Friday, September 26, 2014

LTF provides update on Northern Trust IOLTA conversions

The original deadline set by the Northern Trust for lawyers (or at least those lawyers who don't have $2 million that they can leave on deposit with the bank at all times) to move their IOLTA accounts is rapidly approaching.

Thankfully, the Northern Trust -- which for decades catered to lawyers and sought their business -- has not forgotten everything it learned in its years of dealing with the legal profession. The bank apparently realizes that, to many of us, a "deadline" means it is time to begin paying attention....

David Holtermann, General Counsel of the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois, has written FWIW to advise that the Northern Trust has granted, if not a reprieve, at least a temporary stay of execution, if affected lawyers act promptly. A new page, explaining the outcome of recent discussions between the Lawyers Trust Fund and the bank has been posted at the LTF website. Here's an excerpt:
The bank informed LTF that it has some leeway to accommodate lawyers who have not been able to move their IOLTA accounts to other financial institutions in advance of the October 3 deadline. Lawyers who need additional time should contact the bank directly.

Northern Trust also explained that its actions to curtail the IOLTA accounts of many customers are driven by its business decision to become a “wholesale bank.” Regulations related to that status require the bank to target its services away from the retail banking sector that encompasses many IOLTA accounts, even many with sizeable deposits. Although Lawyers Trust Fund regrets the disruption this has caused for many lawyers, LTF does not believe Northern Trust is targeting IOLTA accounts.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

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

Voters will have a choice of candidates in only one race in the 12th Subcircuit and one in the 4th Subcircuit.

In the 12th Subcircuit race, the Chicago Council of Lawyers has issued these ratings on the two competing candidates:
Democrat

Judge James L. Kaplan –-- Qualified
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.

Republican

James Paul Pieczonka –-- Not Qualified
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.

Here are the Alliance ratings on the two candidates:


In the race for the Billik vacancy in the 4th Subcircuit, the Chicago Council of Lawyers has issued these ratings on the two candidates:
Democrat

John J. Mahoney –-- Well Qualified
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.

Republican

Ian Brenson – Not Recommended
Ian Brenson did not submit materials for evaluation. The Council finds him Not Recommended for the Circuit Court.

Here are the Alliance ratings on the two candidates:


Sources within the Alliance told FWIW that the Alliance was not contacted by Brenson after he was appointed to the ballot. Moreover, the Alliance was unaware of Brenson's candidacy until recently. Brenson was rated Qualified by the Chicago Bar Association.

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Related: CBA ratings in "contested" Cook County judicial races on the November ballot

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

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screenings has released its ratings for candidates seeking election to judicial vacancies in November. As regular FWIW readers know (and as newbies will soon see) most of these races are uncontested.

That's the bad news.

The good news is -- as you will see -- the various Alliance members have largely favorable opinions of the candidates who are (mostly) assured of election.

Here is the key for reading the Alliance "grids."


With that preface, here are the "grids" themselves:

Clicking on any image may enlarge it or sharpen its focus depending on the device on which you are viewing this.

A separate post on the two contested judicial elections is forthcoming.

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), working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

CCL rates one judge Not Qualified for retention, but it's not the same judge singled out by the CBA

Continuing with a look at the release today of the Alliance retention ratings (the Chicago Council of Lawyers is an Alliance member) -- scroll down or click here for the complete Alliance "grids" on judicial retention candidates.

The Chicago Council of Lawyers rated 72 of the 73 Circuit Court judges seeking retention on the November ballot as Qualified (or better). Only one judge was singled out by the CCL as Not Qualified. This was Judge Ann O'Donnell, of whom the Council stated:
Judge Ann O’Donnell --- Not Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Ann Louise O’Donnell served as an Assistant Cook County Public Defender between 1987 and 1995. She was a solo practitioner focusing on criminal defense matters between 1995 and 2008. She was elected to the bench in 2008. She currently presides over the Preliminary Hearing Call. Her past assignments include serving as a floating judge in misdemeanor and felony branch courts. Lawyers report that she has the legal ability and knowledge necessary for her current assignment. Many lawyers, however criticize her judicial temperament as being unduly flip, sarcastic and rude. Judge O’Donnell was criticized by some lawyers for a recent practice (within the past year) of refusing to appoint an Assistant Public Defender to a number of indigent defendants in the belief that family members should have been paying for a private lawyer. She was doing this while failing to conduct a required indigency hearing – defendants were not being asked to complete the asset and liability form provided by the Circuit Court. More egregiously, she required certain of those defendants to return to her courtroom the next day with a private attorney, and continued to order these defendants to return each and every day until they were represented by private counsel. This sometimes went on for weeks, and was described by many as an abusive practice. Chief Judge Evans has now issued a General Order requiring an indigency determination before an Assistant Public Defender can be appointed or denied.
(I believe this link will take the reader to the Order referred to above.)

The Chicago Bar Association did find Judge O'Donnell "Qualified" for retention. The CBA noted:
ANNIE O’DONNELL --- QUALIFIED
Judge Annie O’Donnell is “QUALIFIED” for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge O’Donnell was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1987. Judge O’Donnell served as an Assistant Public Defender and was engaged in private practice as a criminal defense lawyer before her election to the bench in 2008. Judge O’Donnell is currently assigned to a preliminary felony hearing call in a branch court. Judge O’Donnell is well regarded by the lawyers who appear in her court for her knowledge of the law, diligence, and fine temperament.
Alliance members other than the Council were split in their evaluations of Judge O'Donnell. The Black Women Lawyers' Association, Cook County Bar Association, Decalogue Society of Lawyers and the Illinois State Bar Association all agreed with the Council in recommending against O'Donnell's retention. However, the Women's Bar Association of Illinois, the Puerto Rican Bar Association, the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, the Hellenic Bar Association, and the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area all advise a "yes" vote for Judge O'Donnell.

FWIW readers will remember that the Chicago Bar Association came out in favor of retaining all but one Cook County Circuit Court judge seeking retention this year. The one jurist singled out was Judge Thomas Flanagan. However, the Chicago Council of Lawyers rated Judge Flanagan "Qualified" for retention:
Judge Thomas E. Flanagan --- Qualified
Thomas E. Flanagan has been a judge since his election in 1984. He has been assigned to the Law Division for most of his judicial career. Judge Flanagan hears civil jury cases at the Daley Center. Judge Flanagan is considered to have good legal ability. He is respected as a solid jurist with good temperament and case management skills. The Council finds him Qualified for retention.
Every other Alliance member has also urged a "Yes" vote for Judge Flanagan.

In my post last week about the CBA ratings, I mentioned that Judge Laura Sullivan had received a favorable rating from the CBA despite the controversy that erupted when a law professor was taken into custody in her courtroom while taking notes. The law professor later wrote about this experience in the Chicago Tribune and I wrote about the story in this post.

The Chicago Council of Lawyers has joined the CBA in recommending Judge Sullivan's retention. The CCL states:
Judge Laura Marie Sullivan --- Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Laura Sullivan served as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney as both a trial attorney and as a supervisor. Judge Sullivan is currently sitting at the First Municipal District, where she presides over bond hearings. She was first elected to the bench in 2002. Judge Sullivan’s previous judicial assignments included the Traffic Court, Felony Preliminary Hearing Section, and Misdemeanor Section in the First Municipal District, and the Domestic Violence Division. Judge Sullivan is considered to have good legal ability and knowledge of the law. She is reported to be well prepared and hard working. Judge Sullivan has been criticized in the press on two separate occasions. While these incidents give the Council pause, on balance the Council finds her Qualified for retention.
Five Alliance members do urge a "No" vote on Judge Sullivan, however. These are the BWLA, the CCBA, the DSL, the ISBA and the LAGBAC. Five Alliance members besides the Council recommend a "Yes" vote for Judge Sullivan. These are the AABA, the HBA, the HLAI, the PRBA, and the WBAI.

Judges O'Donnell and Sullivan received the most negative ratings from Alliance members. Most Alliance members rated nearly all retention candidates positively. The Alliance member giving out the most negative ratings to retention candidates was the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, but LAGBAC rated 67 of 73 retention candidates positively.

Chicago Council of Lawyers finds 18 retention candidates "Well Qualified" for retention; the Council rates Judge Michael Toomin "Highly Qualified"

The Chicago Council of Lawyers has issued explanations for its ratings of Cook County judges seeking retention in November. The Council's complete ratings will be available shortly on VoteforJudges.org; the Council's ratings of retention candidates, stripped down to their Yes-No essence, can be viewed, along with those of all the other Alliance members, in the post below.

Nearly all of the 70-plus jurists seeking retention in Cook County were rated Qualified or better by the Council. The CCL found only one judge, Judge Ann O'Donnell, "Not Qualified" for retention. We will return to this in a separate post.

The big news here, however, at least in my reading, is that, not only did the Council find so many judges seeking retention to be Qualified, but that the Council bestowed "Well Qualified" ratings on 18 retention candidates.

Moreover, the Council singled out Judge Michael Philip Toomin as "Highly Qualified" for retention. Of Judge Toomin, the Council stated:
Judge Michael Philip Toomin --- Highly Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Michael Toomin was in private practice. He also served as an Assistant Public Defender for Cook County. Judge Toomin is currently sitting at the Juvenile Justice Division as a Presiding Judge. He was elected to the First Municipal District in 1980. His previous judicial assignments included the Appellate Court of Illinois, the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and the Second Municipal District of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Judge Toomin authored “Second Degree Murder and Attempted Murder: CLEAR’s Efforts to Maneuver the Slippery Slope” for the John Marshall Law Review. Judge Toomin is widely respected as an excellent judge and administrator. He has very good legal ability and temperament – both on the bench and as an administrator off the bench. He is praised for being exceptionally hard-working. As a judge, his rulings are considered well-reasoned and decisive. The Council finds him Highly Qualified for retention.
The Council rated Justice Thomas E. Hoffman, the one elected Appellate Court Justice seeking retention this year, "Well Qualified." Of Justice Hoffman, the CCL said:
Justice Thomas E. Hoffman --- Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Justice Thomas Hoffman worked as an Assistant Corporation Counsel for the Chicago Department of Law and as an attorney in the private sector. Currently Justice dge Hoffman serves on the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District, where he has worked since 1993. Prior to joining the Appellate Court in 1993, Justice Hoffman served in the Law Division. Justice Hoffman is highly praised for his excellent knowledge of the law and for the quality of his written opinions. He is respected as a mentor for other judges. He is also praised for his work ethic – he is described generally as being always well-prepared. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention to the Appellate Court.
Here are the Council's explanations for the "Well Qualified" ratings it bestowed on 16 other Circuit Court judges seeking retention:
Judge Andrew Berman --- Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Andrew Berman was an Assistant Cook County Public Defender from 1979 to 1996. Beforehand, he was an assistant appellate defender for four years. Judge Berman has been assigned since 2007 to the Juvenile Justice Division. Judge Berman has also served in the Chancery Division. Judge Berman is considered to have very good legal ability and is widely respected for his legal knowledge. He serves as a mentor to other judges and serves as the acting Presiding Judge when Presiding Judge Toomin is unavailable. He is especially praised for his professionalism. His temperament is considered to be excellent and he is praised for the way he manages his courtroom. His rulings are considered to be well-reasoned and he spends the necessary time explaining his rulings to the parties appearing before him. He is active in court reform efforts. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Eileen Brewer --- Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Eileen Brewer was the Chief Counsel to County Board President, John H. Stroger. From 1988 to 1994, Judge Brewer served as the Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago. Before that, she worked for a year as an associate attorney at Jenner & Block. Judge Brewer was elected to the bench in 2002 and is currently sitting as a motion judge in the Law Division. She spent much of her judicial career in the Domestic Relations Division. Judge Brewer is considered to have very good legal ability and temperament. Practitioners report that she has successfully made the transition from the Domestic Relations Division to the motion call in the Law Division. She is praised for her court management skills and is reported fair to all parties. The Council finds her Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Clayton J. Crane --- Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Clayton J. Crane was in private practice. He has also served as an Assistant State’s Attorney for Cook County. Judge Crane is currently sitting at the Criminal Division. He was first assigned to the Criminal Division in 1998. Judge Crane is praised as an excellent jurist by both prosecutors and defense counsel. He is considered to be fair to all parties, and to have very good legal ability and temperament. He has been involved in the development of specialty courts and other reform efforts in the Criminal Division. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Candace J. Fabri --- Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Candace J. Fabri was in private practice. She also served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois for nine years. Judge Fabri has taught at Loyola University School of Law and clerked for a district judge in the Northern District of Illinois. Judge Fabri has been sitting at the Child Protection Division of the Juvenile Court since 1996. She is also presiding judge for the Family Treatment Court, where a judge, the lawyers, addiction specialists work with families where drug addiction has prevented reunification of a family. Judge Fabri is considered to have very good legal ability. She is praised for the quality and timeliness of her evidentiary rulings. Many respondents praised her opinions as “excellent” and “painstakingly thorough.” She is also praised for her ability to handle a high volume courtroom. During this current evaluation, all respondents described her temperament as “very professional”, “low key”, “respectful” and/or “effective.” Some respondents noted that she can be sharp with lawyers and caseworkers she believes are not prepared. She is often described as caring deeply for children and parents appearing in her courtroom. The Council finds her Well Qualified for retention.

Judge James P. Flannery Jr. --- Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, James P. Flannery worked as assistant corporation counsel in municipal and federal litigation for the City of Chicago until 1980, when he was hired as an associate attorney for Murphy, Preston & Jaffe. Judge Flannery worked in corporate, real estate, and labor law for two years before establishing a general practice as an associate at John T. Mitchell & associates. In 1984 Flannery worked as a solo practitioner maintaining his general practice before being hired as chief assistant attorney general where he was assigned to the Land Acquisition division in 1985.

Judge Flannery’s current assignment is Presiding Judge of the Law Division, where he has served since January, 2014 and supervised approximately 50 judges in the Law Division. His administrative duties include handling assignment and motion calls, as well as hearing contested motions involving the Law Jury section, Motion section, Commercial section, Tax and Miscellaneous section, and Individual calendar section of the Law Division of the Circuit Court. Previous judicial assignments include an assignment to the Law Division, Jury Section in 1997, where he presided over jury trials primarily involving personal injury and commercial cases. Before that, Judge Flannery spent 5 years assigned to the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County where he heard every type of felony case,
including death penalty cases, with as many as 300 cases on his docket at any given time.

Judge Flannery is considered to have very good legal ability and an excellent knowledge of the law. He is praised for his legal analysis of often complex issues and is reported to serve as a mentor to many other judges. He is also praised for his fairness and integrity – some respondents noted that he is willing to reconsider a ruling if sufficiently persuaded. He has an excellent demeanor and many respondents noted that he treats all parties fairly while having a calm yet effective temperament. He is reported to be exceptionally hard-working and many respondents noted that he is always prepared for court proceedings. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Rodolfo Garcia --- Well Qualified
Justice Rodolfo Garcia was appointed to the Illinois Appellate Court in 2003 and served there until 2012. He is now assigned to the Chancery Division. He was elected to the Circuit Court in 1996. From 1983 to 1996, Judge Garcia worked as a sole practitioner with concentrations in criminal defense and immigration. From 1981 to 1983, he worked as an Assistant Illinois Attorney General in the Criminal Appeals Division. In March 2011, he was appointed to fill the elected spot of retiring Appellate Court Judge Michael J. Gallagher.

As an Appellate Court Judge, Judge Garcia was praised for being well-prepared for oral argument and for issuing well-reasoned, well-written opinions. As a trial judge, he is considered to have very good legal ability and temperament. The Council found him Well Qualified for the Appellate Court during the 2012 primary election. He is also an excellent trial judge. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention to the Circuit Court.

Justice Robert E. Gordon --- Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Robert Gordon spent 5 years working as an Associate Partner doing Insurance Defense work at Gordon & Brustin, followed by 10 years as a Partner and Insurance Defense litigator for Gordon Brustin. He then spent another 5 years as a Partner at Gordon, Schaefer, & Gordon, Ltd. where he represented both plaintiffs and defendants in litigation. Gordon then became President of Gordon & Gordon, Ltd. where he spent 15 years in General Litigation.

Justice Gordon is currently a Circuit Court judge sitting by appointment by the Illinois Supreme Court to the Illinois Appellate Court, First District since 2005. Justice Gordon is presiding judge of the Fifth Division and was previously presiding judge of the Sixth Division. Prior judicial assignments also included presiding over jury cases as a Jury trial Judge in the Law Division at Richard Daley Center, and presiding as a Jury Trial judge in the Municipal Division. He reports that he is currently working on a textbook on evidence which has yet to be published. Additionally Judge Gordon is a member of the
Appellate Court Administrative Committee.

Justice Gordon is considered to be a highly knowledgeable Appellate Court Justice who is praised for the quality of his written opinions and for the quality of his questioning during oral argument. He is considered to be exceptionally hard-working and prepared. He was also praised as an excellent trial judge before 2005. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention to the Circuit Court.

Justice Michael Hyman --- Well Qualified
Justice Hyman was assigned to the First Judicial District of the Illinois Appellate Court effective January 2013. He was appointed to the Circuit Court in 2006 after being respected private sector practitioner since 1979. Justice Hyman is a former president of the Chicago Bar Association and the Decalogue Society of Lawyers, and former chair of the Bench and bar Section of the Illinois State Bar Association. He has published numerous articles on legal issues. As a trial judge, Justice Hyman was reported to have very good legal ability and temperament. He was praised for the quality of his written opinions and for his ability to thoughtfully bring about fair settlements. He was and continues to be well-respected for his dedication to improving the judicial system. As an Appellate Court Justice, he continues to be praised for his work ethic and for the quality of his written opinions. He is reported to be well-prepared. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention to the Circuit Court.

Judge Marilyn Johnson --- Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Marilyn Johnson worked as a staff attorney for the Legal Assistance Foundation in Chicago providing civil representation of indigent clients. She then worked for a year is Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago, Department of Law, followed by nine years as Deputy Corporation Counsel in the same department. Between November 1994 and December 1995 Johnson worked as General Counsel for the Chicago Housing Authority, before becoming General Counsel for the Chicago Board of Education. In March, 2003 she began working as Chief of Staff for the Illinois State Toll highway Authority in a managerial/administrative capacity until 2006.

Judge Johnson is assigned to the Child Protection Division of the Cook County Court, where she has served since 2006. Judge Johnson is widely praised for being a hard-working jurist who is very knowledgeable. She has very good legal ability, as demonstrated by both her performance as a judges and in the wide array of professional positions she held before becoming a judge. She is praised for combining her legal knowledge with common sense – a combination praised by practitioners. Her opinions are considered well-reasoned. The Council finds her Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Themis Karnezis --- Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Themis Karnezis worked as a lawyer in criminal, workers’ compensation and real estate tax matters. He then served as an Associate Judge and, later as a Circuit Judge. From 1983 to 1998 he was assigned to the Criminal Division. He then went to the Law Division, and became the Presiding Judge of the Fourth Municipal District in 1999. He was appointed to the Illinois Appellate Court in 2002 and served there until 2012. Judge Karnezis then served as Supervising Judge at the Traffic Center. In 2014, he was transferred to the Law Division. Judge Karnezis has been regarded as one of the Circuit Court’s best trial judges and was considered an excellent Appellate Justice, as well. He has outstanding legal knowledge, integrity, temperament, and diligence. He serves as a mentor to practitioners and to other judges. Some lawyers are reporting that recently Judge Karnezis has been having difficulty with stamina, but the Council notes that for most of his career Judge Karnezis has been an outstanding jurist. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention based on the totality of his career.

Judge William G. Lacy --- Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, William G. Lacy spent six and a half years as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney, two years as an associate doing personal injury defense work for Fidelity National Law Group, and nearly five years as a partner at Tressler LLP doing insurance defense work. He was elected to the bench in 1996. Currently, Judge Lacy is assigned to the Criminal Division, Courtroom 604 where he has served since 2001. His previous judicial duties include an initial assignment to the 1st Municipal District, followed by three years as an evening narcotics judge, before being assigned as a back-up judge in the criminal division. Judge Lacy is considered to have good legal ability and exhibits a professional demeanor on the bench. He is respectful of all parties. He is praised for his decisiveness and is well regarded as a jurist. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Marjorie Laws --- Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Marjorie Laws worked as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney. She did criminal litigation in the Public Interest Bureau doing Child Support Enforcement and Consumer Fraud cases; she worked as a trial assistant in the First Municipal District, followed by six years in the Felony Trial Division. Earlier in her career Judge Laws was a title examiner for the Chicago Title and Trust Company and was a partner at Cunningham and Cunningham where her practice primarily engaged in civil litigation with an emphasis on corporate, real estate, and domestic relations law.

Judge Laws is currently the Presiding Judge of the Sixth Municipal District. Her previous judicial duties include eight years assigned to the Criminal Division at 26th and California handling a felony caseload. Before becoming a presiding judge she spent several years assigned to the First Municipal District and to the Juvenile Justice Division. Judge Laws is considered to have very good legal ability and is respected as both a trial judge and as an administrator. As a judge, she is reported to be well prepared and to treat all parties fairly and respectfully. She is praised for her courtroom management skills. As an administrator, she has worked to improve the Sixth Municipal District, including working to improve the quality of the judiciary. She has worked to establish programs designed to improve access to justice. The Council finds her Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Pamela Loza --- Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Pamela Loza was a partner at Loza & Associates, Ltd., where handled mostly divorce and criminal cases in numerous counties in Illinois. She also spent time as partner at Cameron, Loza & Associates and Cameron, Loza and Walsh, P.C. from 1987-2002 and 1984-1987 respectively. As an associate at Marder & Seidler Ltd. she practiced in divorce and criminal court after four years working as a Cook County assistant state’s attorney.

Currently Judge Loza is supervising judge in the Parentage/Child Support Enforcement Department of the Domestic Relations Division. She is responsible for day to day operation of the department and its numerous personnel, and has her own daily status and trial calls. Previous judicial service includes a year as a judge in traffic court and four years as a trial judge in the domestic relations division from 2009 - 2012. Judge Loza is considered to have very good legal ability and is described as being very knowledgeable about the law. Most lawyers say she has good temperament – exhibiting patience that respondents tell us is necessary in her current assignment. She is praised for being able to manage a high volume courtroom. She is considered to be well-prepared and is respectful of the parties before her. She has participated in major efforts to bring about systemic reform of the Domestic Relations Division. The Council finds her Well Qualified for the Circuit Court.

Judge Patricia Martin --- Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Patricia Martin was a career Assistant Cook County Public Defender. She was elected to the bench in 1996. She served in the Child Protection Division through July 1998, when she was transferred to the Law Division. She returned to the Child Protection Division as Presiding Judge in January 2000. She has been instrumental in creating new approaches to juvenile justice. She teaches and lectures extensively on representation of minorities in foster care, educational outcomes for children in foster care, and mediation in child protection cases. Respondents with experience with Judge Martin as a trial judge reported that she has a very good grasp of the law and that she controlled the courtroom well. Respondents with knowledge of her abilities as a presiding judge praised her administrative abilities and many praised her innovations and her training of judges. The Council finds her Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Mary Ann Mason --- Well Qualified
Justice Mary Anne Mason was appointed to the Illinois Appellate Court in July 2013. She was appointed to the Circuit by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2000, and was elected to the Circuit Court in 2002. After serving in the Traffic Division, she served for two years in the Juvenile Justice Section. From July 2003 to July 2013 she was assigned to the Chancery Division presiding over cases involving injunctive relief, declaratory judgments, administrative reviews, partnership and corporate disputes, trust construction, and restrictive covenants. Before taking the bench, she worked in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and worked for Kevin M. Forde, Ltd (now the Forde Law Offices) doing commercial litigation and appeals. Before going on the bench, she had extensive experience in complex litigation and appellate matters.

Justice Mason has been hearing cases as an Appellate Justice for about a year. Lawyers report generally that she is well-prepared and is active during oral argument. Respondents who have received written opinions say her opinions are well-reasoned and well-written. As a judge in the Chancery Division, she was reported to have very good legal ability and temperament. Many respondents commented on their impression that she understood even complex issues. Off the bench, Justice Mason has lectured widely on issues considered in the Chancery Division. She reports that she prepares materials for the Judicial Conference. She also reports that as chair of the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Discovery Procedures, she participated in preparing a report to the Illinois Supreme Court “regarding the status of e-discovery rules nationwide.” The Council finds her Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Sebastian Patti --- Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Sebastian Thomas Patti was Assistant Regional Counsel at the US Environmental Protection Agency and practiced federal civil environmental enforcement litigation from 1979-1995. Judge Patti is currently the presiding judge of the Domestic Violence Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Judge Patti previously sat at the Chancery Division from 2010 to 2011, and then as appointed to the First Division Appellate Court from 2009 to 2010. He served as the supervising judge of the Housing Court between 1999 and 2009. Judge Patti was first appointed to the bench by the Illinois Supreme Court in 1995. Judge Patti is considered to have very good legal ability and a dedication to improving the administration of justice. He is considered to be exceptionally knowledgeable about the law and has an excellent temperament. He serves as a mentor to other judges. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Shelley Sutker-Dermer --- Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Shelley Sutker-Dermer served as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney. Judge Sutker-Dermer is currently the Presiding Judge of the Second Municipal District. Judge Sutker-Dermer was appointed to the bench in 1995 and was elected in 1996. Judge Sutker-Dermer is considered to have very good legal ability and is well respected by respondents as doing an excellent job as Presiding Judge. She is part of the new judges training program, as well as other court reform initiatives. Lawyers report that it is their perception that the Skokie Courthouse (Second Municipal District) runs efficiently. She also has a court call and is praised for her temperament and her courtroom management. The Council finds her Well Qualified for retention.

Alliance retention "grids" issued

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening has issued its ratings for the one Appellate Court justice and the seventy-plus Cook County Circuit Court judges seeking retention in November. This "key" will assist the reader in understanding the ratings.


FWIW will break down some of these ratings in future posts. However, for the present, herewith the Alliance retention "grids." (These are in ballot order.)

Clicking on any image may enlarge it or sharpen its focus depending on the device on which you are viewing this.

The Alliance has also released, or re-released, its evaluations of candidates seeking election to judicial vacancies in November. This will also be covered in a separate post.

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), working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Supreme Court catches up on a little paperwork in re: Judge Freddrenna Lyle

The Illinois Supreme Court yesterday terminated the appointment of Judge Freddrenna M. Lyle to the Taylor vacancy in Cook County's 7th Subcircuit. The termination order is "[e]ffective September 5, 2014, nunc pro tunc," nunc pro tunc being roughly translatable here as "backdated to."

The order was necessary because, back in August, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed Judge Lyle to a new 5th Subcircuit vacancy, this one created by the retirement of Judge Jane L. Stuart. That appointment was effective September 5.

The Taylor vacancy, meanwhile, will be filled on the first Monday in December when former Chicago Revenue Director and Water Commissioner Judy Rice is sworn in. Rice is unopposed on the November ballot for the Taylor vacancy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

CBA ratings in "contested" Cook County judicial races on the November ballot

The word "contested" is rendered in quotes because so few of the contests on the November ballot are, in fact, contested.

These could have been contested, however, at least arguably, if the Republicans slated a field of candidates in the countywide judicial races or in any subcircuit except the 13th (that's the mirror-image subcircuit where only Republicans file in the primary and Democrats abstain). But in nearly all of True-Blue Cook County (the 13th Subcircuit excepted), the winners of the Democratic judicial primaries would be heavy or even prohibitive favorites to win, whether they were opposed or not. So nearly all Cook County judicial hopefuls run as Democrats.

If you're a November-only voter who has come here looking for information about your choices in races for the three Appellate Court vacancies and the many Circuit Court vacancies, you are destined for disappointment. Even if you live in the 4th or 12th Subcircuits, where the only two actual judicial contests will be decided, your choice will be limited to that one local race -- the three Appellate Court races and all 11 countywide Circuit Court races being just as uncontested there as elsewhere in Cook County.

That's the bad news.

The good news for the public -- and if you see Mark Suppelsa, you might want to pass this along -- is that, in the opinion of the Chicago Bar Association, at least, all three unopposed candidates for the Appellate Court are at least 'Qualified' (Justice John D. Simon being rated 'Highly Qualified'), and 25 of the 28 Circuit Court candidates are rated either 'Qualified' or 'Highly Qualified.' In the 11 countywide vacancies, where no candidate is opposed, the CBA rates 10 of the 11 candidates are rated 'Qualified.' In the subcircuit races, 15 of the 17 candidates are rated 'Qualified' or better (four subcircuit candidates received the CBA's 'Highly Qualified' rating).

In the north suburban 12th Subcircuit, the CBA has rated the opposing candidates thusly:
JAMES PAUL PIECZONKA (R) --- NOT RECOMMENDED
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.

JAMES L. KAPLAN (D) --- QUALIFIED
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.
There are two vacancies in the west suburban 4th Subcircuit, but only one contest, for the Billik vacancy. Of the two opposing candidates, the CBA states:
JOHN J. MAHONEY (D) --- HIGHLY QUALIFIED
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.

IAN BRENSON (R) --- QUALIFIED
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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chicago Bar Association releases ratings for Cook County judges seeking retention

The Chicago Bar Association has released its evaluations of all 73 judges seeking retention on the November ballot, finding all but one qualified for retention. (The link in the preceding sentence will take you to a page on the CBA website from which you can print or download the entire CBA Green Guide for November 2014 Election or the CBA's Pocket Guide.)

In retention elections the CBA dispenses with the rating of 'Highly Qualified,' a rating it sometimes bestows on judicial candidates seeking election. The CBA's choice of using rating of only 'Qualified' or 'Not Recommended' in these races is consistent with the nature and purpose of the retention ballot, an up or down, 1 or 0, yes or no vote. Judges must receive a 60% (plus 1) yes vote to be retained in office.

Only one Appellate Court justice, Justice Thomas E. Hoffman, is up for retention in 2014 (although there are a few Circuit Court judges currently assigned to the Appellate Court who are also on the retention ballot). The CBA stated, with regard to Justice Hoffman:
THOMAS E. HOFFMAN --- QUALIFIED
Justice Thomas E. Hoffman is “QUALIFIED” for retention as an Appellate Court Justice. Justice Hoffman was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1971 and was appointed to the Illinois Appellate Court in 1993. Justice Hoffman was elected to the Illinois Appellate Court in 1994 and is the Presiding Justice of the First Division of the Illinois Appellate Court, 1st District. Justice Hoffman is highly regarded for his knowledge of the law, work ethic, and legal ability. Justice Hoffman is always well prepared for oral arguments and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Illinois Appellate Court. In addition to Justice Hoffman’s Appellate Court caseload, in 2000 he was appointed to serve on the Appellate Court’s Workers’ Compensation Division to decide appeals in Workers’ Compensation cases.
The one Circuit Court judge rated 'Not Recommended' by the CBA is Law Division Judge Thomas E. Flanagan. Of Judge Flanagan, the CBA stated,
THOMAS E. FLANAGAN --- NOT RECOMMENDED
Judge Thomas E. Flanagan is “NOT RECOMMENDED” for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge Flanagan was admitted to practice in Illinois in 1965 and was elected to the Circuit Court in 1984. Judge Flanagan is currently assigned to the Law Division and serves in the trial section. Judge Flanagan has had a distinguished judicial career and enjoys a fine reputation for his integrity. However, lawyers who have appeared before Judge Flanagan have expressed concerns about the judge’s ability to make decisions in a timely manner on motions and complex issues and to efficiently and effectively manage a trial call.
Every other Circuit Court judge seeking retention in 2014 is rated 'Qualified' by the Chicago Bar Association. Persons downloading the Green Guide will see that some 'Qualified' ratings are more glowing than others, but the good news for the public is that, at least in the opinion of the CBA, nearly every single judge seeking retention is worthy of being kept in office.

I don't want to cherry-pick ratings for particular candidates in this post. But, in June, I wrote about a judge who was criticized in a Tribune op-ed after a law professor taking notes in her courtroom was briefly taken into custody by Sheriff's deputies. Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans subsequently entered a general administrative order expressly allowing the taking of notes in Cook County courtrooms, at least under most circumstances. I mentioned at the time that the judge in question would be up for retention this year and that, before forming opinions based on only one newspaper article, it might be helpful to see what the various bar ratings groups made of the incident. This is what the CBA had to say about Judge Laura Marie Sullivan:
LAURA MARIE SULLIVAN --- QUALIFIED
Judge Laura Marie Sullivan is “QUALIFIED” for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge Sullivan was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1988 and was elected to the Circuit Court in 2002. Judge Sullivan is assigned to Central Bond Court which sets bonds for defendants in the Criminal Justice System. Judge Sullivan is hardworking and well regarded for her knowledge of the law and well-reasoned, thoughtful decisions in a difficult assignment. The judge has been the subject of unwarranted and unjustified criticism and should be retained.
The CBA has also released (or in all but one case, re-released) its ratings on judicial candidates seeking election to the bench. I will do a separate post on those ratings soon.

When the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening releases its ratings on Cook County retention candidates, FWIW will cover those as well.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ian Brenson joins race for Billik vacancy in 4th Judicial Subcircuit

I've been telling FWIW readers for months now that there is only one contested judicial election on the November ballot.

Turns out, I was wrong.

There are now two.

LaGrange attorney Ian Brenson will be on the November ballot as a Republican (his Democratic opponent is Assistant State's Attorney John J. Mahoney). That's a link to Brenson's campaign website in the preceding sentence. Brenson has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1989.

Brenson was not a candidate in the March primary. Readers may wonder how a person can qualify to run for judge as a Republican or Democrat without going through the primary process. I did.

I reached out to some smart people who weren't inclined to speak for the record -- but who were willing to point me in the direction of the applicable case law and statutes. (I also reached out to Mr. Brenson's campaign, but I haven't heard anything from that quarter before posting.)

My initial confusion arose from my dim recollection that a prior attempt by a political party to appoint a judicial candidate to the November ballot without going through the primary process was rejected by the Illinois Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court has already said it can't be done, how could Mr. Brenson and the Republicans do it now?

The case I sorta, kinda remembered turned out to be Bonaguro v. County Officers Electoral Board, 158 Ill.2d 391, 634 N.E.2d 712 (1994).

Lester Bonaguro was elected in the 1992 primary as the Republican candidate for the "B" vacancy in the northwest suburban 13th Judicial Subcircuit (1992 was the first year for subcircuit elections in Cook County, you may recall). No candidate filed for the Democratic nomination. However, after the primary, the Democratic Party selected Arthur L. Janura as its candidate in November.

Judge Bonaguro (he'd been an Associate Judge since 1981) filed objections to Judge Janura's candidacy (he was also a long-serving Associate Judge), contending that Janura's nomination was unconstitutional under Article VI §12(a) of the 1970 Illinois Constitution. That section of our State Constitution provides:
Supreme, Appellate and Circuit Judges shall be nominated at primary elections or by petition. Judges shall be elected at general or judicial elections as the General Assembly shall provide by law. A person eligible for the office of Judge may cause his name to appear on the ballot as a candidate for Judge at the primary and at the general or judicial elections by submitting petitions. The General Assembly shall prescribe by law the requirements for petitions.
Janura had not been nominated in the primary or by petition; rather, he had been selected as the Democratic Party's candidate pursuant to the provisions of §7-61 of the Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/7-61. The Circuit and Appellate Courts determined that the method of filling vacancies prescribed by §7-61 was not in fatal conflict with Article VI §12(a) of the Constitution. See, Phelan v. County Officers Electoral Board, 240 Ill.App.3d 368 (1992)(agreeing that interpreting section 12(a) to forbid a political party from filling vacancies in nomination would be "a restrictive interpretation" inconsistent with principles of constitutional interpretation).

The Supreme Court's majority opinion, authored by Justice Freeman, did not reach the constitutional question. After first deciding that the case was not mooted by Bonaguro defeating Janura at the polls in 1992, the Supreme Court determined that "the Election Code does not authorize a political party to fill a judicial vacancy in nomination by party resolution" (158 Ill.2d 397). In an opinion joined by then-Chief Justice Bilandic and Justice Nickels, Justice Heiple concurred with the majority's conclusion that §7-61 did not provide a proper means of nominating Janura. However, Justice Heiple would have reached the constitutional question -- and he would have resolved that against Judge Janura as well (158 Ill.2d at 402): "The constitutional provision at issue is clear. Section 12(a) prescribes that judicial candidates must be nominated by primary election or by petition. It does not contain any provision for nomination by political party resolution to fill a judicial vacancy in nomination."

Bonaguro, by itself, would seem to auger poorly for Mr. Brenson's candidacy. However, the pertinent provisions of the Election Code have changed since Bonaguro was decided.

The exact evolution of the relevant statutes is probably not important for our purposes. Suffice it to say that, even while Judge Bonaguro's challenges were pending, the legislature began trying to "fix" the perceived holes in the Election Code. The Phelan court upheld the right of the Democratic Party Chairman to fill the vacancies at issue in the case as a committee of one but noted, "The legislature has recently amended section 7-8(g) of the Election Code in this regard, which provides, in new section 7-8(g-1), that judicial subcircuit committees of each political party in Cook County shall be composed of ward and township committeemen, and further provides a voting formula to be followed. * * * [B]y reorganizing section 7-8(g) in 1992 to create a judicial subcircuit committee for each political party in new section 7-8(g-1)..., which under section 7-61 would be authorized to fill vacancies in nomination in the subcircuits, the legislature appears to have strengthened appellees' contentions in the present case as well as the circuit court's affirmance of the Electoral Board." (240 Ill.App.3d 379, n.6; Id. at 381.)

As matters now stand, §7-7 of the Election Code provides, in pertinent part:
For the purpose of making nominations in certain instances as provided in this Article [10 ILCS 5/7-1 et seq.] and this Act, the following committees are authorized and shall constitute the central or managing committees of each political party, viz: * * * a judicial subcircuit committee in a judicial circuit divided into subcircuits for each judicial subcircuit in that circuit....
Section 7-8 of the Election Code provides, in pertinent part:
§10 ILCS 5/7-8. [Committees; election and appointment]


* * *

Judicial District Committee

(f) The judicial district committee of each political party in each judicial district shall be composed of the chairman of the county central committees of the counties composing the judicial district.

In the organization and proceedings of judicial district committees composed of the chairmen of the county central committees of the counties within such district, each chairman of such county central committee shall have one vote for each ballot voted in his county by the primary electors of his party at the primary election immediately preceding the meeting of the judicial district committee.

* * *

Judicial Subcircuit Committee

(g-1) The judicial subcircuit committee of each political party in each judicial subcircuit in a judicial circuit divided into subcircuits shall be composed of (i) the ward and township committeemen of the townships and wards composing the judicial subcircuit in Cook County and (ii) the precinct committeemen of the precincts composing the judicial subcircuit in any county other than Cook County.

In the organization and proceedings of each judicial subcircuit committee, each township committeeman shall have one vote for each ballot voted in his township or part of a township, as the case may be, in the judicial subcircuit by the primary electors of his party at the primary election immediately preceding the meeting of the judicial subcircuit committee; each precinct committeeman shall have one vote for each ballot voted in his precinct or part of a precinct, as the case may be, in the judicial subcircuit by the primary electors of his party at the primary election immediately preceding the meeting of the judicial subcircuit committee; and each ward committeeman shall have one vote for each ballot voted in his ward or part of a ward, as the case may be, in the judicial subcircuit by the primary electors of his party at the primary election immediately preceding the meeting of the judicial subcircuit committee.
And the big one, §7-61, now provides, in pertinent part:
§10 ILCS 5/7-61. [Special election]

* * *

If the name of no established political party candidate was printed on the consolidated primary ballot for a particular office and if no person was nominated as a write-in candidate for such office, a vacancy in nomination shall be created which may be filled in accordance with the requirements of this Section. If the name of no established political party candidate was printed on the general primary ballot for a particular office and if no person was nominated as a write-in candidate for such office, a vacancy in nomination shall be filled only by a person designated by the appropriate committee of the political party and only if that designated person files nominating petitions with the number of signatures required for an established party candidate for that office within 75 days after the day of the general primary. The circulation period for those petitions begins on the day the appropriate committee designates that person. The person shall file his or her nominating petitions, statements of candidacy, notice of appointment by the appropriate committee, and receipt of filing his or her statement of economic interests together. These documents shall be filed at the same location as provided in Section 7-12. The electoral boards having jurisdiction under Section 10-9 [10 ILCS 5/10-9] to hear and pass upon objections to nominating petitions also shall hear and pass upon objections to nomination petitions filed by candidates under this paragraph.

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 such primary election, is ineligible to be listed on the ballot at that general or consolidated election as a candidate of another political party.
At least with regard to subcircuit candidates, it seems pretty clear that the legislature has tried to respond to the constitutional objections that were raised (if not decided) in Bonaguro.

Even after being anointed "by the appropriate committee," a candidate must circulate and submit nominating petitions, collecting the same number of valid signatures as if he or she were filing for the primary. The late-filing candidate's nomination papers are expressly made subject to the same objections as those filed by a primary candidate. This would appear to satisfy the "petition" requirements in Article VI, §12(a).

Also, the term "vacancy" has been specifically redefined to include the situation where no candidate filed for the primary.

Because no objections were filed to Mr. Brenson's candidacy, the questions raised in Bonaguro will not be revisited. But I can't help but think that, based on the current language of the statutes, the objections that succeeded in Bonaguro would have failed in this case.

Speaking as a non-specialist, I wonder whether the same result would obtain if the Republicans had tried to put up a countywide candidate. There is no specific counterpart to the judicial subcircuit committee that applies in Cook County. The circuit court committee created by §7-8(g) applies only outside of Cook County. In Cook County, would the judicial district committee be (as it was at the time of Bonaguro) a committee of one, namely, the county party chair? Unlike the judicial subcircuit committee expressly provided for by §7-7 and referred to in §7-8(g-1), there is no judicial committee identified in §7-7. Thus, the "judicial committee" of §7-8(f) is not expressly authorized for "the purpose of making nominations in certain instances as provided in this Article."

Would that make a difference? My suspicion is that it would.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Does an unenforced smoking ban in Chicago's parks encourage or erode respect for the law?

I believe, with John Adams (who coined the phrase) and John Marshall (who appropriated it -- see, Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S.137, 163 (1803)), that ours is a government of laws, not persons. (OK, Adams and Marshall said 'ours is a government of laws, not men,' but modernizing the phrase does not diminish its meaning or import.)

That's a great, high-sounding principle and most people haven't thought about it since high school civics.

If they even have high school civics classes anymore.

But we can remain a government of laws only so long as people respect and believe in the laws, and in the rule of law. As a lawyer, and as an American, I believe wholeheartedly in the rule of law, and I am distressed by anything that tends to undermine the respect of my fellow citizens in the law.

The classic example of a law eroding respect for the law is the Volstead Act, the Act of Congress that implemented the provisions of the 18th Amendment -- the law that was meant to implement Prohibition.

Rich people toasted Prohibition -- thinking it would encourage a thrifty and sober working class -- at dinner parties where champagne and brandy flowed. Just about any brand of whiskey could be had at the Harding White House, according to Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Teddy and wife of Nicholas, a prominent congressman (Speaker of the House from 1925 to 1931). The Washington Post feature, from which this tidbit is lifted, notes that at least some of the booze served at the Harding White House, at the height of Prohibition, was procured from liquor confiscated in raids by Prohibition agents. And the urban working class that was expected to actually live with Prohibition flouted the law just the same as their bosses, patronizing speakeasies and making millions for organized crime.

America has still not fully recovered.

Nor, apparently, have Americans learned that passing laws that one either can not, or will not, enforce, or at best enforce selectively, erodes confidence and respect for the law.

Today's case in point is a new ordinance enacted by the Chicago Park District Board. Tina Sfondeles reports in this morning's Chicago Sun-Times that the smoking ban in Chicago's 580 parks was approved yesterday. An excerpt from her article:
But despite the new resolution, thousands of Chicagoans attending Riot Fest in Humboldt Park this weekend will not be ticketed, according to Park District Supt. Mike Kelly.

“People at Riot Fest this weekend, they don’t need to worry about...a man tapping on their shoulder and saying, ‘You’re under arrest,’” Kelly said. “That’s not the point of this. It’s about awareness. It’s about people taking the dangers of smoking seriously and making their own choices.”
Meredith Rodriguez also writes about the ban in today's Chicago Tribune. Rodriguez writes that Chicago's ban follows the adoption of similar bans in New York in 2011 and Boston in 2013. She also notes that the Chicago Park District banned smoking at Park District buildings, beaches and playgrounds in 2007. She adds:
The maximum fine for an “egregious offender who refuses to put out a cigarette in the face of repeated warnings” is $500, said Tim King, the Park District deputy general counsel. To his knowledge, he added, no such fines have yet been issued since the first ban was implemented in 2007.
Chicago Police will have the responsibility to enforce the ban, according to Rodriguez's article.

There was apparently one concern raised by Park District Commissioner Vice President Avis LaVelle. Rodriguez quotes LaVelle as stating, "I think we have to have a more concrete idea of how this might be enforced."

Indeed.

The newspaper articles suggest that the ban won't be routinely enforced -- and it couldn't possibly be routinely enforced, given police manpower limitations. The proponents of the measure want people to enforce it themselves -- to shame their fellow citizens when they light up (or toke up -- marijuana and even medical marijuana are also subject to the ban).

Sure, that'll work. I shudder to think what may happen to the first nice old lady who scolds a gang of toughs for smoking in the park.

If any enforcement ever takes place, I am very much afraid it will be in 'sweeps,' as police use the ordinance as a pretext to roust persons deemed undesirable by someone. The local alderman. The local police commander. Business owners or highly-clouted persons living near a park who pressure the local alderman and/or police commander.

Look, I'm not in favor of smoking. I certainly don't encourage it. I don't know that there's anybody in this day and age who is in favor of encouraging smoking. (Maybe if the person is named R.J. Reynolds....) Most smokers I know just want to be left alone and unhassled. They are already confined to furtive clusters in the shadows of Loop office buildings. And I agree with the Park District that smoking in public parks is a public health issue. But don't criminalize the behavior: If the goal really is to make people more aware of the dangers of smoking and help people to 'make their own choices,' the Park District should aim to persuade, not punish. The same signposts that will now threaten fines for public puffing could be used for signs that say, perhaps, 'come here for the fresh air -- don't smoke.'

Ah, you say, those young toughs will ignore that sign, too.

And they might. (OK, they will.)

But I'm worried about the old lady who will lose a little respect for all laws when she sees that this new law is not enforced and, worse, when she is verbally or even (heaven forbid) physically abused if she tries to enforce it herself.

Criminal statutes or ordinances are not symbols. When a law or ordinance is passed that is not to be enforced and can not be enforced fairly and uniformly, we erode respect, just a little, for all our laws. And we damage our nation and endanger our future in the process.

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An aside to the Sun-Times Early and Often Webmaster: I read Ms. Sfondeles' article in the actual, printed newspaper this morning. On your website, however, I found the Tribune article before I found your own. Somehow, I doubt that was your intent.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Scenes from last night's reception for the 2014 retention judges

Preston Bradley Hall was jammed for last night's reception honoring judges seeking retention in Cook County. Retired Appellate Court Justice Marvin H. Leavitt, the Co-Chair of the Lawyers Committee of the Committee for Retention of Judges in Cook County, the reception's sponsor, said he was pleased with the turnout, which he estimated to be similar to previous reception events.

Many of the retention judges were sporting flashing blue buttons. Shown here are two of the retention candidates, Judge Ann Collins Dole (center) and Judge Donna L. Cooper (right).

A good many other sitting judges came out to support their colleagues' retention bids. Associate Judges Franklin U. Valderrama and Alfredo Maldonado were among these.


Judge Alfred M. Swanson, Jr. was present to support his colleagues seeking retention.


Also supporting their colleagues were Judges Edward M. Maloney and Patrick T. Rogers.



Judge Kay M. Hanlon also turned out to support the cause; she is shown here with her husband, attorney James E. Hanlon, Jr.

The proceeds of this reception are used to support the retention bids of all the Cook County judges seeking retention this year.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Two Cook County retention candidates withdraw from November ballot

Cook County Judges Vanessa A. Hopkins and Noreen Love have asked to have their names removed from the November election ballot.

Judge Hopkins was elected to the bench in 1996 from the 1st Subcircuit. Judge Love was elected to a countywide vacancy in 2002.

Update on IllinoisJudges.net questionnaire responses by Cook County judges seeking retention


The Illinois Civil Justice League has updated its IllinoisJudges.net page for the upcoming November election. While the primary focus of this blog is Cook County, the ICJL covers judicial races across the entire state. Collar county and Downstate voters will want to visit IllinoisJudges.net to check for election and retention candidate responses from their own jurisdiction.

But, meanwhile, here's a list of Cook County judges seeking retention this year who have responded to the ICJL questionnaires as of this morning. Clicking on any name will take you to that judge's response.
This page of the ICJL website shows all judicial retention candidates statewide. Check on that link for updated ICJL questionnaire responses from Cook County judges (and for responses from judicial retention candidates outside Cook County).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Freddrenna M. Lyle, Eve M. Reilly appointed to Subcircuit vacancies today by the Illinois Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court has appointed Judge Freddrenna M. Lyle to the 5th Subcircuit vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Jane L. Stuart.

The appointment is effective September 5 and will terminate December 5, 2016. This is Judge Lyle's third appointment. The Supreme Court first appointed Judge Lyle to a 2nd Subcircuit vacancy in 2011. She currently serves pursuant to appointment to the Taylor vacancy in the 7th Subcircuit. Before joining the judiciary, Judge Lyle served as Alderman of Chicago's 6th Ward.

The Supreme Court also appointed Assistant State's Attorney Eve M. Reilly to the 10th Subcircuit vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Garritt E. Howard. Reilly's appointment is effective August 29 but it, too, will terminate on December 5, 2016. Reilly has been licensed in Illinois as an attorney since 1997.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Northern Trust Bank to stop handling IOLTA accounts: Beginning of a trend or isolated incident?

The letter I got from the Northern Trust was confusing. The bank wrote that it will no longer offer IOLTA accounts "without you or your firm having an additional relationship with us."

Additional relationship? My office checking account is there. My personal checking account is there, too, and my savings account, and my IRA and a couple of Northern Trust Funds accounts besides. This must be a mistake, I thought, so I called the man who wrote the letter.

He's out of town.

I called a more general number. "Oh, yes," the woman said when I'd explained myself. "We didn't explain very clearly what we meant by additional relationship."

She explained that the Northern Trust is looking to drop IOLTA accounts except -- maybe -- for customers keeping a minimum of $2 million on deposit.

Oh. I started adding up account balances in my head -- and realized that, even with everything put together, I'm generally about $1.95 million short.

As the nice lady from the bank and I were talking, I pulled up the list of eligible institutions maintained by The Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois to see where else I might go. "Yes, the Northern Trust is still on the list," the lady acknowledged when I mentioned this, "but not for long."

There was a time when the Northern Trust actively sought out lawyers' accounts... and not that long ago.

Still, James J. Grogan, ARDC Deputy Administrator and Chief Counsel, was not surprised when I told him what the Northern Trust had told me. "We've gotten quite a few calls about this," Grogan said. He suggested I talk with David T. Holtermann, General Counsel of the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois.

Holtermann wasn't surprised either; LTF has also received a number of phone calls from concerned lawyers. LTF was "blindsided" by the Northern Trust's announcement, Holtermann told me. "We didn't hear from the bank before the letters started going out," he said. But, he added, LTF has put a link on its website just this week, providing an update for lawyers concerned about their Northern Trust IOLTA accounts. This page will be updated, Holtermann said, as new information becomes available.

IOLTA accounts are different from the typical, modern bank account in several ways. Account holders pay no monthly maintenance fee for IOLTA accounts, but most other checking accounts come with at least a monthly maintenance fee that the customer must pay. Customers have to get at least copies of canceled checks drawn on IOLTA accounts -- front and back -- but many checking accounts these days provide only copies of the fronts of checks, if copies of checks are provided at all. The Lawyers Trust Fund website specifies that IOLTA accounts are supposed to pay 1% interest. Try and get that rate, low as it sounds, on any other demand deposit. Moreover, banks that offer IOLTA accounts are required to inform ARDC whenever there is an overdraft in an IOLTA account.

I asked Holtermann whether IOLTA accounts have become so different that banks are becoming unwilling to deal with them. Is Northern Trust the harbinger of a trend, or just an instance of a bank changing directions about the kind of clientele it wants?

"Only the ARDC reporting requirement is fairly new," Holtermann told me in response, adding that, despite some initial concerns from LTF's banking partners, there have been no real issues about reporting. "We have close to 400 banks that handle IOLTA accounts in Illinois in any given year," Holtermann continued. "This number of banks has remained fairly constant despite the massive consolidation in the banking industry in the past several years," he said, although "in any given year there will be some ebb and flow."

We can't predict the future, Holtermann said, but there's no reason to see this action by Northern Trust as the beginning of a trend.

There certainly is reason to believe that other banks will not follow the Northern Trust's lead. With roughly 400 participating banks (even after the Northern Trust's defection) it seems pretty obvious that a lot of banks value IOLTA accounts because they value lawyer business. Presumably, these many banks find that any administrative inconveniences in managing IOLTA accounts are more than made up for in good will and other business that lawyers can bring.

LTF was established by the Chicago and Illinois State Bar Associations in 1983. The Illinois Supreme Court subsequently designated LTF to administer the IOLTA program and make grants to support the provision of legal aid throughout Illinois. Today LTF uses proceeds from the IOLTA program and funds generated by the annual Legal Aid Fee assessed on active Illinois lawyers at the direction of the Supreme Court in order to make grants. In 2013, Holtermann said, $6.47 million was generated by the Legal Aid Fee. Only $2.27 million was realized from IOLTA.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Retention Judges Reception planned for September 8


The Committee for Retention of Judges in Cook County will host its 2014 Reception Honoring Retention Judges on Monday, September 8, from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. in the Preston Bradley Hall at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 East Washington Street.

This has traditionally been the one and only fundraiser for retention judges generally and it is has traditionally been very well attended (that's 'very well attended' as in sardines-in-a-can crowded).

Individual tickets are $125, and sponsorships are available -- Silver, $1,000 (which includes five admission tickets); Gold, $2,500 (10 tickets); or Platinum, $5,000 (20 tickets). Wine, beer and appetizers will be served. Entertainment will be provided by The Vazquez Jazz Ensemble, featuring Attorney Mark T. Vazquez and Associate Judge Gregory P. Vazquez.

For more information, or to order tickets, call P2 Consulting at (312) 854-8018. Tickets can also be ordered online at the Retention Judges website.

Full Disclosure: If I can scrape up the scratch, I intend to buy a ticket to this event.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Aleksandra Nikolich Gillespie receives Circuit Court appointment

Aleksandra Nikolich Gillespie, an Assistant State's Attorney based in Skokie, was named by the Illinois Supreme Court yesterday to fill the countywide vacancy created by the death of Judge Michael J. Howlett, Jr.

Gillespie's appointment is effective August 22 and terminates on December 5, 2016. Gillespie was an unsuccessful finalist when Associate Judges were selected earlier this year. She has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1993.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

William B. Raines gets an early start on his judicial career

William B. Raines, who won a hotly contested primary contest for the Neville vacancy in March, won't have to wait until the first Monday in December to take up his new post.

The Illinois Supreme Court yesterday appointed Raines to the vacancy "formerly held by the Honorable Gregory Emmett Ahern, Jr." The appointment is effective August 15. It will terminate December 1 when Judge Raines will be replaced by... Judge Raines. (Raines, like all countywide judicial candidates, faces no Republican opponent in November -- but, technically, he will not be elected until after the November election.)

A brief explanation as to how Judge Raines will succeed himself: Judge Ahern was appointed to the Neville vacancy at the beginning of 2013. He was not slated by the Democratic Party for any vacancy and did not run in the primary. He was, however, elected as an Associate Judge by his fellow Circuit Court judges this past April, thus creating the countywide Circuit Court vacancy that Bill Raines will now fill.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Illinois Judges Foundation awards scholarships, raises funds for future charitable endeavors

The Illinois Judges Foundation, the charitable arm of the Illinois Judges Association, held its summer reception last evening at the Chicago Bar Association Building.

IJF President Barbara McDonald, a retired Circuit Court judge, welcomed Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Rita Garman, Chief Judge Reuben Castillo of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans as special guests for the evening.


Chief Justice Garman was presented with a letter from the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation recognizing a $1,000 donation made by the IJF to the Campaign for Equal Justice in honor of her late husband, Danville attorney Gill M. Garman.

Judge McDonald noted that Judge Castillo is a tremendous hockey fan and presented him with a personalized Blackhawks jersey on behalf of the IJF. I can attest that Judge Castillo is no bandwagon jumper. I couldn't help but notice that Judge Castillo's chambers were chock full of Blackhawks memorabilia 14 years ago, when I interviewed him for the CBA Record.

The IJF presented Judge Evans with a personalized White Sox jersey. (Judge Evans had made no secret of his admiration for the jersey presented by the IJF to then-Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride at a prior IJF reception).

Judge Evans expressed his hope that it will be warm enough in October for him to wear this jersey to a World Series game this October.

Even with Judge Evans' optimism, I don't know if I'd bet the rent on the White Sox getting to the postseason this year. On the other hand, the Sox did beat the Tigers last night, 11-4....

The IJF asked Judge Evans to present the awards to this year's Harold Sullivan Scholarship winners. Samantha Mountford of DePaul Law School and Matthew Flores of Northern Illinois Law School were this year's recipients of the $5,000 awards.


Philip Corboy Hall was packed for the event, which attracts lawyers and judges from all over the state. To illustrate the point, herewith retired Circuit Court Judge John Coady of Taylorville, an IJA board member, shown here with Federico Rodriguez and Erika Juarez.


Appellate Court Justice (and current IJA President) Michael Hyman attended the event. He is shown here with Circuit Court Judge Ann Collins Dole.



Chancery Judge Diane Larsen is the Chair of the IJF's Harold Sullivan Scholarship Committee. Judge Larsen is shown here with Chief Justice Garman and Justice Mary Jane Theis of the Illinois Supreme Court. Supreme Court Justices Anne Burke, Thomas L. Kilbride, and Lloyd A. Karmeier were also in attendance.

ISBA President-Elect Umberto Davi also attended last night's reception, as did ISBA Third Vice President Russell W. Hartigan. Judge Hartigan managed to avoid my camera.

The camera on my phone, I am told, is quite good. The photographer's skills, however, do not measure up to the camera's qualities.