Iris Y. Martinez: 2024 candidate for Cook County circuit court clerk


Party: Democrat

Office Sought: Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County

City: Chicago

Age: 68

Occupation: Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County

Previous offices held: State Senator, 20th Legislative District of Illinois, 2003-2020

Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?

I am running for reelection to continue to reform the Cook County Court system and ensure transparency and access to justice for all Cook County residents. I made history when I was elected as the first Latina Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, overseeing one of the largest unified court systems in the world. Since taking office, I have focused on updating and increasing the use of innovative technology to automate the systems and to provide transparency to the citizens of Cook County. Digital record-keeping improves operational considerations, provides insight and data regarding our justice system, and has brought the office into the 21st century. Leveraging this work to improve our public safety and health are the issues that motivated my decision to seek reelection.

If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the job and what would your priority be?

Some of the initiatives that my administration accomplished since I took office in December of 2020 include: The digitization of 70 million court records via e-filing and a manual process. The automation of the second-largest, unified court system in the world. We opened a Domestic Violence Survivor Center to provide a safe space to assist those seeking protections from the court system. I worked with the General Assembly to protect the identities of sex crime victims via legislation that I proposed. In 2021, l led the efforts for this legislation to be signed into law.

On November 21, 2022, our office achieved “substantial compliance” and the long-standing, federal Shakman consent decree was ended due to the drastic reforms I implemented. I inherited 5,600 backlogged expungement requests, and there are now less than 100 waiting to be approved by the Judiciary.

Describe your position regarding the allocation of resources in the clerk of the circuit court's office. Is technology up to date? Are personnel allocated as they should be? Are there capital expense or other budgetary items that the office must address, and, if so, how do you propose to address them?

During my first term, we have automated the second largest court system in the world and introduced technology into every courtroom in Cook County. We have reallocated staff members to meet the needs of our citizens, including opening a Call Center to provide remote assistance with court cases that has helped over 319,279 callers since December 2022, opening a Domestic Violence Center, and this week, we opened the doors to our new Expungement Center at the Criminal Court Building. This new endeavor will assist those seeking to expunge their records, who years after their sentence have not been rearrested. Expungements allow for better job, housing, and educational opportunities, and are proven to reduce crime. All these services are saving and changing lives with positions that used to just push paper. I am very proud of my staff and the important work that they do. With a digitized system and new technology, we have been able to better meet the needs of our citizens.

Describe your position on transparency in the office and the ease of access to records by the public. If you believe improvements are needed, what are they and how would you go about achieving them?

Although my efforts to provide transparency have received pushback on all levels, we now have case information from the Cook County Court Systems available to the public on my website: We have collaborated to ensure that best practices have been incorporated into all planning, and we have partnered with experts from the University of Chicago and Northwestern to help guide future efforts to provide analysis and initiatives to better serve the public. The system is paid for by taxpayers, who deserve answers about their public safety. Reforms should be measured by data, not conjecture or hashtags.

What makes you the best candidate to represent your party to seek this position?

I am an Independent Democrat who is not endorsed by or beholden to machine politics. I truly believe there needs to be an advocate at the table that is working for the citizens, not party politics. During my first term, we automated the second largest unified court system in the world which had previously only used paper. This project had been ongoing for 20 years, and we digitized 70 million records and completed the project in three years.

I remain passionate about our office’s ability to create meaningful change in Cook County. With automation, we can now better inform our criminal justice, law enforcement, and community partners about what is taking place in our court systems and use this work to proactively identify who is most in need of services, while also working to improve public safety. Before I took office, the criminal justice system lacked any transparency. Without transparency, there is no accountability, which is why having an independent Clerk is so important.

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