Statement of the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender Regarding Illinois Answers Project Article on Circuit Clerk’s Publication of Confidential Juvenile Court Records

On January 25, 2024, the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender notified the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Iris Y. Martinez, and her staff that her Office had publicly exposed confidential juvenile records via their recently launched criminal case records search function on their website.  

The exposure of these juvenile records clearly violates the Juvenile Court Act, which provides that all juvenile case information must be kept confidential.  

The existence of juvenile records on the Clerk’s public facing website was discovered by our Office and at least one member of the private criminal defense bar. Upon discovering this, we immediately notified the Circuit Clerk’s Office. In response, they acknowledged the mistake and removed the search function from the website. The Circuit Clerk's Office now claims that the records were exposed on an internal testing site via a link provided only to the Law Office, not a public site. That is simply untrue.  

A member of the media later inquired with the Law Office about the juvenile records exposure and submitted a FOIA request for our communications notifying the Clerk’s Office of the breach. Following the FOIA, the Law Office was interviewed and described the improper publication of juvenile case information as disastrous, as quoted in the resulting article. The reporter also inquired about other errors in records management, including the Circuit Clerk’s Office’s continued practice of wrongly recording individuals as having felony convictions despite their successful completion of court diversion programs, as reported by WBEZ. 

The Law Office has an ethical duty to protect the confidentiality of all our clients – especially children, whose records are sealed and confidential under Illinois law. It was that duty that led us to contact the Circuit Clerk’s Office about the improper publication of juvenile records. Any allegations that we provided confidential information to a reporter are not true. Any allegations that our critiques of the Circuit Clerk’s Office’s records management deficiencies are politically motivated are also untrue. The Circuit Clerk's repeated negligence is the cause of this news story. 

The Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender remains committed to fighting for a criminal legal system that is fairer, more equitable, and more transparent. Politics do not motivate us – justice does.