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Call it “Clerk’s Last Stand.” Or, just chalk it up to the notion that change is good. But, Cook County, Ill., Court Clerk Aurelia Pucinski’s ongoing public feud with the Cook County board and the court’s chief judge certainly was highlighted in the twilight of her 12-year regime when the outgoing clerk of the court unilaterally launched two new technology upgrades for Chicago’s legal community last week. That is, Pucinski’s office is now offering ticketed drivers the ability to pay traffic citations online and with a credit card, so long as the violation involved is eligible for the Court Diversion program. In addition, and more importantly to practicing Illinois lawyers, the clerk’s office is now proving a free case-monitoring service for attorneys. The service, powered by USCourts.com, will provide attorneys with e-mail notification of new activity in pending law and civil division cases. Noticeably absent from Pucinski’s press conference in Chicago’s Daley Center were Chief Judge Donald P. O’Connell and Cook County Board President John Stroger who were apparently not invited. “The announcement came as a surprise to everyone,” said Mike McGowan, O’Connell’s director of electronic information. “None of this had been discussed with anybody.” “Taking advantage of technology to better serve users of the court system has been one of my top priorities as clerk,” Pucinski said in a prepared statement. But Chief Judge O’Connell wanted to make an important distinction. The clerk, he said on Wednesday, has not provided “online access to court files, rather [simply] online notification of changes in cases.” Although Pucinski has not achieved her long-time goal — putting entire court files online — she has succeeded in posting case snapshots. These brief summaries of case information include information about the parties, attorneys who have appeared in the case, the case type, filing date, the ad damnum, the court involved, and the most current court date. When asked if Pucinski, who chose not to run for re-election on Nov. 7, had any concerns regarding the continuation of these features after she leaves office, spokeswoman Carolyn Barry noted that Pucinski is confident that there will be enough demand for these services to make them hard to remove once she’s gone. McGowan said there are no immediate plans to shut down Pucinski’s new services, but added, “The decision rests in the hands of the new clerk and the county board.” The board would have to approve any county funds that would be required to maintain operation. To use the new online payment feature, violators must plead guilty and accept a conviction reportable to the secretary of state or, to avoid a conviction plead guilty and attend Traffic Safety School. There is a minimum $5 fee to use this service. Cook County Board spokesman Jack Beary declined to comment on the clerk’s action.

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