Cook County Court Clerk eyes return of online docket after month-long outage

WGN Investigates

For more than four weeks, key components of the website for the Clerk County Circuit Court have remained largely inaccessible to the public.

The county’s online docket and case management system were taken offline in mid-August after a glitch was discovered, severely limiting the online court resources and information available to the public and attorneys.

First-term Cook County Clerk of Court Iris Martinez said the glitch — which redirected users to an “NFL-related” website — did not involve ransomware and did not expose anyone’s personal information, but her office opted to take the resources offline for several weeks as tech specialists worked to shore up security measures.

“One of our programmers here saw it, said ‘something here is wrong,’ and when we discovered it, we kinda shut it down right away just to make sure, to find out to what extent, what kind of damage was out there,” Martinez said in an interview with WGN Investigates. “Happy to say there was nothing other than that.”

The clerk’s office made employees available to assist the public over the phone and via email, but the quick access to court information — hearing dates, courtroom locations and contact information for other parties — remained elusive.

The online services were re-launched Tuesday, though their search functions weren’t yet fully operational.

Martinez said that her office took advantage of the time that the services were down “and now we are building, rebuilding, that system to be a stronger and, hopefully, not have this issue ever come up again.”

Veteran Chicago attorney Harold Wallin said that the clerk’s office website is normally where he and scores of other local attorneys go to find necessary court forms and other pertinent information.

However, he said, those who represent themselves in court without an attorney were in a far more difficult spot.

“They’re in a much worse position because most attorneys at least have access to either they can contact other attorneys or maybe they have older versions of those forms on their computers, but someone who’s pro se doesn’t have access,” Wallin said. “It’s not good during a pandemic, that’s for sure.”

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