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After federal judge’s order, Brown provides immediate access to e-filed lawsuits

An office employee demonstrates the A Cook County Circuit Court's new case management system and integrated e-filing system on Thursday. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

Implementing a new online system that allows immediate access to e-filed lawsuits has been “a very, very wonderful process,” Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown said Thursday.

An outside company was brought in to put the new case management and online filing system in place, Brown said outside her 12th floor offices at the Daley Center. That means attorneys, as well as litigants without legal representation, will be able to file County Division civil suits at any time, from anywhere.

The new case management system was designed and implemented by Tyler Technologies of Plano, Texas under a $36 million, multi-year deal. The Tyler-designed system is used in seven of the eight largest clerk’s offices in the country, Brown said.

“We are now fully automated with end-to-end case management capabilities in County Division,” Brown said.

Employees for Brown’s office demonstrated the filing system to reporters in just a few minutes. The County Division includes adoption filings, tax objections and mental health cases.

The announcement came more than two months after a federal judge had initially ordered Brown’s office to make newly e-filed complaints publicly available within 30 days.

Brown initially appealed to U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly to put a hold on his order, which he shot down.

“What is actually afoot is a system, effectively created by Brown herself, in which all e-filed complaints are treated as having been filed under seal until Brown herself clears them for public access,” Kennelly wrote.

She then went to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the order was put on hold in mid-February.

Brown said her office started conversations with Tyler Technologies in May 2017 and they eyed the County Division as the first to get the upgrades because “its system was not already connected to electronic filing.”

Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown in 2018.
Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown on Thursday, announcing a new case management system. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times
Erin Brown/Sun-Times file

In the wake of the federal court order, Brown had said her office would have that new case management system for County Division in place no later than July. A statement from Brown’s office said upgrades to “all areas of civil law are expected to be completed by 2020, followed by traffic court’s anticipated 2021 implementation.”

Brown has been under federal investigation for allegations of selling jobs in her office. Last month, she wrote a letter to the editor to the Chicago Sun-Times in which she said: “the statement made in the article that ‘a newly filed court record provides further evidence that [job selling] not only was true, a number of people were either involved in the illegal scheme or knew about it’ is also patently false.”

Thursday, Brown declined to respond to a WGN reporter’s request to elaborate on the letter.

After Thursday’s announcement wrapped up, a spokeswoman for Brown’s office, Jalyne R. Strong-Shaw, said: “Her letter actually stands as it is. She believes that individuals that made false accusations to the FBI should be prosecuted. That’s her statement.”