Chief Judge McGraw Accuses Winnebago County of Abdicating Responsibility to Fund Courts

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17th Circuit Chief Judge Joseph McGraw has written a letter to Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney saying the county has “deliberately chosen to abdicate its legal responsibility to support our court system …”

The letter comes in the wake of disputes between the Chief Judge and county board members responsible for court funding.

Judge McGraw accuses the board of among other things refusing to fund court personnel to help maintain safety after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that juveniles cannot be shackled in court unless under extraordinary circumstances despite a proposal McGraw claims was “revenue-neutral and utilized only existing funds.”

He says the county has also refused to hire a new bailiff for a newly created judge position.

County Board members dealing with budget shortfalls have said in the past that the new positions amount to unfunded mandates for which other programs would need to be sacrificed, but in his letter, Judge McGraw contends that the Winnebago County courts have already undergone a great deal of belt tightening.

“County dollars allocated to the essential Court budgets between FY08 and FY17 have been substantially reduced,” McGraw writes.  “The most egregious example is Adult and Juvenile probation, which has seen it budget cut by 22.6% measured in real dollars.”

In his order, McGraw threatens to compel the County Treasurer to release funds to meet certain obligations.

McGraw’s full letter can be seen in the PDF document above.

More details and reaction on ‘Eyewitness News’ tonight at 5, 6, 9 and 10.

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