Clerk of the Circuit Court Iris Y. Martinez: Transparency To Protect Communities


Jose Alvarez, the Little Village resident accused of fatally shooting his wife and daughter, and wounding his son is expected back in court on July 26.

Below is an opinion editorial by Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Iris Y. Martinez.

This week, the Chicago Tribune published an article by Laura Rodriguez Presa that provided the horrific details of the murder of Karina Gonzalez and her daughter in a domestic violence incident with her husband and the father of her children. He also shot their son, who thankfully survived and is reported to be recovering. Ms. Gonzalez’ story is heartbreaking.

Victims will not trust a system that will not protect them. Without the bravery of those who file protective and firearm restraining orders, both law enforcement and the court system do not have the tools to protect victims of abuse, their children, co-workers, neighbors, and communities. Many victims will never have the chance to become survivors.

Domestic violence incidents (as well as the increase in mass shootings) highlight the need for more use of our “red flag” laws, which are orders that allow law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from an individual that poses a threat to themselves or others. Increased use would also provide situational awareness and increased safety for all criminal justice partners involved in the process. Waiting until a domestic situation escalates to a 911 call endangers everyone involved.

Although my office does not generally serve orders nor can my office arrest perpetrators, I am committed to providing the leadership needed to pursue a proactive approach for increased education and prevention. To begin, we will expand our law enforcement trainings on how to serve protective orders to augment the current system. We will provide information on how to seek these orders and ensure cultural competency and language assistance is available, and we will connect those seeking protective orders to critical support services.

I invite every stakeholder, advocacy group, and community provider to collaborate with us to increase access to housing, job placements, language assistance, mental health care, and other holistic services for victims, survivors, and their families.

During my first term as Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, my administration has worked tirelessly to automate the two most antiquated, court record systems in the country. The two massive court systems, criminal and civil, required millions upon millions of files to be digitized and filed. This transformed the court systems top to bottom, and I am so proud of the work we have accomplished.

Besides efficiency in government, why is this important to all citizens?

Because the transparency we can now provide to the public will lead to impactful changes and contribute to the improvement of our public safety and health in Cook County.

Those in the legal profession appreciate the ability to file cases online, but the biggest impacts of these efforts are still in progress. Previously, the lack of available information from our court systems impacted everything from research opportunities to the ability of our community providers to acquire grant funding and other financial supports due to the lack of data available. It is now time to leverage these efforts to collaborate, innovate and improve public service to our citizens. This work is imperative, and to begin, we will be focusing on some of our most vulnerable populations: those who are filing protective orders and firearm restraining orders.

In the fall, I will be in Springfield armed with new data, fighting for further reforms to our laws and proposing legislation to safeguard our communities.

My message to those who are struggling today with any form of abuse is one of hope. There are many survivors thriving in our communities, and I am committed to providing a pathway forward for you and your loved ones to be safe.

On November 3, 2020, Clerk Iris Y. Martinez made history when elected as the first Latina Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, the largest of the 24 judicial circuits in Illinois as well as one of the largest unified court systems in the world.

Since the Clerk took office on December 1, 2020, she has centered efforts on the statutory duties and responsibilities of the Office while supporting her mission to update and increase the use of technology, transform operations, and increase transparency while providing the proper COVID-19 safeguards at all our locations for our employees and constituents. 

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