Clerk’s Office failure to comply with the law puts survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault at risk.

(Chicago, IL) July 31, 2020 — Legal Aid Chicago attorneys Benna Crawford and Miriam Hallbauer filed a complaint for mandamus against the Clerk of the Circuit Court on Thursday, July 30, 2020.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Legal Aid Chicago has witnessed a dramatic increase in domestic violence coupled with a similarly dramatic decrease in resources available to survivors of domestic violence. In this landscape, the Clerk’s Office’s failure to meet its statutory duties, places survivors choosing to seek court protection at further risk.

Since the courts closed in March, the Clerk’s Office has failed to meet its legal duty to provide survivors with copies of their Orders of Protection (OPs) immediately after they were granted. They’ve also failed to send those orders to the Cook County Sheriff for entry into their Law Enforcement Agency Data System in a timely manner. Both of these actions are a crucial component to the life-saving protection such orders provide and are required by law.

It is critical for the Clerk’s office to transmit copies of OPs to the Sheriff’s office because if there is a violation of an order of protection, law enforcement cannot correctly respond if this documentation does not appear in their system. In the complaint filed on Thursday, Legal Aid Chicago cites a case where the Clerk’s Office took seven days to send an OP to the Sheriff. Had a 911 call been placed to report a violation during that week, the Sheriff would have had no proof that the order even existed and may have been unable to respond appropriately. Also, it took eight days for the Clerk to send the survivor a copy of the order, which meant that she would have nothing to show the Sheriff that she’d filed an order of protection.

“The most dangerous time for a survivor of abuse is when they try to leave.” Benna Crawford, Director of the Children and Families Practice Group, said. “The legal protections in protective orders become meaningless if neither they nor the police have the order. Clerk Brown must provide her front-line staff with the resources needed to comply with her duty to provide orders to survivors and law enforcement immediately.”

This case is one example that reflects current administrative practices of the Clerk’s Office that are detrimental to the lives of survivors of domestic violence and abuse. Legal Aid Chicago’s family law team made repeated attempts to reconcile these issues with the Clerk’s Office before filing the complaint, but with no success. Hours and hours of staff time have been dedicated to getting copies of 40 orders that were submitted in the first three weeks of July. Letters and conversations have occurred between both offices, and promises of timely submission have been made, but orders are still currently missing.

Legal Aid Chicago works tirelessly to protect survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault from the systemic issues that create trauma and put their lives at additional risk. The hope is that the Clerk’s office takes steps to fix protocols and ensure that people no longer have to wade through institutional complexities of our legal system and still not receive the protection that they need and deserve.

Please see the attachment for the complaint filed.

Visit www.legalaidchicago.org for more information on our work and services.

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About:

Legal Aid Chicago, the lead organization on this proposal, seeks justice for people living in poverty. Through litigation and advocacy, our 150-person team of full-time lawyers and staff fight to secure individual rights to protection from abuse, economic stability, basic healthcare, fair working conditions, and access to affordable and safe housing. It is our vision that poverty will not impede justice. Our goal is for laws and legal systems to be open and equally effective for all who need their protection, especially those who experience unfair and disproportionately unjust treatment due to personal or community characteristics.

 

MEDIA CONTACT FOR:

Legal Aid Chicago

Shannon Jones (She, Her, Hers)

Director of Development and Communications, External Relations

E: sjones@legalaidchicago.org

P: 312.347.8370