Cook County and its courts settle suit: Furloughs, cutbacks but no layoffs

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Cook County settled a lawsuit filed by Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans over the county’s efforts to impose layoffs, reaching an agreement that, Evans said in a statement, established that the county lacks the authority to impose layoffs of court employees.

Evans filed the lawsuit in November, contending that budget cuts demanded by the county after the controversial soda tax was repealed would have “seriously impaired” the county’s ability to accomplish bail reform by cutting positions from pretrial services.

In the settlement, the court system agreed to budget cuts that fell short of imposing layoffs, restoring $11.1 million of the $41 million that Evans had asked for in his initial complaint. Both Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Evans issued statements praising the settlement.

Instead of layoffs, the courts have agreed to eliminate 22 vacant positions at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and to close one JTDC facility; to require court employees to take 10 unpaid furlough days; and to close one branch court at 51st Street and Wentworth Avenues, and another at Belmont and Western Avenues.

“This litigation has also established that the county board has no authority to lay off court employees,” Evans said in his statement. “The county decides the funding level for the court, and the court is best suited to decide how those funds are allocated. Moving forward, that is an important precedent.”

Preckwinkle cited the agreed cutbacks in her statement and said, “We are pleased that we were able to reach this settlement for a dollar value much lower than what was initially demanded and a settlement that will promote future savings in the operations” of the courts.