Thursday, February 16, 2012

CCL evaluations in Supreme Court race

The Chicago Council of Lawyers has released its evaluations of candidates running for the Fitzgerald vacancy on the Illinois Supreme Court. Candidates are listed in ballot order.

Democratic candidates

Mary Jane Theis -- Highly Qualified
Justice Mary Jane Theis was appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court in 2010. She was elected as an Associate Judge in 1983 and was elected to the Circuit Court in 1988. In the Circuit Court of Cook County, Justice Theis was assigned to the Chancery Division in 1993, and from 1988 to 1993 she was assigned to the Criminal Division. From 1983 to 1987, she served in the First Municipal District. Before taking the bench she served as an Assistant Cook County Public Defender. Justice Theis has taught at Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, Northwestern University School of Law, and John Marshall Law School. She was the author of “Recent amendment to Supreme Court Rule 304(b) and its impact on family law cases,” and Editor in Chief of “The Benchbook Project.” Justice Theis has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois Judges Association, Catholic Lawyer of the Year from the Catholic Lawyers Guild, Celtic Lawyer of the Year from the Celtic Lawyers Society of Chicago, Mary Heftel Hooton Award from the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, and the Access to Justice Award from the Illinois State Bar Association.

Judge Theis is considered to have outstanding legal ability and has received accolades from her judicial performance in a variety of trial court arenas, in the Appellate Court, and as an appointed Supreme Court Justice. She is praised as a scholar who both teaches and publishes. Her integrity is unquestioned, and she has an excellent temperament. She was patient as both a trial judge and an appellate judge. She is fair and even-handled to all parties appearing before her. She is also praised for being exceptionally hard-working and for opinions that are well-reasoned and well-written. The Council finds her Highly Qualified for the Illinois Supreme Court.
Aurelia Marie Pucinski -- Not Qualified
Judge Aurelia Pucinski was elected to the trial court bench in 2004 and to the Appellate Court in 2010. Before becoming a judge, she had a long history of public service. From 1998 to 2000, she served as the elected Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County where she made important improvements in the operation of that office. The Council found her Not Qualified when she ran for a trial court seat in 2004, saying that she lacked the requisite legal experience. The Council also found her Not Qualified when she ran for the Appellate Court, saying that while she was respected for her temperament, many lawyers appearing before her in the trial courts found her willingness to take an advocacy role while on the bench to be inappropriate. The Council was also concerned that she did not have appellate court experience.

During the current evaluation, many respondents questioned her knowledge of the law, although most praised her temperament. Some respondents were concerned that as a trial judge she continued to play an advocacy role and questioned whether she could be impartial as a judge in the Appellate Court or as a Supreme Court Justice. The Council finds her Not Qualified for the Illinois Supreme Court.
Joy Virginia Cunningham -- Well Qualified
Judge Joy V. Cunningham was elected to the Illinois Appellate Court in 2006. She was elected as an Associate Judge in 1997 and served for three years before leaving the bench. From 2000 to 2006 she was Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary at Northwestern Memorial Healthcare. She served as Associate General Counsel for Loyola University from 1986 to 1996. Her legal career also included private practice and she served as a judicial law clerk to Glen Johnson of the Illinois Appellate Court. She is a past president of the Chicago Bar Association. She was a guest lecturer at Loyola University School of Law in 2008 and 2009. She does a considerable amount of teaching which requires extensive preparation of written materials which she provides to others in the judiciary in the context of seminars, conferences or reference materials. She has won numerous awards from 2005 to 2011.

Judge Cunningham was praised as a good practitioner and as a solid, hard-working jurist with good legal ability and temperament. As a trial judge she heard both civil and criminal law matters. As an Appellate Court Judge, she continues to be praised for her work ethic and temperament. She reportedly asks good questions during oral argument and writes well-reasoned opinions. The Council in 2006 found her Well Qualified for the Appellate Court and finds her Well Qualified for the Supreme Court.
Thomas W. Flannigan -- Not Qualified
Thomas Flannigan has been a lawyer since 1983. He has a Master’s degree in International Relations. After clerking with Illinois Supreme Court Justice William Clark, he served as an attorney with the firms of Arvey Hodes and Freeborn & Peters, concentrating on international business transactions and litigation. He worked as an attorney in Japan in 1988 and between 1991 and 1992. Since 1990, he has been a sole practitioner focusing on civil litigation, intellectual property matters, and estate planning. He has had a limited number of cases go to trial but has been involved in other aspects of complex civil litigation matters. The Council has found Mr. Flannigan to be Qualified to be a Circuit Judge. He is considered to have good legal ability. But a successful candidate for the Supreme Court Justice should have a broader range of experience and must demonstrate the analytic thinking through either work as a trial or appellate court judge or comparable experience. The Council finds Mr. Flannigan Not Qualified for the Illinois Supreme Court.

Republican Candidate

James Gerard Riley -- Not Qualified
Judge James G. Riley was elected to the Circuit Court in 1996 and currently sits in the Probate Division. He has been in this Division for most of his judicial career. He was in private practice before being elected to the bench. He teaches at the John Marshall Law School.

He is regarded as being knowledgeable about the law and a good problem-solver. He
listens to all parties before him and is praised for his even-temperament, integrity and decisiveness. The Council, however, is concerned that his judicial experience has been narrow and we are unaware of scholarly works that he has published. He has demonstrated skills that make him a good Circuit Judge but a Supreme Court justice requires a broader understanding of the law. The Council finds him Not Qualified for the Supreme Court.

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