The next OpenGov Chicago Meetup: Local Court Data

opengovchicagoAt the next OpenGov Chicago meetup, set for Wednesday, June 17, 2015, we will learn about the Chicago Justice Project’s (CJP) ongoing engagement with the Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Timothy Evans. Here’s the description of the evening, as written by CJP’s Executive Director, Tracy Siska:

CJP’s engagement is seeking to open access to all the data created by the Court since they started collecting the data in the 1980s (the courts have told CJP they started collecting data either in 1980 or 1988). This means that when approved CJP would receive about 30 years of Court data. CJP requested all the data maintained by the Clerk’s Office on each criminal case filed, appropriately de-identified. To give you some idea how much data we are talking about here are some facts about the Cook County Justice System:

• The Circuit Court of Cook County is the largest unified court system in the US

• The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutors office in the US

• The Cook County Jail is the largest jail in the country

This is not a onetime release! CJP is seeking an agreement that would require regular updates of court data be released on an ongoing basis moving forward removing all the current barriers to this data.

Of course, since the Court maintains ownership over the data, but does not maintain the data, the approval by Judge Evans of any request seeking access to court data is only the first step. The second step is having the data released by the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court, Dorothy Brown’s Office. It took CJP 27 months to get access to the 5 years of conviction data that was the basis of the Convicted in Cook Project.

CJP anticipates significant resistance from the Clerk’s Office to this request. This is the beginning of CJP’s outreach to see if we can build a community of people that will help CJP advocate for the fulfillment of this agreement.

Tracy Siska, Executive Director of the Chicago Justice Project, will talk about CJP’s efforts in more detail and what it will take to get the Court and Clerk to fulfill their request.

We’ll also cover the results of Smart Chicago’s recent PACER postcard campaign, where we helped send dozens of postcards to Chief Judge Ruben Castillo of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Illinois, asking him to look into issues with PACER , the system run by the federal judiciary that provides access to court dockets.

As part of OpenGovChicago efforts to focus on participation— thinking of government as “us” more than “them”— we are inviting hundreds of people who make up student law groups in Chicago-based law schools. If you know anyone who cares about open government and local court data, let them know about this night and register for the event here.