On November 30, 2017, Chief Judge Timothy Evans filed a Complaint seeking enforcement of a General Administrative Order against the County. The Complaint and Administrative Order demanded funding of approximately $41 million more than the amount appropriated by the Cook County Board of Commissioners to the Circuit Court of Cook County for Fiscal Year 2018.
The County disputed Judge Evans’ Administrative Order and his findings that $41 million more were required for the offices operated under the authority of the Chief Judge.
In the interest of County taxpayers and to ensure programmatic change, we have agreed to a settlement with the Office of the Chief Judge (OCJ) based on negotiated terms, which were approved by the Board of Commissioners’ Litigation Subcommittee on April 25. The settlement calls for about $8 million in new funding and credits to the Office of the Chief Judge in Fiscal Year 18 and another $2.5 million in capital improvement funding in Fiscal Year 19.
Among key provisions of the settlement:
- Behavioral health services for resident youth at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) will be transferred to the Cook County Health and Hospitals System by September 1. The existing contract for behavioral health services with an external vendor will be terminated resulting in future savings for the County.
- Branch courts at 51st and Wentworth and Belmont and Western will be closed.
- 22 positions at the JTDC will be eliminated and one JTDC residential center will be closed as a result of sustained population reductions.
- The Anne E. Casey Foundation has been engaged by the OCJ and the County to conduct an operational and staffing study at the JTDC.
- A court utilization study is being conducted by the National Center for State Courts.
- The credits will come from a number of sources, including rent the OCJ would otherwise owe the County and anticipated revenue not expected at the time of budget passage, which is expected to cover more than one-third of the additional funding. The balance of this settlement will be drawn from the County’s self- insurance fund, which is designed to cover the costs of litigation.
We are pleased that we were able to reach this settlement for a dollar value much lower than what was initially demanded and a settlement that will promote future savings in the operations of the OCJ. Our goal in engaging in good faith negotiations was to achieve operational savings and efficiencies in return for any additional allocation to the OCJ, and we believe we have done so.
We are operating in an extremely challenging fiscal environment and all bureaus, departments and separately elected offices are experiencing budget cuts. With this settlement, the OCJ’s Fiscal Year 18 operating budget will be 5.16 percent lower than its Fiscal Year 17 operating budget and the OCJ will need to reduce its expenditures to absorb the cut. We will continue working with all officials to ensure that all functions of the County are operating efficiently and in a fiscally responsible manner while still providing essential services to our residents.