Iris Y. Martinez: Making The Justice System Accessible To All

IL Latino News

Judicial process refers to the legal proceedings and actions taken in a court of law. It includes all the steps in a legal case, from the initial filing of a lawsuit to the final judgment or determination.

The Clerk of the Circuit Court is the official record keeper for the courts. The circuit clerk is an integral part of the entire county governmental process. The primary duty of the circuit clerk is to assist in preparing and maintaining court records, collecting fees and fines, and processing paperwork.

The Cook County Circuit Court is the most extensive court system in Illinois and the second-largest unified court system in the world. The staff is composed of more than 14 hundred employees. Leading it all is Clerk Iris Y. Martinez, who made history when she was elected as the first Latina Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County in 2020.

Clerk Martinez was a guest on the program “3 Questions With…” hosted by Hugo Balta, publisher of IL Latino News.

Madame Clerk explained the work of the Office and highlighted some of the initiatives she has implemented, like the launch of the Customer Service Call Center in June. “We created the Call Center to streamline calls to all of the different parts of our office, to one area,” Martinez said about the challenges people had in reaching the many divisions in the Office. “We’ve seen over 1,200 phone calls on a daily basis, addressed 77,000 people, 200 different languages.”

She also spoke about expungements and the sealing of records. “I met this young man who said to me, “I did something when I was 18 years old,” he’s now thirty-something, it came back to haunt him when he applied for a job,” she recalled about a person who participated in an expungement petition drive that the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County co-hosts with faith-based organizations. The Office also leads forums to inform and educate the public about the complicated process of expungements. “We are teaming up with pastors that are very in touch with the community that need these services,” Martinez said about the collaboration it takes to help people get their paperwork to file their application.

SUGGESTION: Expungement Event Attracts Community Members Looking To Clear Their Record

Clerk Martinez said that her family is a source of inspiration fueling her passion to serve the public. “One of the things that my father and grandmother were about was helping people,” she recalled. “I used to go around with him (father) to deliver food or help people find jobs.” Martinez credits growing up in a household where caring for the community was a staple for her, leading her to a career in public service.

“I see it up close and personal,” Martinez said about how she and her team engage with residents through Clerk in the Community (CIC), a program that brings services from the seven district offices to where the public lives. “I am hands-on, being part of the decision-making when it comes to what is the best thing we can do to offer these resources and how much more can we expand to make sure that people are getting the very best of government.”

CIC is also a program on CAN-TV. Watch new episodes every month by clicking HERE.

Clerk Martinez’s time as an elected official began in January 2003, when she was sworn in as the first Latina elected to the Illinois State Senate, representing the people of the 20th Legislative District.

“3 Questions With…” is co-produced by the Latino News Network (LNN), an independent, multimedia digital news outlet with local newsrooms in the Northeast and Midwest, including IL Latino News  and CAN TV, Chicago’s hub for community centric news, hyperlocal stories and educational resources.

Editor’s Notes: Hugo Balta is the Deputy Public Information Officer in the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

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