As a justice on Illinois’ Second District Appellate Court and a member of the Illinois Judges Association, my colleagues and I understand it is part of our duty to implement a fair court system, especially those with disabilities.
With an adopted child affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), my personal and professional life has had a focus on educating members of the judicial system and changing the system to best suit those affected with FASD.
FASD results from prenatal exposure to alcohol causing a range of physical, cognitive and behavioral deficits and are over-represented in our justice system. FASD’s neurological impairments interfere with the ability to navigate the justice system. FASD is a lifelong condition but with early intervention those affected by FASD can enjoy productive lives. The Illinois justice system must adopt policies and procedures to identify and respond effectively to FASD.
I have worked with others in the judicial system to help create the FASD Task Force in DuPage County. In 2010, I proposed SB 3233, which was passed into law, requiring that all sex education classes in Illinois include instruction on the dangers of drug and alcohol consumption during pregnancy. It was the first such law in the United States.
Disabilities resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure must be considered at all stages of the legal process. It is up to Illinois judges and lawyers to begin to educate others in their field and embrace a court system that acts accordingly to those affected by FASD.
Justice Joseph E. Birkett
Appellate court judge
Illinois Appellate Court, Second District.