Cook County to start texting court date reminders to defendants

In an excellent decision to take advantage of modern technology, starting in December, Cook County will phone or text criminal defendants to remind them of their upcoming court dates.

This is good for a couple of reasons.  First of all, the vast majority of missed court dates are because the defendant forgot their court date.  I used to have a lot of clients miss court dates until I began a practice of texting, emailing or calling clients the day prior to court as a reminder.

The other reason is because it is not unusual for court dates to get confused for one reason or another.  For example, recently I had one case where the judge wrote 8/3/17 as the new court date on the court file instead of the actual continuance date which was supposed to have been 8/30/17.  This would have resulted in a warrant for my client but for the client being told about his “upcoming” court date by pre-trial services.

Ultimately, this program should reduce costs, because there will be less court dates, less warrants, less need to go out and arrest fugitives, and less housing costs while the arrestees sit in Cook County Jail.

You can read more about this in a DNAinfo story, linked here.

Cook County Jurors: Buy your own breakfast and snacks!

While at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building at 26th Street this week, I saw a memo from Chief Judge Timothy Evans that was left “in plain view” as the police like to say.

It said that due to budget cuts, Cook County jurors would no longer get breakfast and snacks for the rest of the year.  Even with the reinstatement of the “soda tax.”  It also said that it was expected that this cutback would likely become permanent in all future budgets.

So, to all you Cook County jurors out there:  if you want a cup of coffee and a croissant in the morning, you’d better stop off somewhere else because you aren’t getting it at court.

Trump Lawyers Carelessness is a Useful Reminder for Lawyers

Before I went to law school, I spent a couple of years working as a “project assistant” at a major Chicago law firm.  My fellow assistants and I were sent to a mandatory training that included a segment on client confidentiality.  Over a quarter century later, I can still remember what we were told about it:  never speak about the firms’ cases to outsiders and be exceptionally careful when discussing matters outside of the office.  This included conversations between fellow employees while outside of the office.  To emphasize the point, we were told the story about some associate attorneys who were discussing a case in a restaurant located in the office building lobby.  Unbeknownst to them, legal counsel for the client company was sitting within earshot.  The story did not have a happy ending.

With that in mind, you can imagine how flabbergasted I was to hear that two of the President’s lawyers had a heated conversation about the Mueller investigation while at the outside sidewalk dining area of a popular Washington D.C. steakhouse.  A steakhouse that is on the same block as the N.Y. Times’ Washington office.

The resulting story “Trump Lawyers Clash Over How Much to Cooperate with Russia Inquiry” became a major scoop for the “Failing N.Y. Times” and a major embarrassment to the President’s lawyers.

So I hope that all the lawyers who read this blog will take this as a refresher about talking about your clients in public places.  Save that for the office.  There are plenty of other things to talk about, like when will Mitch Trubiskey get a start?

As new Cook County bail order goes into effect, Central Bond Court gets revamped

Earlier this summer, Chief Judge Timothy Evans issued General Order 18.8A, which went into effect today for felony cases (it won’t go into effect in misdemeanor cases until January 1, 2018).

The key change is that unless a defendant poses “a  real and present threat” to persons or is unlikely to appear in court, the “presumption [is] that any conditions of release imposed shall be non-monetary in nature, and the court shall impose the least restrictive conditions or combination of conditions necessary to reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant for further court proceedings.”

In order to implement these changes, Judge Evans has swapped out the entire roster of judges who handled Central Bond Court.  He also changed the name — now it will be called the “Pre-Trial Division.”  The new Division will be headed by long-time Felony Judge John Kirby, and assigned to the division will be Sophia Atcherson, Michael R. Clancy, John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr., Mary C. Marubio, Stephanie K. Miller and David R. Navarro.

Here is a link to a story about this change in today’s Chicago Sun-Times.

Lake County, IL to have fine amnesty week beginning July 17

From the Daily Herald:

Drivers with unpaid fines and court costs from traffic violations in Lake County will get a financial break — and perhaps a return of their driving privileges — when county officials offer a one-week amnesty next month.

Dubbed “Operation Green Light,” the program will allow fined drivers to avoid collection fees and interest if they pay their original costs between July 17 and July 21. Payments can be made over the phone or at courthouses in Waukegan, Mundelein, Park City and Round Lake Beach.

“I understand that fines can become costly, especially when older fines incur collection agency fees and accrue interest,” Lake County Circuit Clerk Erin Cartwright Weinstein said Monday in an announcement of the amnesty week.

“The point of Operation Green Light is to help people clear up their financial obligations and get back on the road.”

Victim impact panels are coming to Kankakee County in DUI cases

Victim Impact Panels, which have been a long staple of DUI sentencing in Cook, DuPage and Lake Counties, are now coming to Kankakee County.

For those not familiar, the concept of a Victim Impact Panel is that DUI (or other serious traffic) offenders are required to attend a presentation where victims of drunk driving accidents talk about their stories.  The speakers might be someone seriously injured by a drunk driver, someone who lost a family member or significant or the drunk driver, who talks about the damage he or she has done and the penalties he or she received.

From the Kankakee Daily Journal (article by Allison Shapiro):

“We think that when you look at DUI offenders, we want to make sure they clearly realize the impact that their crime has, not only on our community as a whole and their own families, but on victims of DUI offenses,” said Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe. “We hope that this additional perspective makes people think twice before driving drunk or recklessly.”

Staff from the MADD Illinois office, as well as volunteers, told participants the stories of how their lives had been changed by someone’s reckless behavior. One of the speakers was Zach Jones, a Limestone native who became an activist after he was severely injured by a drunk driver in 2012.

“It’s great to be able to bring something back to the community I’m from. It’s something that hopefully will help keep people safe in the future, keep from happening to other people what happened to me,” said Jones, now the program coordinator at MADD Illinois. “It’s a great thing, it’s something positive for the county to use to try to move forward and keep this from happening.”

Read the entire story here:  http://www.daily-journal.com/news/local/kankakee-county-launches-first-dui-victim-panel/article_4808a5ed-ab6c-5ddc-b3ab-b9f7319297ee.html

Lake Co. Sheriff charged with perjury for testimony in DUI case

From the Chicago Tribune (reported by Jim Newton):

Deputy Sheriff Justin Hill, 28, of Kenosha, was indicted by a Lake County grand jury Wednesday on three felony counts of perjury, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office…

According to Sgt. Christopher Covelli of the Sheriff’s Office, inconsistencies were allegedly discovered in Hill’s testimony during a court hearing on the potential statutory summary suspension of a DUI defendant’s driver’s license. The testimony was allegedly given by Hill on Nov. 2.

Covelli and Jim Elliot, deputy chief of the Sheriff’s Office of Professional Standards, said the Sheriff’s Office is working with the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office to determine whether any other cases in which Hill was involved could be impacted.

According to Elliot, each DUI case in which Hill was the arresting officer or was involved would be reviewed individually, and the State’s Attorney’s Office would decide whether each case would move forward based on all evidence involved.

Elliot said he does not believe there will be any blanket dismissal of cases in which Hill was involved. He added that he was unsure how many cases were to be reviewed.

A spokesperson for the State’s Attorney’s Office said Wednesday the number of cases was not immediately available, but would soon be released.

Following the Nov. 2 hearing, the Sheriff’s Office was notified Nov. 23 that “inconsistencies with Hill’s testimony (that) potentially resulted in perjury” had been discovered, according to Covelli.

Hill was placed on administrative leave and relieved of his police powers following an investigation by the Office of Professional Standards, Covelli said.