Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Legal community turns out in force to support Retention Judges

The Chicago Cultural Center's Preston Bradley Hall was the setting last evening for the 2016 Reception Honoring Retention Judges. The event was well attended, as always.


Last night's event was the only fundraiser for the joint retention effort (sparing the retention judges from the burden of raising funds on their own) and proceeds will fund advertising in support of the retention class.

Pictured above are two members of the retention class,
Judge Nicholas R. Ford and Judge Sharon O. Johnson.

Many retired judges were present at last night's gathering
offering their support to retention judges. Shown here
are retention candidate Edward Washington, II and retired Judge
(and current mediator) Jennifer Duncan-Brice.




















A number of current jurists (not up for retention) also came out to support their brothers and sisters seeking retention.

Pictured here is newly selected Associate Judge
Mohammed Ghouse with retention candidates
Judges Clare Elizabeth McWilliams and Kay M. Hanlon.


Shown above here are newly selected Associate Judge Mary Catherine Marubio, Judge Kristal Rivers, and Judge William B. Raines.

Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown was at last night's event as well. She is pictured below, at lower left, with (clockwise) Travis Richardson, Tom McGuire, and retention Judge Bonita Coleman.


Twelfth Subcircuit candidate ("A" vacancy) James E. Hanlon also made the rounds last evening. He is shown below, at right, with (from left) retired Judge (and author) Sam Amirante and attorney Steve Daday.


Hanlon was not the only other candidate in a contested judicial race working the room. I'm sure I didn't see all, but I did have a chance to chat briefly with David Studenroth (one of the candidates for the Tristano vacancy in 12th Subcircuit). There was also a camera crew from Channel 2 in the room. I did not get to see whether any footage made the 10:00 News, but I'm certain some reader will know one way or the other.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

It all turns on the meaning of "that" -- write-in votes for Judge Ahmad to be counted

Write-in votes for Judge Maryam Ahmad will be counted in the race for the 1st Subcircuit Hopkins vacancy.

That's the gist of Judge Alfred Paul's Opinion issued earlier today in the case of Maryam Ahmad v. Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, et al., 2016 COEL 000019. The Law Bulletin's David Thomas is reporting this evening that the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners will not appeal today's decision. (The Chicago Board of Elections had ruled Judge Ahmad's declaration of intent to run as a write-in for the Hopkins vacancy invalid because she had been defeated as a candidate in the March Primary for the 1st Subcircuit Brim vacancy.)

Judge Paul's decision today quotes the relevant portion of the applicable statutes, §§17-16.1 and 18-9.1 of the Election Code, as follows: "A candidate for whom a nomination paper has been filed as a partisan candidate at a primary election, and who is defeated for his or her nomination at the primary election is ineligible to file a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate for election in that general or consolidated election."

The court found this language to be "clear and unequivocal." "Specifically," Judge Paul wrote, "the language of the statute states that a candidate 'is ineligible to file a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate for election in THAT general or consolidated election (emphasis added).' That refers directly back to the prior language in the same provision regarding a 'nomination paper filed at the primary election.'" Therefore, although Judge Ahmad was a candidate for the Brim vacancy, she can now be a write-in candidate for the Hopkins vacancy in the upcoming general election.

Because the 1st Subcircuit includes both City and suburban precincts, today's order is binding as to both the Chicago Board of Elections and the Cook County Clerk. Judge Ahmad's election law attorney, Burton S. Odelson, told FWIW, today's decision is "a victory for ballot access and giving people a choice."

The only candidate whose name will be printed on the ballot for the 1st Subcircuit Hopkins vacancy is former law clerk Rhonda Crawford. (Crawford was dismissed from her job as a law clerk in the Chief Judge's office after it was determined that she had pretended to be a judge already and ruled in at least a couple of cases in a real judge's Markham courtroom.) Voters wishing to make a different choice will still have to write in Judge Maryam Ahmad's name.

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My thanks to Mr. Odelson for providing me with a copy of today's order -- and for being gracious enough not to say 'I told you so' despite my erroneous speculation about the likely interpretation of the relevant statutes in this post.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

WGN investigating... what, exactly?



While many of us were watching the Bears getting picked apart by the Eagles, WGN-TV aired the latest installment of its long-dormant Judging the Judges series, Trouble in the courtroom. The link will take you to the WGN Investigates site and the text of last night's piece; the video link of last night's presentation was working at the time this post was published.

The ostensible subject of the piece was the Turner-Crawford business, I guess, with an emphasis on Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans's role in hiring Crawford as a law clerk and assigning Judge Turner to the courtroom where Crawford would, for a little while, pretend to be a judge and dispose of some traffic cases on Judge Turner's call.

I'm going to indulge in a little speculation here, clearly labeled as such, and suggest that Judge Evans's responsibilities for both Turner and Crawford are more of the captain-of-the-ship variety as opposed to his having any extensive involvement in the placement of either. And while Crawford was, technically, in the employ of the Chief Judge's office, I'd guess that, before this incident, Judge Evans likely had little or no contact with Crawford whatsoever. She was presumably not, as the MBAs like to say, a 'direct report.' (It would be interesting, though, to know what Ms. Crawford was supposed to be doing and for whom. I'm pretty sure her job was not to follow Judge Turner around the courthouse.)

An attorney by the name of Dan Konicek was brought in to note that the fact that former law clerk Crawford is running unopposed for the bench this November is "not a good situation. It just isn't." (WGN did not mention, and may not have been aware of, Judge Maryam Ahmad's recent write-in effort.)

Why was Mr. Konicek the only attorney quoted in the piece? Who knows? Mr. Konicek is a well-known civil trial attorney, and an ITLA board member (although that wasn't mentioned either), but his principal office is in Geneva according to his own firm website and the ARDC. Speculating again here, but I doubt Mr. Konicek has logged a lot of time in the Markham Courthouse where the Turner-Crawford business took place. Konicek's appearance may just mean he was known to the series producer and answered the call when it came. But did other, more local, worthies take a pass on the chance to make similar statements?

Judge Evans has already been reelected as Chief Judge; WGN's report did note that. So... what was WGN's point?

WGN did mention its role in the recent JIB prosecution of Judge Beatriz Santiago, even quoting Judge Santiago's attorney as saying that she accepts her censure and is "ready to go forward and work hard to be a good judge."

In taking its bow, WGN observed that ARDC and JIB investigations are "secret." And slow. So... is last night's piece the opening salvo in a battle to make these sorts of investigations more "transparent"? (I believe that's the current buzzword.) The piece did make the point that, while it will probably come too late to change the outcome of the November election, investigations are probably ongoing into Ms. Crawford's conduct.

Maybe it's the word "investigates" that arouses unnecessary speculation and concern. Maybe all WGN is trying to do is educate, to give its viewers at least a rudimentary understanding of how our courts work. That would be a laudable objective. I suppose we'll just have to wait for WGN's next installment and see what develops.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The headline is Judge Evans wins a sixth term, 129-103

The Tribune article (which I tweeted out last night) says some are calling this a repudiation. But, then, to hedge, it quotes Professor Dick Simpson as saying, in politics, a one-vote win is still a win.

In other words, close counts only in horseshoes and hand grenades.

But one very interesting part of the story was the assertion that "several" eligible voters did not show up. Given the recent allegations about no-show judges, that's a pretty loaded word-choice. Let's examine this statement.

According to the Tribune there were 241 judges eligible to vote. If we add up the number of votes reported, we get 231. So that means 10 judges who could have voted weren't there. Ten votes which, if voted as a bloc, would not have changed the outcome.

By my ciphering, 231 actual out of 241 possible is a 95.85% turnout. Given the far-flung nature of the Cook County court system, the difficulty for some in coming downtown from a remote work location during the rush hour and then turning around and heading back... well, have you seen the Kennedy or the Ryan or, really, any "expressway" heading into the City during rush hour?

There could be other reasons why someone might choose not to go. I'm sure you can think of some (and, no, I'm not inviting speculation in this regard).

I don't know who didn't appear... but 95.85% attendance sounds a lot better than "several of the 241 judges able to vote [were] not in attendance." Both, technically, are accurate. But the phrase used puts a more negative spin on the turnout than the alternative available. Do you think that was an accident?

It is important to read any news story with a skeptical eye. Are the writers (or someone on the copy desk, assuming these still exist) taking sides?

The Tribune was certainly not plumping for Evans in this election. The recent spate of articles certainly played up the expressions of support from the African-American community that Chief Judge Evans received in the days leading up to yesterday's vote. I've linked to some of these in recent posts. In the Tribune article linked here, it is reported that Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown endorsed Evans. (Among judges, would that endorsement really have helped Evans? I can't imagine it swayed any actual voter.) In the Tribune account, one judge is quoted as expressing resentment that some African-American ministers had threatened to organize a big "no" vote on retention candidates if Evans was not returned as chief. But I sure didn't see whether anyone asked the ministers if they were aware that Evans himself is among the judges standing for retention this year. Reading the articles casually could create an impression that the Chief Judge contest had become another manifestation of racial polarization -- but, if one read closely, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has long had public disagreements with Judge Evans, was said to be one of the "party leaders" working for his ouster. Her office denied it, and there's no way we can know, one way or the other, who's telling the truth.

And that's the point.

We should strive to form opinions based on facts, and refrain from formulating more than working hypotheses where facts are uncertain. Just because we are inclined to agree with a newspaper article doesn't make it more accurate, or less accurate, than one with which we are inclined to disagree. We have to examine the motives of the writers and publishers of any news account. We have to notice what questions weren't asked, or which answers weren't reported. By refraining from forming fixed and definite opinions based on uncertain facts we can face up to our own biases and potentially overcome them.

The farther one is from a news story, that is, the less one knows personally about the events reported, the more likely it is that one will accept uncritically the slant put forward by those media outlets we are inclined to follow. My current favorite illustration of this is the difference between Candidate Obama---who was absolutely certain that Guantanamo Bay must be shut down immediately---and President Obama who, in nearly eight years, hasn't done that. I assume Candidate Obama was entirely sincere; I know President Obama is not entirely powerless. So there must be another explanation, presumably based on Mr. Obama having better personal knowledge now than he had when first running for office. Seemingly sharp edges, seen from a distance, may grow fuzzy and indistinct on closer inspection. And every lawyer who's ever had any kind of a high-profile case can cite flaws in any news coverage of that matter.

Some readers will be happy this morning that Judge Evans was retained. Some will not. (Others will be too geeked by the Cubs backing into a division title overnight to care.) But all might benefit by taking a moment to evaluate how we analyze this news story and what lessons we can draw from it about analyzing news accounts generally.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Retention Judges reception set for September 26

The Committee for Retention of Judges in Cook County has its website up and running and invites are in the mail and email for tickets to the September 26 reception for the Retention Judges, to be held again this year at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., in Preston Bradley Hall, from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m.

Tickets for the event are $125 each and sponsorships are available (Platinum - $5,000, Gold - $2,500, and Silver - $1,000). Platinum sponsors receive 20 tickets to the event, Gold sponsors receive 10, and Silver sponsors receive 5, and tickets can be purchased online. For more information about the event, call (312) 854-8018.

Full Disclosure: I have purchased a ticket for this reception, as I've done in the past.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

And then there were two....

I have it on very good authority that Judge Sandra Ramos has, just this evening, withdrawn her candidacy for Cook County Chief Judge. In an email to colleagues, Judge Ramos noted that Hispanics make up more than 30% of the population of the City of Chicago but there are no Latino judges in either the Law or Probate Divisions. A "democratic society must embrace diversity," she wrote. Although she declined to endorse either Chief Judge Evans or his remaining challenger, Judge Tom Allen, Judge Ramos her colleagues to search their consciences and "vote for the candidate that exemplifies and embraces these principles as well as adhere to the rules required for the administration of the Circuit Court of Cook County."

The Cook County Bar Association has issued a statement of support for Chief Judge Evans; it is accessible on the CCBA website. Just tonight I received a copy of a letter (posted on the Chicago Defender website), signed by 19 former Presidents of the Cook County Bar Association, urging Evans's reelection as Chief Judge.

The election is tomorrow. More updates if and when they become available....

Mother Tribune weighs in on Chief Judge election... sort of

The Tribune story, by Steve Mills and Todd Lighty, can be found here.

Mills and Lighty quote UIC Professor (and former Alderman) Dick Simpson as saying that "[t]here's obviously a rebellion going on. * * * There's no doubt there's some pushback against Tim Evans."

On the other hand, the authors acknowledge that letters from challengers Tom Allen and Sandra Ramos asking their colleagues for support "are so buttoned-up it is hard to know that a race is even on." The authors quote Simpson, "It's a little like the old days of the machine. It's a pretty closed world."

Simpson ventures no prediction on the outcome of tomorrow's election in the article; he does say that Chief Judge Evans has the "upper hand."

That's called the advantage of incumbency. It's a little like making the home team a 3-point favorite in an NFL game. The person setting the line is not marking anyone a clear favorite.

Here's the way I read the Tribune's article: There's an election for Chief Judge tomorrow. There are three candidates. One of these has been Chief Judge for quite some time. All else is speculation... if not outright horseradish. The biggest dose of horseradish is in the lede:
Before a law clerk in Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans' office last month allegedly donned a robe and impersonated a judge, the race to unseat Evans was relatively restrained, with two judges waging a quiet challenge to Evans' 15-year rule.
The implication, of course, is that now---only now, after this business in Markham---Cook County judges are reassessing their personal satisfaction with their chief. And, sure enough, in the next paragraph, the authors claim that the Turner-Crawford case "has given the race to become the county's top judge new urgency."

Let me suggest a different reading, namely, it was only after the unfortunate business in Markham that Mother Tribune took notice that Chief Judge Evans was up for reelection. My assumption is that the judges voting tomorrow will not be forming their opinions about who should lead them on the basis of that one incident.

Granted, I'm speculating here.

But at least I admit it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Judge Maryam Ahmad will/will not be write-in candidate against Rhonda Crawford

Shortly after announcing her write-in candidacy for the Hopkins vacancy in the 1st Subcircuit, the Chicago Board of Elections ruled Judge Maryam Ahmad ineligible.

Judge Ahmad was defeated in her attempt gain nomination to the 1st Subcircuit Brim vacancy in the March primary; this was the seat to which she had been appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court. She planned to run as a write-in candidate for the 1st Subcircuit Hopkins vacancy. Rhonda Crawford is the duly nominated Democratic candidate for this vacancy. Crawford faced no Republican opposition in November. However, after it was learned that she had pretended to be a judge already, hearing at least two cases in the Markham Courthouse, Crawford was dismissed from her job as a law clerk in the Chief Judge's office. Being as delicate as possible here, the episode does not reflect well on Ms. Crawford, or on her judgment. Judge Ahmad's supporters wanted to present her as a credible alternative to Ms. Crawford.

A potential obstacle to Judge Ahmad's candidacy is suggested by Section 17-16.1 of the Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/17-16.1. The statute provides, in pertinent part, "Write-in votes shall be counted only for persons who have filed notarized declarations of intent to be write-in candidates with the proper election authority or authorities not later than 61 days prior to the election."

But not everyone who files a proper declaration of intent can be a write-in candidate. The statute also provides, "A candidate for whom a nomination paper has been filed as a partisan candidate at a primary election, and who is defeated for his or her nomination at the primary election is ineligible to file a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate for election in that general or consolidated election." There is identical language in Section 18-9.1 of the Election Code, Article 18 being the Chicago-specific statute, applicable to the conduct of elections and making of returns in municipalities under the jurisdiction of boards of election commissioners.

I've heard these provisions referred to colloquially as the 'sore loser' provision -- and this confused me initially, until I'd had the chance to review the actual statutory language.

A true 'sore loser' provision would simply prevent Candidate Jones, who lost to Candidate Smith in the primary, from trying to force a rematch in the general election.

If the relevant language of the applicable statute is read as a true 'sore loser' provision, Ahmad should be permitted to pursue her write-in candidacy against Crawford. And, according to an article in last evening's Law Bulletin, this is the tack that Judge Ahmad's election law attorney, Burton S. Odelson, will take in a mandamus suit he plans to file (and may have filed already) against the Chicago Board of Elections.

The actual language of the statute, however, would seem to preclude a candidate defeated in the primary from seeking any office whatsoever in the general.

Mr. Odelson, however, is an expert in election law; I am anything but. So I will refrain from making any grandiose predictions and await further developments....

Stephanie Saltouros appointed to 10th Subcircuit vacancy

Still waiting on the press release (I'll link it when it's posted) but the Illinois Supreme Court yesterday appointed Stephanie Saltouros to the 10th Subcircuit vacancy created by the recent elevation of Judge Eileen O'Neill Burke to the Illinois Appellate Court.

Saltouros's appointment is effective September 29 and is scheduled to terminate on December 3, 2018.

FWIW readers will recall that Saltouros was slated by the Democratic Party for a 10th Subcircuit vacancy in the March primary. She withdrew from the race, however, throwing her support to Eve Marie Reilly, the eventual primary winner, and the judge appointed to that vacancy by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2014.

The Supreme Court's appointment of Saltouros comes on the recommendation of Justice Mary Jane Theis; Justice Theis announced that her screening committee would consider applicants for the Burke vacancy back in June.

According to the campaign website posted on Saltouros's behalf during her 2016 primary run, Saltouros served as an Assistant State's Attorney from 1996-2008. The campaign website highlighted her experience leading the "Domestic Violence prosecution team in the Second [Municipal] District, where she used her expertise in that area to prosecute hundreds of domestic abusers" and her subsequent service in the Felony Review Unit of the State’s Attorney’s Office, where, according to her campaign site, she "worked closely with police officers from Chicago, Park Ridge, Niles, Des Plaines, and Glenview, assisting in hundreds of investigations that led to the prosecution and conviction of thousands of criminals." The last five years of her career in the State's Attorney's Office were spent as a felony prosecutor. Saltouros has been in private practice since 2008.

Saltouros is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Emergent Theatre Company.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A cautionary tale about a tempting email

The email, when I opened it, looked almost legit. Yes, it wasn't from anyone I knew. But it was actually addressed to me, not to a group or seemingly to the sender itself, like so many of the junk emails we all get. And the name attached to the email matched the name of the alleged sender and both were consistent with the domain name used in the email address.

In terms of content, the email was typically vague, suggesting that the writer had a "breach of contract claim" but providing no explanatory details other than the purported fact that the sender was an architect. On the other hand, the email was written in grammatical, even colloquially appropriate, English, without the obvious misspellings that characterize so many of these scam emails. And the amount allegedly owed---$174,000---was large enough to potentially incite interest, but not so large as scream implausibility.

I was sure the email was a phony because the writer suggested he had called my office "but it seemed you were closed." However, as a solo sans staff, I know whether my phone has rung or not. I knew for a fact that this "Mr. Nathan Silver" had not called.

Still, the email was a definite cut above the norm; it was worth a Google (I believe that's a catchphrase these days).

And, lo and behold, there is a Nathan Silver, an architect in London, with a prominent Web presence. I visited his website and quickly verified that the real Mr. Silver's email address was significantly different from the address in the scam email I'd received. I forwarded the email I'd received in case the real Mr. Silver was unaware that his name had been misappropriated.

As is so often the case, I was a step-and-a-half slow: Mr. Silver was already painfully aware of his digital doppelgänger. He wrote back, "Someone has cloned my website entirely (including pictures of me and my cat), changed the email address and phone number, and since December 29th, has been trying to get at least 70 legal firms in south Florida, North Carolina and Washington DC to respond to his scam."

Silver even knew how the scam was supposed to work. He explained that, "after the fraudster gets the interest of a legal practice, he 'tries one more time' to get payment of a huge unpaid fee bill. He then 'succeeds,' and asks the legal target to receive the payment, deduct the legal fee to date, and forward the balance to him. In a few cases I’ve been told about, the target receives a forged bank draft or certified check. The fraudster obviously hopes some lawyers will be incautious enough to send him money before the bank says the check is no good. It seems a preposterous plan, but this creep keeps trying!"

There might be some temptation to disburse settlement proceeds quickly after receipt of a seemingly certified check; after all, a certified check is supposed to be a cash equivalent. But that temptation is, or should be, tempered by the fact that, under the rules of the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois, banks holding IOLTA accounts are required to "report client trust account overdrafts to the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission." In other words, a bounced IOLTA check triggers an automatic ARDC beef. The Nathan Silver impersonator should find pickings slim in Chicago for this reason alone.

The real Mr. Silver says he's never had a Chicago-area client -- or any client in Florida, North Carolina, or the District of Columbia for that matter. He doesn't recognize the client names used by the fraudster. Nor are the honorifics that Mr. Silver is authorized to use following his name the same as the hearty helping of alphabet soup served up by the faux-Mr. Silver at the end of his email to me. The real Mr. Silver writes that he's reported the hijacking of his name "to the UK fraud authorities twice, but they are apparently so inundated they say it may take a long while to attend to my case."

Silver has asked me to notify my 'regional law society.' I am hopeful that reporting all this to my FWIW readers will both honor Silver's request and help him reclaim his own identity.

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UPDATE 9/16/16: The North Carolina State Bar has published a warning about the fake Nathan Silver scam.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Michael A. Forti obtains 8th Subcircuit appointment

In an order entered yesterday, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed Michael A. Forti to the 8th Subcircuit vacancy recently created by the passing of Justice Laura Cha-yu Liu.

Forti's appointment is effective September 30 and terminates December 3, 2018.

Forti was slated for a countywide vacancy in 2012 (he lost to Jessica O'Brien). He made the Associate Judge 'short list' in 2014. He served as Chief Counsel and Ethics Officer for the Illinois Department of Transportation from 2012-15. Before that, Forti served as Deputy Corporation Counsel for the Constitutional and Commercial Litigation Division of the Chicago Department of Law and as the Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel of that division.

Blogger submits to self-criticism concerning Chief Judge election

When the comment is written in ALL CAPS you know someone's serious. In this case, the comment began:
WHY HAVE YOU NOT WRITTEN ABOUT SANDRA RAMOS CANDIDACY FOR CHIEF JUDGE?
Well---says the blogger, shuffling his feet nervously, gazing mostly at the floor---I had heard that Judge Ramos was running for Chief Judge. I'd even communicated with Jean Lotus, the reporter for the Cook County Chronicle that ran this August 29 story about the Chief Judge contest. (You may have seen Ms. Lotus's comment here asking E.P. to contact her---E.P., your comments here have made you famous.) Anyway, if you follow the link you'll read, inter alia, Lotus's interview with Judge Ramos about her candidacy.

My problem with covering this election---scheduled for mid-September---is that it's only slightly less secretive than a papal conclave. I've been buttonholed walking through the Daley Center or on the street about this candidate or that one, or this rumor or that one, usually prefaced with, "don't use me as a source," so I don't have a lot of facts that I can share. I'm on the outside looking in... and the knothole in the fence is pretty small.

So, yes, Judge Timothy C. Evans is seeking another term as Chief Judge; it would be his sixth. Judge Tom Allen and Judge Sandra Ramos are running against him. I don't know if there are others; the Cook County Chronicle doesn't name any.

Somehow, I suspect the candidates for Chief Judge will measure, identify, and cultivate support from the very limited electorate even without extensive coverage on this blog. But I admit my failures to announce Judge Ramos's candidacy (not that I was asked to) and I await the judgment of the Intertubes on my failings.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

A note about today's guest post, which follows immediately

In writing about the Turner-Crawford business, I suggested that, surely, someone must have seen some warning signs. I found it difficult to believe that an experienced, respected judge would just wake up suddenly one morning and decide it was a good idea to let a law clerk (now an ex-law clerk, though still an unopposed judicial candidate) hear cases in her stead.

In the course of ruminating about the specific situation, I asked some general, rhetorical questions, like, if it was you who'd wound up, for whatever reason, in a bad place, wouldn't you want someone to offer help? Wouldn't you want someone to warn your supervisors before you harmed yourself or your livelihood? Therefore, wouldn't you, shouldn't you, want to offer help if you saw a judge---or any colleague---drifting into peril?

But I couldn't offer concrete suggestions about how to help.

A comment to a post from Ira Helfgot reminded me that there are people who are available to us, who can offer concrete suggestions. I reached out to Robin Belleau, the Executive Director of the Lawyers Assistance Program, who enlisted the assistance of Chelsy A. Castro, LAP Clinical Case and Program Manager. It is Ms. Castro who supplies the post that follows below.

Please note: Ms. Castro is writing generally and not about any specific person or situation. To help make sure that's entirely understood, I've put these prefatory remarks in a separate post.

Crisis in the Legal Profession: What you can do to help

by Chelsy A. Castro
Clinical Case and Program Manager
Illinois Lawyers’ Assistance Program


News stories about mental health and addiction issues in lawyers seem to be increasingly commonplace and yet still surprising. The recently published ABA study (JAM, Feb 2016) highlighting the high incidence of anxiety, depression and substance abuse issues in lawyers and law students helped to broadcast what mental health and substance abuse practitioners have known for far too long: lawyers, judges, and law students are uniquely at risk for mental health and substances abuse issues.

Most legal professionals work in high-stress environments that demand many hours and in which they have a lot to lose, both for themselves and for their clients. Reputation, financial stability, and the ability to practice, among a plethora of other things, are constantly on the line. The world of the legal professional is, more often than not, far from that of the polished, well-dressed, in-control attorney we are so accustomed to seeing on television and in the movies. As the ABA study points out, many of our colleagues are hesitant to seek assistance despite its availability and the well-known need for it. So why is it that such a well-educated and presumably well connected group of people accustomed to solving problems fails to seek help for themselves, and what can we as a profession do about it? The answers to both questions are simpler than you might think.

Q: Why are lawyers, judges and law students unlikely to seek help?

A: They are afraid that seeking help is an admission to weakness, and/or that it will damage their reputations and limit their ability to practice in the future.

Q: What can we as a profession do to help?

A: Step 1: Keep a look out for indicators that could mean there is a problem. An easy way to remember is to follow the MAP: 1) Mood or attitudinal disturbances; 2) Appearance or physical changes; and 3) Productivity and quality of work changes.

These might look like any of the following:
  • Obvious changes in mood
  • Work tasks taking longer to complete
  • Noticeable need to re-do work
  • Absenteeism
  • Tardiness
  • Withdrawal and/or increased isolation
  • Indifference or apathy to self or others
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight
  • Fatigue
  • Expressions of worthlessness
  • Increased feelings of guilt
  • Increased self-blame
  • Changes in sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Missed deadlines
  • Unusual amount of unopened mail
  • Unusual amount of unanswered or unreturned calls
  • Incivility in the courtroom
  • Increased irritability
  • Increased worry
  • Pain such as headaches, back pain and digestive issues that cannot otherwise be medically explained
  • Rumination
  • Perfectionism
  • Scent of alcohol
  • Unexplained trembling
  • Missed deadlines
  • Increased arguing
  • Increased fear of potential consequences
  • Racing thoughts
  • Pressured speech
  • Slurred speech
  • Focus on seemingly irrelevant things
  • Increase in goal-directed activity
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Increased risky behavior
Step 2: Don’t just observe, take action. To repurpose a potentially overly used and often misattributed quote “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” In our case “evil” is a disease that disproportionately plagues our profession and “good men” are every lawyer, judge, and law student who notices that a colleague or classmate might be suffering. It’s up to each of us to help each other prevent the loss of reputation, loss of career, and/or loss of life. Most of the tragic events that we hear about lawyers in the news could have been prevented if someone had spoken up about what they had observed.

Once we notice that something is “a little off” it is critical to take action. This is both the easiest and hardest thing to do. You don’t want to offend someone, but you also know that there may be serious consequences, and perhaps loss of life, if you don’t do anything. Many people dismiss their concerns by telling themselves “it’s none of my business.” It may not be your business, but it IS in your interest to protect clients from attorneys who may not be capable of effectively representing others, it IS in your interest to protect your profession’s reputation for quality service, and it IS in your interest to help your colleagues. A brief conversation or phone call may be a little uncomfortable in the short term, but it is likely to result in a lasting and positive change in the long term. How’s that for risk-benefit analysis.

Option 1: Share your concern with the individual.

Talk to the person who you are concerned about. Do it privately or with one other trusted colleague or friend who is also concerned. Be warm, kind, and express yourself from a place of concern for the individual’s well-being, rather than from a place of judgement. You can say something like: “I have noticed ……. and am concerned. I care about you. What’s been going on? How can I help?” Be specific in your observations. Ask open-ended follow up questions like: “When did you start feeling like that?,” “How often does that happen?,” and “What changes have you noticed recently?

Sometimes people will admit that your concerns are valid, and sometimes they will just dismiss them. Either scenario is OK because the individual now knows that someone has noticed and cares enough to talk about it. In either scenario you can recommend that he or she call the Lawyers’ Assistance Program (1-800-LAP-1233), a non-profit committed to providing free and confidential mental health and addiction assistance to lawyers, judges, and law students in need. You can also offer to call with the individual, or ask the individual if he/she would like LAP to call them. If none of the above options are feasible, you can confidentially call LAP to express your concern. See Option 2 below.

Option 2: Share your concern with the Lawyers’ Assistance Program.

The Lawyers’ Assistance Program (LAP) is there to confidentially help both you and the individual you are concerned about. If you do not feel comfortable sharing your concerns with the individual, or if you were unable to assist the individual in getting help, you can confidentially contact LAP (1800-LAP-1233 or gethelp@illinoislap.org). Simply let LAP know who you are concerned about and why, and whether or not you would like to remain confidential and/or be involved in assisting the individual in getting the help he/she needs. It’s as simple as one phone call or email. Your identity will remain 100% confidential if you choose. There is nothing to lose.

It’s really as simple as that. 1) Observe; and 2) Take action. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact LAP – even if just to further inquire confidentially about the process described above. Check out LAP’s website at www.illinoislap.org and call (1-800-LAP-1233) or email them (gethelp@illinoislap.org) anytime. No problem or concern is too big or to too small. You have the ability to affect the future of our profession for the better.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Updating the Turner-Crawford story and suggesting a step back

This week's story about a Cook County judge getting suspended after allegedly allowing a law clerk/ staff attorney (and judicial candidate) to wear a robe and decide cases on the judge's call has grown national legs.

In addition to the coverage here, and in the Tribune, and the Sun-Times (the Sun-Times has also published an editorial on the case -- the paper is against non-judges pretending to be a judge, in case you were in doubt), the story has been picked up by
If a Google search this morning can be believed, a couple of Chinese-language sites have picked up the story as well.

Also weighing in on the story, albeit tangentially, is Second City Cop. In a post throwing darts at the Cook County Sheriff (*ahem*), SCC bumps a blog comment into its post:
Sheriff's office attempted to cover-up Judge scandal at the Markham Courthouse. Numerous sources saying a Deputy wrote a memo stating Judge was allowing her friend to wear a robe and play Judge on the bench. The Deputy's memo was never reported by the Sheriff's office. The Sheriff's office is now claiming they did not know if Judge was running a "training" exercise. Numerous sources say this is a lie cause Sheriff Dart blew a gasket today in his office as he just learned the Deputy documented the incident.

I'm not accepting SCC's reported rumor as fact. But, whether it's true or not, it reminds us, or it should, that this Turner-Crawford business is more that what-were-they-thinking story. There's another story here, too, namely, whether anybody could have, or should have, seen this coming -- and maybe even headed this off.

Because this is not a 'funny story' for the people involved. It's at least career-threatening, maybe even career-ending. And, on paper at least, nothing in Judge Turner's background, at least, suggested that she would ever have thought this unauthorized job-sharing to be a good idea. As Mark Brown's August 17 Sun-Times article pointed out, Judge Turner came to the bench after "two years as an assistant U.S. attorney and six years at Kirkland & Ellis. She received her law degree from the University of Chicago." Since her election to the bench in 2002, Judge Turner was found recommended or qualified for retention by every bar group, both the CBA and every Alliance member, in both 2008 and 2014 (the sole exception being a negative review from the Chicago Council of Lawyers for the 2008 retention election -- and, as noted, the CCL urged a yes vote for Judge Turner in 2014).

So I have to think that maybe something changed for Judge Turner between 2014 and whenever she first let Ms. Crawford don her robe. But maybe not -- that's what investigations are for.

But take that step back with me now. Let's just talk about judges generally, not about Judge Turner or Ms. Crawford.

I realize that judges have pretty autonomous working conditions. But judges typically have support staff, at least a courtroom clerk and (as SCC notes this morning) a courtroom deputy. Every judge has at least a supervising or presiding judge to whom he or she reports. No, there's no clock-punching---quite the opposite---and there are no ra-ra meetings in the breakroom (although wouldn't that be pretty cool? OK, team, we're having a special on 2-615 motions this week...). But, still, there are people who interact with any judge often enough that a marked change in behavior, in demeanor, in appearance... for whatever reason... illness, substance issues, depression... you'd think something might have been seen. By someone. Wouldn't you hope something might also be said?

Now, maybe, that judge---that hypothetical judge we're now talking about, not anyone in particular---might respond to a friendly offer of help or concern by biting the head off of the person having the temerity to ask. Or maybe he or she might burden the person asking with more than he or she can handle alone. There's a range of possible responses. But if your helping hand is slapped away, mightn't you then take your concern to the judge's supervisor maybe even the Chief Judge? I just don't see why a situation has to get so far out of hand, to the point where someone jeopardizes their career, or worse. If it was you who'd wound up, for whatever reason, in a bad place, wouldn't you want someone to offer help? Wouldn't you want someone to warn your supervisors before you harmed yourself or your livelihood?

So wouldn't you, shouldn't you, want to offer help if you see a judge---or any colleague---drifting into peril? When the snickering stops over the Turner-Crawford business, I hope that this thought remains.

Not vindicated, but spared; Judge Santiago censured by Illinois Courts Commission

In an order released Thursday (still not online, but I'll update when I can supply the link), the Illinois Courts Commission censured Judge Beatriz Santiago for violations of Canons 1 and 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Supreme Court Rules 61 and 62. For the non-lawyers who follow along here, the censure order means that the Courts Commission agreed that Judge Santiago was guilty of misconduct, but did not deem that misconduct sufficient to remove her from office.

Questions of residency had dogged Santiago since she announced her 6th Subcircuit judicial campaign in the Fall of 2011.

The timeline provided by the Courts Commission Order serves as the basis for the summary that follows.

Santiago, a career Assistant Public Defender before being slated for the bench, bought a house in 2005 on Spaulding Avenue. The house was in walking distance of the home where she grew up, on Potomac Avenue, but it was just a couple of blocks outside the 6th Subcircuit (it was just inside the 7th Subcircuit, if that's of vital import for you). She fixed up the house and moved in and lived there just like anyone else would live in their own house for a number of years.

But then Santiago was slated to run in the 6th Subcircuit. She could not continue to live in her own home and run for judge in the 6th Subcircuit. Goodman v. Ward, 241 Ill.2d 398, 412, 948 N.E.2d 580 (2011). So, she said, sometime in August or September 2011, she moved back to her parents' home.

Several other candidates coveted the vacancy for which Santiago was slated. Two challenges were filed to her candidacy, at least one of these asserting that Santiago lived in the house that she owned and not, as she claimed, back with the folks. The Courts Commission quotes from the hearing officer's opinion in one of those challenges in its August 18 Order, at p. 2: "The hearing officer found that despite 'a number of facts regarding [respondent's] residency that are not entirely plausible,' there was not sufficient evidence to 'conclusively establish' that respondent did not reside at the Potomac property." The Cook County Electoral Board adopted the hearing officer's findings and recommendation and Santiago was permitted to remain on the ballot.

And, of course, she won.

But she still had the house on Spaulding.

So, in June 2013, after taking judicial office, Santiago decided to refinance her mortgage on that property. She submitted a loan application to American Equity Mortgage (AEM). In the loan app and accompanying documents, Santiago made the following representations (Order, p. 2):
  • in Section II, that the Spaulding property would be her "Primary Residence,"
  • in Section III, that the Spaulding property was her "Present Address," and
  • in Section IV, that she owned the Spaulding property as her primary residence.
The lender did a background and credit check and (p. 3) "discovered that most of the documents accompanying respondent's application, including pay stubs and proof of employment, showed respondent lived at the Potomac property rather than the Spaulding property." It asked for an explanation. In two letters requested by the lender, Santiago said she just used her mother's Potomac address for work-related issues, and that it was a former address. On August 9, 2013, Santiago completed and signed an occupancy certification that the lender provided. On that same day she signed a "mortgagor's affidavit" in which she certified, "I presently occupy, or intend to occupy, the subject property as my principal residence, and am not now considering any proposal to sell subject property to third persons." All the while, though, Santiago continued to live on Potomac.

FWIW readers will remember what happened next: WGN-TV and the Medill Watchdog Group collaborated on a series entitled "Judging the Judges." Prominently featured in the series were stories about subcircuit judges who might have moved, for one reason or another, from the subcircuits from which they were initially elected. I wrote about the series; from this archived post you can still read what WGN and Medill Watchdog had to say at the time about Judge Santiago's mortgage (I had not mentioned her by name in my post).

The Court Commission's August 18 Order notes (pp. 4-5) that, after the WGN pieces aired, Judge Santiago took corrective action. First, she repaid the homeowner's exemption on her taxes (she'd improperly claimed that, too) and, second, she notified her lender that she was not living at the property after all.

And Santiago's lender turned out to have a corporate heart of gold: It did not prosecute her for fraud but instead "attempted to help her rectify problems resulting from her claiming the Spaulding property [as] her primary residence" (p. 5). The lender did not even require Judge Santiago to refinance; although the lender acknowledged in writing that it had been notified that Santiago was not using the Spaulding home as her primary residence, the mortgage would be left as is.

Since then, Santiago has sold the house on Spaulding and bought another one safely within the confines of the Sixth Judicial Subcircuit. The tainted mortgage is gone.

Judge Santiago testified at her hearing before the Courts Commission (p. 5), "she never deliberately intended to deceive AEM, but admitted she was 'careless' in signing the mortgage documents. Respondent signed the 2013 mortgage documents in a room in the courthouse while she was on her lunch hour, and the entire process took only ten to fifteen minutes. She said she was rushed and did not actually read the documents, but just signed in the places she was required to sign. Respondent testified she has been humiliated and embarrassed by the incident, and she has been humbled. She testified her career has basically been ruined because she failed to read the mortgage papers prior to signing them." Santiago told the Commission that her entire legal career has been spent in the area of criminal law; she "knows little about real estate law" (p. 5).

The Commission stressed that most of the evidence in this case was stipulated to and most of the facts in the case undisputed. Because Santiago did not really contest the Judicial Inquiry Board's allegations of violations, the Commission saw its task as merely determining what sanction to impose. The Commission noted (p. 8), "Respondent engaged in consistent hedging and her candor was reasonably in question." On the other hand, the Commission noted (p. 9), Santiago's "actions and omissions were not related to her official duties. Further, there is no indication in the record of any prejudicial impact to any litigant appearing before respondent. * * * There is no contest in the record that the actions of respondent are not likely to recur and the financing situation, as well as the question of residential qualification, appear to have been resolved."

The key passage in the Order may be this one, at p. 7:
At a minimum, respondent knew or should have known of her residency problems when she faced a challenge to her candidacy for circuit judge of the Sixth Judicial Subcircuit in the 2012 election. Subsequent to that, however, the record shows that in her disclosures, in order to secure an FHA loan, she designated the Spaulding property residence as "primary." Respondent argued that her actions could be characterized as careless. Given, however, the highlighting of her residence problems in the electoral challenge to her candidacy, one could reasonably characterize her activities as reckless. In effect, respondent got trapped. Her response to her situation only made her situation worse. She could be charged with reasonable notice of her problem due to the electoral challenge; however, the documents that she executed and the representations she made to AEM aggravated rather than corrected the situation. Respondent argued that ultimately no harm was done to AEM as all obligations were paid in full as the house was sold for more than the original obligation. We note, however, that her actions, taken in order to qualify for an FHA loan as opposed to a regular residential loan and the subsequent financing resulted in financial benefit to her. We also note the corrective actions were taken only subsequent to exposure of her residency problems by the media.
Now, for the non-lawyers, and even for the lawyers-who-are-not-judges who may happen on this post, let me suggest to you that it may not go so well for you if you misrepresent your residency plans in a mortgage application and the mortgage company finds out about it. Or if the county finds out that you're claiming a homeowner's exemption on property where you don't reside. But Judge Santiago has been spared; she has the opportunity now to resume her judicial career and restore her reputation.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Tributes, scholarships conferred at IJF Summer Reception

The CBA's Corboy Hall was packed last evening for the Illinois Judges Foundation Summer Reception.

Proceeds from the reception support the charitable and educational programs of the Illinois Judges Foundation, the charitable arm of the Illinois Judges Association, including in particular the Harold Sullivan Scholarship. Three of these scholarships were awarded last evening.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, retired Illinois Appellate Court Justice Gino L. DiVito, and Lake County Chief Judge Jorge L. Ortiz were honored by the IJF as judicial icons.

Pictured below are Lake County Associate Judge Elizabeth M. Rochford, IJF Immediate Past President; Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans, who provided an introduction for Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke; Justice Burke; and Cook County Associate Judge Jeanne Reynolds, the current President of the IJF.







Here is Justice Burke, accepting her award.






Justice DiVito accepted his award as Judges Rochford and Reynolds looked on.









This is Lake County Chief Judge Jorge Ortiz accepting his award.







The Illinois Judges Foundation also acknowledged the passing of Laura C. Liu, Appellate Court Justice and IJF President in 2013-14. Justice Liu's husband, attorney Michael J. Kasper, provided appropriate and moving remarks as their daughter, Sophia, looked on.


Two of the three Harold Sullivan Scholarship Award winners, Jennifer DiVincenzo of John Marshall Law School and Matthew Griffin of Chicago-Kent College of Law, were present to accept their awards from Scholarship Committee Chair, Judge Diane Larsen. Pictured below are Judge Larsen, John Marshall Dean John E. Corkery, and Ms. DiVincenzo.






At right are Chicago-Kent Dean Harold J. Krent, Mr. Griffin, and Judge Larsen.






The third award winner, Patrick Tipton from the University of Illinois College of Law, was unable to attend, Judge Larsen explaining that he had previously committed to assisting at an incoming student orientation at the school.

IJF Auxiliary Committee member Christine Athanasoulis was also cited by the organization for her assistance in the organization's fundraising efforts.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Judge suspended for letting judicial candidate decide cases

Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans announced this afternoon that, pursuant to action taken today by the Executive Committee of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Judge Valarie E. Turner has been temporarily reassigned to duties other than judicial duties in the office of the Presiding Judge of the First Municipal District, Judge E. Kenneth Wright, Jr. The assignment is effective until further notice.

According to the Chief Judge's press release, Judge Turner allegedly allowed attorney Rhonda Crawford, a law clerk/staff attorney employed with the Office of the Chief Judge, "to adjudicate at least two cases from the bench while wearing a judicial robe in Judge Turner’s courtroom." Crawford has likewise been suspended without pay from her current job, according to the Chief Judge's press release.

Rhonda Crawford's name should be familiar to FWIW readers: This past March, Crawford defeated two other candidates, including a judge sitting pursuant to Supreme Court appointment, for the Hopkins vacancy in the 1st Subcircuit. Crawford faced no Republican opponent in November. She was on track to assume judicial office for real on the first Monday in December.

And now...?

Crawford did not participate in either the CBA or Alliance candidate screenings and was unanimously rated not qualified or not recommended as a result.

An image of the Order entered by the Circuit Court today on this matter follows below (click to enlarge or clarify):

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Updating: Judge Pethers issues new statement

An alert reader directed me to a new letter from Judge Sheryl A. Pethers published yesterday on the Windy City Times website. That's a link to the complete letter. Please click over and read it.

I appreciate the fact that Judge Pethers did not intend her original memo for the general public. I referenced it here, and responded to the Sun-Times column about it, when the memo was already in the public domain.

Here again is a cautionary tale about the modern age: Anything we write, whether intended for general consumption or not, may slip into the public eye. If you send a private letter to Aunt Betty and it winds up getting quoted in the newspaper, you probably know who to blame. If you send an email blast, however, to multiple recipients, you should realize that you are encouraging the sharing of the views expressed therein. You lose control, then, of how that sharing takes place, and with whom. And if you post something on Facebook, even though you have only 22 "friends," you are only one "share" away from a potential news story.

And one last suggestion: If a reporter ever does call you about something you've written -- especially if it's not something you intended for the consideration of the general public -- return the call immediately. You may not be able to prevent the wider dissemination of your statement, even if it was only meant for poor Aunt Betty's private amusement, but it's better to try and provide clarification and context before than after.

Friday, August 05, 2016

August 25 fundraiser at Cavanaugh's for James E. Hanlon, Jr.

Supporters of James E. Hanlon, Jr.'s bid for the "A" vacancy in the 12th Subcircuit are planning a fundraiser for their candidate on Thursday, August 25, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., at Cavanaugh's Pub, 53 West Jackson, in the Monadnock Building.

The fundraiser is being hosted by Beuke & Beuke, Mike Krejci & Associates, and the Law Offices of Michael F. Clancy. The organizers say "donations are welcome" (well, yeah, it's a fundraiser).

Persons interested in attending are asked to contact Nicole at (312) 427-3050 or by email at nicole@beukelaw.com before August 20.

Hanlon is the Democratic nominee for the "A" vacancy; his Republican opponent in November is Steven A. Kozicki.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Reacting to Dan Mihalopoulous's column today

Dan Mihalopoulos (@dmihalopoulos) gets all the best judicial emails. I admit to being jealous.

FWIW readers probably read Mihalopoulos's column in this morning's Bright One (does the Sun-Times still use that slogan?) and most of them probably went to the Sun-Times website to read Judge Pethers' email and Judge Evans's response. (Judge Pethers' email is no longer downloadable on Scribd, but it was still on the website when I was last there.)

So rather than reproduce Mr. Mihalopoulous's work product here, let me react to some things in the column and in the, um, attachments.

Isn't it interesting that today's column follows so closely on the heels of yesterday's disclosure that Chief Judge Evans may face a challenger next month? Sure, it might just be a coincidence. Then again, as Finley Peter Dunne's Mr. Dooley observed more than a century ago, "Politics ain't beanbag." Mihalopoulos wrote, "[Judge Pethers] doesn’t name any of the allegedly better-clouted colleagues who were promoted unfairly over her. But Pethers put the blame for the situation squarely on longtime Chief Judge Timothy Evans."

Hmmmm.

I guess we'll know for sure if there are more of these kinds of stories in the next couple of weeks... but there may be some storm clouds gathering on Judge Evans's horizon.

There are obviously different levels of nobody-sent-ness. There's a neologism for you (OED take note). But Judge Pethers, who was elected to the bench (from the 8th Subcircuit, for all you vultures out there salivating about the forthcoming vacancy) in 2004, describes herself as a "nobody nobody sent."

Judging by the comments I regularly receive here, I'm pretty sure that I lost a number of readers to head explosions when they read that.

They'd give anything for that one brief shining moment that Judge Pethers experienced after the 2004 Primary, the moment that she finally learned that she'd bested a field of three challengers (all male) even if it was by only 53 votes over her nearest competitor.

I have a number of readers who would protest that, in winning an election, Judge Pethers necessarily became Somebody, capital-S deliberately inserted. But I also have a friend who never tires of telling me that 'where you stand depends on where you sit'---and in a group where everyone has won an election---where winning an election is just the minimum buy-in to the game---maybe Judge Pethers was politically disadvantaged. She obviously felt that she was.

And I sure as heck have nothing to add on the questions of whether Judge Evans did or didn't respond to Judge Pethers's request for assignment to the Law Division or whether Judge Pethers did or did not withdraw that request. But, while I understand that those of us among the Great Unwashed cannot simply walk in and see the county's Chief Judge, wouldn't you think that fellow judges, especially judges working in the same building, would have just a tad more access?

Why is it not OK to acknowledge that being a judge is a job? Judge Pethers wrote, "I never thought I would refer to being a judge as a 'job,' but it feels that way." Why shouldn't it?

Being a judge is a job. It is also a great honor and privilege---but if there wasn't also a paycheck every couple of weeks to accompany that honor, I daresay most of Judge Pethers' colleagues would likewise quit. Being a judge is (I assert with all the confidence of an outsider) a great job, but I think I'm on safe ground in advancing that claim. As Judge Pethers acknowledged, "Good pay, great benefits, lots of vacation. Even as a 'job,' it's the best one I've ever had."

The real story may be that there are some who have the job but aren't doing it. Judge Pethers mentioned, more or less as an aside, that "there are judges who regularly don't even come to work, but get to choose their courtrooms."

Let's stop that statement before the comma.

There are judges who regularly don't come to work?

Of course Mihalopoulos picked up on that statement.

Andy Shaw at the BGA and Rick Tulsky at Injustice Watch probably perked right up when they saw that one, too.

And I had a commenter here recently who made a very topical joke about two judges "notorious for taking off far more days than they actually show up, [who] gave court personnel and lawyers a shock recently when they both appeared at the Daley Center on one of the days they called in sick. It was soon discovered that [they] were playing Pokémon Go and given their unfamiliarity with the building, did not realize they were in the courthouse."

Maybe this is all so much slander. But, if it's not, I sure hope we can count on the bar association JECs or other reform-minded groups to name names and provide documentation. Because---and my readers know this as well as anyone---there is no shortage of qualified persons willing to step up and replace those who are not doing the job.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Chief Judge Evans to face challenge in reelection bid?

The Chicago Tribune reports this morning that Judge Thomas R. Allen will attempt to unseat Judge Timothy C. Evans as Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Judge Allen, like Judge Evans a former Chicago Alderman, was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to a countywide vacancy in late 2010 and thereafter elected to the Circuit Court from the 10th Subcircuit (running without opposition in the 2012 primary and general elections). Judge Allen is currently assigned to the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court.

The full judges of the circuit vote on who will be their chief. The election will be held next month. Since becoming Chief Judge in 2001, Judge Evans has only faced one prior reelection challenge, that from former Judge William D. Maddux in 2010.

------------------------------------------
Update 8/3/16: Herewith, the link to Mark Brown's coverage of the potential challenge in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Illinois Judges Foundation plans Summer Reception for August 17

The Illinois Judges Foundation, the charitable arm of the Illinois Judges Association, will host its Summer Reception on Wednesday, August 17, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in Corboy Hall at the Chicago Bar Association building, 321 S. Plymouth Court.

Proceeds from the reception support the charitable and educational programs of the Illinois Judges Association, including in particular the Harold Sullivan Scholarship. Headlining the event will be Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, retired Illinois Appellate Court Justice Gino L. DiVito, and Lake County Chief Judge Jorge L. Ortiz. This year's Harold Sullivan Scholarship recipients will be honored.

A special tribute to the late Laura C. Liu, Appellate Court Justice and IJF President in 2013-14, is also planned.

Refreshments will be served.

Tickets for the event are $100 apiece and can be purchased online or by calling Christine Athanasoulis at (708) 705-4355.

Persons interested in becoming a sponsor of the event should contact either IJF Executive Director Kevin Fagan at ijf@chicagobar.org or Christine Athanasoulis.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Rhonda Sallee's independent judicial bid undergoes challenge

Update 7/20/16: According to the Illinois State Board of Elections website, Ms. Sallee withdrew her candidacy on July 18. Daryl Jones is again unopposed in his bid for the Williams vacancy in the 5th Subcircuit.

It will probably not come as a surprise but, for the record, a challenge has been filed to the petitions recently filed by Rhonda Sallee, seeking to run as an independent candidate for the Williams vacancy in the 5th Judicial Subcircuit.

If Ms. Sallee survives the coming challenge, her opponent in November would be Democratic nominee Daryl Jones.

An initial hearing has been scheduled on the objectors' petition for the afternoon of July 12.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

One Appellate Court justice, 58 Circuit Court judges file for retention in Cook County

Appellate Court Justice Joy Virginia Cunningham has filed for retention and will appear on the November ballot, according to information provided by the Illinois State Board of Elections website.

Actually, the headline here is slightly misleading, inasmuch as three of the 58 Cook County Circuit Court judges who have filed for retention are currently serving by assignment on the Illinois Appellate Court (but must be retained in office as Circuit Court judges in order to remain in their assignments). One of these three, Bertina E. Lampkin, is unopposed in her bid for election to the Appellate Court in November. The other two are Mary Lane Mikva and Daniel James Pierce.

Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans has also filed for retention. By law, circuit court judges elected in Illinois, whether elected countywide or from subcircuits, must seek retention every six years in order to remain in office. (Justices of the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts must seek retention every 10 years.) In Cook County, the retention election is countywide, meaning voters from the entire county can vote on each judge's retention, even for judges originally elected from other subcircuits. Retention judges have no opponents; voters are asked whether Mary Jones (to make up a name) shall be retained in office as a Cook County Circuit Court judge. Voters choose 'yes' or 'no.'

Each judge must obtain a 60% 'yes' vote (60% + 1 if you wish to be technical) to be retained; the last time any Cook County judge failed to achieve a 60% yes vote was in 1990, when seven judges were removed (though one was simultaneously elected to the Appellate Court). That may sound like a pretty sure thing... but strange things have happened already in 2016... and even in 'normal' election years judges who have been hailed by every bar association, civic group, and scout troop, by every newspaper, community group, and garden club -- the best, the brightest, the acknowledged cream of the crop -- will have a hard time cracking the 80% positive level.

That means that, at a minimum. two out of every 10 Cook County voters seek to oust each and every retention judge regardless of that judge's qualifications.

Of the 58 Cook County Circuit Court judges filing for retention, twenty-three were originally elected countywide; thirty-two were first elected from subcircuits. Three judges on this year's retention ballot were elected prior to 1992, when the subcircuit system was adopted. Before 1992, Cook County voters elected judges on either a countywide, Chicago-only, or outside Chicago basis. Two of the judges on this year's retention ballot were first elected on a Chicago-only basis; the third was elected from outside Chicago.

Here, then, is the complete list of all Cook County Circuit Court judges who have filed for retention in 2016:
  • Robert Balanoff
  • Steven James Bernstein
  • Robert W. Bertucci
  • Kathleen Marie Burke
  • Charles Patrick Burns
  • John P. Callahan, Jr.
  • Jeanne R. Cleveland Bernstein
  • Bonita Coleman
  • Ann Finley Collins
  • Paula Marie Daleo
  • Deborah Mary Dooling
  • Laurence J. Dunford
  • Timothy C. Evans
  • Denise Kathleen Filan
  • Nicholas R. Ford
  • Daniel J. Gallagher
  • Vincent Michael Gaughan
  • John C. Griffin
  • Sophia H. Hall
  • Kay Marie Hanlon
  • Edward Harmening
  • William H. Hooks
  • Arnette R. Hubbard
  • Cheryl D. Ingram
  • Raymond L. Jagielski
  • Sharon O. Johnson
  • Linzey D. Jones
  • Thomas J. Kelley
  • Susan Kennedy Sullivan
  • John Patrick Kirby
  • Geary W. Kull
  • Bertina E. Lampkin
  • Diane Joan Larsen
  • Daniel Joseph Lynch
  • Thomas V. Lyons
  • Terry MacCarthy
  • William Maki
  • Daniel Malone
  • Leroy K. Martin, Jr.
  • James Patrick McCarthy
  • Claire Elizabeth McWilliams
  • Mary Lane Mikva
  • Raymond W. Mitchell
  • Allen F. Murphy
  • Patrick T. Murphy
  • Timothy Patrick Murphy
  • Kathleen Mary Pantle
  • Sheryl Ann Pethers
  • Daniel James Pierce
  • Sandra G. Ramos
  • Jim Ryan
  • Kevin Michael Sheehan
  • Irwin J. Solganick
  • Sharon Marie Sullivan
  • John D. Turner, Jr.
  • Edward "Ed" Washington, II
  • Alexander Patrick White
  • Thaddeus L. Wilson
Any errors or omissions in this list are mine.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Rhonda Sallee files as independent candidate in the 5th Subcircuit

Remember how I told you that everyone who won their primary race in March (with the exception of a handful of outliers in the far north and northwest suburban 12th and 13th Subcircuits) was pretty much guaranteed of election in November?

Well, as ESPN pundit Lee Corso might say, not so fast, my friend!

According to the Illinois State Board of Elections website, attorney Rhonda Sallee has filed as an independent candidate seeking the Williams vacancy in the 5th Subcircuit.

According to my archives, Sallee's is the first independent judicial bid filed in Cook County since 2010. Two candidates filed as independents for judicial office that year; neither made it to the November ballot.

The Election Code makes it difficult for judicial candidates to enter a party primary; there are large signature requirements and very particular rules about how those signatures are collected and arranged and what must be filed along with them. But these requirements, onerous as they may be, pale in comparison to those imposed on a would-be independent bid: The signature requirements are much, much greater than those required of a candidate seeking to file in an established party primary.

So Ms. Sallee's candidacy may falter without her ever making it to the ballot.

If she overcomes any objections to her petitions, however, Sallee's November opponent would be Daryl Jones. Jones won the Democratic race for the Williams vacancy in the March primary.

Sallee has been an attorney in Illinois since 1999. According to the ARDC, Sallee maintains a law office in the Chicago Temple Building across the street from the Daley Center. Sallee's LinkedIn page notes that she has also served as a hearing officer for the ARDC, as an arbitrator in the Cook County Mandatory Court-Annexed Arbitration System, and as administrative law judge (though the LinkedIn page does not specify the agency for which she works, or has worked). Sallee was a countywide judicial candidate in 2012.

Judge Robin D. Shoffner appointed to 8th Subcircuit vacancy

The Illinois Supreme Court today appointed Judge Robin D. Shoffner to an 8th Subcircuit vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Candace J. Fabri. The appointment is effective this Friday, July 1, and runs until December 3, 2018.

Judge Shoffner is currently sitting by Supreme Court appointment to the Williams vacancy in the 5th Subcircuit. In the March primary, Daryl Jones defeated Shoffner's bid to hold that vacancy. Shoffner was rated Qualified or Recommended by every Alliance bar association in the March primary; she also carried the Tribune's endorsement. However, neither Shoffner nor Jones was rated Qualified by the Chicago Bar Association (Jones having been automatically found Not Recommended because he "was an active member of the [CBA] Judicial Evaluation Committee at the beginning of this election year").

For those of you keeping score at home, Judge Shoffner's appointment today does not qualify as a "recall" to judicial service; Judge Shoffner's 5th Subcircuit appointment continued despite her loss in the March primary. Today's order means only that Judge Shoffner will be permitted to remain on the bench past the December 2016 expiration of her current appointment. In recent years, the Supreme Court has reappointed a number of judges -- not all of them, mind you, but some -- who came up short in a contested primary. Some of these reappointed judges (although again not all) have fared better with the voters when they next ran for election.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Justice Theis announces vacancies in Subcircuits 3 and 10; July 25 deadline set for applications

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis has announced application processes to fill vacancies in the 3rd and 10th Subcircuits.

Full details about the application process for the 10th Subcircuit vacancy can be found here; information about the forthcoming 3rd Subcircuit vacancy can be found here.

The deadline to apply for either vacancy is July 25 at 4:00 p.m. -- and, no, interested persons can't apply for both: Persons wishing to be considered must be a resident of the subcircuit from which they seek appointment.

Candidates seeking appointment by Justice Theis will have to participate in screening by the Alliance of Bar Associations, which is made up of 11 bar groups in the Cook County area, and the Chicago Bar Association. Further review will be conducted by a special judicial screening committee that Justice Theis established in 2013 and is co-chaired by retired U.S. District Court Judge Wayne R. Andersen and retired Illinois Appellate Court Judge Michael J. Gallagher. Persons who have submitted applications to Justice Theis's committee before will have to submit a new application.

The 10th Subcircuit vacancy is created by the elevation of Judge Eileen O'Neill Burke to the Appellate Court; Burke ran unopposed for the Epstein vacancy in the March primary and was appointed to fill that vacancy soon thereafter. She was first elected to the Circuit Court in 2008.

The 3rd Subcircuit vacancy will occur on July 31 when Judge Maureen Leahy Delehanty retires. Judge Delehanty began her judicial career in 2009, when she was appointed to a countywide vacancy. She was subsequently appointed to a 3rd Subcircuit vacancy in 2010, winning election to that vacancy in 2012.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Sometimes you gotta maintain perspective....

The post below about Clare Quish's appointment to the bench and Judge Mary Mikva's elevation to the Appellate Court drew the predictable comments about "friends and family" and "insiders," in large part because Ms. Quish served for several years as a law clerk to then-Appellate Court Justice Mary Jane Theis... and it was now-Supreme Court Justice Theis who recommended Quish's appointment by the Supreme Court.

It's not 'sour grapes' to harrumph about the prior association. Please. I am certain that there were a great many applicants for the Circuit Court appointment (Justice Theis uses a committee to screen judicial wannabes) who were at least as qualified and capable and smart as Ms. Quish. And who'd do as good a job in office, too.

On the other hand, when your sink backs up, do you call the plumber who fixed your hot water heater last year? Or do you ignore that good experience and pick a name out of the phone book? You might ask your neighbors who they've used -- and your neighbors probably know some excellent plumbers, too -- but (in Chicagoese) if you've 'got a guy,' why would you look elsewhere?

Human nature is hard to overcome. We tend to rely on those we know, those we've met before, those with whom we have some 'history.' (This, I think, is the true value of diversity programs -- these help us meet people we'd not otherwise have met and find we share things in common we would otherwise never know. Our list of 'who to call' -- or who might call us -- grows.)

One of the anonymous comments (they're all anonymous, of course; only an idiot blogger gives his name) was signed "The Guy Nobody Sent." Another, after venting about Ms. Quish, added, "please do not get me started on the Mikva appointment to the Appellate Court. If the Mikva name sounds familiar to anyone with respect to Democratic Politics, it should."

Yes, the name Abner Mikva is familiar... former State Representative, former Congressman, former Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Former White House Counsel (during Bill Clinton's first term). Mentor to a then-young Barack Obama. The ultimate insider.

Except... on my bookshelf is a book, yellowing slightly now with age, by the late Milton L. Rakove, titled We Don't Want Nobody Nobody Sent (Indiana University Press, 1979). It's an "oral history" of the Daley years (that's the Richard J. Daley years for you young people out there). Think Studs Terkel, only Professor Rakove was interviewing politicians, not war veterans or people along Division Street.

Here is Abner J. Mikva, quoted by Professor Rakove (p. 318):
I guess I had always an interest in politics. The year I started law school, 1948, was the year that Douglas and Stevenson were heading up the Democratic ticket in Illinois. I was all fired up from the Students for Douglas and Stevenson and passed this storefront, the 8th Ward Regular Democratic Organization. I came in and said I wanted to help. Dead silence. "Who sent you?" the committeeman said. I said, "Nobody." He said, "We don't want nobody nobody sent."
Abner Mikva may be as much of an "insider" as anyone can imagine... now. But he was the original nobody that nobody sent.

Things change. Today's outsiders may be insiders tomorrow. I don't pretend to know what alchemy or magic spell converts an outsider to an insider. But history shows that it happens. Sometimes.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Quish appointed to Circuit Court bench; Mikva promoted to the Appellate Court

In an order entered yesterday, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed Clare J. Quish, a partner at Schuyler, Roche & Crisham, to the countywide vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Michelle D. Jordan.

Quish's appointment is effective June 28 and will terminate on December 3, 2018.

Quish's firm biography stresses her appellate and commercial and civil litigation experience "including professional liability, employment law, personal injury defense, insurance coverage and construction law." A 2000 graduate of Loyola University School of Law, Quish began her legal career as a law clerk to then-Appellate Court Justice Mary Jane Theis. In the 2004-05 school year, Quish was an Adjunct Professor of Appellate Advocacy at Loyola.

In another order entered yesterday, the Supreme Court assigned Chancery Judge Mary L. Mikva to the Appellate Court, filling the vacancy created by the recent passing of Justice Laura C. Liu. Judge Mikva's appointment is effective July 15.

Both of these appointments were made at the recommendation of Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis (see press release).

Monday, May 30, 2016

Norwood Park observes Memorial Day


The 2016 Norwood Park Memorial Day Parade was held this morning under picture postcard conditions.



We can't have a parade without politicians -- maybe this could happen elsewhere, but never in Chicago. The first political group down the street Monday morning was Water Reclamation District Commissioner Frank Avila... and family.


There were more politicians on the march, but first there were old police cars...


...and modern fire engines...


... and historical reenactors....


They were far enough away when they loosed a volley that my granddaughter Diana was fascinated, not frightened.


The parade Grand Marshal was 95-year old Army vet Morris Factor. According to Heather Cherone's article, posted May 2 on DNAinfo, Factor served with Merrill's Marauders in Burma (now Myanmar).


Smyser Elementary School's marching band provided entertainment.



For more pictures from today's parade, turn to Page Two.