The Chicago Council of Lawyers and the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice sponsor a joint Advisory Committee on Access to Justice.
The Access to Justice program promotes social justice and government accountability with an emphasis on making Cook County courts more fair, efficient, and effective. The Access to Justice Committee focuses on issues related to the policies and procedures used by the Cook County Courts to administer justice, including judicial disqualification and recusal, voter education and engagement, Supreme Court Rule 23 regarding unpublished appellate decisions, court management data that should be collected and utilized, use of shackling in Juvenile Court proceedings, utilizing a judicial performance commission approach to evaluate state court judges, and public confidence in an elected judiciary.
In August 2015 we submitted to Chief Judge Timothy Evans the results of our research and a proposed approach to ensure access to justice and to uphold the due process rights of individuals by advocating for the use of court recording devices in courtrooms that do not have court reporters — Upholding due process rights of indigent and pro se litigants by providing court recording equipment in Cook County.
Many courtrooms in Cook County currently operate without court reporters while the number of pro se litigants appearing in these court rooms has steadily increased. For many pro se litigants, hiring a privately-paid court reporter is cost prohibitive which creates an access to justice problem because no appropriate record for exercising appellate rights exists. Although there are alternative ways to preserve a record, many pro se litigants are unaware of these options or do not understand the specific rules required to take advantage these options, and their appellate rights are effectively forfeited as a consequence. A cost-effective solution to this problem is the use of automated court-recording equipment. This practice has been adopted in states across the nation, as well as in some Cook County courts. However, more recording devices are needed to fill the gaps in those courtrooms where reporters are unavailable.
Our policy brief prepared by pro bono attorneys at DLA Piper first outlines the constitutional and state-law issues at stake when a courtroom without a court reporter also lacks recording equipment. Second, it describes the specific problems this causes in Cook County and the work that the Collaboration for Justice has done to discover the access to justice issues that exist in our community. Finally, it describes a proposal to the Illinois Supreme Court to fund court recording devices in Cook County courtrooms.
For more information, please contact Executive Director Malcolm Rich, at malcolmrich [at] chicagoappleseed [dot] org or (312) 988-6552.
Brennan Center for Justice
Colorado Judicial Institute
Illinois Campaign for Political Reform
Justice at Stake
National Center for State Courts
National Institute on Money in State Politics