Winnebago County Rejects a Revenue Neutral Solution and Chooses Litigation

August 1, 2017 – Today, Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan filed case number 2017MR658 in the Circuit Court of Winnebago County, to seek enforcement of certain orders I entered compelling the County Board to meet its minimum statutory and constitutional obligations to fund the operations of the Court.

It has become clear that the Court and the County Board have very different ideas about the Board’s fundamental legal responsibility to provide adequate funding for the operation of the Courts and our duty to fulfill our Constitutional obligations and provide access to justice.  

Recently, the Board considered a proposal that would have eliminated the need for this litigation by moving readily available funds from other line items in the Court's budget to meet the needs now being addressed by this complaint; in other words, a solution that would have involved spending zero additional new dollars for the Court. For reasons I cannot explain, the Board rejected this proposal and has chosen litigation instead. 

The Court's independence is grounded upon the separation of powers doctrine that requires the Board fund items reasonably necessary to ensure the Court’s viability and effectiveness, and it is the Board's duty to provide the needed resources to enable the Court to fulfill its statutory and Constitutional obligations. 

The Board's action leaves the Court no other option but to proceed with this suit in order to have a neutral arbiter decide whether the Board's view or the Court's view is the correct one. The matter will be decided by a judge from outside of this Circuit to be appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court. The good news here-if there is any good news-is that this suit should resolve the parties’ differences. With that answer ultimately in hand, it is our hope that the Board will commit to accept the final outcome of this suit and move forward productively.    

 

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