Monday, May 25, 2015

Norwood Park remembers -- Memorial Day 2015

The rain held off just long enough for the annual Norwood Park Memorial Day Parade today.  Herewith some photos of the occasion.

The parade's Grand Marshal was Air Force veteran Ramina Oraha, a 2003 graduate of Resurrection High School who served in Iraq.  This story, on DNAinfo Chicago, explains why Oraha was chosen.

No neighborhood parade is complete without a large contingent of scout groups.  The first such group in Monday's parade was Pack 3926 from Immaculate Conception Grade School

It wouldn't be a Chicago parade without politicians.  Newly elected 41st Ward Ald. Anthony Napolitano had a group wedged in between the IC scout groups.

The IC Girl Scouts

More of today's parade pictures follow on Page Two.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Brendan O'Brien plans June 17 fundraiser

Hinshaw & Culbertson partner Brendan O'Brien is planning a 2016 judicial bid. O'Brien's campaign committee has announced a fundraiser in support of this effort for Wednesday, June 17, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at the Chicago offices of Hinshaw & Culbertson, 222 North LaSalle Street, Suite 300.

Tickets for the event are $100 each, and sponsorships are available for $500. To order tickets, or for more information about the event, email by June 10.

O'Brien has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1996. He was an appropriations and research analyst on the staff of House Speaker Mike Madigan in 1991-1992, after taking his bachelor's degree at Illinois State and before starting his law school career at John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Brendan is the grandson of Judge Donald J. O'Brien, who was the longtime presiding judge of the Chancery Division, and the son of retired Judge Donald J. O'Brien, Jr. Brendan is married to Jessica A. O'Brien, who was elected to the Cook County bench in 2012.

Who sits where -- not as early as I thought 2016 edition

Updated and corrected 5/21/15. My thanks to a sharp-eyed reader who corrected my error regarding the origin of the 12th Subcircuit vacancy.

What follows is not a comprehensive list of Cook County judicial vacancies, but rather a list of vacancies that have been filled by Supreme Court appointment. There may be (and often are) vacancies which the Supreme Court has not filled. There will be additional vacancies, and additional appointments between now and late fall when the Illinois State Board of Elections posts an authoritative list of judicial vacancies in anticipation of the 2016 primary.

As always, errors or omissions in this list are mine alone and I am grateful for additions and corrections provided.

Appellate Court Vacancies

Vacancy of the Hon. James R. Epstein -- Stuart E. Palmer
Vacancy of the Hon. Patrick J. Quinn -- Bertina E. Lampkin

Countywide Vacancies

Vacancy of the Hon. Richard J. Elrod -- Rossana P. Fernandez
Vacancy of the Hon. Thomas L. Hogan -- Alison Conlon
Vacancy of the Hon. Michael J. Howlett, Jr. -- Aleksandra Nikolich Gillespie
Vacancy of the Hon. Noreen Valeria Love -- Jean Margaret Cocozza
Vacancy of the Hon. Patrick W. O'Brien -- James L. Kaplan
Vacancy of the Hon. Susan Ruscitti-Grussel -- Daniel J. Duffy

Subcircuit Vacancies

1st Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Cynthia Y. Brim -- Maryam Ahmad
Vacancy of the Hon. Vanessa A. Hopkins -- Anthony E. Simpkins

4th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. William J. Kunkle -- Edward John King

5th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Jane L. Stuart -- Freddrenna M. Lyle
Vacancy of the Hon. Shelli Williams-Hayes -- Robin D. Shoffner

6th Subcircuit
"A" Vacancy* -- Anna M. Loftus

7th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Anthony L. Burrell -- Marianne Jackson

9th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Andrew Berman -- Jerry A. Esrig

10th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Garritt E. Howard -- Eve M. Reilly

11th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Carol A. Kelly -- Marc William Martin
Vacancy of the Hon. Susan F. Zwick -- William B. Sullivan

12th Subcircuit
"A" Vacancy** -- Roger G. Fein

I will update this list periodically, as new vacancies are announced or filled. I captioned this the 'not as early as I thought' edition because -- although I'd heard from a number of people asking when I'd get around to putting this list up -- I was certain that it was to soon to do so. This morning, however, when I looked in my archives, I realized that I'd put up a similar list in anticipation of the March 2014 primary in March 2013. But we didn't have a mayoral election in 2013. Apparently, I'm still suffering from election fatigue. Perhaps you are as well.

But the 2016 election cycle is -- however early you may think it is -- absolutely underway.

A navigation tip that blog newcomers may find helpful: If you click on one of the subjects at the bottom of this post, e.g., "2016 Judicial Primary," you will get a page filled with blog posts similarly tabbed, starting with the most recent post at the top.

* This is the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge William J. Maddux. Vacancies of judges elected to city-only or suburbs-only judicial vacancies prior to the adoption of the subcircuit system in the early 1990s are assigned to subcircuits as they occur pursuant to a schedule included in the original subcircuit legislation.

** This is the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Robert J. Quinn. Like Judge Maddux, Judge Quinn was elected to a 'Chicago-only' Circuit Court vacancy in 1992, the last time judges were elected on a citywide or suburbs-only basis (and also the first time judges were elected from Cook County Subcircuits).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Oak Park solo appointed to 11th Subcircuit vacancy

The Illinois Supreme Court yesterday announced the appointment of Oak Park solo practitioner William B. Sullivan to the Susan F. Zwick vacancy in the 11th Judicial Subcircuit. The appointment is effective June 11 and terminates on December 5, 2016.

The Supreme Court appointed Sullivan pursuant to the recommendation of Justice Mary Jane Theis, after screening of applications for the vacancy by her bi-partisan judicial screening committee.

The Supreme Court's press release notes Sullivan's practice experience in a "variety of civil matters including real estate, bank and business transactions, estate planning, landlord-tenant disputes and probate and trust administration." Sullivan has also served as an adjunct professor at his alma mater, De Paul University Law School (he's a 1992 graduate), as a hearing officer for the Illinois State Board of Elections, and was twice elected President of the Cicero Township Trustees of Schools, according to the Supreme Court.

In addition to pro bono work assisting pro se litigants in small claims matters, Sullivan has served as president of the Oak Park-River Forest High School Alumni Association; vice-president of the Oak Park Area Arts Council; president of the Oak Park Huskies Baseball Club; and as a member of the Board of Directors of L'Arche Chicago, a not-for-profit social services organization; and the Oak Park Township Senior Services Committee. Sullivan is a cantor and lector at St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy Parish, according to the Supreme Court.

Updated to provide more current photograph

Judicial Evaluation Committees looking for new members

Both the Chicago Bar Association and the members of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening are looking for help.

The CBA is looking for members to serve in the Investigation Division of its Judicial Evaluation Committee. Current members need not reapply; interested newcomers should download this application from the CBA website and return it to Therese Kurth by fax at 312-554-2054 or by email at by May 15.

Members of Alliance bar groups looking to volunteer for a JEC should contact Alliance Administrator Joyce Williams at 312-920-4676 or email her at

The CBA says that this is one of its busiest years in a long time; there are a lot of persons interested in becoming a judge (full disclosure: I have applied for associate judge).

The CBA also says JEC investigators "will learn a great deal about the legal profession while assisting in the JEC's mission to improve the Cook County judiciary." To this I would add -- as long-time FWIW readers already know -- a great many current judges were, at one time, members of one or more judicial evaluation committees. If you are interested in becoming a judge some day (i.e., not in 2016) service on a JEC would (in addition to providing a useful service to the local bench and bar) provide an opportunity to learn more about the judicial selection process and, perhaps, forge connections that may be helpful in someday realizing your own ambitions.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Illinois Judges Foundation Comedy Night set for April 29

The Illinois Judges Foundation, the charitable arm of the Illinois Judges Association, is presenting a Comedy Night on Wednesday, April 29, at the ISBA's Chicago office, 20 South Clark Street, 9th floor. A reception precedes the show at 5:00 p.m.; the show starts at 6:15 p.m.

Pat McGann Jr. (pictured at left) is the evening's headliner, but other comedians will also perform. The pre-show reception will feature refreshments and a silent auction.

Tickets are $100 each and proceeds support the charitable initiatives of the Illinois Judges Foundation. To buy tickets in advance, click this link to be connected to the payment page on the IJF website.

Monday, March 23, 2015

IRS phone scammer trolling for victims

We've gotten this call twice now at home in the past week or so. The message is delivered by a woman with no discernible accent:
Final notice from IRS, Internal Revenue Services.

The reason of this call is to inform you that IRS is filing lawsuit against you. To get more information about this case file, please call immediately on our department number (360) 663-4445. I repeat, (360) 663-4445.* Thank you.
I laughed it off the first time I heard it. The reason of this call? IRS is filing lawsuit against you? Even without an accent, I could not help but visualize Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle when I played the message back. But my wife got to the answering machine first the second time the call came in and she was not initially inclined to laugh off the grammar.

"It's a scam," I said, attempting to reassure her.

"Are you sure?" she asked.

Yes, I'm sure, and the IRS is also sure. I spoke this morning with Joe Muñoz in the Chicago office of IRS media relations, and he directed me to this statement from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen: "If someone calls unexpectedly claiming to be from the IRS with aggressive threats if you don't pay immediately, it's a scam artist calling. The first IRS contact with taxpayers is usually through the mail. Taxpayers have rights, and this is not how we do business."

The IRS says it will never do any of the following:
  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If someone calls and says they are from the IRS and yet does one or more of these things, it's a scam. The IRS asks that anyone getting such a call should contact the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration toll-free at (800) 366-4484. There's even an online form that persons contacted by a scammer can complete. The IRS also recommends that persons receiving calls of this kind also make a report to the FTC.

Granted, regular FWIW readers are among the least likely persons to fall victims to this sort of scam -- but many of us have elderly relatives or clients who may be more vulnerable. For their sake, be aware.

* For what it's worth, Area Code 360 is the area code for western Washington State outside Seattle. Sounds like someone doesn't quite know the difference between Washington State and Washington, D.C. But you may be assured that, were you gullible enough to return that call, someone on the other end would be savvy enough to try and coax credit card or bank account information from you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Just another delay on the CTA....

*Ding! Ding!*
We are experiencing a delay
and we regret the inconvenience.
We expect to be moving shortly.

Well, I expect to be moving right now. That's why I take the train and not the Kennedy. That, and parking every day would bankrupt me inside of a month. Even with a discount.

Time passes.

*Ding! Ding!*
We are experiencing a delay
and we regret the inconvenience.
We expect to be moving shortly.

A delay? Is that what you call it? If it lasts much longer it will amount to a wildcat strike. Does the CTA know what my desk looks like?

More time passes.

*Ding! Ding!*
We are experiencing a delay
and we regret the inconvenience.
We expect to be moving shortly.

This time, the motorman breaks in to announce that there is a sick passenger on a train ahead and they are waiting for paramedics to arrive. At least there's a reason for all this inactivity. I'm sure I'm not the only one on the car who hopes that it's not too serious for the poor passenger.

I wish they would get Internet service in the subway like they keep promising. I could at least look at my Twitter feed while we wait.

I know, I know. There was a time when I could read a newspaper in the subway. They used to sell newspapers at the train stations once upon a time. And no one ever swiped those. (Occasionally, someone might ask to borrow the sports page if you were through with it....)

*Ding! Ding!*
We are experiencing a delay
and we regret the inconvenience.
We expect to be moving shortly.

At this point, haven't the least perceptive among us noticed that we haven't been moving for some time now? Are the chimes really necessary at this point?

The motorman (motorperson is really too cumbersome, even if this motorman is a woman) chimes in again: Paramedics have arrived and the stricken passenger is being removed. We will be moving again just as soon as the trains in front of us start moving.

That's a relief. We don't want to start moving before the trains in front of us. That could create even more work for the paramedics.

Back to Solitaire. Scoff if you must. The woman sitting next to me is playing Candy Crush.

*Ding! Ding!*
We are experiencing a delay
and we regret the inconvenience.
We expect to be moving shortly.

Moments later, the train starts moving! Predict the same thing often enough, eventually you'll get it right.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

City: Early voting results are not counted until the polls close tonight, despite any 'results' you may have seen already

I had an email from a northwest side aldermanic candidate Saturday morning: "Early vote returns through Friday show that we have 49.2 percent of the vote," the email read, "just short of the 50 percent plus one we need to avoid Round 2 in March and April." Then, in bold type, "We need just 53 more votes from voters like you by 5:00 today to win the early vote." Saturday, of course, was the last day for early voting ahead of today's Chicago primary.

I'm wary of early voting. I've always thought that the best chance for my vote to be counted was to cast my ballot in my home precinct on Election Day. Why take chances?

But Saturday's email really rocked me. Could someone really be looking at early returns and feeding them to some candidates? That struck me as highly objectionable -- but (as I have stated here on numerous occasions) I am not an election law specialist.

I asked election attorney James P. Nally about the candidate's claims to be winning the early vote in the most general of terms (not identifying the candidate in any way). Nally responded, "Early votes are not counted until after the polls close at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday," he advised, adding, "Early votes are logged into the touchscreens as they are voted. Early voting does provide a record of which voters have cast an early vote, and the information on what voters voted an absentee paper ballot is also compiled. However none of these votes, either early votes on the touch screen or the paper absentee ballots, are actually tabulated until after 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday. These totals are then rolled into the numbers coming out of the in precinct voting that begin reporting after 7:00 p.m. via modem to the central office of the Chicago Board of Elections."

Although that was comforting, and entirely consistent with press reports about greater turnout for early voting this year that do not hint who might be benefiting from these votes, I double-checked with the City of Chicago Board of Elections. I forwarded the email to Jim Allen, the Board's press contact, and he was quick to respond: "We do not process or count any ballots until election day. We know which voters have cast ballots, as that’s public information, but not how anyone has voted. We have no idea what the email that you supplied is referencing."

Therefore, I have to assume that the candidate in question made it up. But why bother?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

But would we feel the same way if we lived in Oregon or Minnesota?

When a person is appointed to a judicial post, is it acceptable or appropriate for that person to thank the Supreme Court, any nominating committee involved, and the elected officials who may have lobbied the Court or a justice's nominating committee on the appointee's behalf?

This allegedly happened recently -- not in a published news story (I checked the Law Bulletin to be sure) -- but on social media (Facebook, according to the account I heard).

I've published some angry comments complaining about political influence in filling judicial vacancies (I've flushed several more because they were fueled by that special mix of outrage and character assassination so popular online these days). But, nestled in the angry comments, published or not, is a question worth asking: If we value judicial independence, and if we support the idea of bipartisan, blue-ribbon nominating committees to assist the justices of the Supreme Court in filling vacancies, shouldn't we be just a tad miffed at the perception that this process is subject to political input and maybe political manipulation? I mean, if even the appointee believes that the process is susceptible to political influence, how can we ever expect the public to see it as legitimate?

I admit to not being particularly shocked that a successful appointee would include politicians in a list of persons to be thanked. After all, that new appointee is going to need the continued help of those politicians in order to hold that seat come primary time. I don't know for a fact that politicians try to secure appointments for their favorites, or whether some do more than others, although I suppose it to be so. I certainly don't know how Politician A lobbies Justice B (or a member of Justice B's committee) on behalf of Candidate C. But I am not so naive to think it never happens. And if I am sometimes envious of those who seem to have multiple committeemen advancing their judicial ambitions, I find it difficult to get upset about it. Isn't that just the way things work? Then again, I've lived in or near Chicago my entire life.

And maybe that's the trouble.

Illinois has a reputation as one of the more corrupt states in the nation. Cook County generally, and Chicago in particular, have contributed substantially (though by no means exclusively) to Illinois' historic reputation. Oregon and Minnesota, however, are perceived as far less corrupt (here's a recent survey, just for example's sake). What would a life-long Oregonian or Minnesotan think about the propriety of a committeeman -- any committeeman -- attempting to influence the appointment of judges by the Supreme Court? Imagine a transplanted Minnesotan on a justice's nominating committee in Illinois fielding a phone call from a committeeman. Would the person favored by that politician be helped or hurt, in the committee member's opinion, by such a call?

We grow up and grow old in a culture of corruption; no matter how upright and scrupulous we may be in our personal dealings, how can our perceptions of how things work -- how things should work -- not be influenced by our environment?

On the other hand -- and this is a sticking point for me -- according to the ARDC, as of October 31, 2013, there were 91,083 lawyers on the Master Roll of Illinois Attorneys. Nearly half of these -- 45,306 -- were in Cook County. There are more than that here now. In a rural county, perhaps, it may be possible to say that Mr. Smith is the best lawyer or that Mrs. Jones would make the best judge. But among so vast a population as we have in Cook County, can we ever really say that this person or that person is the one and only best person for a judicial appointment? I think the truth is that, even in Oregon and Minnesota, no committee, no matter how broadly-based, can take large numbers of applicants and honestly winnow them down to say that this one -- or even these 20 -- are the "best." There have to be other factors besides a good work record and strong peer reviews that a blue ribbon vacancy-filling committee, or a Circuit Court Nominating Committee for that matter, can take into account in anointing persons from an ocean of well-qualified applicants. These days, nominating committees acknowledge that they also consider race, gender, and ethnicity in distinguishing among well-qualified candidates; the goal is to increase public confidence in the judiciary by making the bench more reflective of the community as a whole.

But although a judge may look like some of the people that come before the bench, that judge must still have the skills to communicate effectively and understandably with the non-lawyers in the room in order to be effective. Isn't the ability to attract political support at least an indicator of well-developed public communication skills? Or would I feel differently if I'd grown up in Oregon or Minnesota?

I look forward to polite and professional discussion on this subject -- but I will flush comments that simply attack individuals or besmirch generally the integrity of the judiciary or of those involved in the judicial selection process.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New group of Associate Judge applicants includes many familiar names

By my entirely unofficial count, 15 current Cook County judges are among the 283 applicants for Cook County associate judge vacancies. Six, Jean M. Cocozza, Alison C. Conlon, Daniel P. Duffy, Rossana P. Fernandez, Aleksandra Nikolich Gillespie, and James L. Kaplan were appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to countywide vacancies. Eight others hold subcircuit appointments, Maryam Ahmad (1st), Jerry A. Esrig (9th), Edward John King (4th), Anna M. Loftus (6th), Marc William Martin (11th), Eve M. Reilly (10th), Robin D. Shoffner (5th), and Anthony E. Simpkins (1st). The 15th, Joan M. Kubalanza, is serving as an associate judge pursuant to a recall assignment; she became an associate judge in 1998, but left the bench in 1999. She has been serving pursuant to recall orders since 2008.

There are also at least six former judges in this group of applicants, including Diana L. Embil, Allan W. Masters, Daniel Lawrence Peters, Joan Ellen Smuda, Ketki Shroff Steffen, and Alfred M. Swanson, Jr.

A number of candidates who have made previous "short lists" are among this group of applicants as well. Judge Aleksandra Nikolich Gillespie was a 2014 finalist, as were Geraldine Ann D'Souza, Tiffany Mary Ferguson, Myron F. Mackoff, Edward N. Robles, and Devin Joseph Schoop. Finalists from other associate judge classes include Thomas F. Biesty (2012), Theresa Christine Ceko (2009), Lester W. Finkle (2012), and Denise Y. Staniec (2012).

Readers will also note familiar names on the list from prior election cycles. For example, Brian Alexander, Thomas M. Cushing, and Michael A. Strom have all submitted applications for this class. These three were among the five candidates who sought the 9th Subcircuit Preston vacancy in the 2014 Democratic Primary (a noteworthy contest because every one of the five candidates in that race was rated recommended or qualified or better by each and every evaluating bar group, with Cushing and Strom garnering the highest ratings of all).

The Circuit Court's Nominating Committee will eventually cut this list down to two for each vacancy. The precise number of vacancies that will be available when this process is complete can not be determined at this time, but it's a safe bet that somewhere between 240 and 260 of these 283 applicants will not make the eventual short list. Anyone with relevant information regarding any associate judge candidate is invited to communicate by letter to the Circuit Court of Cook County Nominating Committee, c/o Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans, 50 West Washington Street, Room 2600, Richard J. Daley Center, Chicago, Illinois 60602.

Here, then, is the complete list:
1. Ahmad, Keith Najib
2. Ahmad, Maryam
3. Aimen, Julie Bess
4. Airaudi, Joy Christine
5. Albukerk, John Nicolas
6. Alexander, Brian Edward
7. Andreou, Frank John
8. Apostol, Louis George
9. Atcherson, Sophia Jane
10. Bae, Jennifer Eun
11. Bass, Anthony Bernard
12. Baum, Gideon Abraham
13. Baumann, Deidre
14. Beach, Charles Stanley
15. Benjamin, Lawrence Mitchell
16. Benz, Mary Patricia
17. Biesty, Thomas Francis
18. Blake, Sandra Mary
19. Blinick, Robert K.
20. Blonder, Steven Paul
21. Blumenthal, Jeffrey S.
22. Bolger, Kevin Patrick
23. Bracey, Charles Scott
24. Brooks, Thomas David
25. Buikema, Joel David
26. Buntinas, Arunas R.
27. Butler, Krista Denita
28. Byrne, James L.
29. Cage, Patrick B.
30. Calabrese, Camille Ellen
31. Canellis, George Louis, Jr.
32. Caputo, Christina Venditti
33. Carroll, John P., Jr.
34. Casey, Carol Anne
35. Castanes, Theodore John
36. Ceko, Theresa Christine
37. Cenar, Richard G.
38. Chaudhuri, Sean Sohag
39. Chico, Joseph
40. Chimera, Vincenzo
41. Chupack, Joel Louis
42. Cisco, Raymond Peter
43. Clark, Urie Richard
44. Cleary, Gerald Vernon Patrick
45. Coakley, Kellyn Doyle
46. Cocozza, Jean Margaret
47. Coleman, David Joseph
48. Coleman, H. Yvonne
49. Conlon, Alison C.
50. Connolly, Michael Vincent
51. Cooke, Richard Charles
52. Copp, Gary Thomas
53. Cosgrove, Audrey Victoria
54. Coyne, Daniel Thomas
55. Crawley, James Patrick
56. Cunningham, Kevin P.
57. Currin, Margaret Elizabeth
58. Cushing, Thomas Maloney
59. Daly, Colleen Reardon
60. Dauphin, Yolaine Marie
61. De Matteo, Gabriel Joseph
62. Demos, Elena Shea
63. Derico, James Thomas, Jr.
64. Dimond, Karen Jane
65. Dolan, Alice Elizabeth
66. Doss, Rivanda
67. D’Souza, Geraldine Ann
68. Duffy, Daniel Patrick
69. Dunneback, James Francis
70. Dwyer, Robert Andrew, Jr.
71. Elward, William Xavier
72. Embil, Diana Lenore
73. Ertler, Mark Andrew
74. Esrig, Jerry A.
75. Evans, Carl Lauras, Jr.
76. Fanucchi, Charles A.
77. Farmakis, Athena Aphrodite
78. Feldman, Stephen Jason
79. Ferguson, Sharon Elaine
80. Ferguson, Tiffany Mary
81. Fernandez, Rossana P.
82. Ferrante, Mark Vincent
83. Fiaoni, Karla Marie
84. Finkle, Lester Wolfe
85. Fiorentino, Stephen
86. Fitzgerald, Charles Francis
87. Fleming, Dennis Michael
88. Forti, Michael Angelo
89. Fotopoulos, John S.
90. Gallagher, Carolyn Joan
91. George Stewart, AvaM.
92. Gerlach, Bradley C.
93. Gertler, Steven D.
94. Ghezzi, Sheryl Rae
95. Ghouse, Mohammed Mujahid
96. Gillespie, Aleksandra Nikolich
97. Glorioso, Mauro
98. Gonzalez, Peter Michael
99. Goodrum, Cassandra Bernice
100. Gordon, Lisa Copland
101. Green, Jonathan Clark
102. Green, Sanju Oommen
103. Grossman, Edward Ian
104. Gudino, Ruth Isabel
105. Gustafson, Richard Kerr, II
106. Hall, William Henry, IV
107. Hamilton, Carrie Elizabeth
108. Hanlon, James Edward, Jr.
109. Hannon, Maureen O'Donoghue
110. Harvey, Toya Tinette
111. Heilmann, David Michael
112. Helfgot, Ira Neil
113. Heneghan, Patrick Joseph
114. Hernandez, Steven
115. Herrera, David Christopher
116. Hogan, Michael James, Jr.
117. Horan, Kevin William
118. Hovey, Robert Jerome
119. Howlett, Melissa Marie
120. Huge, Lindsay Christopher
121. Hughes, Kevin Christopher
122. Jackson, Doretha Renee
123. John, Patrick Dankwa
124. Johnson, Robert Wade
125. Jones, Preston, Jr.
126. Kaplan, James Lewis
127. Karahalios, Peter George
128. Kardas, Kim Richard
129. Kare, Demetris A.
130. Karkula, Elizabeth Anne
131. Kessler, Sheri C.
132. King, Edward John
133. Kirk, Daniel Andrew
134. Koch, James B.
135. Kopriva, James Warren
136. Kosman, Joseph John
137. Kougias, Thomas Peter
138. Kozicki, Scott Michael
139. Krueger, Steven Philip
140. Kubalanza, Joan Marie G.
141. Kuczwara, Michael Anthony, Jr.
142. Lecompte, Marcelle Marie
143. Levin, Ellis Bernard
144. Levin, Lawrence Wolf
145. Levinson, Joseph P.
146. Leyhane, Francis John, III
147. Loftus, Anna Marie
148. Lubelfeld, Andrea Michelle
149. Luby, William Joseph
150. Luque-Rosales, Mercedes
151. Lyke, John Fitzgerald
152. MacCarthy, Sean Patrick
153. Mackoff, Myron Franklin
154. Malatesta, Michael John
155. Maloney, Daniel Edward
156. Maloney, Edward James
157. Marconi, Jerome Frank
158. Marovich, Michael Jay
159. Marsh, Jordan Eric
160. Martin, Marc William
161. Marubio, Mary Catherine
162. Masters, Allan W.
163. McConville, Terrence James
164. McGinty, Kathleen A.
165. McKenna, Scott D.
166. McNulty, John Wesley
167. Meczyk, Ralph Eugene
168. Melchor, Mary Alice
169. Miller, Stephanie Kathryn
170. Milleville, Annette Lynn
171. Mojica, Lisette Catherine
172. Moltz, Ira Alexander
173. Montes, II, Paul Joseph
174. Moore, Marcellus Harrison, Jr.
175. Mulay, Megan Kathleen
176. Murphy, Arthur Joseph
177. Murphy, James Vincent, III
178. Navarro, David Ricardo
179. Nicolau, Mary Terese
180. Niro, William Luciano
181. Norris, Scott
182. O'Brien, Brendan Alan
183. Ochalla, Kevin John
184. O'Dell, Katherine Angela
185. Orlowski, Jay Roman
186. Ostojic, Radusa
187. Otis, Donna Lynn
188. Outlaw, Jesse
189. Patterson, Monique Lenee
190. Payne, Jennifer Joyce
191. Perkins, Marian Emily
192. Perkins, Robbin Eunise
193. Peters, Daniel Lawrence
194. Pezanoski, Diane Marie
195. Plesha, Gregory Gerard
196. Plotnick, Paul Wil
197. Porada, Robert James
198. Porter, Brian Randall
199. Powell, Tiffanie Brandy
200. Power, Stephen Walter
201. Proctor, Edward George, Jr.
202. Quinn, Jill Rose
203. Rakowski, Leo Steven
204. Raleigh, William J.
205. Rascia, Ronald Anthony
206. Redmond, Darlene
207. Reggi, Martin Douglas
208. Reilly, Eve Marie
209. Reilly, James Michael
210. Repella, Joy Carol
211. Reyes, Marcos David
212. Rice, Ashonta Cherron
213. Richardson, Travis
214. Riley, Shelia Cordelia
215. Rizzi, Steven J.
216. Robles, Edward Nicolas
217. Rodriguez, Federico Martin
218. Rohrer, Gerald Thomas, Jr.
219. Rosado, Joanne F.
220. Rosales, Melinda Marie
221. Ross, Curtis Bennett
222. Saindon, Pamela Lngersol
223. Saltouros, Stephanie D.
224. Sanders, Catherine Dorothy
225. Santana, Jaime Rafael
226. Scanlon, Brian Patrick
227. Schneider, Catherine Ann
228. Schneider, Margaret Elizabeth
229. Schoop, Devlin Joseph
230. Schultz, Bryan David
231. Seaton, Debra Ann
232. Sebastian, Julie Ann Doherty
233. Seeder, Myron Marshall
234. Shapiro, James Anthony
235. Shoffner, Robin Denise
236. Silva, Rosa Maria
237. Simberg, Joel Barry
238. Simpkins, Anthony E.
239. Smith, Judie Lyn
240. Smith, Mary
241. Smith, Trina
242. Smoler, Emma L.
243. Smolka, Julia Jensen
244. Smuda, Joan Ellen
245. Snyder, Martin Dockery
246. Solomon, Donald Scott
247. Spratt, Patricia Susan
248. Springer, Barry A.
249. Spunar-Sheats, Letitia
250. Stacey, Christ Stanley
251. Stahl, Marc B.
252. Staniec, Denise Y.
253. Steadman, Gregory Joseph
254. Steffen, Ketki Shroff
255. Stein, Alon
256. Stephenson, Brian Joseph
257. Stewart, Rodney Walter
258. Strom, Michael Alan
259. Studenroth, David L.
260. Sullivan, Marita Clare
261. Sullivan, William Bernard
262. Sumner, Nyshana Kali
263. Swanson, Alfred M., Jr.
264. Swartz, Mark Francis
265. Thakkar, Shital Hasmukhbhai
266. Thibault, Renee Therese
267. Townsend, Luke Thomas
268. Trevino, Daniel Alexander
269. Tristan, Gerardo, Jr.
270. Trowbridge, Bradley R.
271. Underhill, Edward Joseph
272. Velcich, George Mario
273. Vroustouris, Alexander
274. Wade, Audrey Marie
275. Walsh, Michael D.
276. Ward, Torrick Alan
277. Whiting, Oran Fresno
278. Wilk, John F.
279. Willis, Arthur Wesley
280. Wilson, John Wellington
281. Wrenn, Jeanne Marie
282. Wright, James Adolph
283. Zamparo, Roger, Jr.

Monday, February 09, 2015

All judges in Illinois are elected -- but not all judges are elected by the people

Applications closed last week for the next class of Cook County associate judges. If history is any guide, it's safe to say that somewhere between 250 and 300 lawyers (including some former judges and perhaps even some currently-sitting judges) applied. The Circuit Court will shortly announce all of the persons who applied this time around (the Circuit Court solicits public comment about those applying) and I'll put the list up here on FWIW when it is released.

I was one of those filing an application last week and, when I turned in the application, I mentioned it on my Facebook page.

I received a number of encouraging comments in response (not all of them from immediate family!), but the comments, nice as they were, exposed a degree of confusion about how associate judges are selected. I thought it might be useful to explain that in a post here.

All judges in Illinois are elected -- but not all judges are elected by the people. (As FWIW readers know, the Supreme Court can fill circuit vacancies by appointment, but the appointed judge must seek election or vacate the seat in favor of the person elected to the spot at the next election.)

"Full" circuit judges (which includes subcircuit judges and, Downstate, resident county judges) are elected to vacancies, when they occur, by the people in a partisan primary process. In Cook County, the winners of the Democratic Primary are usually assured of victory in November. (There are a few exceptions. Cook County's 13th Judicial Subcircuit is heavily Republican. Some subcircuits have elected both Democrats and Republicans -- but, mostly, the winners of the Democratic Primary are also the winners in November. The Republican Party seldom bothers to field candidates for most countywide vacancies in Cook County. In many counties Downstate, the Republicans are dominant and the Democrats don't field candidates.)

But these are not the only judges elected in Illinois.

The other judges -- associate judges -- are elected by the circuit judges in their circuit, all as spelled out in Illinois Supreme Court Rule 39.

The process is fairly automatic and all provided for in the rule. Rule 39(b)(1) provides, in pertinent part, "Upon approval of the Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, the chief judge of the circuit shall, after forwarding a copy of the notice to the Director, cause notice to be given to the bar of the circuit, in the same manner as notice of matters of general interest to the bar is customarily given in the circuit, that the vacancy exists and will be filled by the judges of the circuit. The notice of vacancy shall be given as soon as practicable, but no later than 30 days after the accumulation of five consecutive vacancies for which notice has not been given."

In Cook County, "notice is given to the bar of the circuit" via publication of an announcement in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. Rule 39(b)(3) provides, again in pertinent part, "In judicial circuits having a population of more than 500,000, the chief judge of each circuit and at least two but not more than 10 additional circuit judges selected by their fellow circuit judges shall serve as a nominating committee for candidates for appointment to the office of associate judge of their circuit." The committee's task, per Rule 39(b)(3), is to winnow the field of applicants to a finalists' list containing "twice as many names of qualified candidates as there are vacancies to be filled."

We could -- theoretically -- fill each Cook County associate vacancy as soon as one occurs. That's how they do things in DuPage County, for example, where Anne T. Hayes, a DuPage County Assistant State's Attorney, was recently selected to become an associate judge. But we have more judges in Cook County than in other Illinois counties -- a lot more. Back in 2011, the Tribune reported that we have 418 judges in Cook County -- 275 elected circuit and subcircuit judges and 143 associate judges. A Cook County nominating committee trying to fill each associate judge vacancy as it occurred would be in almost constant session. Therefore, here in Cook County, we don't start the process until the five vacancy mark is reached -- the maximum amount that can be reached before a selection process must be started.

Now that it has begun the process, the Circuit Court of Cook County will move just as fast as personnel and budgetary requirements dictate, and no faster. It would take time to go through the roughly 300 applications in any event, and to have these candidates screened by the various bar groups that rate judicial candidates, and the nominating committee will eventually take the time to hear from each and every applicant. So the eventual number of associate judges selected from this current class of applicants will surely exceed five. In early 2002, 31 associate judges were named, the 62 finalists having been culled from a group of applications that closed in the Summer of 2000. Last time out, in April 2014, 13 new associate judges were named -- from applications submitted early in 2013. In 2012, nine new associate judges were named -- from a pool of applicants that closed on November 1, 2010.

Other than the manner of their selection, there is not much difference between circuit judges and associate judges. There is a small salary difference (full circuit judges make a little more). Pursuant to Article VI, Sec. 8 of the 1970 Illinois Constitution and Supreme Court Rule 295, an associate judge can hear any kind of case except felony cases where the defendant may be subject to imprisonment for more than one year -- but, even here, there is a loophole allowing the chief judge of a circuit to petition the Supreme Court to allow particular associate judges to hear felony cases. Early in my career, associate judges were pretty much barred from serving in the Law or Chancery Divisions. These were generally considered more 'prestigious' assignments and only popularly-elected judges were permitted to serve in Law or Chancery courtrooms -- but that distinction, too, has eroded, and many associate judges now have assignments in both divisions.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Judicial Inquiry Board files complaint against Judge Beatriz Santiago

John Flynn Rooney reports in Friday's Chicago Daily Law Bulletin that the Judicial Inquiry Board has filed a Complaint with the Illinois Courts Commission alleging that Judge Beatriz Santiago "made misrepresentations on a mortgage application regarding a residence" she owned outside the 6th Judicial Subcircuit. Judge Santiago was elected from the 6th Subcircuit in 2012.

WGN News suggests that its 2013 investigation helped spur the JIB's action. Certainly WGN and its partner in the investigation, the Medill Watchdog Group, did raise questions about whether Judge Santiago (and several other judges) were really living where they claimed to live. I haven't yet seen the actual JIB Complaint, although I've requested it. But, judging from Rooney's article, the JIB complaint does not dispute that Judge Santiago told the truth about moving back into the 6th Subcircuit before filing for judge (something that was contested at the time, but resolved in Santiago's favor); rather, it charges her with misrepresenting to a bank, in the course of applying for a new mortgage, after she was elected, about her intention to move back outside the 6th Subcircuit.

In the Law Bulletin account, Rooney writes:
The JIB complaint asserts that between June 2013 and March 2014, in connection to the refinancing of the Spaulding mortgage, Santiago “attempted to and did deceive her mortgage lender by making several misrepresentations in her mortgage application documents that caused her lender to believe she intended to occupy the Spaulding property as her primary residence within 60 days of executing a mortgage agreement, when in fact she resided at another property and had no intention of establishing residency at the Spaulding property.”
The mortgage application was mentioned in the December 4, 2013 Medill Watchdog report:
In August [2013], the investigation by Medill Watchdog and WGN Investigates found, Santiago took out a new mortgage on her property outside the subcircuit for $184,500. One of the conditions of the mortgage: That the house would be her primary residence, absent an agreement in writing to the contrary by the lender. No such agreement was filed in the public record.
The Illinois Courts Commission will have to decide whether the JIB's charges against Judge Santiago are well-founded and in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. If so, the judge could be subject to a range of sanctions from an unpaid suspension for a period of time up to and including removal from office.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Rossana Fernandez, Alison Conlon receive appointments to the Cook County Circuit Court

The Illinois Supreme Court today appointed Rossana Patricia Fernandez and Alison Conlon to countywide vacancies on the Cook County Circuit Court. The Supreme Court's press release about the appointments can be accessed from the link in this sentence.

Rossana 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 both 2012 and 2014. She has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1997.

Fernandez has been appointed to the countywide vacancy created by the death of Judge Richard J. Elrod. Her appointment is effective February 2 and terminates December 5, 2016. Although several Hispanic women have been elected to the bench (there will now be 35 Hispanic or Latino judges in Illinois, 14 of them women), the Supreme Court says that today's appointment marks the first time that a Hispanic woman has been appointed to the Circuit Court in Illinois.

Alison C. Conlon is a partner with the Chicago office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP. A former partner at the Chicago firm of Wildman Harrold (now known as Edwards Wildman), Conlon began her legal career as a law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Charles P. Kocoras.

Conlon has been appointed to the countywide vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Thomas L. Hogan. Like Fernandez, her appointment is effective February 2 and terminates December 5, 2016. Conlon is a graduate of Duke University Law School; she holds an M.A. in English from Georgetown University. Conlon did her undergraduate work at Yale. She has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 2000. Conlon serves on the Hearing Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission and has served a term on the Board of Managers of the Chicago Bar Association.

Both of these appointments were recommended to the Illinois Supreme Court by Justice Mary Jane Theis pursuant to the recommendations of her bipartisan judicial screening committee.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Epstein resigns; Cobbs promoted; Palmer's appointment gets an end date

Justice James R. Epstein has resigned from the Appellate Court, effective yesterday. According to Marc Kalinsky's article in today's Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (subscription required), Epstein left the bench to become an arbitrator and mediator with JAMS Inc. Justice Epstein was elected to the Appellate Court in 2010.

The Illinois Supreme Court has assigned Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Y. Cobbs to the Appellate Court, effective today, and she will assume Justice Epstein's case load in the First District's Fourth Division. But Judge Cobbs has not been assigned to fill Epstein's vacancy.

The Illinois Supreme Court has reassigned Justice Stuart E. Palmer to the new Epstein vacancy, also effective today. Justice Palmer was first appointed to the Appellate Court in late 2011. That appointment, like the appointment given to new Justice Cobbs, was open-ended ("until further order of court"). The Supreme Court's appointment this week terminates December 5, 2016, when Justice Epstein's seat will be filled by election.

There are 24 seats on the First District Appellate Court. Eighteen positions are filled by election; the other six justices are Circuit Court judges assigned to the Appellate Court by the Supreme Court. But, with Justice Epstein's resignation, two of the 18 elected positions are also filled by Circuit Court judges serving on the Appellate Court by assignment. The other vacancy was created by the death of Patrick J. Quinn last January. Justice Laura Liu was assigned to the Appellate Court at that time, but it was the longest-serving Circuit Court judge assigned to the Appellate Court, Justice Bertina E. Lampkin, who was assigned to the Quinn vacancy on that occasion.

This week's Appellate Court reshuffle does not obligate Justice Palmer to become a candidate for election to that court in 2016. After the current appointment ends, he could resume his duties as a Circuit Court judge. But the Supreme Court's actions this week do mean that, if Justice Palmer (or, for that matter, Justice Lampkin) are to continue on the Appellate Court after December 2016, they must seek, and win, election.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Judge James L. Kaplan appointed to new countywide vacancy

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

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

Saturday, December 06, 2014

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Supreme Court fills two vacancies in 1st Subcircuit

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely yours,

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

Friday, November 14, 2014

Robin D. Shoffner appointed to Circuit Court

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

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

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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Is developer SLAPPing Park Ridge residents around?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It may be interesting to watch this case unfold.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

James Paul Pieczonka prevails in 12th Subcircuit

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

All retention judges appear likely to be retained

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jean Margaret Cocozza appointed to Love vacancy

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

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

Monday, November 03, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assigned to the Fourth Municipal District:
Kristyna Ryan – Recommended

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

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