Chief Judge of the Cook County Circuit Court, Timothy C. Evans, issued General Administrative Order No. 2013-11 yesterday in response to a Chicago Appleseed investigation that uncovered a practice where judges were denying defendants a public defender without the required indigence hearing. The Chief Judge’s order and accompanying memoranda, available here, require the courts to conduct hearings on indigence based on the required financial affidavits and in line with Illinois statute and federal constitutional law.
The Chicago Appleseed investigation done in collaboration with the Chicago Council of Lawyers, mentioned previously on this blog here, uncovered a practice where judges routinely denied public defenders to defendants simply because they had posted bond and not upon a statutorily required indigence hearing. Furthermore, in cases where a public defender was assigned, the public defender’s office would often be reimbursed from the defendant’s bond money on a motion by the assistant state’s attorney – also without an underlying indigence hearing.
Essentially this practice forces defendants to choose between pre-trial freedom and a public defense and is in clear violation of Illinois statute and jurisprudence, as well as the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
We reported our findings to Chief Judge Evans and worked closely with his office in developing solutions to this problem. Available here is our memorandum and draft general order we submitted on June 14 to the Chief Judge’s office for his consideration.
We commend Chief Judge Evans for taking this major step in combatting this problem and for bringing Cook County back into compliance with state and federal law.
Though this represents a major victory for us, for Cook County, and for the indigent, our work is not done. Our investigation revealed that this phenomenon is both routine and widespread and in order to make sure the order is adhered to there is a need for a monitoring program. We invite our partners to help us develop such a program.
And again, we commend Chief Judge Evans for his swift and thoughtful response to this problem.