The next Cook County Circuit Court clerk will inherit a mess.
This office is responsible for retaining every court record and making these records accessible to judges, lawyers and the general public. It has been so poorly run that people have sat in jail for months because of misplaced files. Lawyers have complained that files are incomplete; information goes missing.
Other county court systems have fully digital operations. Cook County still pushes a lot of paper.
But now the good news: This is an open seat in the 2020 elections. The incumbent clerk, Dorothy Brown, is stepping down. That means Cook County voters have their best chance in two decades to put somebody in the job who will bring the office into the 21st century.
It’s a massive undertaking, one that we believe lawyer Michael Cabonargi of Wilmette is best qualified to handle. He is endorsed in the March 17 Democratic primary.
Since 2011, Cabonargi has been a commissioner at the Cook County Board of Review, the office that reviews property assessment appeals in Cook County. He had a big role in modernizing that agency’s operations.
When he does community outreach, Cabonargi provides appeal forms in Spanish, Polish, Korean and Mandarin. He has Spanish, Polish and Mandarin speakers on his staff.
At the time Cabonargi joined the board of review, it was a paper-based system. The process became far more efficient when it moved online.
The great majority of appeals at the board of review now are filed electronically. The circuit court clerk’s office sorely needs a similar overhaul.
Under Brown, the clerk’s office has been a center of scandals. In December, for instance, one of Brown’s top aides was sentenced to two years in prison for lying to a federal grand jury that had been investigating Brown. Brown was not charged.
Cabonargi has excellent credentials. In addition to his experience on the board of review, he is a former federal prosecutor who investigated corruption while working at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Our one reservation with respect to Cabonargi is that he has strong ties to the old-school Democratic organization. He is vice chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois. We’re pretty sure the party bosses are counting on him to protect some 1,400 jobs.
We’re counting on him to make the circuit court clerk’s office work.
Also running are former Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, state Sen. Iris Martinez, and lawyer and civil rights advocate Jacob Meister.
For more information about this race and others, including candidate questionnaires, go to our Illinois primary voting guide. Our newspaper is owned by a group of civic-minded and, in some cases, politically active investors; for details, see our owner information page.
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