Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Service tax again being floated for lawyers -- beware!

Fran Spielman reports in this morning's Chicago Sun-Times that aldermen are looking for alternatives to property tax hikes proposed recently to help bail out underfunded Chicago employee pensions. Among the alternatives floated, according to Spielman's article, is a tax on certain professional services, such as legal fees. Among the proponents of this tax is Ald. Will Burns (4th):
Burns envisions a Chicago-only sales tax on services that would be considerably lower than the general sales tax and confined to “high-end” professional services like attorneys, accountants, lawn care and computer services.

“I would draw the line on services like haircuts and hairdressers. You want to avoid taxing everyday people. We have to keep the city affordable,” Burns said.
In larger firms, it would presumably be fairly easy to rewrite billing software to include the tax. Heck, even in a one-horse operation like my own, I have a calculator on my computer. I can figure out a 5% or 6% tax easily enough.

But that's just the beginning.

When (and if) the bill is paid, where does the tax money go? Can it be deposited in the firm account? We're lucky to get clients to write one check for fees; we can't possibly expect a fee check and tax check, too. Must every check be washed through an IOLTA account? For the anxious solo looking to cover the phone bill or the mollify the landlord, that extra delay could be problematic in the extreme.

Assuming that the fee checks still can be deposited in the firm account, hasn't the City just acquired some sort of right to access to our books and records, to make certain that we are levying and collecting the tax? What sort of ethical obligations would that trigger? What sort of documentation will be required to establish compliance to the City's satisfaction? And how often will we have to show compliance? Weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? Solo practitioners like myself will have to demonstrate compliance by ourselves. It would be just another unproductive task added to our workday.

And what if the fee bill isn't paid?

Even the silk-stocking firms have occasional issues with collections. Every solo I know has stories of sending out bills that they knew would never get paid. The tax would be payable only upon receipt, wouldn't it Ald. Burns?

And what about the client that "negotiates" his or her bill after the fact? That $2,000 bill? (Maybe it's $2,100 with the service tax.) I'll give you $750, and you should think it's Christmas, the client says. Maybe you get the client to eventually pay $1,000. The service tax would be payable pro rata, right Ald. Burns?

The City's pension shortfall is real. Money is going to have to be found somewhere. But a "service tax" on lawyers' fees is not going to be simple to implement or easy to collect. And there will be costs on the City's part for enforcement and regulation (someone is going to have to draft and, eventually, read the compliance forms, for example). The old expression, "the devil is in the details," seems particularly apt here. We don't yet know the details. Right now, though, I think that devil is grinning.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Marc William Martin appointed to 11th Subcircuit vacancy

The Illinois Supreme Court has appointed criminal defense attorney Marc William Martin to an 11th Subcircuit vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Carol A. Kelly.

Martin's appointment is effective May 1 and terminates on December 5, 2016.

Martin has been an attorney in Illinois since 1987. Martin was most recently in the news as one of the attorneys for Richard Vanecko, a nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, accused of involuntary manslaughter in the death of David Koschman.

Updated to correct typo.

There will be no recount in the race for the 15th Subcircuit Sterba vacancy

It's official now: Judge Chris Lawler's 15-vote lead has held up. The Cook County Clerk has certified Judge Lawler the winner, with 4,210, 15 more than the 4,195 received by his nearest challenger, Michael B. Barrett.

The Law Bulletin carries the story in its April 10 edition (subscription required). Quoting from Marc Kalinsky's story:
Barrett, a partner at Barrett & Sramek in Palos Heights, conceded after the certified results were published on Tuesday.

“I called Chris to let him know we would not be challenging any of the results or processes or anything like that,” Barrett said.

Lawler said the phone call, much like the race, did not change the positive relationship the two candidates have had for many years.

“He called to say he was not going to file a challenge and wished me well, and I wished him well and we’ll move on,” Lawler said. “I’ve known Mr. Barrett for 20 years. I’ve tried cases against him and his brother.”

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Another lesson from last month's judicial primary: Lawyers needed to serve on Judicial Evaluation Committees

For bar association judicial evaluation committees, the March primary followed hard on the heels of associate judge season.

Over 270 judicial hopefuls filed for associate judge in February 2013. The bar associations JECs began sending out and sifting through questionnaires shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, the primary season was getting underway. There was, of course, some overlap between those filing for associate judge and those entering the primaries, but the primaries brought still more candidates for the already-taxed JECs to evaluate.

To cope with the volume of work, busy JECs have developed some shortcuts. For example, candidates who have sought judicial office before, and who have already been evaluated, are not automatically subject to the full evaluation process each time they reapply. Both the Alliance and CBA send short-form questionnaires to returning candidates; generally, the responses to these questionnaires are sufficient to allow the bar associations to continue to stand by the existing recommendations for these candidates. Still, these credentials have to be 'refreshed' after a period of time. In my own case, I had to go through the full CBA evaluation when I applied for the associate judge class seated in 2012. I had to submit the Alliance long-form evaluation when I applied for the current associate judge process.

An easy shortcut is to automatically "just say no" to any candidate who won't participate by completing an initial questionnaire.

Another, perhaps more controversial, shortcut is to set minimum guidelines for approval. Legally, one can seek judicial office as soon as he or she passes the bar exam. Most of the bar associations, however, will not consider giving positive ratings to a judicial hopeful who has not practiced law for at least 12 years.

Mind you, at my age and station in life, I am increasingly inclined to the view that the best judicial candidates should have some significant experience of life before attaining judicial office. One glance at my picture will explain why I have come around to these views. (When I first ran for judge, in 1994, I thought the ideal judicial candidate should exhibit considerably more youth and vigor. Go figure.)

But the would-be judge who has not yet practiced law for 12 years is not automatically incapable of doing a good job in judicial office. Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Rita B. Garman graduated from law school in 1968. She was an associate judge by 1974. Former Chief Justice Robert R. Thomas graduated from Loyola Law School in 1981 -- and was elected to the circuit bench in DuPage County in 1988. Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis was an Assistant Public Defender in Cook County for nine years, graduating from law school in 1974 -- and becoming an associate judge in 1983.

Thus, minimum practice guidelines may eliminate from consideration persons who, despite their relative youth and inexperience, would be fine judges. It certainly discourages younger judicial hopefuls (or those who have taken up the law as a second career) from participating in the evaluation process -- and that's unfortunate.

And even with these shortcuts to help move the evaluation process along, every primary season, the bar association JECs are stretched to the limit trying to complete their investigations in time for start of early voting. The Chicago Bar Association got its results out on February 19; the Chicago Council of Lawyers followed on February 26. But some Alliance members were still releasing results well after the start of early voting this year. First-time candidates, the ones are most anxious to find out whether they are deemed qualified or recommended by their peers, are often the last to be evaluated: Their evaluations are the most involved.

It's a numbers game.

And we need to increase the numbers of lawyers willing to serve on JECs.

So here comes the commercial. The Chicago Bar Association is actively recruiting new members for its Judicial Evaluation Committee. CBA members should visit the CBA home page and find and complete a membership application. Completed applications should be returned to by April 25. If you're not a CBA member, consider joining the CBA.

No Alliance member has specifically asked me to plug membership on their JECs at this time -- but I am virtually certain that new recruits (and new members) will likewise be welcomed with open arms.

Service on a JEC (or two or three) is one way in which lawyers can contribute measurably to the maintenance and even the improvement of the the quality of the Cook County bench. If you go to court and appear before judges, that should interest you. If you're thinking of running for judge yourself someday -- not in 2016 -- but in 2018 or later -- JEC service would be a good way for you to learn about the evaluation process first-hand. I think I can promise you that you'll come away with a greater appreciation for the quality of the men and women who seek judicial office.

And -- who knows? -- if the bar association JECs are sufficiently beefed up, perhaps they can investigate and report on the credentials of all persons who file for judicial office, whether they cooperate or not, or whether they have only six or seven or nine years' of practice in before making a first stab at judicial office.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Judge Lyle's "Qualified" rating resinstated by the CBA

The Executive Committee of the Chicago Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Committee has reinstated the "Qualified" rating previously bestowed on Circuit Court Judge Freddrenna M. Lyle, who fell short in her bid for the Gordon vacancy on the Appellate Court in last month's primary.

FWIW readers may recall that the CBA JEC pulled Judge Lyle's rating just days before the primary because campaign commercials being played in heavy rotation on certain radio stations appeared to indicate that the Chicago Bar Association had endorsed Judge Lyle's candidacy.

Neither the CBA nor any of the member bar associations of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening issues endorsements in judicial races; instead, these bar associations issue ratings as to whether they believe the candidate Qualified or Recommended for judicial office (different bar groups use one word or the other).

The withdrawal of the "Qualified" rating did not mean that the CBA had decided Judge Lyle was not qualified; rather, under the rules of the JEC, it meant that further investigation would be required before a final rating would be issued.

Of course, with the rating being pulled on the Friday evening before the Tuesday primary, there was virtually no chance to conduct that investigation before the polls opened, and closed, on March 18.

But the CBA investigation is complete now, and JEC Chair John P. Jacoby's April 3 letter to Judge Lyle confirms that the Qualified rating has been reinstated and thanks Judge Lyle for her cooperation with the JEC's additional investigation.

Jacoby told FWIW this morning that the investigation revealed that the objectionable language in the commercial was not in either the original or revised script for the commercial. Moreover, Jacoby said, when Judge Lyle learned of the problem she took steps to try and have the commercial pulled. The commercial was not pulled, Jacoby said, because it turns out to be "very difficult in this digital age" to edit or remove commercials that have already been slotted for airing. On the other hand, Jacoby said, Judge Lyle was able to revise the robocalls used in her election day get out the vote strategy to eliminate any mention of the CBA.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Analyzing the results of the 2014 judicial primary

What if they gave a primary and nobody voted?

The March 18 Democratic Primary wasn't quite that bad -- but the turnout was abysmally low. Cynthia Dizikes reported in the March 20 editions of the Chicago Tribune,
The turnout was well below the last lowest turnout in modern Chicago history, which occurred during the 2012 primary when roughly 24 percent of registered voters ended up participating. * * *

In Cook County outside Chicago, about 230,000 people -- or roughly 16 percent of registered voters -- made it to the ballot box Tuesday. New Trier Township had the highest showing with about 23 percent turnout, while Hanover Township posted the lowest with about 11 percent.

The last lowest turnout for a nonpresidential primary election was in 1998, when a little less than 24 percent of registered voters weighed in on the races. Two years later, when there was a presidential race to be decided, only 23 percent of voters showed up, the lowest presidential primary turnout in Cook in the past 24 years.
And, not only was the turnout low overall, the bitter Republican gubernatorial primary sucked what little life there was out of the Democratic primary where the only real contested races were for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and for the judiciary (no, I'm not counting Quinn v. Hardiman or Tom Dart v. three challengers -- the outcomes there were never in doubt). There is anecdotal evidence for the proposition that several Democratic ward and township organizations encouraged reliable persons to cross over to the Republican primary and vote against Bruce Rauner. Cook County Clerk David Orr's office has data which, at least for the suburbs, supports those anecdotes: "Republican ballots were cast by 55 percent of voters in suburban Cook County. In the last Gubernatorial Primary (2010) Republican ballots accounted for 35 percent of all ballots cast." Conversely, "Democratic ballots were cast by 44.5 percent of suburban Cook County voters. This is down from 65 percent in the 2010 primary."

Now the conventional wisdom is that a low-turnout race favors an established political organization.

But the Cook County Democratic Party carried five of six contested countywide Circuit Court races, and one of the two contested races for the Appellate Court. Now, don't get me wrong: Six out of eight is not a bad percentage in any league. But if low turnout is supposed to favor the established political organization, one might have thought that this slate should have had the best possible chance for unanimous success. It's possible that unions and local organizations 'peeling off' some of their voters to try and derail Rauner may have have hurt the chances of the Party's slated candidate for the Gordon vacancy on the Appellate Court, Judge Freddrenna M. Lyle. That race wound up fairly close.

But in the race for the countywide Arnold vacancy, the Party's slated candidate lost to Bridget Anne Mitchell by 63,518 votes, 63.7% to 36.3%, a margin that was pretty consistent in city and suburbs both. There were some local variations, certainly: Mitchell got over 80% of the vote in her home ward, the 19th. But it wasn't a situation where the Party 'dumped' their candidate -- or where a lot of committeemen dumped their nominal candidate -- but, even so, the Party carried only one Chicago ward for their candidate in this race (Michael Madigan's 13th Ward -- and only by a margin of 51-49 there).

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that -- at least in this election -- the greatest service provided by the Cook County Democratic Party for its slate was, in several cases, clearing the field -- driving out a number of candidates before the election, allowing five countywide Circuit Court candidates and one Appellate Court candidate to run unopposed.

Not far enough out on the limb for you?

Well, here's another modest proposal: This may have been an election in which the majority of judicial voters (the tiny group that they may have been) were making informed choices.

I can offer only the following fact in evidence: While many well qualified judicial candidates did not win their races, no candidate deemed unqualified or not recommended by all, or even the majority, of the evaluating bar associations won any judicial race, countywide or subcircuit. Now, you may counter that, in many races, there were only well qualified candidates on the ballot. And you may say that the highest rated candidates (at least in the collective estimation of the bar associations) did not always win their races. I can't argue that. And, if you want to argue that voters favored female candidates over males in judicial races, I can't argue that either. (The Party's slate may be said to have benefited from the fact that four of its six candidates in countywide Circuit Court races were female. The slated male candidate who won his race, William B. Raines, had three female opponents.)

Nevertheless, I'm still going to suggest that this may have been an election in which informed voters made an impact.

There is one other lesson I think we can draw from this primary just past and that concerns the need for more lawyers to step up and serve on bar association judicial evaluation committees. But this is an issue I want to devote an entire post to, and I intend to do so soon.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

More on the 26 Associate Judge finalists

Acknowledgment: Mark Karlinsky's article in last evening's Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (subscription required) was very helpful in the preparation of this post.

Some of the names in the list of the 26 finalists for the 13 current Cook County Associate Judge vacancies are certainly familiar to FWIW readers; a number of the finalists have previously run for judicial office. However, many of the finalists may not be as well known. Herewith, then, brief sketches on each of the 26 finalists:

Gregory Emmett Ahern, Jr. is one of the two current Circuit Court judges on the finalists list. After an unsuccessful run for a 6th Subcircuit race in the 2012 primary, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed Ahern to a countywide vacancy at the end of that year. Although Ahern initially announced plans to seek election, he eventually chose not to file after he was passed over by Democratic slatemakers. His current appointment will expire in December 2014. Ahern was an Assistant State's Attorney before his elevation to the bench. According to the website he put up in anticipation of the 2014 primary, as an ASA, Ahern prosecuted more than 50 felony trials, including more than 25 first degree murder cases.

Julie B. Aimen is a solo practitioner with an office in the Loop. According to her firm website, Aimen focuses her current practice on criminal defense, family law, and civil rights matters. Licensed in Illinois since 1984, Aimen is a former member of the Board of Governors of the Chicago Council of Lawyers, a former chair of the Criminal Law of the Chicago Bar Association, a past president of the Illinois Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and a former member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. According to bar ratings released by Chief Judge Evans and the Nominating Committee, Aimen is one of several finalists to have received a Well Qualified rating from the Chicago Council of Lawyers.

Shauna L. Boliker is the First Assistant State's Attorney of Cook County. Prior to her 2011 appointment as First Assistant, Boliker served as Chief of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, the largest criminal trial division in the State’s Attorney’s Office, and, before that, as Chief of the Sex Crimes Division. A career prosecutor, Boliker has been licensed in Illinois since 1989. Bolliker was also rated Well Qualified by the Chicago Council of Lawyers.

Karen J. Bowes is a family law practitioner. She currently practices with her own firm, Bowes Law, but she was formerly a partner at Rinella & Rinella, Ltd. She has been licensed in Illinois (and Mississippi) since 1980. She has also served as a hearing officer for the Illinois Department of Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities and the City of Chicago. Bowes received the 2009 Distinguished Service Award from Chicago Volunteer Legal Services.

Matthew James Carmody practices from an office in Chicago Ridge. His practice includes both criminal and civil matters. Licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1982, Carmody is the brother of the late Thomas F. Carmody Jr., former Presiding Judge of the 5th Municipal District.

James Robert Carroll practices with the firm of Much Shelist as a commercial litigator. Before joining Much Shelist, Carroll was an Illinois Assistant Attorney General for 15 years, including a stint as First Assistant Attorney General. He has also worked as a Cook County Assistant State's Attorney. The Illinois Supreme Court appointed Carroll to the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar; according to the Much Shelist website, he is the Board's current Vice President. He previously served nine years as a member of the Illinois Supreme Court's Character & Fitness Committee and acted as its Vice Chair and Chair for three years. Carroll has also been active with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services. Carroll was rated Well Qualified by the Chicago Council of Lawyers.

Geraldine Ann D’Souza is an Assistant State's Attorney. She has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1992.

Melissa Ann Durkin is chief attorney for the torts office of the Chicago Transit Authority Law Department. She has been licensed in Illinois since 1995.

Tiffany Mary Ferguson is a litigation partner with Pugh, Jones & Johnson P.C.. Ferguson has served as a Hearing Board member for Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and on the boards of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, and Girls in the Game. In June 2012, Ferguson was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to serve on the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. Ferguson was licensed in Illinois in 1996; she was rated Well Qualified by the Chicago Council of Lawyers.

Rossana Patricia Fernandez is the owner of Rossana P. Fernandez & Associates LLC. A former partner with Sanchez, Daniels & Hoffman, LLP, Fernandez was a finalist for Associate Judge in 2012. She has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1997.

Michael Angelo Forti is Chief Counsel for the Illinois Department of Transportation. Before joining IDOT, Forti was Deputy Corporation Counsel in the Constitutional and Commercial Litigation Section. He has been a lawyer since 1980. From 1980-1994 Forti was an associate and later a partner at Bell Boyd and Lloyd, now K&L Gates. Forti was the Democratic Party's candidate for a countywide judicial vacancy in 2012 (he lost to Jessica A. O'Brien).

Aleksandra Nikolich Gillespie is an Assistant State's Attorney, based in Skokie. She has been licensed in Illinois since 1993.

Michael James Hood was named chief of Investigations and Intelligence of the Illinois Department of Corrections in January 2013. He was licensed as an attorney in 1990 and previously served as deputy attorney general for Criminal Justice from the Office of the Illinois Attorney General. Before that, Hood was an Assistant State's Attorney, serving variously as supervisor of the 2nd Municipal District, deputy supervisor of the Traffic Division, and as an assistant in the Cold Case Homicide Unit and the Felony Trial Division. Hood has also served in the United States Marine Corps, rising to the rank of Major. Hood received a Well Qualified rating from the Chicago Council of Lawyers.

Kevin Thomas Lee is a partner with Greene and Letts. Before joining that firm, Lee was a partner in his own firm, Wilson, Lee and Davis. Before setting up his own firm, Lee worked for Jones, Ware & Grenard. He has also worked as an Assistant Corporation Counsel in the mid-1980s. Lee has served as a hearing officer for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and the City of Chicago and as a Special Assistant Attorney General. Licensed in Illinois since 1980, Lee is a former President of the Cook County Bar Association.

Myron Franklin Mackoff is a partner in the firm of Richardson & Mackoff. He's been licensed as a lawyer in Illinois since 1994.

Alfredo Maldonado is an Assistant Public Defender. He was a finalist for Associate Judge in 2012 also and, this year, he was the second alternate, or back-up, choice of the Cook County Democratic Party for any late-opening countywide judicial vacancies. He has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1996.

Adrienne Denise Mebane is a solo practitioner. Licensed in Illinois since 1984, Mebane spent much of her career in the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, leaving the office in 1998 to serve as deputy general counsel for the CTA before returning in 2003 to serve as Chief of Staff under former State's Attorney Dick Devine. When Anita Alvarez was elected Cook County State's Attorney, Mebane was appointed Alvarez's First Assistant State's Attorney. Mebane received a Well Qualified rating from the Chicago Council of Lawyers.

Mary Terese Nicolau is a name partner in the firm of Smith Nicolau, P.C. A former Commissioner for the Illinois Court of Claims, Nicolau concentrates her practice in the area of real estate taxation. Nicolau previously worked for the Cook County State's Attorney's Office as Supervisor of the Tax Unit, responsible for management of the Real Estate Tax Unit and supervision of fifteen attorneys and support staff for all aspects of real estate tax litigation and indemnity fund actions, representing and working closely with the Cook County Assessor, Clerk and Treasurer in resolving real estate tax issues and assisted in proposing and implementing legislation. Licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1985, Nicolau is an active Member of the IIT Chicago-Kent Alumni Board. She received a Well Qualified rating from the Chicago Council of Lawyers.

Sanju David Oommen is an Assistant State's Attorney. An attorney since 2000, Oommen received a Well Qualified rating from the Chicago Council of Lawyers.

Michael Francis Otto is the other current sitting judge on the short list. Otto was appointed to a countywide vacancy early in 2012; he ran unsuccessfully for a 9th Subcircuit vacancy in the recent primary. Otto was first licensed in Missouri in 1995, becoming an Illinois attorney in 1998. Otto served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Freeman (from 1999-2007). Before that, Otto was a clerk to Appellate Court Justice Joseph Gordon. At the time of his appointment to the bench, Otto was working for Jenner & Block.

Linda Johanna Pauel was the Democratic Party's candidate for a countywide vacancy in 2010, losing to Susan Kennedy Sullivan. Pauel filed for the 10th Subcircuit vacancy this year, but withdrew after Judge Anthony C. "Tony" Kyriakopoulos was slated. Licensed in Illinois since 1991, Pauel is employed as senior counsel for the city of Chicago Law Department.

Edward N. Robles is employed as assistant general counsel for the Chicago Housing Authority. He has been licensed in Illinois since 1988.

Steven Jay Rosenblum is an Assistant State's Attorney. He has been licensed in Illinois since 1989.

Devlin Joseph Schoop is a partner with the firm of Laner Muchin, a firm that represents management interests in labor and employment matters. Schoop has been licensed in Illinois since 1997, beginning his legal career as a law clerk to U.S. District Court Judge Blanche M. Manning. Schoop also received a Well Qualified rating from the Chicago Council of Lawyers.

Debra Ann Seaton is a supervisor in the Public Defender's office. Seaton filed for a countywide vacancy for the 2012 primary, but withdrew from the race. She also ran for judge in 1998. Seaton has been licensed in Illinois since 1986.

Stephen Stern practices law from the Law Office of Stephen Stern. He ran for a 5th Subcircuit vacancy in 2008, losing in a very close race. He also ran for a 5th Subcircuit vacancy in 2006. He has been licensed to practice law in Illinois since 1977. From 1999 to 2004 Stern was Litigation Director for the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities. For six years prior to that he was Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau of the Illinois Attorney General. From 1986 until 1993, he was a race relations attorney at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. Stern is a former President of the Cook County Bar Association.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Associate Judge "short list" has now been released

Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans and the Nominating Committee of the Circuit Court of Cook County today announced the names of the 26 candidates that they selected to appear on the ballot from which the circuit judges will vote to fill 13 associate judge vacancies. The finalists are:
  • Gregory Emmett Ahern, Jr.,
  • Julie Bess Aimen,
  • Shauna Louise Boliker,
  • Karen J. Bowes,
  • Matthew James Carmody,
  • James Robert Carroll,
  • Geraldine Ann D’Souza,
  • Melissa Ann Durkin,
  • Tiffany Mary Ferguson,
  • Rossana Patricia Fernandez,
  • Michael Angelo Forti,
  • Aleksandra Nikolich Gillespie,
  • Michael James Hood,
  • Kevin Thomas Lee,
  • Myron Franklin Mackoff,
  • Alfredo Maldonado,
  • Adrienne Denise Mebane,
  • Mary Terese Nicolau,
  • Sanju David Oommen,
  • Michael Francis Otto,
  • Linda Johanna Pauel,
  • Edward N. Robles,
  • Steven Jay Rosenblum,
  • Devlin Joseph Schoop,
  • Debra Ann Seaton, and
  • Stephen Stern
As required by Supreme Court Rule 39, there are two finalists for each associate judge vacancy. Each full circuit judge in Cook County (there are 255 judges eligible to vote) will receive a ballot with these names on it and the top 13 finishers will become associate judges.

In announcing the names of the candidates, Chief Judge Evans said, "The Nominating Committee worked diligently to ensure that any one of these 26 individuals will be an asset to the bench if ultimately elected by the circuit judges. My colleagues and I were guided in our deliberations by a comprehensive approach that considered multiple aspects such as legal excellence and variety of legal experience as well as diversity of race, ethnicity and gender. We also examined the applicants’ bar ratings, career achievements and whether they could be fair and impartial adjudicators.”

In addition to Chief Judge Evans, the members of the Nominating Committee were:
  • Honorable Paul P. Biebel, Jr., Presiding Judge, Criminal Division
  • Honorable Mary Ellen Coghlan, Presiding Judge, Probate Division
  • Honorable Sophia H. Hall, Administrative Presiding Judge, Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Resource Section
  • Honorable Moshe Jacobius, Presiding Judge, Chancery Division
  • Honorable Raymond L. Jagielski, Presiding Judge, Fifth Municipal District
  • Honorable Marjorie C. Laws, Presiding Judge, Sixth Municipal District
  • Honorable William O. Maki, Presiding Judge, Third Municipal District
  • Honorable Edmund Ponce de León, Presiding Judge, County Division
  • Honorable Shelley Sutker-Dermer, Presiding Judge, Second Municipal District
  • Honorable E. Kenneth Wright, Jr., Presiding Judge, First Municipal District
I will try and get an additional post up about the finalists as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, there are over 200 disappointed applicants today who were not selected for this "short list." (Full disclosure: I am one of these.) Over 270 persons applied and while, according to the Chief Judge's office, 41 withdrew from the process for one reason or another -- some of them because they won nomination to the bench in the primary election just concluded -- the Nominating Committee conducted interviews of 240 would-be judges.

Associate Judge "short list" not out -- yet

There's been a rumor swirling on Facebook that the Associate Judge list -- the "short list" -- would be out today. I've gotten a number of emails and phone calls about it already this morning -- I've even been given some names of persons who are on the list (even though my informant, in that case, had not seen the list himself).

I've just returned from Chief Judge Evans' office where I've been politely, but firmly, assured that there is no list -- not yet.

I've asked for a copy of the list when it is released and I hope to have it on FWIW just as soon as it becomes available.

But, right now, I'm told, there is no list.

Cliffhangers continue in 13th, 15th Subcircuit races

Updated after editing.

According to the Cook County Clerk's website, 15 votes currently separate Judge Chris Lawler and Michael B. Barrett in the not-yet-concluded race for the Sterba vacancy in the 15th Subcircuit.

The only Republican race in the county also turned into a cliffhanger, with John Curry holding a 78-vote lead over Gary W. Seyring in the race for the Iosco vacancy in the 13th Subcircuit, according to the latest figures posted on Cook County Clerk David Orr's website.

Neither race is, technically, over. In fact, absentee votes postmarked before midnight on March 17 will still be counted if they are received by April 1. As a practical matter, especially in this low-turnout election, this should result in very few, if any, additional votes being counted -- perhaps one or two in transit from Afghanistan or some other far-flung place where American military personnel are deployed -- but these few votes would presumably not be enough to knock either Lawler or Curry from their narrow leads.

Once the April 1 deadline passes, the Cook County Clerk's office has until April 8 to 'certify' the election results. One source contacted by FWIW expects the Clerk to wait until April 8 for this purpose; another stressed that April 8 is the last day on which certification can take place, and the Clerk may certify the results sooner.

The clock does not begin ticking on a recount until the results are certified.

Readers who do not specialize in election law may be surprised to learn that a demand for a recount does not result in a recount, at least not automatically.

Procedurally, the candidate interested in a recount will seek a "discovery recount," targeting specific precincts where the candidate believes there were identifiable irregularities or the results were tabulated incorrectly. According to one source consulted by FWIW, there is a $10 per precinct fee collected by the Clerk for this purpose. The campaign seeking a recount must provide staffing for the recount; the other candidate is permitted to have observers present. As a practical matter, according to my source, only paper ballots can be retabulated (by running them through the counting machine again). There is no practical way to review or recount votes recorded on a touch screen.

FWIW has been informed that the deadline for filing a request for a discovery recount is April 14.

The results of the discovery recount would provide the basis for any election challenge petition filed in the Circuit Court. This must be filed within a very short time after the results are certified (FWIW has been told the deadline may be as few as 10 or or as many as 30 days after the results have been certified. I have not been able to independently verify which deadline is correct. Either way, there is very limited time to act.)

The selection of precincts for the discovery recount is apparently the most crucial factor in determining whether an election challenge has a chance of success. A candidate may not be able to successfully argue that x votes picked up in a discovery recount of 25% of the precincts means that 4x votes would be 'found' if all the votes were recounted.

FWIW has reached out to sources within each of the four campaigns that might be concerned about recounts in the last few days. Under the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that I've not heard back from either the Seyring or Barrett campaigns. They have enough to do right now, if they are seriously investigating whether to pursue a recount. The John Curry campaign has claimed victory in the 13th Subcircuit race. Sources within the Lawler campaign have responded, expressing confidence that Judge Lawler's lead will hold up in his race, but no one would speak for the record.

Bottom line here: There are no recounts demanded, yet, in either the 13th or 15th Subcircuits. There may be a recount sought in either or both of these races -- or not. We'll know soon enough.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

In judicial elections, is there an electoral advantage to facing the voters as an incumbent judge?

I grant you that the question seems silly on its face.

Common sense tells you that, if you're already on the job, you should have a big leg up on challengers who do not yet have a robe.

But the results last night give me pause.

In the Appellate Court races, sitting Appellate Court Justices Shelly A. Harris and John B. Simon prevailed over challengers who were Circuit Court Judges. One of the Circuit Court judges who did not prevail in the race for the Appellate Court, Judge Freddrenna M. Lyle, has not been elected to the Circuit Court, but is sitting pursuant to Supreme Court appointment, an appointment that will expire on the first Monday in December.

Appointed Judges Daniel J. Kubasiak, Caroline Kate Moreland, and Thomas J. Carroll each won full terms on the Circuit Court last night, but they were unopposed.

Appointed Judges Cynthia Y. Cobbs and Andrea Michele Buford won their contested countywide races.

Pamela McLean Meyerson, Anthony C. "Tony" Kyriakopoulos, and James L. Kaplan, all appointed judges, won their respective subcircuit races.

But appointed Judges Alfred M. Swanson, Jr. and Peter J. Vilkelis lost their countywide races. Appointed Judge Daniel Lawrence Peters fell short in his 4th Subcircuit bid, as did Judges Jerry A. Esrig and Michael Francis Otto in the 9th, and Judge Diana Embil in the 15th.

Another appointed judge, Judge Chris Lawler, is clinging to a miniscule 14 vote lead in the other 15th subcircuit contest.

Thus, focusing in on the contested Circuit Court races, five appointed judges won, six lost -- and one, I believe, is still up in the air.

I don't see that as an overwhelming advantage for incumbent judges.

Now, the five Circuit Court candidates who did win had significant party support. But Judge Swanson was also slated, and Judge Esrig had the public support of Cong. Jan Schakowsky. Thus, party support plus a robe is strong indicator of electoral success, but by no means a guarantee.

Appointed Judge Gregory Emmett Ahern, Jr. chose not to run after he was told he would not get party backing (he ran a strong race in the 6th Subcircuit in 2012, prior to his appointment, but lost to the slated candidate there). Appointed Judge Jean Margaret Cocozza did not appear before the Democratic slatemakers and did not run. Judge Lauretta Higgins Wolfson, who was appointed to the Iosco vacancy in the 13th Subcircuit, likewise did not run. Judge Allan W. Masters filed for the 12th Subcircuit vacancy, but was ruled off the ballot.

Judges Ahern, Cocozza, Wolfson and Masters have all filed for Associate Judge, as have Judges Swanson, Vilkelis, Peters and Otto. And while some of them will probably obtain appointment, it is highly unlikely -- based on historical precedent and not on any inside information whatsoever -- that all will even make the short list.

And then there are appointed Judges Freddrenna M. Lyle, Diana Embil, and Jerry A. Esrig who are not even in the current class of Associate Judge applicants (which, by the way, also includes nine former Circuit Court judges and one former Associate Judge now sitting pursuant to a recall assignment).

None of this diminishes the honor or tarnishes the luster of being singled out by the Illinois Supreme Court for appointment to the Circuit Court bench. It is a tremendous career achievement for all who have been appointed. But does it provide an advantage in a contested election? This morning, I'm not at all certain that the answer is so obvious.

Recount likely in 15th Subcircuit race?

Nobody's told me anything at this point -- why should they? -- but the race for the Sterba vacancy in the 15th Subcircuit has become the narrowest of cliffhangers, with Judge Chris Lawler emerging with a 14 vote lead, according to results posted on Cook County Clerk David Orr's website, over Michael B. Barrett:

Judge, 15th Subcircuit (Vacancy of Sterba)    
Registered Voters: 260,658 Vote For 1  
Ballots Cast: 17,704
291 of 291 Precincts Reported
Turnout: 6.79%
Precincts Reporting Status Bar
% Votes
Michael B. Barrett (Democratic)
Sondra Denmark (Democratic)
Chris Lawler (Democratic)
Mary Beth Duffy (Democratic)
Robbin Perkins (Democratic)

In the race for the Doody vacancy in the 15th, Patrick Kevin Coughlin's roughly 500 vote margin over Judge Diana Embil held up overnight:

Judge, 15th Subcircuit (Vacancy of Doody, Jr.)    
Registered Voters: 260,658 Vote For 1  
Ballots Cast: 17,704
291 of 291 Precincts Reported
Turnout: 6.79%
Precincts Reporting Status Bar
% Votes
Patrick Kevin Coughlin (Democratic)
John S. Fotopoulos (Democratic)
Diana Embil (Democratic)

Goldish the winner in 9th Subcircuit race

Megan Goldish beat newly appointed Judge Jerry A. Esrig for the Goldberg vacancy in the 9th Judicial Subcircuit last evening.

Esrig prevailed in suburban returns:

Judge, 9th Subcircuit (Vacancy of Goldberg)    
Registered Voters: 140,974 Vote For 1  
Ballots Cast: 13,258
164 of 164 Precincts Reported
Turnout: 9.4%
Precincts Reporting Status Bar
% Votes
Jerry A. Esrig (Democratic)
Megan Elizabeth Goldish (Democratic)
Nathan Benjamin Myers (Democratic)

However, large margins in the City's 49th and 50th Wards made the difference for Goldish.  In the City of Chicago, Goldish outpolled Esrig 3,475 to 1,479, leading to a roughly 1,100 vote cushion in the end.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Harris lead holding in the race for the Gordon vacancy on the Appellate Court

There are only 74 Chicago precincts that have yet to report at this hour in the race for the Gordon vacancy on the Illinois Appellate Court.

Judge Freddrenna Lyle still leads in the City numbers, but her margin is fairly small, only 4,329 votes:

DEM - Appellate Court Judge (Vac of Gordon)
1997 out of 2069 precincts (96.52 %)

Shelly A. Harris52,27435.75 %
Susan Kennedy Sullivan37,36025.55 %
Freddrenna M. Lyle56,60338.71 %

There are only four precincts outstanding in the suburbs, but Justice Harris has a pretty good lead in these returns:

Appellate Court Judge (Vacancy of Gordon)    
Registered Voters: 1,451,593 Vote For 1  
Ballots Cast: 99,347
1,639 of 1,673 Precincts Reported
Turnout: 6.84%
Precincts Reporting Status Bar
% Votes
Shelly A. Harris (Democratic)
Susan Kennedy Sullivan (Democratic)
Freddrenna M. Lyle (Democratic)

The combined numbers put Harris up by just under 5,000 votes.

Justice John B. Simon is the apparent winner in the race for the Steele victory on the Appellate Court, with significant margins in both the City and suburban returns.

Coughlin looks like he may be the winner in the race for the Doody vacancy in the 15th Subcircuit, Sterba vacancy remains incredibly close

With only four precincts still outstanding, it looks like Patrick Kevin Coughlin may have ousted Judge Diana M. Embil, in the race for the Doody vacancy in the far south suburban 15th Judicial Subcircuit, though the margin is less than 500 votes:

Judge, 15th Subcircuit (Vacancy of Doody, Jr.)    
Registered Voters: 260,658 Vote For 1  
Ballots Cast: 17,405
287 of 291 Precincts Reported
Turnout: 6.68%
Precincts Reporting Status Bar
% Votes
Patrick Kevin Coughlin (Democratic)
John S. Fotopoulos (Democratic)
Diana Embil (Democratic)

Of course, 500 votes is a virtual landslide by comparison to the 57-vote margin that separates Judge Chris Lawler and Michael B. Barrett in the race for the Sterba vacancy:

Judge, 15th Subcircuit (Vacancy of Sterba)    
Registered Voters: 260,658 Vote For 1  
Ballots Cast: 17,405
287 of 291 Precincts Reported
Turnout: 6.68%
Precincts Reporting Status Bar
% Votes
Michael B. Barrett (Democratic)
Sondra Denmark (Democratic)
Chris Lawler (Democratic)
Mary Beth Duffy (Democratic)
Robbin Perkins (Democratic)

John Curry holds narrow lead over Gary W. Seyring in 13th Subcircuit

John Curry's margin is only 233 votes over Gary W. Seyring, and there are still 11 precincts to report in the far northwest suburban 13th Subcircuit.

Judge, 13th Subcircuit (Vacancy of Iosco)    
Registered Voters: 214,211 Vote For 1  
Ballots Cast: 22,300
220 of 231 Precincts Reported
Turnout: 10.41%
Precincts Reporting Status Bar
% Votes
John Curry (Republican)
Gary W. Seyring (Republican)

This is the only Cook County judicial race waged entirely in the Republican primary.  The winner in this contest will be the presumptive winner in November; there is no Democrat on the ballot in that subcircuit.

Kaplan prevails in 12th Subcircuit

James Edward Hanlon, Jr. has called Judge James L. Kaplan to concede and sent an email to his supporters congratulating Judge Kaplan on his victory this evening in the race for the Jordan vacancy in the 12th Subcircuit.  These are the nearly final numbers from Cook County Clerk David Orr's office:

Judge, 12th Subcircuit (Vacancy of Jordan)  
Registered Voters: 221,745 Vote For 1  
Ballots Cast: 9,099
250 of 252 Precincts Reported
Turnout: 4.1%
Precincts Reporting Status Bar
% Votes
Samuel Bae (Democratic)
Ralph Eugene Meczyk (Democratic)
James Edward Hanlon, Jr. (Democratic)
James L. Kaplan (Democratic)

Judge Kaplan has the distinction of being the only candidate nominated tonight who will face an opponent in November.  James Paul Pieczonka was unopposed for the Republican nomination in the 12th Subcircuit.

McGuire victorious in 3rd Subcircuit race

Terrence J. McGuire has won his bid for the Donnelly vacancy in the 3rd Subcircuit over Lauren Brougham Glennon.

Here are the City numbers:

DEM - Judge 3rd Subcircuit - (Vac of Donnelly)
229 out of 233 precincts (98.28 %)

Lauren Brougham Glennon7,14738.69 %
Terrence J. McGuire11,32561.31 %

These are the Suburban results:

Judge, 3rd Subcircuit (Vacancy of Donnelly)    
Registered Voters: 65,296 Vote For 1  
Ballots Cast: 4,076
74 of 76 Precincts Reported
Turnout: 6.24%
Precincts Reporting Status Bar
% Votes
Lauren Brougham Glennon (Democratic)
Terrence J. McGuire (Democratic)

Mahoney, Allegretti prevail in the 4th Subcircuit

John J. Mahoney and John Michael Allegretti have won their races for the Billik and Mulhern vacancies in the 4th Subcircuit.

Here are the final results lifted, quite literally, from Cook County Clerk David Orr's website:

Judge, 4th Subcircuit (Vacancy of Billik, Jr.)    
Registered Voters: 205,179 Vote For 1  
Ballots Cast: 14,981
249 of 249 Precincts Reported
Turnout: 7.3%
Precincts Reporting Status Bar
% Votes
Brian Joseph Stephenson (Democratic)
John J. Mahoney (Democratic)
James J. Ryan (Democratic)
Daniel Lawrence Peters (Democratic)
Maureen Masterson Pulia (Democratic)
Judge, 4th Subcircuit (Vacancy of Mulhern)    
Registered Voters: 205,179 Vote For 1  
Ballots Cast: 14,981
249 of 249 Precincts Reported
Turnout: 7.3%
Precincts Reporting Status Bar
% Votes
Martin D. Reggi (Democratic)
John Michael Allegretti (Democratic)