Court orders Dorothy Brown to halt planned updates to ‘problematic’ new case management system

Court orders Dorothy Brown to halt planned updates to ‘problematic’ new case management system

Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County Dorothy Brown at a press conference March 15, 2018, announcing the implementation of a new case management system and integrated permissive eFiling system. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times file

The Cook County Circuit Court clerk will need court approval before making updates, including portals to civil and traffic cases, apparently after disregarding concerns by the chief judge about the operation of the current system.

Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown has been barred from further implementing her office’s new case management system after she apparently rejected concerns from the Office of the Chief Judge over its continued rollout.

Chief Judge Tim Evans on Thursday issued an order telling Brown not to add new civil and traffic division portals to the case management system without prior approval — or face contempt of court.

The order suggests a battle could be brewing between two just a few months before the beleaguered Brown will leave office.

Brown told the chief judge’s office earlier Thursday that she planned to move forward despite the office’s concerns that expanding the system would be “significantly detrimental to the administrative, operational needs of the court” and would cause “irreparable harm to the court’s ability to administer justice,” according to the filing.

In a statement Friday, a spokeswoman for Brown said the longtime clerk was “disappointed” the judge had issued the order but would respect it.

“The clerk’s office has been engaged with the chief judge’s office regarding the new system throughout its acquisition and implementation of all the phases,” spokeswoman Jalyne Strong said.

The new $36 million case management system allows the public and court personnel to file, search and review court filings. At its 2018 rollout, Brown promised it would bring her office’s notoriously archaic 40-year-old filing system into the 21st Century.

Late last year, after Brown’s office updated the system to include criminal court filings, the records available were often incomplete and took significantly longer to be updated.

In his order, Evans said the criminal division portal at the nation’s second-largest courthouse “continues to be problematic.”

Brown’s office disputed that.

“The clerk’s office is not experiencing any technical difficulties with the current system,” Strong said. “Of course, as with any new system implementation, there were issues that had to be fixed early on, during our post-implementation phase. The criminal system is a very complex system that has thousands of individuals, both internally and externally, using it successfully every day.”

Strong said the judge’s imposed delay in adding the new features would just result in “a waste of taxpayer money.”

Candidates running to replace Brown — who announced last year under a cloud of federal investigations that she would not seek re-election after nearly 20 years in the job — have pledged to reform and further modernize the office.

A spokeswoman for Evans’ office declined to comment.

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