Monday, September 24, 2012

Nine judges singled out as "Well Qualified" for retention by Chicago Council of Lawyers

In the post below, I reported that the Chicago Council of Lawyers had found seven of 58 Cook County judges running for retention this year "Not Qualified" to remain in office. However, the Council also singled out nine other judges as being "Well Qualified" for retention and, in this post, we look at what the Council had to say about each of these.

These are presented, according to the Council, in ballot order:
Judge Moshe Jacobius – Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Moshe Jacobius was with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office for his entire career. Judge Jacobius was appointed to the Circuit Court in 1991. He was first assigned to the Domestic Relations Division and then to the Chancery Division. In 2000, he was made Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Division, and presently serves as Presiding Judge of the Chancery Division.

Respondents report that Judge Jacobius knows the law and works hard. He is considered diligent by the vast majority of respondents. His courtroom is described as efficient and fair. Judge Jacobius is characterized as generally prepared for court with a good memory for his cases. He is called dignified and professional.

As presiding judge, Judge Jacobius handles the administration of the Chancery Division and hears motions and cases assigned to him. Respondents were complimentary and frequently remarked upon his honesty, integrity and knowledge of rules.

Judge Jacobius is highly regarded by attorneys and judges in both Domestic Relations and Chancery divisions. He is praised as a supervisor and as a mentor. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Start Lubin – Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Stuart Lubin was a career Assistant Cook County Public Defender. Judge Lubin was appointed to the Circuit Court in 1991 and elected in 1994. He currently serves in the Juvenile Justice Division.

Judge Lubin is regarded as an extraordinary jurist with excellent legal ability. His courtroom management praised as exceptional. He is efficient in the courtroom, but is praised for taking the time to communicate with the lawyers and litigants before him. Respondents characterize him as very diligent. He is praised for his integrity and fairness. He exhibits a low key demeanor but is
reported to always be in control of his courtroom.

Respondents characterize Judge Lubin as a model judge and consider him an asset to the judiciary. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Stuart Palmer – Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Stuart Palmer was an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney and served in the Felony Trial Division. Judge Palmer was elected to the Circuit Court in 1994. He was assigned to the Criminal Division until 2005 when he was transferred to the Chancery Division. Judge Palmer was assigned to the Appellate Court of Illinois by the Illinois Supreme Court effective January 6, 2012. He is seeking retention as a Circuit Judge.

Most respondents felt Judge Palmer had a strong legal ability. He “makes firm decisions and knows law” and “he processes [information] quickly and comes to sensible decisions.” He is considered courteous. Many remarked that he controls his docket and treats everyone equally and with dignity. He is often described as a “solid and fair jurist.” Judge Palmer was very recently elevated to the Appellate Court. His performance as a Circuit Court judge indicates a strong legal
ability and a judicial temperament. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention.

Martin S. Agran – Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Martin S. Agran served as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney and was in private practice. He was also a panel attorney with the Federal Defender’s Office for 14 years. He was appointed to the Circuit Court in 1994 and elected to the bench the same year. Judge Agran was initially assigned to the First Municipal District, then to the Child Protection Division. He served in the Juvenile Justice Division and the Trial Section of the Law Division. Since 2004, Judge Agran has been in the Chancery Division.

Attorneys surveyed and interviewed indicated Judge Agran is well-respected. He is seen as a “thoughtful” jurist who takes time to do his own research and come to the right conclusion. He has the ability to “move his cases” and he does this while still taking time to ensure everyone’s cases are litigated thoroughly. Respondents noted his “judicial and cordial” demeanor and describe him as “very fair.” He is known for giving “well-reasoned decisions based on the law.” Consistently, interviewees stated that Judge Agran was “very knowledgeable” and “bright.”

This judge was also consistently praised for courtroom management skills. While he “keeps his call moving” and is “very organized,” Judge Agran is also said to be “very accommodating” and grants continuances when necessary. One interviewee pointed out that Judge Agran “always made sure everyone knew the status.” The attorneys interviewed uniformly stated that he “reads everything,” and is always “very prepared” for court proceedings. Many respondents also mentioned that he had an excellent memory and could often recall many details of the matters before him.

Judge Agran’s temperament also received praise from the attorneys surveyed. Many of the interviewees stated that he was “not excitable” and “even keeled.” A number of respondents also stated that while Judge Agran could be firm at times, he always remained “professional” and “respectful.”

Judge Agran is also highly regarded for his integrity and fairness. Many of the attorneys interviewed stated that his integrity was “beyond reproach.” Attorneys also uniformly felt they “got a fair shake” from Judge Agran. This was even said by attorneys who received unfavorable decisions from the judge. Many interviewees also made special note of Judge Agran’s treatment of pro se litigants, stating that he always treated pro se litigants fairly and listened to their arguments. One attorney stated that “you’re always on a level playing field in his courtroom whether or not you’re represented by a lawyer.”

The Council finds Judge Agran Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Maureen Connors – Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Maureen Connors was in private practice, and also served as an assistant general attorney at the Chicago Park District. Judge Connors was appointed to the Illinois Appellate Court in 2010. She became an Associate Judge in 1988 and was elected to the Circuit Court in 1994. She served in the Traffic Division, Domestic Violence Division, the Probate Division, and the Fifth Municipal District of the Circuit Court.

Judge Connors is considered an excellent, hardworking judge. She is considered to have very good legal ability and temperament. She is praised for her knowledge of the law. Attorneys report that she is “exemplary in terms of dealing with people” and “courteous and respectful to all equally.” The Council finds her Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Marya Nega – Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Marya Nega was the Principal Assistant Attorney with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Judge Nega was elected to the Circuit Court in 1994. She was initially assigned to the First Municipal District. In 1995, Judge Nega was assigned to the Domestic Relations Division where she is currently a preliminary judge handling Calendar E.

Respondents describe Judge Nega’s legal ability as excellent, with many interviewees stating that she has a very “in depth knowledge” of the statutes in Domestic Relations. Several respondents also remarked very favorably regarding Judge Nega’s “common sense approach” to applying the law. She is known to describe her rulings logically.

The interviewees also believed she does an excellent job managing her courtroom. Several mentioned that Judge Nega always started on time and had a system in place to ensure that all cases were heard in a timely manner. One interviewee stated that “she will skip lunch if it’s a really busy day” in order to get through her call.

Judge Nega was also repeatedly praised for her diligence and attention to detail. Several respondents stated that she always reads everything prior to the hearing and that she is “always fully engaged.” One interviewee stated that “she had a memory like a steel trap,” and “always knows what is going on.” Many attorneys remarked that Judge Nega was also very organized. Judge Nega’s temperament and fairness received particularly high praise from almost all of the respondents. The Council finds her Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Peter Flynn – Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Peter Flynn was in private practice, focusing on complex business litigation. Judge Flynn was appointed to the Circuit Court in 1999 and elected in 2000. Judge Flynn was initially assigned to the First Municipal District and then to the Law Division, Individual Commercial Calendar. He currently sits in the Chancery Division.

Judge Flynn’s intelligence and engagement with the issues before him are reported as obvious strengths by respondents. Many respondents remarked on how familiar with the cases on his docket the judge is, noting that he is prepared and runs an efficient, professional courtroom. Although respondents indicate that Judge Flynn expects similar rigor from the attorneys practicing in his courtroom, they note he does not lose his temper with unprepared attorneys, but he will pass their cases to another date.

Judge Flynn is considered very smart with an excellent legal ability. Several respondents characterized him as among the smartest or best judges in the county. He is described as having a thorough understanding of both law and procedure, as well as having control of his cases. Additionally, Judge Flynn is noted to be engaged and interested in the proceedings before him and possesses good communication skills.

“Calm” and “fair” are common assessments of his courtroom demeanor. His courtroom is regularly described as a “level playing field.” It appears that attorneys know what to expect in Judge Flynn’s courtroom and that pro se litigants are handled respectfully and fairly. Respondents believed that cases move through his docket expeditiously. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Michael Howlett – Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Michael Howlett clerked in the Federal District Court in Chicago and in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. He worked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office before entering private practice. He also served as counsel to Cook County State’s Attorney Richard Devine. Judge Howlett served as an Associate Judge from 1983-86 and was appointed to the Circuit Court in 2005. He was elected to the bench in 2006, spending two years in the Juvenile Justice Division before moving into the Criminal Division. He currently sits in the Second Municipal District, hearing felony cases from the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court.

Attorneys praised Judge Howlett in all categories, including his legal ability, courtroom management skills, preparedness and diligence, integrity, temperament, and fairness. He is “upto speed” on his cases and “isn’t afraid to ask questions.” He is also reported to “listen and stay focused,” remain “engaged” in the proceedings, and he “mak[es] sure everyone understands what’s going on in his courtroom. Judge Howlett is reported to be hard working and focused on the cases in front of him: he “cares about people and doing a good job.” Respondents noted that he is well-prepared for his call and well-versed in the law, rules and procedure.

Attorneys roundly praised his tone, judicial demeanor, diligence and integrity. Many attorneys focused on his integrity, temperament and fairness, giving him high marks in these areas. Respondents feel he has a good tone and demeanor while on the bench. Judge Howlett is described as “courteous and respectful” and lawyers repeatedly echoed the sentiment that “both sides get a fair shake” in front of him. He was uniformly praised for his fairness, judicial independence, and for being a “professional, a dignified man who is fair and respectful.” The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention.

Judge Grace Dickler – Well Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Grace Dickler a legal aid attorney and was in private practice as a solo practitioner. Judge Dickler was appointed as an Associate Judge in 1988 and elected to the Circuit Court in 2006. She served in the Second Municipal District. In 2010, she became Presiding Judge in the Domestic Violence Division, and transferred to the position of Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Division in 2011.

Respondents were largely positive with regard to Judge Dickler. They describe her as decisive with good temperament. She is considered to have very good legal ability. Judge Dickler is reported to be both a good judge and a good administrator. In her current role as the Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Division, she has assembled a series of task forces to advise her on reform efforts. For example, she spearheaded a reportedly successful program through which lawyers volunteer to do emergency orders of protection for indigent persons. She is engaged and serious in her duties both as a judge on the bench and as a presiding judge interested in reform. Judge Dickler is considered an asset to the court system. The Council finds her Well Qualified.
The Council's complete report may be accessed through its website ( or by clicking on this link.

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