Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Judge James L. Kaplan appointed to new countywide vacancy


The Illinois Supreme Court has reappointed Judge James L. Kaplan to the Cook County Circuit Court. Judge Kaplan's new appointment, effective February 2 and terminating December 5, 2016, is to the countywide vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Patrick W. O'Brien. (Yesterday's order appointing Judge Kaplan initially said the appointment was effective February 1; it was subsequently corrected.)

The Illinois Supreme Court first appointed Judge Kaplan to the bench in 2010. Most recently, Judge Kaplan was the Democratic nominee for judge in the far north suburban 12th Judicial Subcircuit. His most recent appointment terminated December 1.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Judge Roger G. Fein reappointed to the Cook County Circuit Court

The Illinois Supreme Court has reappointed Judge Roger G. Fein to the Cook County Circuit Court.

The new appointment, to the 12th Subcircuit vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Robert J. Quinn, is effective January 2, 2015 and will terminate December 5, 2016. Judge Fein has been serving pursuant to a series of appointments for over a decade. His most recent appointment, to the Donnelly vacancy in the 3rd Subcircuit, terminated December 1.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Esrig to return to the bench; will fill vacancy created by retirement of Judge Andrew Berman

Judge Jerry A. Esrig was appointed to the 9th Subcircuit Goldberg vacancy in October 2013. He was not able to hold that seat in the March primary, losing to Megan Goldish in a contest between two of the most highly-rated candidates (in the views of the bar associations) on the primary ballot. Judge Esrig's appointment terminated on Monday, December 1, when the new class of judges was sworn in.

But the Illinois Supreme Court has today appointed Judge Esrig to a new 9th Subcircuit vacancy, one that will open up on January 29, when Judge Andrew Berman retires. Judge Esrig's new appointment is effective January 30 and will terminate on December 5, 2016.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Supreme Court fills two vacancies in 1st Subcircuit

Anthony E. Simpkins
The Illinois Supreme Court today appointed Anthony E. Simpkins to the 1st Subcircuit vacancy created by the recent retirement of Judge Vanessa A. Hopkins. The appointment is effective December 15; it terminates December 6, 2016.

Simpkins has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1994. He currently serves as a Deputy Commissioner in the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. (According to a City of Chicago table, Mr. Simpkins is Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation in the Department's Bureau of Housing.) He formerly served as Senior Counsel in the Building & Land Use Litigation Division of the Corporation Counsel's office.

Maryam Ahmad
The Supreme Court also appointed Assistant State's Attorney Maryam Ahmad to the Cynthia Brim vacancy. Ahmad's appointment is effective December 1; it, too, will terminate on December 6, 2016.

Ahmad has been licensed in Illinois since 2000. She has also served as an Assistant Public Defender and as Sexual Harassment Officer for the City of Chicago. Earlier in her career, while still in law school, Ahmad worked as Special Assistant to the President on Diversity at DePaul University. Before attending law school, Ahmad was Dean of Multicultural Affairs at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Lesbian and Gay Bar Association President pens open letter to Gov.-elect Rauner about Mr. Rauner's retention ballot choices

Ed. note -- The following letter is reprinted without comment; one apparent typo was corrected with the author's permission. The author of the letter, LAGBAC President John Litchfield, is an attorney at Foley & Lardner LLP.

Photo of Mr. Rauner voting on Election Day,
taken from the Glenview News website.
Dear Mr. Rauner,

A photo of you published on November 5, 2014 with your completed ballot indicates that you voted "No" on every judicial candidate for retention to the Cook County bench, according to Republican Judge James G. Riley's letter to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (published on November 10, 2014, and enclosed here for your reference). I, too, saw the photograph referenced by Judge Riley, and am disappointed to see that it confrrms his account.

This means you voted not to retain even the stars of the bench, the leaders and stand-outs, the innovators and those working to bring peace and resolution to families in our communities. Judges, perhaps more so than any of the elected officials in our state, have a direct and lasting impact on the lives of Illinoisans on a daily basis - whether it be petitioners in bankruptcy, divorce court, or child custody, or defendants in criminal cases or eviction proceedings. The issues our judiciary grapples with are deeply personal to the citizens of our state who deserve only the best on the bench.

Judge Riley's letter is correct: the 2014 class of retention candidates enjoyed better bar ratings than most previous classes; no 2014 candidate received less than 50% "Yes" recommendations from rating bar associations; and only eight of 73 had any "No" recommendations at all. Prior classes of retention candidates have usually featured at least one or two with 100% negative bar ratings.

One reason that I am conversant with these statistics is that I have been privy to the judicial evaluations process for more than four years as President of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, and over nine years as a member. Our members, and the members of many other bar associations, spend hundreds of hours a year evaluating judicial candidates by reviewing detailed candidate questionnaires, seeking feedback from practitioners familiar with the candidates' practices, and conducting live interviews all in an effort to educate the electorate on the otherwise confusing process of electing judges.

Every retention cycle, roughly 20% of the Cook County electorate vote "No" on every judicial candidate up for retention. While an unfortunate reality in our electoral process, our elected leaders should not encourage this action by their own example. It is simply irresponsible to do so.

There are a number of viable alternatives you could have explored. Let me address a few.

First, you could have taken an opportunity to speak out on long ballots that are confusing to voters, and maybe ever lent support to efforts to make voter information more widely available.

Second, with a little information, you could have addressed the possibility of raising the bar for retention from 60% to 65% or even 70% to improve the chances of removing poor performers from the bench - or at least creating the threat of job loss to inspire effort at better performance.

Third, you could have waded into the debate about whether judges should be elected at all, perhaps joining with politicians in other states in efforts to roll back existing voting opportunities, or better yet, working with legislators in Springfield to establish improvements to Illinois' system of electing judges.

Or, fourth, you could have just not cast votes in those races and pled ignorance.

But instead of these and other responsible alternatives, your vote risked chaos and the wholesale loss of a set of professionals who, for the most part, perform extraordinary service for the people of Cook County. Your decision to vote "no" on each and every judicial candidate demonstrates contempt for the judiciary, the volunteer attorney evaluators, and the electorate itself. I invite you to engage the Illinois bar to explain your vote. Perhaps you have thoughts about how the bar can work with the state to improve our judicial election process, and we would welcome your leadership on this issue. The system is far from perfect - but an irresponsible vote by the now-leader of Illinois only serves to exacerbate any problems, and sets a bad example of how to fix them.

Thank you for your time and attention. I am available and willing to discuss any of this if you are so inclined.

Sincerely yours,

John L. Litchfield, Esq.
President, the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago

Friday, November 14, 2014

Robin D. Shoffner appointed to Circuit Court

The Illinois Supreme Court today appointed Robin D. Shoffner to the 5th Subcircuit vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Shelli Williams-Hayes.

At the time of her appointment, according to ARDC, Shoffner was working for the City of Chicago Department of Law. She previously worked for Aon plc. She has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1990.

Shoffner's appointment is effective December 3, 2014. It will terminate December 5, 2016.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ken White says I'm wrong about the Park Ridge zoning suit

Ken White is one of the principals of Popehat, which I link to in my Sidebar, and a blogger of national renown on a number of free-speech related issues, SLAPP suits included.

His take on the case I wrote about Tuesday, 400 W. Talcott LLC v. Argionis, 14 CH 17457? A SLAPP False Alarm Out Of Chicago: The Law Is An Ass.

Somehow Mr. White finds time to practice both law and journalism from his base in California. I don't know how he does it.

Mr. White practiced journalism in this case by reaching out to the developer's attorneys, Ungaretti & Harris LLP, to get their side of the story (instead of regurgitating the local media coverage, as I did). Ungaretti & Harris sent Mr. White a copy of the Complaint filed on the developer's behalf.

In communicating with the developer's lawyers, Mr. White was able to discover the basis of the developer's ultra-expansive reading of §3-107 of the Administrative Review Law, 735 ILCS 5/3-107. The developer is relying on O'Hare International Bank v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals, 8 Ill.App.3d 764, 291 N.E.2d 349 (1st Dist. 1972). That case was cited by Lexis in the annotations to §3-107 for the generic proposition, "Plaintiffs' complaint for administrative review of a zoning decision was fatally defective because it did not name all parties of record as defendants." Lexis did not provide a clue that the "parties of record" might be neighboring property owners who testified against a proposed zoning change.

The text of the case, however, does. Mr. White quoted most of this passage from O'Hare International Bank in his post (8 Ill.App.3d at 767):
The Park Ridge residents who made personal or representative appearances at the zoning board hearing lived in the immediate vicinity of the plaintiffs' property. They were more than disinterested witnesses; they actively maintained a position opposed to the plaintiffs'. Their interest in the outcome of the hearing was substantial. They did not seek administrative review of the board's decision because the decision was favorable to them. Their interest became jeopardized a second time when the plaintiffs challenged the decision in the circuit court; yet they were neither notified of the suit nor made defendants. They were thus deprived of the opportunity of protecting their interest -- the monetary value of their homes and the aesthetic level of their neighborhood -- in court.

The plaintiffs' complaint for administrative review was fatally defective because it did not name all parties of record as defendants. The requirement of paragraph 271, chapter 110, Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, is both mandatory and jurisdictional; it was not waived by the defendants' failure to raise this objection in the trial court.
I don't see that case as saying the persons opposing the zoning were necessary parties because they were opposed to it, but rather that they were necessary parties because, as neighbors, they had an interest in the zoning determination, whether they were for it or against it. I suppose, upon consideration of Mr. White's piece, the real legal question will be, in this case, if the neighbors are even arguably necessary parties, whether the suit against them is sufficiently "retaliatory and meritless" to overcome the burden shifting provisions of Section 20 of the Citizen Participation Act, 735 ILCS 110/20.

If the really case can go forward with the neighbors as defendants, one comment Mr. White makes is particularly useful:
From my Monday-morning-quarterback armchair I will note that it would have been prudent to have a paragraph in the complaint saying something like "the Neighbor Defendants are named solely as required by Illinois law as potential parties of record to the administrative hearing, and no relief is sought specifically from them." It also would have been prudent to have an advance media strategy when this hit; a furor about SLAPPs was predictable. Nobody's perfect.
The probabilities are that one of these 22 defendants may be looking for a new mortgage, or selling their house, or seeking financing for a business venture during the pendency of this lawsuit. The developer's suit against them will show up in the course of the lender's investigation. In a gentler time, a disclaimer such as Mr. White suggests might have been sufficient to soothe the ruffled feathers of a nervous would-be lender. It might even work in the world we live in today. It sure would be worth a try -- and it surely would be helpful to a court determining, if it ever comes to this point, whether a party was acting in good faith in naming defendants as it did.

Mr. White concludes that the peculiarities of joinder requirements under our Administrative Review Law take the 400 W. Talcott LLC case out of the category of SLAPP suit. If so, maybe some clarification of who is, or who isn't, a necessary party under §3-107 is in order. Hello, General Assembly? Meanwhile, this much is certain: this case will still be interesting to follow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Is developer SLAPPing Park Ridge residents around?

The Park Ridge Herald-Advocate reports that 22 Park Ridge residents are being sued by a developer who has so far been frustrated in its efforts to turn an abandoned auto repair shop into a four-story mixed commercial and residential development.

The locus in quo (from Google Maps)
Also named in the suit, according to Jennifer Johnson's November 6 Herald-Advocate article, are the city of Park Ridge, 1st Ward Ald. Joe Sweeney, Park Ridge City Planner Jon Branham, and the nine members of the Park Ridge Planning and Zoning Commission. The suit is pending in the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County (400 W. Talcott LLC v. Argionis, 14 CH 17457).

Johnson's article says the suit has been brought to overturn the city's zoning decision. I venture no opinion on the merits of the project or the city's decision.

But Johnson's article quotes a "zoning activist," Missy Langan, who says she and the other 21 residents were sued because they exercised "their First Amendment right to speak their opinions during city proceedings." The Park Ridge city attorney is quoted in Johnson's article as telling the City Council that the developer is interpreting the Administrative Review Act, under which the developer's suit is brought, as allowing it to name anyone who appeared at the zoning hearing in opposition to the plan. For the record, Section 3-107(a) of the Code of Civil Procedure provides, in pertinent part, "Except as provided in subsection (b) or (c), in any action to review any final decision of an administrative agency, the administrative agency and all persons, other than the plaintiff, who were parties of record to the proceedings before the administrative agency shall be made defendants."

A quick search this evening of the annotations to §3-107 compiled on Lexis shows no clear support for this expansive definition of the term "parties of record," but a quick search is not exhaustive research. On the other hand, inasmuch as these residents had no authority, individually or collectively, to deny (or, for that matter, to grant) anyone's request to rezone anything, it seems unlikely that they could possibly be considered "parties of record."

But let us suppose that the 22 residents could be joined as "parties of record." They may still be entitled to dismissal -- and an award of their attorneys' fees -- under the Illinois Citizen Participation Act, 735 ILCS 110/1, et seq. Section 15 of the Act, 735 ILCS 110/15, provides:
This Act applies to any motion to dispose of a claim in a judicial proceeding on the grounds that the claim is based on, relates to, or is in response to any act or acts of the moving party in furtherance of the moving party's rights of petition, speech, association, or to otherwise participate in government.

Acts in furtherance of the constitutional rights to petition, speech, association, and participation in government are immune from liability, regardless of intent or purpose, except when not genuinely aimed at procuring favorable government action, result, or outcome.
A party who succeeds in knocking out what is often referred to as a SLAPP suit (for "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation" in government) can recover attorney's fees and costs under Section 25 of the Act, 735 ILCS 110/25.

What makes a motion to dismiss under the Citizen Participation Act different is Section 20 of the Act, 735 ILCS 110/20. Section 20 provides:
(a) On the filing of any motion as described in Section 15 [735 ILCS 110/15], a hearing and decision on the motion must occur within 90 days after notice of the motion is given to the respondent. An appellate court shall expedite any appeal or other writ, whether interlocutory or not, from a trial court order denying that motion or from a trial court's failure to rule on that motion within 90 days after that trial court order or failure to rule.

(b) Discovery shall be suspended pending a decision on the motion. However, discovery may be taken, upon leave of court for good cause shown, on the issue of whether the movants (sic) acts are not immunized from, or are not in furtherance of acts immunized from, liability by this Act.

(c) The court shall grant the motion and dismiss the judicial claim unless the court finds that the responding party has produced clear and convincing evidence that the acts of the moving party are not immunized from, or are not in furtherance of acts immunized from, liability by this Act.
This is a burden shifting provision. Typically, on a motion to dismiss, all well-pleaded facts in a complaint are assumed to be true. Here, though, the party responding to the motion must come forward with "clear and convincing evidence that the acts of the moving party are not immunized" by the Citizen Participation Act. But the Illinois Supreme Court has held that the burden does not shift unless and until the movants meet their "initial burden of proving that plaintiff's lawsuit was solely 'based on, relate[d] to, or in response to' their acts in furtherance of their rights of petition, speech or association, or to participate in government." Sandholm v. Kuecker, 2012 IL 111443, ¶56. In Samoylovich v. Montesdeoca, 2014 IL App (1st) 121545, the Appellate Court interpreted Sandholm as requiring that a movant under the Citizen Participation Act prove that the suit against him or her is "retaliatory and meritless" before the burden shift of Section 20 can be properly invoked. Of course, persons sued merely for testifying against a proposed zoning change at a zoning hearing might just clear that initial hurdle without breaking a sweat.

It may be interesting to watch this case unfold.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

James Paul Pieczonka prevails in 12th Subcircuit

I reported last night that Republican James Paul Pieczonka was ahead of Judge James Kaplan in the far north suburban 12th Subcircuit after significant returns had been reported. These figures from Cook County Clerk David Orr's website this morning confirm last night's trend.


While this outcome may come as a surprise to many FWIW readers, particularly in light of the disparity in bar association ratings between the candidates, the result is not unprecedented. In fact, when a coalition of Republicans and racial minorities in the legislature created the Cook County subcircuit system in the early 1990s, the 12th Subcircuit was envisioned as a safe haven for Republican judicial candidates. And so it proved to be until 2006, when three female Democratic candidates beat three male Republicans for the three judicial vacancies at stake that year.

No Republican has been elected from the 12th Subcircuit since, until yesterday, but, perhaps, Pieczonka's election may represent a return to historical norms. Or the result may be a fluke. Time will tell. Either way, in 2016, if there is a vacancy in the 12th Subcircuit, count on multiple candidates filing for both the Republican and Democratic primaries there.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

All retention judges appear likely to be retained

The Chicago Board of Elections website lists each retention race separately on election night; Cook County Clerk David Orr's website provides a list of the retention judge results. So this is extremely unofficial, but after 'cherry picking' results in City counts of judges who were somewhat controversial for one reason or another, and comparing these with the County results, it looks like all the retention judges will survive tonight.

It also looks like no judge will get an 80% 'yes' vote, and very few will get more than 75%. Most seem to be in the range of 70-75%.

Judge Thomas E. Flanagan, the one judge singled out for a "no" vote by the Chicago Bar Association, has a combined 72.6% "yes" vote at this point, with over 75% of the City vote counted and roughly 88% of the County vote in.

Judge Annie O'Donnell, the one judge singled out for a "no" vote by the Chicago Council of Lawyers, has a combined favorable vote of just over 70%.

The County Clerk's office reports a 40.15% voter turnout; the Chicago Board of Elections is reporting turnout of 35.10% of the City's registered voters.

Mahoney apparent victor in 4th Subcircuit, Kaplan trails Pieczonka in the 12th

There are only two judicial contests this year in Cook County (all other races being unopposed). In the race for the Billik vacancy in the 4th Subcircuit, Assistant State's Attorney John J. Mahoney appears to be significantly ahead of his Republican opponent, LaGrange attorney Ian Brenson.

Here is the latest data, lifted from Cook County Clerk David Orr's website:


Meanwhile, in the far north suburban 12th Judicial Subcircuit, Judge James Kaplan is trailing his Republican opponent, James Paul Pieczonka, by 1983 votes, according to these figures from the Cook County Clerk's website:


There are not that many votes left yet to be counted in these contests.

Jean Margaret Cocozza appointed to Love vacancy

The Illinois Supreme Court has appointed Judge Jean Margaret Cocozza to the countywide vacancy created by the recent retirement of Judge Noreen Valeria Love. The appointment is effective Friday, November 7 and terminates December 5, 2016.

Judge Cocozza had been serving pursuant to appointment to the Reyes vacancy. Diana Rosario faces no opposition today in her bid for that vacancy. Judge Cocozza's appointment to that vacancy will terminate Friday when she moves to the new appointment. Judge Cocozza Cocozza has been licensed in Illinois as an attorney since 1989. Prior to her 2013 appointment to the bench, Cocozza had served as a senior clerk in the chambers of Supreme Court Justice Charles Freeman.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Resources for voters looking to navigate the Cook County judicial retention ballot tomorrow

Yes, there are a lot of judges seeking retention (more than 70, including one elected Justice of the Appellate Court). That's a lot of judges. Even President Obama reportedly complained about the length of the retention ballot when he voted early.

But there are resources for voters looking for information or guidance concerning the retention judges.

Some of these prior posts on FWIW may be hepful:
To summarize, the one judge singled out as unworthy of retention by the Chicago Bar Association, Judge Thomas E. Flanagan, was deemed "qualified" by the Chicago Council of Lawyers and each of the other member bar associations of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening. The Chicago Council of Lawyers found only one judge not qualified, Judge Annie O'Donnell. The Chicago Tribune follows the lead of the Chicago Council of Lawyers on the retention ballot, urging a "no" vote only on Judge O'Donnell. Several of the Alliance groups rated one or more judges as not qualified for retention (the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago urges six "no" votes, the most of any Alliance group -- see the "grids" post) but any judge rated not qualified by one or more Alliance groups was rated qualified by the CBA. The majority of judges on the retention ballot are rated qualified by each and every evaluating bar group.

Other voter resources. The retention judges also have their own website. You will find there a linked list of all jurists seeking retention. As of October 18, many of those links provided biographical information, pictures or .pdf resumes. To wit:
The Illinois Civil Justice League released its ratings of Cook County retention hopefuls on October 21 on its IllinoisJudges.net site. The ICJL rated retention candidates as Highly Recommended, Recommended, No Position, or Not Recommended. According to ICJL President Ed Murnane, the "No Position" rating was assigned to candidates or judges "who did not return our questionnaire and/or their candidacy left us insufficient information to assign a rating." The ICJL rated candidates "Not Recommended" if, in the opinion of that organization, there were "questions about the integrity, impartiality, fairness, or conduct of the candidate, judge, or their campaign." According to Murnane, judges earned a "Recommended" rating if they "demonstrated a satisfactory level of competency in regards to their legal and/or judicial careers, and/or who have demonstrated their commitment to educating the voters about their background, experience and viewpoints on the judicial system." The "Highly Recommended" rating was reserved, according to Murnane, for "judges who have demonstrated a high level of competency based on those criteria."

The ICJL gave "Highly Recommended" ratings to four Cook County Circuit Court judges, Gregory Wojkowski, Themis Karzenis, Lewis Nixon, and Donna Cooper. Justice Thomas Hoffman received a "Recommended" rating from the ICJL in his bid to be retained on the Illinois Appellate Court.

Here is the complete ICJL list of Cook County Circuit Court judges as published this morning in its daily newsletter:
Assigned to the Appellate Court:
Michael Hyman – Recommended
Robert Gordon – No Position
Mary Anne Mason – No Position

Assigned to the Law Division:
Joan Powell – Recommended
Eileen [O'Neill] Burke – Recommended
Patrick Sherlock – Not Recommended
Eileen Brewer – No Position
James O’Hara – Not Recommended
Margaret Brennan – Not Recommended
Janet Brosnahan – Recommended
Lynn Egan – Recommended
Gregory Wojkowski – Highly Recommended
James Flannery – No Position
Thomas Lipscomb – Recommended
Themis Karnezis – Highly Recommended
Thomas Flanagan – No Position

Assigned to the Chancery Division:
Lewis Nixon – Highly Recommended
Kathleen Kennedy – Recommended
Rodolfo Garcia – No Position

Assigned to the Probate Division:
Mary Ellen Coghlan – Recommended
Ann Collins-Dole – Recommended
Kathleen McGury – Recommended
John Fleming – Recommended
James Riley – Recommended

Assigned to the County Division:
Edmund Ponce de Leon – Recommended
Margarita Kulys Hoffman – Recommended

Assigned to the Domestic Violence Division:
Diana Kenworthy – Recommended
Ursula Walowski – Recommended
Sebastian Patti – Recommended

Assigned to the Domestic Relations Division:
Debra Walker – Recommended
Raul Vega – Recommended

Assigned to the Criminal Division:
Diane Gordon Cannon – Recommended
William Lacy – Recommended
Clayton Crane – Recommended
Kenneth Wadas – Recommended
Evelyn Clay – Recommended
Thomas Byrne – Recommended
Rickey Jones – Recommended
Mauricio Araujo – Recommended

Assigned to the Juvenile Justice Division:
Donna Cooper – Highly Recommended

Assigned to the First Municipal District:
Anita Rivkin-Carothers – Recommended
Jackie Portman – Recommended

Assigned to the Second Municipal District:
Shelley Sutker-Dermer – Recommended

Assigned to the Fourth Municipal District:
Kristyna Ryan – Recommended

Assigned to the Fifth Municipal District:
Patrick Rogers – Recommended
Peter Felice – Recommended

Assigned to the Sixth Municipal District:
James Rhodes – Recommended
Anna Demacopoulos – Recommended
Frank Zelzinski – Recommended
The IVI-IPO has also recommended several Circuit Court judges seeking retention for a "yes" vote. The IVI-IPO has not announced that it opposes any judicial retention bid; it has merely endorsed some, but not all, of the Circuit Court judges seeking retention. The retention candidates singled out by the IVI-IPO are:
  • Ann Collins Dole
  • Anna H. Demacopoulos
  • Clayton J. Crane
  • Debra Walker
  • Diana Kenworthy
  • Donna Cooper
  • Edmund Ponce de Leon
  • Edward A. Arce
  • Eileen Brewer
  • Eileen O'Neill Burke
  • Evelyn B. Clay
  • Jackie Marie Portman
  • James P. Flannery, Jr.
  • James Rhodes
  • Kathleen Kennedy
  • Kathleen McGury
  • Kenneth J. Wadas
  • Kristyna C. Ryan
  • Lewis Nixon
  • Lynn M. Egan
  • Marilyn F. Johnson
  • Marjorie C. Laws
  • Mary Anne Mason
  • Mauricio Araujo
  • Michael B. Hyman
  • Raul Vega
  • Rickey Jones
  • Robert E. Gordon
  • Sebastian Thomas Patti
  • Thomas J. Lipscomb
  • Ursula Walowski
  • William Lacy

FOP urges "no" vote on retention bid of Judge Anita Rivkin-Carothers

I saw it first on the often profane but usually informative police blog, Second City Cop. In addition to urging a "no" vote on all retention judges, in the linked October 31 post the proprietor or proprietors of Second City Cop singled out Judge Anita Rivkin-Carothers. It turns out that Chicago Lodge 7 of the Fraternal Order of Police (hardly an ally of Second City Cop) put up a post encouraging votes against Judge Rivkin-Carothers on October 30. From the FOP post:
When you vote on November 4th, you will see a Judge that must not be re-elected. You may know her as Anita Rivkin-Carothers and she is known as the “Gang Lawyer”.

Anita Rivkin-Carothers defended cop-killer Murray Blue years ago, who murdered Officer Daniel Doffyn and injured Officer Milan “Mike” Bubalo. Rivkin-Carothers said during opening statements that she intends to prove that Doffyn was accidentally shot by his partner during a frantic moment of gunfire. Rivkin-Carothers went on to say that after the shooting, investigators, including the chief administrator of the police department’s Office of Professional Standards, got together and filed a false report in which they blamed Blue.

Ballistics reports showed the bullets that struck Doffyn came from Blue’s Tec-9 automatic machine pistol.

She remains openly hostile to officers who come before her.
The bar associations have made a more favorable assessment of Judge Rivkin-Carothers' qualifications for retention. Judge Rivkin-Carothers has been rated "Qualified" for retention by the Chicago Bar Association. The CBA states:
Judge Anita Rivkin-Carothers is “QUALIFIED” for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge Rivkin-Carothers was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1985. Judge Rivkin-Carothers served as an Assistant Cook County Public Defender from 1985-1987 before entering private practice. Judge Rivkin-Carothers was appointed to the Circuit Court in 2007 and elected a Circuit Court Judge in 2008 and is currently assigned to a trial call in the First Municipal District. Judge Rivkin-Carothers has a fine demeanor and is well regarded by the lawyers who appear before her.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers has also rated Judge Rivkin-Carothers as "Qualified" for retention. The Council states:
Prior to becoming a judge, Anita Rivkin-Carothers was in private practice between 1987 and 2007 doing complex criminal defense litigation.. She also for several years as an Assistant Cook County Public Defender in the felony trial division. Judge Rivkin-Carothers is currently sitting at the First Municipal District where she presides over bodily injury and property damage jury trials. Judge Rivkin-Carothers is considered to have good legal ability. She is praised for her temperament and for being respectful of all parties appearing before her. She is reportedly fair to parties and is knowledgeable about the law. The Council finds her Qualified for retention.
Each of the other member bar associations of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening has found Judge Rivkin-Carothers qualified for retention as well.

Judge Rivkin-Carothers was also rated recommended for retention by the Illinois Civil Justice League.

Election Day Tomorrow: Information here today for voters in Cook County Judicial Subcircuits 4 and 12

Voters looking for information about races for Appellate Court, countywide Circuit Court, or subcircuit vacancies in all Cook County subcircuits except the 4th and 12th should know that there are no races. All countywide judicial races were decided in the March Democratic primary. The Democratic primary also determined the winners of tomorrow's uncontested subcircuit races with three exceptions. In the far northwest suburban 13th Subcircuit, the Republican primary determined the sole candidate for that vacancy. Only in the race for one of the two 4th Subcircuit vacancies (the Billik vacancy) and in the 12th Subcircuit are there two candidates vying for your votes. Here is information you may find helpful in determining who should get your vote in those races:

12th Subcircuit

James L. Kaplan -- #80

Campaign Website

Candidate Statements: James L. Kaplan: In his own words, Cook County Clerk's website

Video Interview: NTNM

Bar Association Evaluations
The Chicago Bar Association says:
Judge James L. Kaplan is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Judge Kaplan was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1971 and was appointed to the Circuit Court in 2010. Judge Kaplan is thoughtful, possesses a good demeanor, and has performed well on the bench.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers says:
Judge James L. Kaplan was appointed to the Circuit Court in 2010. He was admitted to practice in 1971. Before becoming a Circuit Judge, he was senior partner with the law firm of Kaplan & Sorosky Ltd., and served as a judge on the Illinois Court of Claims. His practice primarily involved workers’ compensation matters. Judge Kaplan was considered to be a good lawyer with good legal ability and temperament. As a judge, he is reported to demonstrate a good temperament and ability to manage a courtroom. The Council finds Mr. Kaplan Qualified for the Circuit Court.
Other Bar Association Evaluations:
Asian American Bar Association of the
Greater Chicago Area
Qualified
Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater ChicagoRecommended
Cook County Bar AssociationRecommended
Decalogue Society of LawyersRecommended
Hellenic Bar AssociationRecommended
Hispanic Lawyers Association of IllinoisQualified
Illinois State Bar AssociationQualified
Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of ChicagoRecommended
Puerto Rican Bar Association of IllinoisRecommended
Women’s Bar Association of IllinoisRecommended

Endorsements
Chicago Tribune
IVI-IPO
Cong. Jan Schakowsky

------------------------------------------------------

James Paul Pieczonka -- #81


Campaign Website

Candidate Statemen:t Cook County Clerk's website

Bar Association Evaluations
The Chicago Bar Association says:
James Pieczonka is “Not Recommended” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Pieczonka was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1983 and is currently a solo practitioner concentrating in Taxation, Real Estate and Condominium Law. Mr. Pieczonka’s practice and court experience is limited. Mr. Pieczonka held a real estate broker’s license from 2004-2007 and was actively involved as a broker during this period. The candidate owns a number of properties that are currently in foreclosure and is personally involved in several residual court actions. Mr. Pieczonka needs to gain additional practice experience and resolve these financial responsibility concerns before reapplying to serve as a Circuit Court Judge.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers says:
James Paul Pieczonka was admitted to practice in 1983. He has spent most of his career as a sole practitioner doing both transactional work and litigation. In addition to his legal practice, he has been involved in real estate development matters. From 1985 to 1996, he also worked as an Administrative Law Judge for the Illinois Department of Revenue in the Hearings Division. Mr. Pieczonka has limited litigation experience. Some question his litigation skills. Much of his career has been related to transactional work and real estate development. The Council finds him Not Qualified for the Circuit Court.
Other Bar Association Evaluations:
Asian American Bar Association of the
Greater Chicago Area
Not Qualified
Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater ChicagoNot Recommended
Cook County Bar AssociationNot Recommended
Decalogue Society of LawyersNot Recommended
Hellenic Bar AssociationNot Recommended
Hispanic Lawyers Association of IllinoisQualified
Illinois State Bar AssociationNot Qualified
Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of ChicagoNot Recommended
Puerto Rican Bar Association of IllinoisNot Recommended
Women’s Bar Association of IllinoisNot Recommended

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4th Subcircuit

John J. Mahoney -- #80


Campaign Website

Bar Association Evaluations
The Chicago Bar Association says:
John J. Mahoney is “Highly Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Mahoney was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1984 and is currently serving as Deputy Supervisor of the Public Corruption and Financial Crimes Unit of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Mr. Mahoney has extensive criminal trial experience and has handled many complex cases. Mr. Mahoney is well regarded for his knowledge of the law, legal ability, fine demeanor, and temperament.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers says:
John J. Mahoney was admitted to practice in 1984. He serves as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney, and currently is the Supervisor of the Public Corruption and Financial Crimes Unit in the Special Prosecutions Bureau. He also supervises the Money Laundering Unit, the Intellectual Crimes Unit, the Mortgage Fraud Unit, and the soon to be formed Insurance Fraud Unit. His former positions include being a lead prosecutor in the Felony Trial Division. Between 1991 and 1997 he was a lawyer with the Peoples Energy Corporation, Office of the General Counsel, practicing before the Illinois Commerce Commission as well as in a variety of divisions of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Mr. Mahoney has had a wide variety of litigation experience in highly complex matters. He has also handled 20 appellate cases as principal counsel. His answers to the judicial evaluation matters were thoughtful. Mr. Mahoney is considered to have very good legal ability with a professional demeanor. He is especially praised for both his litigation skills and his skill at supervising complex litigation. He is the coauthor of the Illinois statute known as the Illinois Financial Crime Law. The Council finds him Well Qualified for the Circuit Court.
Other Bar Association Evaluations:
Asian American Bar Association of the
Greater Chicago Area
Qualified
Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater ChicagoRecommended
Cook County Bar AssociationNot Recommended
Decalogue Society of LawyersHighly Recommended
Hellenic Bar AssociationRecommended
Hispanic Lawyers Association of IllinoisHighly Qualified
Illinois State Bar AssociationHighly Qualified
Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of ChicagoRecommended
Puerto Rican Bar Association of IllinoisHighly Recommended
Women’s Bar Association of IllinoisRecommended

Endorsement
Chicago Tribune
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Ian Brenson -- #81

Campaign Website

Bar Association Evaluations
The Chicago Bar Association says:
Ian Brenson is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Brenson was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1989 and is a sole practitioner concentrating in general litigation, business law, and appellate practice. While Mr. Brenson has limited jury trial experience, he possesses the requisite legal knowledge, temperament, and ability to serve as a Circuit Court Judge.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers says:
Ian Brenson did not participate in the March 2014 Primary Election, but will appear on the ballot in the November 2014 general election. The Council did not evaluate him for the Circuit Court.
Other Bar Association Evaluations:
Asian American Bar Association of the
Greater Chicago Area
Not Rated
Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater ChicagoNot Evaluated
Cook County Bar AssociationNot Evaluated
Decalogue Society of LawyersNot Evaluated
Hellenic Bar AssociationNot Rated
Hispanic Lawyers Association of IllinoisNot Rated
Illinois State Bar AssociationNot Rated
Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of ChicagoNot Evaluated
Puerto Rican Bar Association of IllinoisNot Rated
Women’s Bar Association of IllinoisNot Rated

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Justice Theis announces application process for three judicial vacancies

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis has today announced an application process for three new judicial vacancies, one in the 11th Subcircuit, and (for the first time) two countywide (at large) vacancies.

The countywide vacancies were created by the death of Judge Richard Elrod and the pending retirement of Judge Thomas L. Hogan. The 11th Subcircuit vacancy was created by the September retirement of Judge Susan F. Zwick.

The deadline for application for these vacancies is November 24.

The Supreme Court's press releases stress that candidates wishing to be considered for these vacancies will be screened by the 11-member Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening and the Chicago Bar Association and, in addition, by the special screening committee established by Justice Theis in 2013. This screening committee is co-chaired by retired U.S. District Court Judge Wayne R. Andersen and retired Illinois Appellate Court Justice Michael J. Gallagher.

Persons interested in applying for any of these vacancies should request an application. The application is available at the Supreme Court's website, illinoiscourts.gov (prospective candidates will need to click on the link found under the caption "Latest News" -- that is a scrolling display so interested persons may have to wait a moment or two for the right link to surface).

Further information about the application process is available at the Supreme Court's website or by following the links above to either of the press releases.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cook County Bar Association releases judicial candidate ratings

The Cook County Bar Association is a member of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening, so regular FWIW readers have already seen the candidate ratings it has issued in both contested and retention elections.

However, for those who may not have previously seen the Alliance retention grids or other, prior posts on the largely uncontested elections for current judicial vacancies, the CCBA ratings may be of interest.

There are only two contests in elections for judicial vacancies and these just happen to be the only two races in which the CCBA has issued "Not Recommended" ratings. In the race for the 12th Subcircuit vacancy, Republican James Pieczonka was rated "Not Recommended." His opponent, Judge James L. Kaplan is rated "Recommended." In the race for the 4th Subcircuit Billik vacancy, the Republican candidate, Ian Brenson, was "Not Evaluated" while the Democratic nominee, Assistant State's Attorney John J. Mahoney was rated "Not Recommended." Two persons who are uncontested in their bids for their respective countywide vacancies, both of them judges appointed to the bench by the Illinois Supreme Court, were rated "Highly Recommended" by the CCBA. These are Judges Cynthia Y. Cobbs and Andrea Michele Buford.

On the retention ballot, the CCBA urges a "no" vote for only three judges. These are Themis N. Karnezis, Ann O’Donnell, and Laura Marie Sullivan. With the exception of a couple of judges who were not evaluated by the CCBA, the CCBA urges a "yes" vote on all other retention candidates, including Appellate Court Justice Thomas Hoffman, seeking another term on the Appellate Court and Judge Thomas E. Flanagan, the one judge not recommended by the Chicago Bar Association. (Judge Flanagan was recommended for retention by each of the other Alliance bar groups as well.)

----------------------------------------------------------------------
For more information about the retention ballot, you may wish to see these posts:
Voters in the far north suburban 12th Subcircuit or far west suburban 4th Subcircuit may also find these posts helpful:

Supreme Court issues press releases on recent judicial appointments

I'd already mentioned this in the comments to the respective posts, but it may be helpful to put this up front: The Illinois Supreme Court has issued press releases regarding the recent appointments of Edward J. King and Associate Judge Marianne Jackson and you can see either press release by following the indicated links.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Judge Marianne Jackson elevated to full circuit judgeship

The Illinois Supreme Court today appointed Associate Judge Marianne Jackson to a full circuit judgeship, filling the 7th Subcircuit vacancy created by the recent passing of Judge Anthony L. Burrell. Judge Jackson's appointment is effective November 7 and terminates on December 5, 2016.

Judge Jackson has served as an associate judge since 1997. Before becoming a judge, Jackson had a private criminal law practice. She also served as an Assistant United States Attorney and was named Chief of the Criminal Division.

Jackson was a candidate for the 7th Subcircuit Taylor vacancy in this year's March primary. She was rated Qualified or Recommended by all the evaluating bar groups, garnering "Highly Qualified" ratings from the Illinois State Bar Association and the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois and "Highly Recommended" ratings from the Cook County Bar Association, the Decalogue Society of Lawyers, the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, and the Puerto Rican Bar Association.

Welcome early voters!

Welcome early voters! Of course, if you didn't also vote in the Democratic Primary (with very limited exceptions) it is far too late to have any influence on who will be elected to the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court or to the Cook County Circuit Court: The winners of nearly all of the Democratic primary races -- in all of the countywide races and nearly all of the Circuit Court races -- are unopposed. We'll come back to these races eventually.

But, first, early voters, let's look at where you can still exercise your franchise in a meaningful manner. You can vote for (or against) the over 70 judges (including one elected Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court) who are seeking retention.

If you think that's a lot of judges to keep track of, you are in good company. According to Michael Sneed's column in this morning's Chicago Sun-Times, President Obama himself complained about the length of the retention ballot when he voted early yesterday. Sneed quoted the President as saying, "You gotta shorten the ballot! Two many judges! Seventeen pages of names! You are killing me!"

Clearly, POTUS does not read this blog. (Apparently the Sun-Times has laid off the last of its copy editors as well.)

But there are resources for voters looking for information or guidance concerning the retention judges. The retention judges themselves have their own website. You will find there a linked list of all jurists seeking retention. As of Saturday morning, many of those links provided biographical information, pictures or .pdf resumes. To wit:
You may find some these prior posts here on FWIW to be helpful as well:
The Chicago Tribune follows the lead of the Chicago Council of Lawyers on the retention ballot, urging a no vote only on Judge Annie O'Donnell.

The Illinois Civil Justice League has today released its ratings of Cook County retention hopefuls on its IllinoisJudges.net site. The ICJL rated retention candidates as Highly Recommended, Recommended, No Position, or Not Recommended. According to ICJL President Ed Murnane, the "No Position" rating was assigned to candidates or judges "who did not return our questionnaire and/or their candidacy left us insufficient information to assign a rating." The ICJL rated candidates "Not Recommended" if, in the opinion of that organization, there were "questions about the integrity, impartiality, fairness, or conduct of the candidate, judge, or their campaign." According to Murnane, judges earned a "Recommended" rating if they "demonstrated a satisfactory level of competency in regards to their legal and/or judicial careers, and/or who have demonstrated their commitment to educating the voters about their background, experience and viewpoints on the judicial system." The "Highly Recommended" rating was reserved, according to Murnane, for "judges who have demonstrated a high level of competency based on those criteria."

The ICJL gave "Highly Recommended" ratings to four Cook County Circuit Court judges, Gregory Wojkowski, Themis Karzenis, Lewis Nixon, and Donna Cooper. Justice Thomas Hoffman received a "Recommended" rating from the ICJL in his bid to be retained on the Illinois Appellate Court.

Here is the complete ICJL list of Cook County Circuit Court judges as published this morning in its daily newsletter:
Assigned to the Appellate Court:
Michael Hyman – Recommended
Robert Gordon – No Position
Mary Anne Mason – No Position

Assigned to the Law Division:
Joan Powell – Recommended
Eileen [O'Neill] Burke – Recommended
Patrick Sherlock – Not Recommended
Eileen Brewer – No Position
James O’Hara – Not Recommended
Margaret Brennan – Not Recommended
Janet Brosnahan – Recommended
Lynn Egan – Recommended
Gregory Wojkowski – Highly Recommended
James Flannery – No Position
Thomas Lipscomb – Recommended
Themis Karnezis – Highly Recommended
Thomas Flanagan – No Position

Assigned to the Chancery Division:
Lewis Nixon – Highly Recommended
Kathleen Kennedy – Recommended
Rodolfo Garcia – No Position

Assigned to the Probate Division:
Mary Ellen Coghlan – Recommended
Ann Collins-Dole – Recommended
Kathleen McGury – Recommended
John Fleming – Recommended
James Riley – Recommended

Assigned to the County Division:
Edmund Ponce de Leon – Recommended
Margarita Kulys Hoffman – Recommended

Assigned to the Domestic Violence Division:
Diana Kenworthy – Recommended
Ursula Walowski – Recommended
Sebastian Patti – Recommended

Assigned to the Domestic Relations Division:
Debra Walker – Recommended
Raul Vega – Recommended

Assigned to the Criminal Division:
Diane Gordon Cannon – Recommended
William Lacy – Recommended
Clayton Crane – Recommended
Kenneth Wadas – Recommended
Evelyn Clay – Recommended
Thomas Byrne – Recommended
Rickey Jones – Recommended
Mauricio Araujo – Recommended

Assigned to the Juvenile Justice Division:
Donna Cooper – Highly Recommended

Assigned to the First Municipal District:
Anita Rivkin-Carothers – Recommended
Jackie Portman – Recommended

Assigned to the Second Municipal District:
Shelley Sutker-Dermer – Recommended

Assigned to the Fourth Municipal District:
Kristyna Ryan – Recommended

Assigned to the Fifth Municipal District:
Patrick Rogers – Recommended
Peter Felice – Recommended

Assigned to the Sixth Municipal District:
James Rhodes – Recommended
Anna Demacopoulos – Recommended
Frank Zelzinski – Recommended
The IVI-IPO has also recommended several Circuit Court judges seeking retention for a "yes" vote. The IVI-IPO has not announced that it opposes any judicial retention bid; it has merely endorsed some, but not all, of the Circuit Court judges seeking retention. The retention candidates singled out by the IVI-IPO are:
  • Ann Collins Dole
  • Anna H. Demacopoulos
  • Clayton J. Crane
  • Debra Walker
  • Diana Kenworthy
  • Donna Cooper
  • Edmund Ponce de Leon
  • Edward A. Arce
  • Eileen Brewer
  • Eileen O'Neill Burke
  • Evelyn B. Clay
  • Jackie Marie Portman
  • James P. Flannery, Jr.
  • James Rhodes
  • Kathleen Kennedy
  • Kathleen McGury
  • Kenneth J. Wadas
  • Kristyna C. Ryan
  • Lewis Nixon
  • Lynn M. Egan
  • Marilyn F. Johnson
  • Marjorie C. Laws
  • Mary Anne Mason
  • Mauricio Araujo
  • Michael B. Hyman
  • Raul Vega
  • Rickey Jones
  • Robert E. Gordon
  • Sebastian Thomas Patti
  • Thomas J. Lipscomb
  • Ursula Walowski
  • William Lacy
So -- early voters -- you have some resources with which to make informed decisions on the judicial retention ballot, even if the retention ballot is, like this post, rather long.

But -- and this is where we came in -- most of you won't have any say in who gets elected to the bench for the first time. I told that you that, with just a few exceptions, the winners of the Democratic primaries, countywide and subcircuit, are unopposed for election.

Here are the exceptions:

In the 13th Subcircuit, no Democrat filed. Thus, John Curry, the Republican candidate is unopposed.

In the 12th Subcircuit, Democrat James Kaplan is opposed by Republican James Paul Pieczonka.

In the 4th Subcircuit, Democrat John J. Mahoney is opposed by Republican Ian Brenson in the race for the Billik vacancy.

These prior FWIW posts may be helpful to voters in the far north suburban 12th Subcircuit or far west suburban 4th Subcircuit:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Retention Judges: The default vote is "yes"

Judicial retention elections seem strange to many voters. The over 70 Circuit Court judges (and one elected Justice of the Appellate Court) that are up for retention in Cook County this year do not run against anyone; the candidate's name is on the ballot in the form of a question that comes down to this: Should Judge X remain a judge? Or should Judge X look for work elsewhere come December?

If Judge X receives at least a 60% "yes" vote, he or she keeps the job.

Past results suggest that the current class of judges have excellent prospects for success in this retention election; the last time any Cook County judges failed to achieve a 60% yes vote was in 1990, when seven judges were removed (though one was simultaneously elected to the Appellate Court).

But that doesn't mean that judges have no reason to take retention elections seriously. It is a fact that at least two out of 10 voters will mark "no" on every single judge, no matter how qualified. In the 2012 retention election, for example, out of the roughly 60 jurists on the retention ballot, no one received an 80% "yes" vote. Appellate Court Justice James Fitzgerald Smith received a 79.81% "yes" vote and four Circuit Court judges -- Patricia Banks, Maureen Elizabeth Connors (who was simultaneously elected to the Appellate Court in 2012), Mary Colleen Roberts, and Diane M. Shelley received "yes" votes from more than 79% of the voters.

Thus, the stars of the newspapers' editorials, the individuals rated most highly qualified by all the various bar groups, can still expect to be rejected by 20% or more of the voters. Those inclined to 'throw the rascals out' will vote the retention ballot no matter what. Can we safely assume that the just-say-nay voters will number no more than 20 or 25% of the retention voters? As a lot of people learned first-hand with their IRAs in recent years, past results are not a guarantee of future performance.

But wholesale removal of judges in Cook County would not be in the public's best interests.

We have many very good, hard-working, scholarly judges in Cook County. All of the judges on the 2014 retention ballot are recommended by some of the bar associations that screen judicial candidates; the vast majority have been recommended by each each and every one of the bar groups. Here's a linked list of the posts I've put up about the bar association ratings:
For more information about Cook County judges on the retention ballot, see the 2014 Cook County Retention Judges Website.

I mean to express no opinion about whether any particular judge should or should not be retained -- but I do submit that the default vote on the judicial retention ballot, in the absence of a good reason to vote otherwise, should be "yes."

Friday, October 17, 2014

Edward John King appointed to 4th Subcircuit vacancy

The Illinois Supreme Court today appointed Edward John King to the 4th Subcircuit vacancy created by the recent retirement of Judge William J. Kunkle. The appointment is effective October 24 and terminates December 5, 2016.

At the time of his appointment, King was a practitioner in west suburban La Grange. According to his Sullivan's entry, King focused his practice in municipal law, eminent domain and condemnation practice. He has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1981.

Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis had announced an application process for the Kunkle vacancy this past July.

These obscure elected offices which voters reflexively ignore are important, too: Observations prompted by the Waukegan school strike


My sister Jodee is not shown in this picture of striking Waukegan teachers that I lifted this morning from the Chicago Tribune website, but she is a teacher at Waukegan High School and has been on strike now, along with her colleagues, for a couple of weeks. From what I can salvage from the flotsam and jetsam of my Facebook newsfeed, the teachers are encouraged by the support they've received from their students and their students' parents.

It is not at all surprising that a deep dissatisfaction with the Waukegan School Board has also emerged as a theme in the newsfeed Mr. Zuckerberg's Facebook algorithm sends my way on account of my sister walking the picket line. But I did not expect to see a number of posts fuming about the fact that the Waukegan school board is elected -- and griping that absolutely no education-related credentials of any kind are required in order to run. I saw one post that compared -- irony alert -- what is required to serve on the Waukegan school board (3,000 votes, allegedly) with the supposedly extensive credentials required to serve on the unelected school board in -- I warned you -- Chicago. (No, I can't find, or link to that post. Facebook doesn't work that way.)

The teachers' union in Chicago wants an elected school board to counter the mayor's control of the schools, while -- apparently -- at least some teachers in Waukegan, or their supporters, wish their school board had appointed members with some appreciation of what teachers do and how they do it so that they might be more willing partners in negotiation. (Jodee, you may wish to break this gently to your colleagues: We had a teachers' strike here in Chicago, too, recently, unelected school board and all.)

But -- and here's how I tie this morning's topic back to a recurring theme on this blog -- what I see, in both the Chicago teachers urging an elected school board, and in the Waukegan teachers wishing their board were appointed -- is a misplaced focus on process. Changing the stickers and the paint job on a race car will not necessarily make it go faster; sometimes what is really needed is a different driver.

Regular readers of this blog know that some of our local bar associations advocate fiercely for merit selection of judges (while other bar associations remain strongly opposed). In the not-so-distant past some of the bar associations that favor merit selection gave short shrift to the merits of the many persons running for judge: The lede was always we need merit selection... and only further down the page, where few bothered to read, did the association say whether, in its opinion, Candidates A through Z were, or were not, qualified for judicial office.

That's changed somewhat in recent years, I believe, and for the better. The bar associations, even those that support merit selection over judicial election, are spending a lot more time and effort now getting their evaluations about individual candidates out to the electorate: These bar associations still want different stickers on the car, but they realize that they can't win the race without the right driver -- or improve the quality of the bench without the right candidates.

Of course I realize it is a little late now for the teachers in Waukegan to field their own slate for the school board....

Isn't that funny? There is a belief, particularly among Republicans, that the public employee unions have all but hijacked the Democratic party, and particularly the primary process, so that the unions can effectively dictate terms at contract renewal time. And maybe, in some times and in some places, that has proved true -- not in Waukegan obviously -- but the theory does not explain how, in Illinois generally, for example, or in Chicago, these allegedly staunch public employee union-backers failed to make required pension contributions for so many years. You'd think that would have been a priority for a union-oriented elected official, wouldn't you?

Here's the bottom line, though: Many of us want to change the "system." (To improve it, of course.) But too many of us fail to also work with, and study, and understand, the system we have. School boards, library boards, water reclamation districts -- all of these "minor" or "obscure" public bodies spend tax dollars just like the City, county or state. All of these bodies, and of course the courts too, have an enormous influence on our lives and our pocketbooks. We have a right -- and it is surely in our best interests -- to pay attention to all public bodies, no matter how obscure or seemingly unimportant. Who are we allowing behind the wheel of those race cars? And, yet, voter turnout in November will be... what? 25%? 30%?

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
The people I really feel sorry for in the Waukegan strike are the senior athletes. The football players, and soccer players, and volleyball players -- anyone in a fall sport. These kids are really being punished for the strike. They can't play. They can't practice. And -- most of 'em anyway -- can never get these days back: There won't be another season.

I've watched my own sons play football and baseball and, whether that last season comes in high school or college, I can't help but ache with them as that time in their lives comes to an end. I've watched kids -- "kids" who can bench press hundreds of pounds, "kids" who could break me in half if they'd a mind to -- dissolve in unashamed tears after their last game as the finality overwhelms them. It's even tougher for the kids who get injured during their final seasons, but they can at least lean on crutches on the sideline or along the bench and share those last fleeting moments with their teammates. But even the sidelines have been taken away from the senior athletes in Waukegan.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Alliance issues revised ratings in 4th Subcircuit, one retention race

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening has announced revised ratings in the contested 4th Subcircuit race between Ian Brenson and John J. Mahoney. FWIW readers will recall that the ISBA modified its rating of candidate Brenson earlier this week.

Here is the revised 'key' issued by the Alliance:


(Clicking on images here may increase their size or clarity depending on the device on which you are viewing this post.)

This is the new Alliance 'grid' in the race for the Billik vacancy in the 4th Subcircuit.


Brenson was formerly rated "Not Recommended" by every Alliance bar group. The ISBA, as you will note from the grid, is an Alliance member. Brenson was rated "Qualified" by the Chicago Bar Association. The Alliance ratings for John J. Mahoney remain those ratings issued for the March primary; Brenson was not a candidate in the March primary.

The Alliance also announced that the Hellenic Bar Association changed its recommendation on the retention of Judge Joan Powell from "No" to "Yes." Here (with my graphic abilities stretched to the breaking point) is the revised Alliance 'grid line' for Judge Powell.


The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening is comprised of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area (AABA), Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago (BWLA), Chicago Council of Lawyers (CCL), Cook County Bar Association (CCBA), Decalogue Society of Lawyers (DSL), Hellenic Bar Association (HBA), Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI), Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago (LAGBAC), Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois (PRBA), and Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI).

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Related: Council, Alliance ratings in the two contested Cook County judicial elections

Alliance releases, or re-releases, ratings in races for Cook County judicial vacancies

Alliance retention "grids" issued



Today's civics lesson: Sorority did not 'infringe' on college newspaper's 'First Amendment Rights'

The Chicago Tribune reports this morning that five members of an Elmhurst College sorority are in trouble with school authorities for swiping 800 copies of the Elmhurst College Leader (over half of the paper's bi-weekly 1500-issue press run) and dumping the pilfered papers in trash cans and compost bins around campus.

According to Annemarie Mannion's Tribune story, the Rho Theta chapter of the Phi Mu sorority had been investigated by the national organization because of hazing allegations. The national determined, and the Leader reported, that the hazing allegations were unfounded but, according to the Mannion's account, quoting Desiree Chen, a college spokeswoman, "I guess they were still upset about it."

The editor of the college paper, Zachary Bishop, is quoted in Mannion's story as well, as saying he was saddened "to see our work tossed out just because a couple of people didn't like what we wrote."

But Bishop also said, "It seems like they were trying to censor us, and they infringed on our First Amendment Right of Freedom of the Press." And the college spokesperson, Ms. Chen, is also quoted as saying, "This was an attack on [the newspaper's] First Amendment rights. They were right to protest it."

And thus we see the need for a civics lesson. Because the editor and the school spokesperson could not be more mistaken.

The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...." The First Amendment has been recognized as expressly applicable to the states through the due process clause of the 14th Amendment since at least Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697, 51 S.Ct. 625, 75 L. Ed. 1357 (1931). Therefore, unless the five sorority girls who allegedly swiped the newspapers can be somehow made into agents of the government (government actors), they did not violate the newspaper's First Amendment Rights.

Young Mr. Bishop also said the sorority girls were out to "censor us."

But, again, this is not so. The City of Chicago used to censor films shown within the City limits. The FCC censors what may be seen or said on prime-time TV. To be a censor one must have legal or at least de facto authority to determine what other people may see or read or hear. The sorority girls were presumably not authorized by anyone, other than themselves or possibly other members of their sorority (Mannion reports that another investigation is underway), to swipe the newspapers.

If the girls are guilty of swiping the newspapers as alleged, they are not censors. They are thieves. Vandals, perhaps. They may be guilty of converting the school newspaper's property. And it was a dumb and stupid thing to do, besides.

College students (and college spokespersons) and, certainly, newspaper reporters should know the difference between censorship and 'infringing' someone's First Amendment rights and theft. And the rest of us should as well.