Editorial: No good choice in race for Circuit Court clerk

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Cook County Circuit Court clerk candidates Dorothy Brown (left) and Diane S. Shapiro | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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Under incumbent Dorothy Brown, the Cook County Circuit Court clerk’s office remains behind the times.

Judges, lawyers and others continue to complain they can’t access records and documents in a timely manner. While court systems elsewhere offer quick access via a click on a computer or smartphone, too much of the work in the Cook County clerk’s office still is done on paper.

The consequences are not insignificant. Papers get lost and cases take longer to resolve. People sit in jail longer than they should. Justice is delayed.

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Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown

Dorothy Brown | Rich Hein/Sun-Times | video

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Diane S. Shapiro. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times | <a href="https://youtu.be/i7ahKs-oMlw">video</a>

Diane S. Shapiro. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times | video

Then there is the ongoing federal corruption probe of Brown’s office. Last spring, a former employee pleaded guilty to lying to a grand jury that is investigating allegations that people have paid for jobs and promotions. Brown, we should stress, has not been charged.

And all of this comes on top of Brown’s long track record of bad judgment as a boss. Until she was roundly criticized in the media, she accepted cash birthday gifts from employees and charged them $3 or more — cash only — for the right to wear jeans on “Jeans Day.”

Just this week, Brown declared an “Amnesty Week” during which people can pay overdue court fines and fees without having to pay collection fees. That Amnesty Week comes just three weeks before the election and was announced on flyers carrying Brown’s photo demonstrates, once again, how Brown works the office to benefit herself.

Unfortunately, Brown’s Republican opponent, Diane S. Shapiro, does not offer Cook County voters a better alternative. The 46th Ward GOP committeewoman and former adult probation officer appears to have judgment issues of her own. When, for example, we asked her about a claim she has made online that President Barack Obama is “pushing to nationalize the police,” she assured us this was true and cited as proof a story in a publication of the conspiracy-minded John Birch Society.

In all likelihood, Dorothy Brown will win re-election in a landslide, and then she’ll have four more years — assuming no further problems with the Feds — to modernize the clerk’s office and prove us and other critics wrong. That would be terrific.

No endorsement.

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