Jacob Meister vows to help those who don’t have access to electronic court communication to enable them to help themselves. He is running for Cook County Clerk of Circuit Court. Access to Justice is what Jacob Meiser stands for!
Election Day March 17
Cook County Clerk of Circuit Court Candidate Jacob Meister vows to bring access to justice. He’s concerned for those who aren’t represented by a lawyer in the system, who don’t have access to electronically file in the court system, who can’t afford internet access, or they simply don’t have a computer or most of all they don’t know how the electronic filing system works. These are folks without financial means and denied access to justice. Jacob Meister has a plan that will ensure everyone has access to justice.
Cook County Clerk of Circuit Court Candidate Jacob Meister, the real deal! Lee Neubecker interviews Jacob Meister to learn more about what makes him tick. Check out this video to learn more. You’ll be glad you did!
Meister says…Access to Justice to those who can’t afford it!
The video transcripts of Access to Jacob Meister follows
Lee Neubecker: Hi, I have Jacob Meister back on my show. Jacob, thanks for coming in again.
Jacob Meister: Thank you, Lee.
LN: So Jacob’s running for Cook County Clerk of the Court, which is one of the largest court systems in the U.S. One of the things that you talked about before is bringing about justice and access to resources necessary. What would you do to help those incarcerated have access to the information they need to defend themselves?
JM: Well, you know access to justice is one of the principal themes of my campaign because as Clerk of the Circuit Court, I’d be presiding over the second-largest court system in the country as Chief Operating Officer. And as we’re moving towards, for instance, electronic filing, there are efficiencies that are achieved. But at the same time, for those people who aren’t represented by a lawyer in the system, all of a sudden they find themselves where they used to be able to mail in their court filings, all of a sudden they’re required to file electronically into a system. It’s very bureaucratic and hard to use. So as a result, those individuals, maybe they don’t have internet access, they don’t have a computer, they don’t know how the electronic filing system works. They’re denied this access to justice unless they travel down to a courthouse during business hours, and stand in line for sometimes an hour or two, just to get assistance to file into the system. One of the things that I will do as a clerk is to provide computer filing kiosks in every library in Cook County, so that individuals who are faced with a lawsuit that they have to file a response, can do it on evenings and weekends, they don’t have to take time off of work. They can go down, and we’re going to be training reference librarians who understand the electronic filing system, and will be able to provide assistance, showing individuals how they can upload into the system so that people can file and access 24/7.
LN: So you’ll be partnering with other governments that are there, the City of Chicago, other municipalities, to actually train their staff, so that if someone doesn’t know, they’ll have the convenience of going to their local library, instead of having to take off work to come downtown.
JM: Correct, correct. And we’ve got hundreds of libraries in this county. And they’re all potential points of access to our justice system. And as we move to an electronic system, we can increase the number of points of access, and start allowing people in their own neighborhoods to access justice. And that’s really important.
LN: What about those incarcerated that are in the Cook County jail, and what not, is there access to resources there presently?
JM: Absolutely, well absolutely. You know, one of the big problems we have is that the Illinois Department of Corrections has around 600 prisoner appeals pending in Cook County alone, where prisoners appeal their convictions. Maybe they’re trying to overturn the conviction or change the sentence. And right now, records access is so limited that some of those prisoner’s appeals have been pending for more than a year without the clerk’s office being able to get the record to the appellate court, and the appellate court can’t do anything without a record. That is a travesty. So accessing justice is important. I want to have a robust case management system so that those records are accessible, and can be assembled, and that we’re keeping complete files electronically so that they can be transmitted up to the appellate court, and won’t be getting lost.
LN: Great. Thanks for being on the show, this is really helpful.
“Wipe out court debt!” says Jacob Meister, candidate for the Cook County Clerk of Circuit Court. He has a plan to ease the crushing burden of fines, fees, and forfeitures. Check out this video to learn more about his solutions.
Debt forgiveness is now one of the most popular presidential campaign promises but what does it mean on the local level. What does debt forgiveness mean for the City of Chicago taxpayers?
Enigma Forensics President & CEO Lee Neubecker interviews Jacob Meister, who is running for the office of Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court. Lee is interested to learn more about what are Jacob’s plans regarding debt forgiveness.
Part 3 of our 4-Part Series on the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court, Jacob Meister
Part 3 of our 4-Part Series on Jacob Meister
Lee Neubecker: Hi, I have Jacob Meister back to my show, Jacob thanks for coming.
Jacob Meister: Well, thank you for having me Lee.
LN: Jacob’s running for Cook County Clerk of the court. And we’re going to talk today a little bit about some things that have been trending in the news related to debt forgiveness. From the federal student loan debt, there have been talks about wiping out the debt owned, lots of people are concerned over medical-related debt. But now there’s been some, some calls by one of the candidates running, requesting that we just wipe away the Quartet. And I wanted to get your feedback on what the problem is there, and what do you think the solution is?
JM: Well, for years, I have been an advocate for easing the burden with court fees that are charged to litigants, fines, and forfeitures that go through the clerk’s office. The clerk is required to collect fines, fees, and forfeitures that are implemented usually by statute, or by sometimes by the court rules themselves. But what we see is a tremendous economic cost and social injustice that’s done. So just imagine you’re a single mother who’s been evicted from your apartment or your home. And you in order, you get a summons from the sheriff saying you must appear or you’re going to get a default judgment entered against you. But first, you have to file an appearance and pay a fee. It’s going to be $250 to defend yourself. And if you don’t, you’re going to get defaulted. And this is a crushing burden, you know, single mother, and it can affect that anybody who’s battling an addiction, be it child custody, it could be dealing with a divorce, it could be dealing with any number of things. We need to stop placing a crushing burden on the users of the court systems and make up a system that’s available to everyone.
LN: But who decides what that fee is?
JM: that with that state legislator, and that’s the Supreme Court, and the county board. some of those fees go there too. We have to stop squeezing court users to pay these fees and start paying for it in other ways. But in any event, I have been a supporter of for instance, when people get fines if you have a fine, you know, you would support and post fine and some people can’t pay it and it becomes this burden and you get trapped and sometimes you get imprisoned. Because you can’t pay these fines that you’ve been ordered to by the court. One of the things that we that I worked on in Springfield and we need to expand is allowing people to get credit for community service so that they have if they can’t afford to pay the fines, they have a way that they can provide community service and reduce that fine over time. We have to come up we have to be better about how we handle these things. We know, we have to stop taking away people’s drivers licenses, because they can’t pay their fines because that puts them in a cycle of debt that they can never get out of, because all of a sudden, they can’t drive themselves to work, they lose their jobs.
LN: They can’t get a new job,
JM: they can’t get a new job. Exactly. So we need to ease the burden there. I will continue to work with the folks in Springfield, with the folks in Cook County government, and with the courts. I’ve got very good relations there, And I will work to make sure that social justice is being achieved, and that we’re not putting people in a vicious downward spiral of debt.
LN: So some of the efficiencies you talked about earlier about making the court more efficient. Some of those efficiencies might help to pay for some of this relief on some of the oppressed people that are really being trapped in a cycle.
JM: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s the goal is to make sure that our courts are accessible to everyone, that we’re doing justice, and that we’re achieving social justice. We’re not just trapping People in a court system and in burdensome debt.
Most voters think the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County’s office is ground zero of what’s wrong ethically in Cook County government. Candidate Jacob Meister vows to clean up the office and deliver much needed ethical reform.
Enigma Forensics President & CEO Lee Neubecker interviews Jacob Meister, who is running for the office of Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court. Lee is interested to learn more about what Jacob Meister plans to do in his first 90 days in office.
View Part 2 of our 4-Part Series on Jacob Meister, Candidate for Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court
The Video Transcript follows
Lee Neubecker: Hi, I have Jacob Meister, who’s running for Cook County Clerk of the Court. He’s back on my show today. Jacob, thanks for coming back on.
Jacob Meister: Thank you for having me.
LN: So, as a candidate for Cook County Clerk of the Court, which is one of the largest court systems in the U.S., what do you see as your top priority in your first 90 days in terms of fixing a big problem that needs to be addressed?
JM: Well, the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County’s office is ground zero of what’s wrong ethically in Cook County government, you know? The voters in recent years have elected a new Cook County Assessor, Fritz Kaegi, a new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, and have made clear that they demand ethical reform, in government, and the Clerk of the Circuit Court is ground zero of what needs to be fixed. This is an office that for decades and decades has been plagued with political patronage, political workers getting jobs at the public expense in order to do political work. We have to stop that, and in my first months in office, I want to make sure that we are cleaning up the office to make sure that we are delivering taxpayers value for their money and that employees are dedicated first, foremost and exclusively to serving the public interest in the clerk’s office. We cannot get over the operational problems that this office has until we first clean up the ethical issues. So, I want to make sure that the patronage in the office comes to an end. That we comply, there’s currently a federal decree, it’s called the Shakman Decree, that the office is under that requires patronage to hiring, to not be done by patronage. I want to make sure that people are promoted from within, not given these political jobs where employees are beholden to the party machine.
LN: Great, well, thanks for being on the show, Jacob.
Meet Jacob Meister candidate for Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court that oversees the second-largest court system in the United States. Jacob vows to improve and better manage over 400 judges in 14 different court locations all around Cook County.
The Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court is one of those offices that is not well known but is extremely important in the operation of one of the nation’s largest court systems. The Cook County Circuit Court is the second-largest court system in the United States. The Clerk of the Circuit Court is responsible for overseeing all the court records for many courts including small claims, chancery, civil, law, probate, child support enforcement, traffic, and criminal courts. There are over 400 judges in 14 different court locations all around Cook County.
In this video, Lee Neubecker interviews Jacob Meister, a candidate for the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court. Jacob Meister has been a practicing attorney in Chicago for 29 years. In his law practice, he has been a near-daily user of the Cook County Court system and he has experienced firsthand the tragically antiquated and inefficient operation of the Clerk of the Circuit Court’s office. Jacob Meister shares how he intends to reform the antiquated system, create a better judicial management workflow with transparency, efficiency and while running the office in an ethical manner.
Part 1 of our 4-Part Series on Meet Jacob Meister Candidate for the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court
The Video Transcript for What Does the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Do?
Lee Neubecker: Today I have on my show, Jacob Meister. Jacob’s running for Cook County Clerk of the Court. And he’s come on today to tell us all a little bit about what the Clerk of the Court does and what their role is. Thank you for being on the show.
Jacob Meister: Well, thank you for having me on, Lee. The Clerk of the Circuit Court is one of those offices that are not really well known but is extremely important in the operation of our courts. The Cook County Clerk oversees the second-largest court system in the United States. We have over 400 judges in 14 different court locations all around Cook County. And the Clerk of the Court is the chief operating officer effectively of the courts, overseeing everything from all the court records to staffing the courtrooms, the Court Clerk’s who take your oath when you go testify and then all of the intake and the counters. And they also oversee things like child support, about a half a billion dollars a year in fines, fees, and forfeitures. They handle all the accounting so that when a fine is paid, it goes to the right municipality or to the state or to whoever is entitled to that money for the fines. So it’s very important. The Clerk’s office is currently occupied, as you may know by Dorothy Brown. She’s retiring after 20 years. And we really need to rethink how the Clerk’s office works. I personally am the only one in the race who has actually practiced for 29 years in the Circuit Court of Cook County and made a career of it. And it’s an office that’s broken. It’s broken ethically and operationally. We still, unfortunately, as judges and lawyers hand write out orders in triplicate using carbon paper. And for a court system that has a million and a half cases pending, that means millions and millions and millions of pieces of paper just in court orders. We can do better. We have to do better. The private industry long ago automated, implemented technology. We need to do the same thing in courts. And let me just give you a couple of examples of the real-life consequences of what happens because of our broken technology. We have about 600 prisoners right now in the Cook County or in the state of Illinois prison system who have appealed their convictions and their convictions for more than a year, cannot move forward because the Clerk’s office has lost the paperwork. And this has been pretty widely reported on. But the other things are that you know, people end up getting evicted, they have child custody issues, they sit in the Cook County jail because our current system can’t get paperwork where it needs to be. It doesn’t have good auditing standards, accounting standards. We need to do better because it affects substantial justice.
LN: So will you put computers into the courtroom with printers so that the documents are being captured instantly, electronically?
JM: Well, it’s actually beyond that. So you’ve got two kinds of systems. You’ve got one system which is, a filing system. And right now, we are in the process of moving over so that when people file paperwork, it gets filed electronically. But the second system, which is yet to come is a case management system. So once those documents have been filed, we need a way to index everything. The current Clerk’s office runs on a DOS-based system that was implemented in the 1990s and it’s just an index system. But court systems all around the country have very robust case management systems that outline exactly what’s going on in the case. And instead of having written orders, you do digital orders so that, so that those digital orders, are called minute orders, are captured right in the courtroom, real-time, by the Court Clerks, noting such things as the next court date or what happened in the court, in the court hearing. There’s still going to be a percentage of things that need to be done on paper and then uploaded as PDFs but we can probably capture about 80% of our orders fully digitized so that there is no paper but goes in digitally. And that is a great first step and it helps eliminate errors. It makes sure that there’s a clear record that’s available, it needs to be available. Web-based from outside the court system too so the lawyers and judges-
LN: So you mean you had to come down on a cold Chicago day
LN: to stand in line. To pay your money, to make your photocopy and then schlep back.
JM: Correct. I mean, right now, they’ve got electronic filing so we file, we’re required to file digitally but if you want to get a copy of what’s been filed digitally in a case, you actually have to travel to a court location, print it out hard copy, pay for the hard copy and then, of course, I go back and scan it back into the system. It’s not available web-based. It’s not web-based for download, just like the rest of the world works and that’s a problem.
LN: There are systems out there though, commercial systems out there that are designed to snap in and take care of that, correct?
JM: Correct, there are case management systems that are in use. Cook County has a tremendously complex court system with lots of divisions and different sections all over the county so we need to be very highly customized. Cook County has committed to about 36 million dollars towards a new case management system. Problem is, they want to use an off the shelf software. They tried rolling them out in the criminal division back in November. It is fraught with problems. There hasn’t been proper training for the users. Actually, the judges and lawyers and others, including the Sheriff’s Department, the State’s attorney, all of the stakeholders in the system haven’t been consulted with bringing that onboard and so as a result, we’ve got a system that is at risk of just being shelved and not used any longer because it’s just fraught with problems and errors and lack of user training. We need to do a better job. We need to train people. We need to consult with all the end-users to make sure that our case management system meets the workflow of the courts, not the other way around and our current Clerk has tried to implement it in a way to say, “Here’s a system we’re going to use. Figure out how to organize your court system around our computer system.” That’s the tail wagging on the dog.
LN: So as a reformer, you really plan to make changes to speed up and get rid of the backlog of cases that currently jam up the court.
JM: Yeah, well, right now, we’ve got a huge backlog as I mentioned in the Appellate Court. You’ve got a huge backlog because the Circuit Court’s not transmitting proper records up to the Appellate Court so you got a huge backlog in the Appellate Court and you end up having a much slower process at the Circuit Court level because it’s all based on our old paper system movement of files from courts to warehouses, back to the courts, back and forth. Things are lost.
LN: That creates lots of jobs, right?
JM: Well, that is really, you know, we’ve got a very unfortunate patronage problem in the Clerk’s office. Clerk’s office has about 1500 employees and there’s a tremendous amount of political patronage that’s controlled by the party machine. The old way of doing business. We can’t afford to do that anymore. We got to deliver good value to the taxpayers, particularly as we move to electronic systems. It’s no longer a system that can operate with paper where somebody’s job is to stamp paper and then move the pile over to somebody else to stamp something else. It’s now a much more technical job so we need to make sure we’re doing a better, making sure we’re doing a better job of training Clerk staff so that they can digitally record minute orders as I talked about. Make sure that our court records are being kept but that is going to require a lot of training. I have had discussions with the city colleges of Chicago and some of our community colleges to having a new program, a certificate in paralegals, a paralegal certificate for Cook County Courtroom management.
LN: Take the staff and put them through there to actually take the people that are there and make them more efficient by investing in their training.
JM: Correct, correct. So they’d have paralegal certificates in Cook County Courtroom management and that would make sure our systems are very uniform and automated so that everybody who interfaces with the court can rest assured that our court system’s going to operate transparently and efficiently. And so we need to do that, our employees deserve it and I think the public deserves the transparency that that would bring.
LN: Well, thanks for being on the show, Jacob. This has been really great.
JM: Well, thank you for having me. Happy to come back on again.