Thursday, October 09, 2008

Looking more at the retention evaluations

In a post earlier today I mentioned that the Chicago Bar Association singled out four judges (out of 68 Circuit judges evaluated in all) as "not qualified" for retention: Anthony Lynn Burrell, Evelyn B. Clay, Vanessa A. Hopkins, and Casandra Lewis. Voters trying to decide if they will vote according to the CBA's assessment may also want to look at the ratings these judges received from the Alliance of Bar Association ratings.

Also, voters can look at what has been posted on behalf of these judges on the Cook County Retention Judges website.

Through the miracle of the Internet, we can pull all this information together here. (Click on the individual's highlighted name in order to link to that judge's information on the Retention Judges' website.)

Judge Anthony Lynn Burrell
The Chicago Bar Association (CBA) gave this explanation for its "not recommended" rating:
Judge Anthony Burrell is “Not Recommended” for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge Burrell was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1989 and elected to the Circuit Court in 2002. Judge Anthony Burrell has problems with punctuality and absences. In addition, Judge Burrell is poorly organized which affects his ability to run a high volume courtroom.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers found nine of the 68 retention candidates "not qualified." But it found Judge Burrell "qualified":
Hon. Anthony Burrell was elected to the bench in 2002 and currently sits in the First Municipal District, hearing civil non-jury trial cases. He has in the past presided over forcible entry and detainer cases. Before his election to the bunch, he worked with the Chicago Public Schools as a consultant, as a solo practitioner, and as an Assistant Cook County State's Attorney. Judge Burrell is reported to be doing well in his current high volume court call. He is considered to have good legal knowledge and temperament. The Council finds him Qualified for retention.
Judge Burrell was also recommended for retention by each of the other Alliance members who have so far issued a rating -- the Asian American Bar Association, the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago, the Cook County Bar Association, the Decalogue Society of Lawyers, the Illinois State Bar Association, the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois, and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois. (As of this writing, the Hellenic Bar Association has not issued a rating for Judge Burrell.)

Judge Evelyn B. Clay
The CBA gave this explanation for its "not recommended" rating:
Judge Evelyn B. Clay is "Not Recommended" for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge Clay was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1981 and was elected a Circuit Court Judge in 1996. Judge Clay is currently assigned to a felony courtroom in the Criminal Division. Concerns were raised about Judge Clay’s knowledge of the law and poor judgment in making insensitive comments from the bench.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers agrees:
Hon. Evelyn B. Clay was initially assigned to the First Municipal District after her election to the Circuit Court in 1996. In 1997, she was transferred to the Felony Trial Division, where she sat in the Evening Narcotics Section and as a floating judge. She has been in her present assignment, hearing felony trials, since April 2000.
However, Judge Clay's retention bid has been endorsed by every other member of the Alliance of Bar Associations.

Judge Vanessa A. Hopkins
The CBA gave this explanation for its "not recommended" rating:
Judge Vanessa A. Hopkins is "Not Recommended" for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge Hopkins was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1994 and was elected to the Circuit Court in 1996. Judge Hopkins’ lack of legal experience and legal knowledge is a concern. Judge Hopkins is extremely slow and prone to giving very long continuances for a call that should move more quickly. There is a general report by lawyers who appear before her that she has a temperament problem and takes challenges or questions personally. Judge Hopkins also has problems with being on time and seems unable to figure out what she needs to do to efficiently and effectively manage her court call.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers also found Judge Hopkins "not qualified":
Hon. Vanessa A. Hopkins was first assigned to the Traffic Division following her election in 1996. She has been assigned to Juvenile and Municipal Districts, and presently hears jury cases in the First Municipal District. Judge Hopkins came to the bench with just two years of legal experience. In her 2002 evaluation, the Council questioned her ability to manage her call. In her 2008 investigation, while some lawyers say she has improved, there are continuing negative reports about her courtroom management. Lawyers complain that she too often loses control over her courtroom, has an imperfect temperament, and is sometimes not punctual. The Council finds Judge Hopkins Not Qualified for retention.
On the other hand, except for the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, all the other Alliance members have recommended Judge Hopkins for retention.

Judge Cassandra Lewis
The CBA gave this explanation for its "not recommended" rating:
Judge Casandra Lewis is "Not Recommended" for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge Lewis was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1991 and was elected to the Circuit Court in 2002. Judge Lewis has problems in a number of areas including starting her call on time and diligently carrying out her duties on the bench. Judge Lewis needs to improve her work ethic and was less than respectful of the bar associations’ peer review process.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers had this to say in finding Judge Lewis "not qualified":
Hon. Cassandra Lewis was elected to the bench in 2002. She currently hears jury and bench trials in the First Municipal District. Prior to becoming a judge, she spent nine years in private practice and two years as an Assistant Kane County State's Attorney. Judge Lewis has adequate legal ability for her current assignment and is praised for her temperament. She receives mixed reviews, however, for her work ethic -- many lawyers complain she is not well-prepared and is often not punctual in taking the bench. The Council has received reports that some lawyers will take a substitution of judge rather than appear before her. The Council finds her Not Qualified for retention.
Many of the Alliance members agreed with these evaluations: The Decalogue Society of Lawyers, the Illinois State Bar Association, the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois, and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois all declined to endorse Judge Lewis' retention bid. On the other hand, the Asian American Bar Association, the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago, and the Cook County Bar Association have recommended Judge Lewis for retention.

4 comments:

Aloysius said...

All four of the "not recommended" judges are minorities. Why is this?

Anonymous said...

Maybe because they are NOT qualified to continue doing such important work. I see repeat criminal offenders go in and out of this system like it's a frigging shopping mall. The reason? Judges like the ones listed and they have ZERO accountability. Every other person below the judge in the chain can be accountable for screwing up but not them. Let a repeat offender go so that they can continue committing crimes over and over. VOTE NO FOR THESE 4 JUDGES!!!! It could be YOUR loved one who will become the victim of a repeat offenders crime.

DaisyDooks said...

Hmm, all four judges are black. Overall, they get unsatisfactory marks in punctuality, competence, attitude and management. Sounds pretty stereotypical to me - and not one imperfect white judicial candidate? Fascinating.

DaisyDooks said...

Hey anonymous, did it ever occur to you that these assessments are subjective? Btw, not all of the judges reside over criminal cases - maybe one or possibly two. Your silly, high-strung ranting is moot. You cannot use these individuals as an example in your argument. I would be concerned if there were malpractice or other serious disciplinarian issues leading up to disbarment, but that isn't the case here. Clearly, we want our judicial representatives to maintain the highest professional standards and integrity. I'm more concerned over these appointments than I am the presidency. With the stroke of a pen, our lives can be immediately impacted by any of these judges. After reading the "explanations", I'm not completely sold that these are "bad" judges. There may be other prejudicial variables at work.