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updated: 12/2/2011 5:45 PM

Spence wants Kane courts to run 'efficiently'

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  • Robert Spence

      Robert Spence

 
 

After 10 years on the bench, Robert Spence will move to a new role Monday, his first full day on the job as Chief Judge for the 16th Judicial Circuit.

Spence was elected by his colleagues to a two-year term; he'll replace Judge F. Keith Brown, who will go back to hearing civil cases at the Geneva courthouse.

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"My goal is to try and make things run as efficiently as we can," said Spence, a Batavia resident who was a prosecutor in Kane and DuPage counties.

Two ways to achieve that are working to move cases through the system and keeping the county jail population in check by working to set reasonable bonds so people charged with relatively minor crimes aren't taking up space that could be used to house more dangerous defendants, Spence said.

A seventh felony courtroom will open Monday to help expedite cases.

Spence also plans to have a centralized bond call at the Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles, and have the judge address defendants from Aurora and Elgin via closed circuit camera.

Authorities now have the ability to do that for arrestees at the Aurora police station and hope to have a video feed established for Elgin in a few months.

"We're not quite there but that's what we're shooting for," Spence said.

Spence will have a judge hear bond call twice a day in St. Charles.

Another task that will demand attention from Spence and other court officials is replacing the county's outdated case management system.

The current system is outdated and requires clerks and law enforcement to input the same data several times. The inability to search through data efficiently has jeopardized state grants, and the system can sometimes result in delays for law enforcement to get crucial information.

Some estimates have pegged a new system to cost $12.6 million; officials have formed a standing committee of county board members, the county board chairman, members of the court system, the sheriff, circuit clerk and an at-large public representative, to investigate a new system.

"It's not cheap that's for sure. But I don't think we even have a good handle on the price. There's a wide variance," Spence said, noting the committee is a good starting point. "We're badly in need of a new docketing system. That's something that has to be done."

The judicial circuit also will get smaller while Spence is chief judge. Next December, DeKalb and Kendall counties will leave the 16th Circuit and form the new 23rd Judicial Circuit. The move, which was made because of growing populations in those counties, won't affect day-to-day operations in Kane County.

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