Winnebago County Settles With Circuit Court Over Funding

Apr 27, 2018

17th Circuit Court Chief Judge Eugene Doherty
Credit Winnebago County Bar Association

Winnebago County has reached a settlement over funding with the 17th District Circuit Court.

Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney and Chief Judge Eugene Doherty announced the settlement Thursday in a news release, calling it “acceptable” to both sides.

The Circuit’s former Chief Judge Joseph McGraw sued the county in 2017 after its board cut the court’s budget to help reduce a multi-million dollar deficit.  

Doherty said the dispute wasn’t just about money.

“When there is a mandated service that court must provide and the county doesn’t provide the funding to enable us to do it,” he said, “we have to stand up for the independence of the court and the necessity of complying with all of our statutory and constitutional obligations.”

Doherty said the Court has been able to find some economies that would not jeopardize its mission. The board also last month approved adding $386,000 back into the budgets for the circuit court, public defender, court services and juvenile detention.

Doherty said he hopes the experience will lead to a more constructive relationship.

“The board needs to be able to trust that when we give a number and say ‘this is absolutely what we need,’ that they can trust us, that that’s correct,” he said, “and that, having identified that, that we can trust them to fund that need.”

Doherty and Haney stated in the release that they are “committed to closely working with each other” to address any future budget issues.

No details of the settlement have been released.