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 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.

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 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 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:
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,
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:
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."


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.

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 questionnaire responses by Cook County judges seeking retention

The Illinois Civil Justice League has updated its 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 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.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Congratulations to Tony La Russa, Esq. on his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame

Phil Zukowsky and I were the editors of the Loyola Law School newspaper, Blackacre, in 1979-80. We knew that then-White Sox manager had taken the Florida Bar Exam, and we'd heard that the results were in, and we were putting the current edition of paper together. Somehow -- and I can't remember how -- we managed to get a call into the Florida Board of Bar Examiners. In those long-ago days that involved getting a long distance line from the Loyola operator and there may have been some begging involved.

However we got the call made, when we got through we found out that, indeed, Mr. La Russa had passed the bar. Passing the bar was very much on our minds in those days. We presumably ran a small item.

Hey, you have to grab onto greatness when you can.

Little did we know then -- little could we know -- how great La Russa would turn out to be. Tito Landrum wasn't yet a phrase that could make strong men (well, strong men who were also White Sox fans) weep. Mr. La Russa's three world titles could not have been imagined then either. Nor could we have imagined his enshrinement in Cooperstown.

A number of commissioners were lawyers -- Fay Vincent, Bowie Kuhn, Happy Chandler -- Kenesaw Mountain Landis was a federal judge in Chicago when he became the first Commissioner of Major League Baseball. All except Vincent are in the Hall of Fame. But, surely, La Russa is the first lawyer-manager to enter Baseball's Valhalla.

Hey, you have to grab onto greatness when you can. Especially when you can make a blog post out of it.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Flip of a coin decides New Mexico judicial contest

Debra Cassens Weiss had a post Thursday on ABA Journal Law News Now about a New Mexico judicial primary that ended in a tie. The recount process confirmed the tie so the race between the deadlocked Democratic opponents was decided, Weiss wrote, by the flip of a coin.

In the event, the incumbent judge, Robert Baca, lost the coin flip to his challenger, Kenneth Howard Jr. (Judges in New Mexico apparently have to run for re-election; that's a lot different from the retention process we have in Illinois.) Howard is the presumptive winner of the judicial seat; he and Baca were Democrats and no Republican filed for the seat. (There are also some similarities between New Mexico practice and the way we do things here in County Cook.)

Flipping a coin may seem a trivial way to conclude a hard-fought campaign, but when the vote totals are really tied, what else is there to do? Coin flipping is not specified in the Illinois Electoral Code, but §23-27 of the Electoral Code (10 ILCS 5/23-27) provides, "If it appears that two or more persons have, or would have had if the legal ballots cast or intended to be cast for them had been counted, the highest and an equal number of votes for the same office, the persons receiving such votes shall decide by lot, in such manner as the court shall direct, which of them shall be declared duly elected; and the judgment shall be entered accordingly."

In other words, in case of a tie, under Illinois law, the judge hearing the election contest can decide the winner. See, Huber v. Reznick, 107 Ill.App.3d 529 (5th Dist. 1982) (in this case, the court directed the circuit clerk to do the coin flipping).

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Seventy five Cook County jurists file for November retention election

By my entirely unofficial count, some 75 Cook County jurists, including Appellate Court Justice Thomas E. Hoffman, have filed to appear on the November retention ballot. Hoffman is the only elected member of the First District Appellate Court up for retention this year.

Three Cook County Circuit judges presently serving by assignment on the Appellate Court are also seeking retention this Fall. These are Justices Robert E. Gordon, Michael B. Hyman, and Mary Anne Mason.

Every elected Appellate Court justice must seek retention every 10 years. Every elected Circuit Court judge, whether elected countywide or by subcircuit, must seek retention every six years. Voters vote "yes" or "no" on the question of whether any particular judge should be retained in office. To be retained, a jurist must receive a 60% "yes" vote (60% + 1).

At some point between now and the election, the Chicago Bar Association and the member bar associations of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening will release their evaluations of all the judges seeking retention. When these are available, I'll post them here on For What It's Worth.

Here is a list of all Cook County Circuit Court judges who are seeking retention in November:
  • Edward A. Arce
  • Mauricio Araujo
  • Andrew Berman
  • Margaret Ann Brennan
  • Eileen Mary Brewer
  • Janet Adams Brosnahan
  • James Brown
  • Eileen O’Neill Burke
  • Thomas J. Byrne
  • Diane Gordon Cannon
  • Evelyn B. Clay
  • Mary Ellen Coghlan
  • Ann Collins-Dole
  • Donna L. Cooper
  • Clayton J. Crane
  • Anna Helen Demacopoulos
  • Lynn Marie Egan
  • Candace Jean Fabri
  • Peter A. Felice
  • Thomas E. Flanagan
  • James Patrick Flannery
  • John J. Fleming
  • Rodolfo (Rudy) Garcia
  • James J. Gavin
  • Robert E. Gordon
  • Margarita Kulys Hoffman
  • Vanessa A. Hopkins
  • Michael B. Hyman
  • Marilyn F. Johnson
  • Rickey Jones
  • Themis N. Karzenis
  • Kathleen G. Kennedy
  • Kerry M. Kennedy
  • Diana L. Kenworthy
  • Maureen Ward Kirby
  • William G. Lacy
  • Marjorie C. Laws
  • Cassandra Lewis
  • Thomas J. Lipscomb
  • Noreen Valeria Love
  • Pamela Elizabeth Loza
  • Patricia Manila Martin
  • Mary Anne Mason
  • Veronica B. Mathein
  • Sheila McGinnis
  • Dennis Michael McGuire
  • Kathleen Marie McGury
  • Lewis Nixon
  • William Timothy O’Brien
  • Annie O’Donnell
  • James N. O’Hara
  • Sebastian Thomas Patti
  • Edmund Ponce de Leon
  • Jackie Marie Portman
  • Joan E. Powell
  • James L. Rhodes
  • James G. Riley
  • Anita Rivkin-Carothers
  • Pat Rogers
  • Dominique C. Ross
  • Kristyna Colleen Ryan
  • Patrick J. Sherlock
  • Laura Marie Sullivan
  • Donald J. Suriano
  • Shelley Lynn Sutker-Dermer
  • Michael P. Toomin
  • Sandra Tristano
  • Valerie E. Turner
  • Raul Vega
  • Kenneth J. Wadas
  • Debra B. Walker
  • Ursula Walowski
  • Gregory Joseph Wojkowski
  • Frank G. Zelezinski
Judge Anthony L. Burrell had filed for retention before his death.

Any other omissions or errors in this list are my responsibility.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Justice Theis announces two new Cook County subcircuit vacancies

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis has announced an application process for two Cook County subsicruit judicial vacancies, according to press releases issued today by the Illinois Supreme Court.

A vacancy was created in the 7th Subcircuit with the passing of Judge Anthony L. Burrell. A 4th Subcircuit vacancy was created by the July 2 retirement of Judge William J. Kunkle.

Justice Theis has a screening committee in place to evaluate judicial applicants. The 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 being considered by the screening committee must obtain an application. The application can be requested on the Illinois Courts website (follow the links under "Latest News"). Completed applications must be returned by August 8. The evaluation process also includes screening by the Chicago Bar Association and the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening.

Under the Illinois Constitution, judicial vacancies are filled on an interim basis by Supreme Court appointment until the next general election. Justice Theis will make a recommendation to the Supreme Court concerning these two vacancies after applicants for the positions complete this screening and evaluation process.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cook County Circuit Court tosses both proposed constitutional amendments

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary L. Mikva today entered an order that will prevent both of the proposed constitutional amendments, Bruce Rauner's highly-publicized term limits initiative, and the independent redistricting amendment, from appearing on the November ballot.

All the machinations involving the Illinois State Board of Elections, all the Tribune's editorial hand-wringing, proved to be for naught.

Here is the complete text of Judge Mikva's order:

In my opinion, the term limits proposal was never more than a dumb gimmick: We already have term limits; we always have. They're called elections. If you and your neighbors don't like the bum you elected last time, at least in theory, you and your neighbors can always elect someone else. Of course, the theory falls apart when politicians control the redistricting process and draw districts that preserve incumbents in office. Instead of voters choosing their representatives, our representatives choose their voters. Republicans and Democrats alike are united in their opposition to nonpartisan map-making. As I wrote recently, "[N]othing lasts forever, especially in politics. The Republicans will presumably have their day again. Eventually. And when they get it, they don't want to have to deal with fairly drawn districts; they will want a chance to draw three Democratic incumbents into the same new district and see how they like it. Republicans want to pick friendly voters and hamstring their opponents just as badly as Democrats do."

The ballyhoo about the term limits amendment notwithstanding, the redistricting amendment was the one that really worried political professionals.

Fortunately for the political professionals, if not for the body politic, the redistricting amendment carried within it the seeds of its own destruction. In the linked post I put up earlier this month, I wrote, "This sentence in the proposed Amendment, for example, seems likely to cause trouble: 'For ten years after service as a Commissioner or Special Commissioner [on the Independent Redistricting Commission], a person is ineligible to serve as a Senator, Representative, officer of the Executive Branch, Judge, or Associate Judge of the State or an officer or employee of the State whose appointment is subject to confirmation by the Senate.'"

Judge Mikva's order today focuses on this provision as the major flaw in the restricting proposal. But the good news, potentially, in the court's order is that "a differently drafted redistricting initiative could be valid" (Order p. 11). There is still reason to hope.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Illinois Judges Foundation Summer Reception set for July 29

The Illinois Judges Foundation, the charitable arm of the Illinois Judges Association, will host its Summer Reception on Tuesday, July 29, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Corboy Hall at the Chicago Bar Association building, 321 S. Plymouth Court.

Proceeds from the reception will support the charitable and educational programs of the Illinois Judges Association, including in particular the Harold Sullivan Scholarship. Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Rita Garman, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Ruben Castillo, and Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans are scheduled to appear. Refreshments will be served.

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

Persons interested in becoming a sponsor of the event should contact either Kevin Fagan at or Christine Athanasoulis.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Abbey Fishman Romanek gets a head start on her judicial career

Abbey Fishman Romanek won the Democratic nomination for the Preston vacancy in the 9th Subcircuit this past March. As with most nominees, there being but one contested judicial race this November in the entire county, Romanek faces no opponent in November.

Yesterday the Illinois Supreme Court appointed Romanek to a 9th Subcircuit vacancy -- but not the Preston vacancy. Absent further Supreme Court order, Judge Allan W. Masters holds that spot until the first Monday in December. Instead, Romanek has been appointed to the Meyer vacancy.

Romanek's judicial career begins on August 4. The Supreme Court's appointment will terminate on December 1, but that is the day that Romanek assumes the post to which she has been presumptively elected. (Anjana Hansen will fill the Meyer vacancy at that time.)

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Cicruit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown's annual Expungement Summit set for this Saturday in Forest Park

Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown will host an Expungement Summit on Saturday, June 7, from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Living Word Christian Center, 7600 W. Roosevelt Road, in Forest Park. Clerk Brown explains the many services that will be offered at this 10th annual Summit in this current North Town News Magazine interview.

Volunteer attorneys will be on hand to assist persons in completing their petitions to expunge or seal their records, or to assist persons in determining their eligibility for this relief (if you'd like a head start on the process, or wish to determine your eligibility in advance, Clerk Brown's website offers this procedural guide). The Cook County Public Defender, the Cook County State's Attorney, and the Office of the State Appellate Defender are among the public agencies who will have representatives on site. The Illinois Prisoner Review Board will also have representatives present to assist people who may not qualify for expungement but who wish to learn about Certificates of Good Conduct and Relief from Disabilities or to pursue executive clemency or pardon. In the NTNM video, Clerk Brown even mentions that some judges may be present, volunteering their time to rule immediately on in forma pauperis petitions that persons seeking expungement may wish to file in lieu of paying the otherwise-required fees for their petitions.

This is a very nice event, a blessing for the persons who may benefit from these services, and a blessing also for those who volunteer their time to assist. It's a good thing, and I don't mean to say a thing against it.


If I have a house with a leaky roof and broken windows, the first improvement I would make is not planting flowers and decorative shrubs.

The Clerk of the Circuit Court's office is like a house with a leaky roof and broken windows.

Pull any file at the Daley Center -- if the file can be found in the first place, that is -- and examine the contents. I'm willing to bet that in any random sample of 10 files, you'd find five or six with misfiled papers; you might see misfiled documents in all 10. And don't even think about finding any recently filed documents, much less any recently-entered orders, in those files.

I do some civil appellate work. I can't tell you how often I have found the Clerk-prepared Records on Appeal to be incomplete, sometimes with documents vital to the appeal missing altogether. Yes, the Clerk's office has some very hard-working, helpful people that help attorneys like me work around these deficiencies and I am always grateful for that assistance. But I have needed it far too often.

The Clerk's Office maintains an electronic docket in civil cases which provides a rough -- often very rough -- approximation about what is going on in any given case. I also do some insurance defense work. Many times, in a case with multiple defendants, an insured may not be served until the case has been underway for some time. When I am then called in, I can't advise the insurer about the case status just by looking at the electronic docket, and all too often, especially in the smaller cases, I can't get the court file, or it's incomplete. (Court personnel apparently have access to better data than mere lawyers and the general public. I recall one incident within the past year where I told the learned judge presiding that there was no indication in the court file that my would-be client had ever been served. The judge, however, referring to the screen in front of him, said there was proof of service and, when I marveled at this, he asked, "Are you calling me a liar?" Yikes! I hastily explained that I was surprised because I knew there was nothing like this in the court file; I'd looked myself.)

Judging from conversations I've had with other attorneys, I know I'm not alone in my concerns about how things work, or not, in the Clerk's office. Ask around.

Until recently, the Clerk's Office used to allow papers in civil cases to be filed at either the Daley Center or any of the five outlying Municipal District Courthouses. Now, however, in order to file an appearance in a Markham case (6th Municipal District), one must drive to Markham. This makes no sense. The county did not suddenly splinter into six county-lets. Of course, this latest step backwards in customer service was meant as a not-so-gentle nudge for attorneys to use e-filing instead. As I reported here in February, Clerk Brown has urged the Illinois Supreme Court to make e-filing mandatory in Cook County by 2016. But the e-filing system offered by Clerk Brown's office is an expensive boondoggle, charging "convenience fees" even for filing allegedly no-fee documents and adding surcharges to filing fees even when the fee is paid by electronic withdrawal from an attorney's checking account. It is a system vastly inferior to the PACER system used by the federal courts.

Nor are the problems in the Circuit Clerk's office -- the broken windows and leaky roof -- confined to the keeping of records in civil cases. Last month I bragged about FWIW winning a Meritorious Achievement Award in the Online category at this year's Chicago Bar Association Kogan Awards luncheon. But the winners of the Kogan Awards in the Online category were Robert Herguth, Patrick McCraney, Dane Placko and Patrick Rehkamp for the BGA series "Disorder in the Bureaucracy of the Courts," concerning lost and missing papers necessary for criminal appeals. (Other entries in the BGA series also concerned the operation of Clerk Brown's office and are here and here.)

Last October, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart blamed antiquated record-keeping by the Clerk of the Circuit Court Clerk's office for the the premature release of a number of prisoners. (In the October 13, 2013 editions of the Tribune, Mitch Smith reported that Clerk Brown responded in a statement that "repeated efforts to create an interdepartment electronic records system for the criminal court have been 'continually met with resistance or disinterest.'")

It seems to me, then, that the Expungement Summit is like a decorative shrub in front of a dilapidated house: It can be admired on its own merits -- and I hope Saturday's summit proves to be a great success -- but it doesn't patch the roof or fix the broken windows on the house.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Explanation offered for last week's order permitting note-taking in Cook County courtrooms

An FWIW reader left a link on my Facebook page to a May 16 Chicago Tribune op-ed by John Marshall Law School Professor Samuel V. Jones that may well explain why Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans entered a general administrative order last week expressly permitting the taking of notes in Cook County courtrooms. Professor Jones wrote about his experience in Judge Laura M. Sullivan's courtroom on May 8. An excerpt from Professor Jones' article:
Deputies spoke to members of the public as if they were inhuman. As one mother attempted to comfort her baby after she uttered a slight sound, one deputy yelled, "Take your baby out of the courtroom, now!" Children watched, fearfully, as their parents held them tighter. Others refused to make eye contact with the deputies. "Get out," some deputies roared.

Amazed by the unnecessary aggression, I wondered how such abusive conduct had escaped public scrutiny. Moments later, I received my answer. A deputy approached and impolitely inquired, "Are you an attorney"? I identified myself as a professor of law doing research. She responded, "There is no note-taking in here." Interestingly, the deputy had walked past a journalist taking notes in plain view.

Neither Judge Sullivan nor the deputies announced a ban on note-taking. I wondered if the deputy knew that "the right of the press to access court proceedings is derivative of the public's right," and journalists held no greater right than I did. I informed her that the office of the chief judge had advised me that note-taking is permitted. I asked if I had violated any laws or was disruptive. "No," she replied, and walked away.

Minutes later, two male deputies ordered me out of the courtroom and said they were confiscating my notes. After I politely inquired about their authority to do so, they took me back into the courtroom. One deputy approached Judge Sullivan and the proceedings immediately stopped. I was ordered to sit on a bench, told not to move or write, and was surrounded by several deputies.
You'll note that Professor Jones expressly referenced checking with the Chief Judge's office and verifying that note taking would be permitted. But, until last Friday, there was no express rule. Now there is.

Professor Jones was released -- with his notes -- after about 30 minutes. That recitation may make the detention sound trivial. And I don't mean to convey that; I'm sure it was no picnic, even for a former military man like Professor Jones. His John Marshall faculty bio notes that Jones is a "former U.S. judge advocate (MAJ, USAR (Ret.)) and former rifleman/scout (SGT, U.S. Marines)." I'm sure I would have been scared witless if this had happened to me.

But Professor Jones mentions that he was sitting in on a bond court hearing. Even a civil lawyer such as myself understands that a bond court is a high volume call, with many unsavory characters being shuttled in and out. (I am not forgetting about the presumption of innocence in every single criminal case but, rather, making an assumption based on the distressing, but well-documented, high rate of recidivism, that some, and perhaps many, of the persons being brought in for bond hearings on any given day have prior criminal convictions, and perhaps multiple convictions.) The friends and family present to support the defendants whose cases are on the call may or may not have had some prior personal contact with the criminal justice system. In a city as scarred as ours from incessant gang rivalry and violence, in bond court it would seem to make absolute sense to have multiple deputy sheriffs present and in high states of alert.

None of that excuses what happened to Professor Jones on May 8. But what we can't tell from this one sorry incident is whether it was a blip -- an exception -- a combination of a number of people having a particularly bad day -- or whether it is consistent with a pervasive pattern and practice of official rudeness in the courtroom. I sure as heck am not in a position to formulate an opinion on this.

On the other hand, Judge Sullivan is up for retention this year. You can bet that the several bar associations that vet retention candidates, both the CBA and the Alliance members, will be looking into the incident reported by Professor Jones and drawing their own conclusions.

Nor should any reader presuppose what the outcome of those bar evaluations might be. Judge Sullivan was first elected to the bench in 2002. She ran for the Appellate Court in 2012 and was found Qualified by the Chicago Bar Association. (She did not participate in the Alliance evaluation process in 2012.) So readers should avoid the all-too-human temptation to lock in a good-guy, bad-guy narrative here. Maybe this is a story without bad guys. Let's wait for all the facts. There will be more to this story later.

But, in the meantime, now that we have an order expressly permitting note-taking, does the new order really always and everywhere permit note taking by anyone and everyone in Cook County courtrooms?

One of the main reasons for the general cell phone ban in criminal courthouses was to prevent witness or juror intimidation. That makes sense. In the modern age, social media can get pretty antisocial awfully fast. And maybe it's just my imagination, but I can easily imagine circumstances where "note taking" could take on sinister implications as well. I'm not talking about note-taking by lawyers or members of the press but -- well -- maybe I have the wrong kind of imagination.

But I suggest that Judge Evans considered the possibility as well. That's why -- I think -- in an order that basically provides thou shalt permit note taking in court, Judge Evans included this last sentence, "Nothing in this order shall be interpreted to interfere with a judge’s ability to ensure that court proceedings are conducted with fitting dignity and decorum and without distraction, as required by Canon 3 of the Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct, Ill. S. Ct. R. 63, or to affect the sheriff’s responsibility to maintain the safety and security of the courtroom."

In other words, I believe, even after the adoption of the new rule, it still is up to the judge and the deputy sheriffs present in the courtroom to determine whether someone is taking notes for an improper purpose, such as to intimidate, harass or frighten a witness, and to put a halt to such behavior if it is observed. There is now an express presumption in favor of note-taking, but it is not an unqualified right. Or am I missing something again?

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Notes on yesterday's note-taking order: Ban or boon?

My phone dinged late yesterday afternoon because of this tweet from Sun-Times education reporter Lauren FitzPatrick:

Whoa! Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans had banned electronic note taking in the courts? Luddites like me who still use diary books (the diary's batteries never fail, although it is just as prone to data entry errors as its electronic counterparts) would not be impacted by such an order, but I could see where such an order, if true, would provoke full-blown angst among my more gadget-inclined colleagues.

I was in the middle of working my law job at the time, but when I could return to the story I found an email from Judge Evans' press aide Rose Mary Marasso, providing both a press release about Judge Evans' order and the order itself.

The above link will take you to the text of yesterday's order, but, in my reading, there are three operative points:
  1. Note-taking is permitted in court proceedings conducted in Cook County courtrooms;
  2. Taking notes in court proceedings is subject to the court’s General Administrative Order No 2013-05 - Cell Phones and Other Electronic Devices; and
  3. Individual judges and deputy sheriffs have the right and duty to keep order in their own courtrooms.
Technically, if you look at GAO 2013-05, the cell phone ban applies only to the Leighton Criminal Courthouse (which you may still think of as 26th & Cal). The earlier, wider cell phone ban, which included all Cook County courthouses except the Daley Center, was superseded by this order. Some readers will protest that there are still cell phone bans at the suburban Municipal District courthouses, but these are at the discretion of the presiding judges in those courthouses (and, given the criminal trials that take place in those buildings, exist for the same good reasons as the ban at 26th Street).

And, in any event, the current ban does (and, for that matter, the ban imposed by its predecessors did) not apply to reporters.

On the other hand, at least as I'm reading the rules, in-trial tweeting by reporters was neither permitted nor prohibited by the Chief Judge except in cases where a trial was permitted to be broadcast under the procedures adopted by the Illinois Supreme Court -- in which case "members of the news media may also use their electronic devices in the courtroom to communicate with news media colleagues, provided court is not in session."

But -- bottom line, as I see it -- courtroom cell phone use by lawyers and reporters alike was pretty much subject to the discretion of the individual courtroom judge prior to yesterday afternoon and remains so following the adoption of this order. Most judges in my experience take a fairly indulgent view of technology; in many courtrooms the problem is not so much getting the judge's permission (or quiet acquiescence) as it is getting a viable cellular signal.

There may be a back-story behind yesterday's order: Some judge somewhere may have threatened to take a reporter's devices. There could be a couple of judges who suspect that they are the subject of a reporter's attention, not the case or cases on the day's docket. These few, if there really are any, may see yesterday's order as a limitation. No one else should.

Or have I missed something?

Cook County Bar Association Centennial Celebration on June 21

The Cook County Bar Association has asked me to help get the word out about its centennial celebration, Destiny in Time, set for Saturday, June 21 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 East Wacker Drive.

Cocktails begin at 6:30, the dinner begins at 7:30 and a 'nightcap party' starts at 10:30. As part of the program, Celestia L. Mays will be sworn in as the new President of the CCBA.

Tickets for the event are $200 apiece. For more information, or to order tickets, contact CCBA Executive Director Cordelia Brown at (312) 630-1157 or, by email, at

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Norwood Park Memorial Day Parade remembers America's fallen servicemembers

It's not fancy. But it's respectful. And it provides an annual opportunity for all of us to remember that Memorial Day is more than just the unofficial start of summer. It's more than a day off. The annual Norwood Park Memorial Day Parade provides an opportunity for Americans to recall, remember, and reflect upon the ultimate sacrifice made by so many in the service of the nation.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day. It was long a solemn duty for grieving mothers and widows to decorate the graves of their loved ones. The practice became institutionalized in the aftermath of the Civil War. Many communities, North and South, claim to have originated the observance. But the traditional May 30 date was selected in 1868, and promoted by the Union Army veterans organization, the Grand Army of the Republic. The original date of Memorial Day was chosen because (somehow) there had been no major battle on May 30.

Eventually Memorial Day became recognized as a day to honor all of America's war dead, in any war, declared or otherwise. It became a Monday holiday in 1968.

Of course, the kids watching yesterday may have been a little vague on the history. That's OK; they were there.

Iraq War veteran John Joyce served as Grand Marshall of yesterday's parade. (The link is to the DNAinfo Chicago article, by Heather Cherone, about Joyce's military and civilian careers.)

Of course, you can't have a parade without politicians, and there were both some local dignitaries...

... and some political candidates.

The appearance of the Bagpipes and Drums of the Emerald Society of the Chicago Police Department was pursuant to bipartisan agreement.

The Norwood Park Memorial Day Parade ends at Taft High School. Not surprisingly, Taft had a large contingent marching in the parade.

More parade photos can be found on page two.