Court's new Domestic Violence Division expands to two suburban districts
Released on 5/9/2012 1:36:07 PM

Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans and Domestic Violence Division Presiding Judge Grace G. Dickler announced that the Domestic Violence Division has begun its critical expansion from Chicago to the suburbs of Cook County with the addition of courtrooms in the two courthouses that serve the court's Fourth Municipal District and Fifth Municipal District.

Chief Judge Evans said, "The expansion of the Domestic Violence Division to the court's suburban locations demonstrates significant progress in the court's groundbreaking efforts to better serve the people of Cook County by combining the civil and criminal court response to domestic violence cases."

The division's expansion began late in September of this year with the addition of a courtroom in the west suburban Fourth Municipal District in Maywood and a courtroom in the southwest suburban Fifth Municipal District in Bridgeview. In each courtroom, both criminal and civil domestic violence matters, including Class 4 felonies, are heard by a judge assigned to that district who is additionally assigned to the Domestic Violence Division.

A Domestic Violence Division courtroom is scheduled to open on December 7, 2010, in the north suburban Third Municipal District courthouse in Rolling Meadows. Courtrooms are expected to open in the two remaining suburban courthouses in Markham and Skokie in early 2011.

Chief Judge Evans noted that the expansion of the new division to the suburbs was one of the original recommendations made by the blue ribbon committee he appointed to study domestic violence court. He launched the Domestic Violence Division on January 19, 2010, based on those recommendations which had concluded it was in the public's best interest to have the hearing of both civil and criminal domestic violence matters centralized in a court-wide division that was overseen by a presiding judge. The division provides for uniform management of cases, better protection for victims whose criminal cases end but who still require civil remedies, and enhanced coordination of court-based resources for both victims and those who commit acts of domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Division Presiding Judge Grace G. Dickler noted that the following developments have taken place in the last ten months since the division launched:

  • The Domestic Violence Division courtroom opened in the Fourth Municipal District on September 27, 2010, and Judge John D. Tourtelot was assigned to it.
  • The Domestic Violence Division courtroom that opened in the Fifth Municipal District on September 20, 2010, and Judge Sheila McGinnis was assigned to it.
  • An additional courtroom was opened in the Domestic Violence Courthouse at 555 West Harrison Street in Chicago to decrease the waiting time for victims seeking emergency orders of protection in civil proceedings, bringing the total number of the division's Chicago courtrooms to eight (8).
  • Monthly training sessions are held for the division's judges to enhance their knowledge of relevant law and to reenergize their sensitivity to the matters before them.
  • The Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court has agreed to dedicate areas in its office in the Domestic Violence Courthouse to keep respondent/defendants (meaning persons alleged to have committed acts of domestic violence) separated from petitioner/victims which increases the safety and comfort of those seeking protection from the court.
  • Class 4 domestic violence felonies as well as aggravated stalking cases will be added to the Domestic Violence Courthouse in Chicago this coming December.
  • The Circuit Court recruited two leading domestic violence experts, attorney Leslie Landis, former director of Mayor Daley's Office on Domestic Violence, and Loretta Line, former legal advocate for the Evanston YWCA, to help implement the programs and innovations planned for the division. The court obtained grant funding from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority to pay their salaries.

Presiding Judge Dickler said the following innovations are expected to be implemented in the Domestic Violence Division as well:

  • An informational video is being produced in collaboration with The Chicago Bar Association to help direct the public to the resources available at the Domestic Violence Courthouse.
  • A pro bono lawyer program for victims is set to launch in January 2011 at the Chicago Domestic Violence Courthouse staffed by law students currently attending De Paul University College of Law as well as alumni, and lawyers from the following six major law firms: Jenner & Block LLP, Latham & Watkins LLP, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, SNR Denton U.S. LLP (formerly Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal), Ungaretti & Harris LLP, and Winston & Strawn LLP.
  • The creation of a compliance call to provide stricter judicial supervision of those defendants who have been ordered to undergo intervention services is expected to start in early 2011 which will help increase offender accountability.
  • Brochures on services available to persons who commit acts of domestic violence to help change their behavior are under development.
  • Cross-training for non-judicial court personnel is slated for 2011 to increase coordination and shared expertise between the civil and criminal aspects