09/27/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/27/2023 09:02
By Marcia M. Meis, Director, Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts
The long awaited and much debated changes to the state's criminal pretrial system took effect September 18 with a level of media attention rarely experienced in the Judicial Branch. Dozens of articles across the state reported on a range of issues, including longer detention hearings and a focus on who was, or was not, held in custody while awaiting trial.
The articles also looked at another very important item - Are the courts collapsing under the weight of the new system? The answer in one article after another seemed to be - so far so good. While there were issues raised right away - what to do with individuals arrested over the weekend before September 18? - the preparations made by the Judicial Branch in advance of the effective date led to a much smoother transition than some had predicted.
Many judges, state's attorneys and public defenders are taking the time to walk reporters through the changes and make sure they understand what is taking place in the courtroom and why. Cook County Pretrial Division Presiding Judge Mary Marubio served on a panel to educate journalists at Loyola University earlier this month. Judge Marubio reminded everyone of the big picture: "The purpose of this act is to create better pretrial outcomes for everyone, and that includes the defendant," she told the Chicago Sun-Times in an article titled "Cook County judges talk about their first week without cash bail: 'The world is looking at us.' "
While it is nice to think the world is indeed paying attention to Illinois, it is clear the rest of the country is doing so. St. Clair County Chief Judge Andy Gleeson sat down with multiple media outlets from St. Louis who are closely monitoring what is happening across the river, in addition to his efforts to communicate with reporters in the Metro East area.
Up the river in Rock Island, Chief Judge Clarence Darrow echoed what was largely heard around the state, "It's been, through preparation, a pretty seamless integration," Chief Judge Darrow told the Rock Island Argus. Darrow said the biggest challenge so far has been planning for the unknown.
There will continue to be unknowns as Illinois navigates through this monumental change. But the preparations indeed have been extensive, and the Court's long-term vision for readiness has contributed to this largely smooth start. Some of the highlights of the work include:
I end with a special note of thanks to Judge Robbin Stuckert (Ret.), who served as Chair of both the Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices and the Pretrial Implementation Task Force. In her role as Chair, Judge Stuckert was a steady hand, maintaining focus on the nuts and bolts of what was needed to prepare Illinois courts for this historic change. Judge Stuckert, and all Judicial Branch stakeholders who continue the work to ensure the courts are ready for the elimination of cash bail, provide the support needed in this new era of reform, and thanks are in order for their tireless efforts.