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#423 The Circuit: Decoding the Cook County Court System


Casey Toner, BGA Reporter
Jared Rutecki, BGA Data Coordinator
John Chase, BGA Director of Investigations
Amanda Miley, Injustice Watch Development Director
Emily Hoerner, Injustice Watch Reporter
Bea Malsky, Former DataMade Developer

More than 3 million criminal cases were filed in Cook County between 2000 and 2018. That’s more than 400 cases per day. In a first-of-its-kind project, Chicago news nonprofits the Chicago Reporter, Injustice Watch and the Better Government Association teamed up with civic tech firm DataMade to collect and analyze these records from the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County’s mainframe computer system.

So far, this collaboration, known as The Circuit, produced a data visualization to illustrate the rise and fall of these criminal cases and published two stories that explore a little known legal motion that allows attorneys to ask for new judges. Informed by the data, these stories shine a spotlight on the judge attorneys want to least appear before as well as a judge who went from having the most bench trials for sex cases to none at all following his unusual decision to reverse a jury verdict.

In this presentation, members of the team will discuss the partnership, scraping and refining the data, and using this information for the purpose of journalism.

ASL This event will not have an American Sign Language interpreter.