Litigation PR: What’s new at the Cook County Clerk of Circuit Court?

Nick Augustine is the principal of Pro Serve PR Marketing, a firm that provides marketing and public relations advising and services for law firms. Nick’s niche in litigation public relations grew out of time spent in litigation trenches. Nick is a frequent national speaker on law firm public relations, risk, strategy and public opinion management. Nick earned a communications and rhetorical studies degree from Marquette University and a law degree from The John Marshall Law School where he is an active Alumni Board member.

Saturday, June 2, Dorothy Brown and the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court hosted the 2012 Expungement Summit. Attorney volunteers earned 2.5 MCLE credits for participating in the training and summit. I learned about the Expungement Summit from Brown when she appeared as a guest on my show, Law Talk Radio, and I also learned a few things about the progress at the clerk’s office since Brown took office in 2000.

First, the Expungement Summit is held for the benefit of the general public who want to apply to expunge juvenile and adult misdemeanors and felonies. The participating attorneys volunteered their time at the Expungement Summit on Saturday and helped members of the public complete expungement petitions so they can file them with the clerk’s office and appear later on their own petition.

The Expungement Summit will be attended by many prominent members of the Cook County Circuit Court administration and many good spirited Chicago attorneys.

Next, the clerk’s office has been very busy with a large scale scanning project. Have you ever thought about the volume of paper in court files? Imagine digitizing every page. Now, if wrongdoers with sticky fingers remove anything from the official paper court file, a full copy of the file is secured in electronic form, protecting the integrity of the file.

Regarding remote access of digital court files, Brown reported she has attended meetings and her office is reviewing and discussing options to provide remote online access to court files. Attorneys practicing in suburban and collar counties will find Cook County clerk’s office a more user-friendly place.

In addition to keeping case files, the clerk’s office also keeps two funds that allow their office to give money back to people. The Mortgage Foreclosure Surplus and the Unclaimed Child Support funds are administered by a special task force comprised of members of other county offices. The clerk’s office currently holds about $16 million in Mortgage Foreclosure Surplus Funds they give back through a vast outreach campaign.

Finally, e-filing has been another important project for Brown’s office, as they work with the Illinois Supreme Court E-Business Committee set up by Justice Thomas Kilbride. The Cook County Clerk’s Office e-filing pilot is the most comprehensive in the state of Illinois. The e-filing program will save attorneys more time to practice law and spend less time running back and forth to the clerk’s office.

I thanked Brown for sharing news and updates from her office and I look forward to her return as more developments are available regarding several of their programs and activities.

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