains the coded listing of all criminal offenses reportable to four recipient state agencies through the Automated Disposition Reporting (ADR) Program. Additionally, RTU staff collected, compiled, and published quarterly and annual statistical information for the 2017 Statistical Summary by the clerks of the supreme, appellate, and circuit courts, and other divisions of the Supreme Court and Administrative Office.

Annually, the RTU monitors the filing of the circuit clerks' financial audits, compiled and distributed the Applicable Legal Requirements to auditors for their compliance testing, and disseminated updated auditing guidelines to county boards and circuit clerks; and provided certified merged jury lists and Petit and Grand Juror Handbooks to all 102 counties, as requested.