The Adult Probation Department supervises adults sentenced to probation who have been convicted of felonies, including drug-related offenses, domestic battery, criminal sexual assault, retail theft and criminal damage to property, as well as some misdemeanor offenses. The average length of a probation sentence is 18 months. Basic conditions of probation include reporting to a probation officer, refraining from further criminal activity and not leaving the state without permission from the court. A probationer may also be required to participate in counseling, drug treatment or other specialized programs. The department also administers pretrial services which provide supervision of accused persons released on bond and awaiting trial, as well as victim assistance, intensive probation supervision, home confinement, sex offender supervision and in the future, electronic monitoring.
The Expedited Child Support Center administers the Expedited Hearing Process. The goal of the hearing process is to ensure all children receive prompt and regular child support payments. Specially trained hearing officers make recommendations to judges on establishing, enforcing or modifying child support orders and also make recommendations on parentage and medical support orders. The Expedited Child Support Center works in coordination with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
Forensic Clinical Services provides comprehensive and diagnostic clinical services to the court and related agencies under the court's jurisdiction. The agency employs psychiatric, psychological and social service methods in the delivery of clinical services and submits clinical opinions and recommendations to the court. Forensic Clinical Services also provides expert witness testimony where mandated.
The Circuit Court provides persons having limited English proficiency or speech or hearing impairments with court interpreters to help facilitate court proceedings. Interpreters help ensure that all persons enjoy equal access to justice and that court proceedings function efficiently and effectively. The most common languages interpreted are Spanish, Polish, Korean, Arabic and Russian. Sign language interpreters are also requested frequently.
The Office of Jury Administration is responsible for providing the pool of qualified jurors for the Circuit Court. It accomplishes this goal by mailing out jury summonses to prospective jurors. The Circuit Court does recognize, however, that jurors may be summoned at times which may not be convenient. To address problems based on hardship, the Circuit Court makes every effort to honor requests to be rescheduled to another date or to be transferred to another courthouse. Prospective jurors should make such requests in writing and submit them to the Office of Jury Administration for review. Additionally, the Circuit Court gives prospective jurors age 70 or older the option of not participating in jury service under the court's Opt-Out Program. Those wishing to opt-out must call jury administration at 312.603.JURY before their scheduled date of service. Opting-out does not permanently remove the juror's name from the juror list. The juror may be summoned again at a later date, at which time he or she may choose to serve or may opt-out again. Under the Opt-Out Program, prospective jurors age 70 or older can opt-out without limitation. In addition to scheduling juror service, the Office of Jury Administration acquaints prospective jurors with their responsibilities through the use of a juror orientation video.
The Juvenile Court Clinic is responsible for providing a variety of services to judges and court personnel regarding clinical information in juvenile court proceedings. These services include consultation regarding requests for clinical information, forensic clinical assessments in response to court ordered requests, information regarding community based mental health resources, and education programs on issues relating to mental health information and court proceedings. Juvenile Court Clinic staff comprise lawyers and mental health professionals who use a multi-disciplinary approach to provide high quality mental health assessments that are relevant, timely, culturally sensitive, and in a form that bridges the legal and mental health fields. Forensic clinical assessments can only be initiated by court order. Forensic clinical information is defined as mental health information that is to be used for a legal decision. After a family has been ordered to undergo a clinical evaluation, a clinical coordinator facilitates the process, which includes evaluating the information request, documenting the request, and arranging an intake interview. The assessment is written by a clinician, who is usually a psychologist or psychiatrist, and is delivered to court before the family's next court date. The information contained in the assessment is used by judges, lawyers, and probation officers to help them make informed decisions that promote better outcomes for minors and their families.
The Juvenile Probation and Court Services Department provides a myriad of supervision and intervention programs for minors under the age of 17 who have been found delinquent by the court. In each case where a child is found delinquent, the court carefully considers how it can best meet the needs of the child and at the same time ensure the protection of the public. A judge allows a juvenile to remain at home under supervision as long as the special conditions established by the court and the terms set by the probation officer are followed. The primary objectives of the Juvenile Probation and Court Services Department are threefold: (1) to respond with a plan of action that builds the competence of the minor (2) to redirect negative behavior while promoting accountability (3) to restore the victim and the community.
The Mandatory Arbitration program is an alternative dispute resolution process for civil suits seeking money damages of $30,000 or less. The process is less formal and less time consuming than a jury trial and is conducted by a three-member panel of arbitrators. The arbitrators are licensed attorneys who have at least three years of experience and are certified by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts as having successfully completed a course in dispute resolution.
A part of the Domestic Relations Division, Family Mediation Services mediates custody and visitation disputes. The counseling service operates under court order and offers emergency intervention and referral services when necessary. Through its Family in Focus program, the service assists with court facilitation of custody disputes and provides supervised visitation for parents who meet the program's qualifications. The services are provided free of charge.
The Parenting Education Program known as Focus on Children provides half-day parenting education class sessions. The class addresses parenting in divorce situations, post-decree situations and never-been-married situations where the parents do not live together. The class is initiated by court order. A fee is charged for attending the class, however, it may be reduced or waived by the judge.
The Office of the Public Guardian
represents minors in juvenile court cases involving abuse, dependency and neglect, as well as in contested child custody cases heard in the Domestic Relations Division. The Office of the Public Guardian also acts as guardian of disabled adult wards of the court. The Chief Judge of the Circuit Court is responsible for appointing the Cook County Public Guardian.
The Office of Official Court Reporters
employs approximately 220 court reporters licensed by the State of Illinois. An official court reporter uses a stenographic machine to record verbatim each and every word spoken in a court proceeding.
The Social Service Department provides casework services to primarily misdemeanor offenders. Some misdemeanor offenses include theft, indecent exposure, unlawful use of a weapon, assault and battery. The department develops and implements an individualized supervision plan for each offender and monitors the offender while he or she remains under the court's supervision. Some of the services include the Domestic Violence Program and the DUI (Driving Under the Influence) Intervention Program.