For many years, Circuit Court of Cook County Rule 13.11 has addressed civility. However, Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans would like to take it further, tackling discrimination and harassment in Cook County’s courts.

Chief Judge Evans is inviting comments and suggestions regarding proposed amendments to Cook County Circuit Court Rule 13.11 Civility. The Rule falls under Part 13. Domestic Relations Proceedings.

Any comments should be forwarded to Chief Judge Evans at timothy.evans@cookcountyil.gov no later than March 25, 2022.

Discrimination and harassment in Illinois

The legal profession continues to struggle with instances of discrimination and harassment, and the environment in Illinois is no different. This behavior has the potential to not only inhibit the well-being, advancement, and job satisfaction of the individuals targeted but can be detrimental to organizations and the profession as a whole.

The Commission on Professionalism’s 2021 Survey on Professionalism, which explored experiences with incivility among Illinois lawyers, found that reported instances of incivility tied to age (+13%), sex (+10%), and race (+5%) had grown significantly since 2014.

Moreover, while the vast majority of respondents (83%) said their workplace cultivates a culture where people of all backgrounds are welcomed and valued, some organizations are falling short on action. Just 63% of respondents said their organization always takes strict action against intolerance and discrimination.

When it comes to sexual harassment, a particular area the 2021 survey explored, 41% of practitioners reported that their workplace doesn’t conduct sexual harassment training or that they’re unaware of these trainings.

And, when reporting sexual harassment concerns or complaints, 21% said they aren’t confident or are unsure their concerns would be handled in a thorough, confidential, and impartial manner.

Proposed amendments to Rule 13.11

The proposed amendments to Circuit Court of Cook County Rule 13.11 include the addition of language naming those expected to comply with the Rule, including self-represented litigants, as well as “non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies” for the Domestic Relations Division.

The proposed amendments, in part, can be found below. To review the proposed amendments in their entirety, visit the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (click here).

“In accordance with Illinois law, lawyers and parties choosing to represent themselves without a lawyer, also known as self-represented litigants, must comply with the same rules and will be held to the same standards, including those listed below.”

“(d) Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policies
It is the policy of the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County to ensure that all individuals conducting business with the Domestic Relations Division are treated in a dignified, civil, respectful and non-discriminatory manner. This policy intends to promote public confidence in the fairness and integrity of the judicial system and the judicial process and prohibits all forms of discrimination and harassment on court premises.

(i) Lawyers shall not engage in discriminatory conduct on court premises. Discriminatory conduct includes actions that cause an individual or group of individuals to be treated less favorably than another individual or group based on a person’s race, color, nationality, sex, gender (including pregnancy and postpartum), gender identity, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, disability, religion or physical characteristics.

(ii) Lawyers shall not engage in any conduct on court premises that could reasonably be interpreted as harassment. For purposes of this policy, harassment is any verbal or physical conduct and/or behavior designed to threaten, intimidate, or coerce an employee, court staff, client, lawyer, litigant, witness, or any other person involved in the case or working in or on behalf of the legal system.

The following examples of harassment are intended to be guidelines and are not exclusive when determining whether there has been a violation of this rule:

  1. Verbal harassment: Includes, but is not limited to, comments, remarks, jokes or innuendos that are offensive regarding a person’s race, color, nationality, sex, gender (including pregnancy and postpartum), gender identity, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, disability, religion or physical characteristics.
  2. Non-verbal harassment: Includes, but is not limited to, the distribution, display or discussion of any written or graphic material that ridicules, denigrates, insults, belittles or shows hostility, aversion or disrespect towards any person’s race, color, nationality, sex, gender (including pregnancy and postpartum), gender identity, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, disability, religion or physical characteristics. Also includes knowingly disregarding a person’s personal space.
  3. Sexual harassment: Includes, but is not limited to, any uninvited sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature, including uninvited touching of a person’s back, hand, arm, leg or any other part of a person’s body, and vulgar or lewd comments, jokes, noises, gestures, text messages or emails. Also includes threats by any officer of the court to recommend or propose certain outcomes in exchange for sexual favors.

(iii) Discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated on court premises. Any lawyer, employee, client, litigant, witness or any other person working in or on behalf of the legal system who believes discrimination or harassment has occurred is encouraged to report the incident to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, the Judicial Inquiry Board, law enforcement agencies, the judge presiding over the case or the Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Division, as appropriate.”

If you have questions about the amendments to Circuit Court of Cook County Rule 13.11, please reach out to Chief Judge Evans at timothy.evans@cookcountyil.gov.

Staying up to date on issues impacting the legal profession is vital to your success. Subscribe here to get the Commission’s weekly news delivered to your inbox.

Related reading:

The post Public Comment Sought for Proposed Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Amendments to Cook County Circuit Court Rule appeared first on 2Civility.

Photo of Laura Bagby Laura Bagby

Laura Bagby is Communications Director at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, where she develops and executes strategy to elevate the Commission among attorneys and judges in Illinois. Laura leverages communications channels to educate and engage with the legal community in support…

Laura Bagby is Communications Director at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, where she develops and executes strategy to elevate the Commission among attorneys and judges in Illinois. Laura leverages communications channels to educate and engage with the legal community in support of the Commission’s mission of increasing civility and professionalism to enable the administration of justice.