Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chicago Bar Association releases ratings for Cook County judges seeking retention

The Chicago Bar Association has released its evaluations of all 73 judges seeking retention on the November ballot, finding all but one qualified for retention. (The link in the preceding sentence will take you to a page on the CBA website from which you can print or download the entire CBA Green Guide for November 2014 Election or the CBA's Pocket Guide.)

In retention elections the CBA dispenses with the rating of 'Highly Qualified,' a rating it sometimes bestows on judicial candidates seeking election. The CBA's choice of using rating of only 'Qualified' or 'Not Recommended' in these races is consistent with the nature and purpose of the retention ballot, an up or down, 1 or 0, yes or no vote. Judges must receive a 60% (plus 1) yes vote to be retained in office.

Only one Appellate Court justice, Justice Thomas E. Hoffman, is up for retention in 2014 (although there are a few Circuit Court judges currently assigned to the Appellate Court who are also on the retention ballot). The CBA stated, with regard to Justice Hoffman:
Justice Thomas E. Hoffman is “QUALIFIED” for retention as an Appellate Court Justice. Justice Hoffman was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1971 and was appointed to the Illinois Appellate Court in 1993. Justice Hoffman was elected to the Illinois Appellate Court in 1994 and is the Presiding Justice of the First Division of the Illinois Appellate Court, 1st District. Justice Hoffman is highly regarded for his knowledge of the law, work ethic, and legal ability. Justice Hoffman is always well prepared for oral arguments and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Illinois Appellate Court. In addition to Justice Hoffman’s Appellate Court caseload, in 2000 he was appointed to serve on the Appellate Court’s Workers’ Compensation Division to decide appeals in Workers’ Compensation cases.
The one Circuit Court judge rated 'Not Recommended' by the CBA is Law Division Judge Thomas E. Flanagan. Of Judge Flanagan, the CBA stated,
Judge Thomas E. Flanagan is “NOT RECOMMENDED” for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge Flanagan was admitted to practice in Illinois in 1965 and was elected to the Circuit Court in 1984. Judge Flanagan is currently assigned to the Law Division and serves in the trial section. Judge Flanagan has had a distinguished judicial career and enjoys a fine reputation for his integrity. However, lawyers who have appeared before Judge Flanagan have expressed concerns about the judge’s ability to make decisions in a timely manner on motions and complex issues and to efficiently and effectively manage a trial call.
Every other Circuit Court judge seeking retention in 2014 is rated 'Qualified' by the Chicago Bar Association. Persons downloading the Green Guide will see that some 'Qualified' ratings are more glowing than others, but the good news for the public is that, at least in the opinion of the CBA, nearly every single judge seeking retention is worthy of being kept in office.

I don't want to cherry-pick ratings for particular candidates in this post. But, in June, I wrote about a judge who was criticized in a Tribune op-ed after a law professor taking notes in her courtroom was briefly taken into custody by Sheriff's deputies. Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans subsequently entered a general administrative order expressly allowing the taking of notes in Cook County courtrooms, at least under most circumstances. I mentioned at the time that the judge in question would be up for retention this year and that, before forming opinions based on only one newspaper article, it might be helpful to see what the various bar ratings groups made of the incident. This is what the CBA had to say about Judge Laura Marie Sullivan:
Judge Laura Marie Sullivan is “QUALIFIED” for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge Sullivan was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1988 and was elected to the Circuit Court in 2002. Judge Sullivan is assigned to Central Bond Court which sets bonds for defendants in the Criminal Justice System. Judge Sullivan is hardworking and well regarded for her knowledge of the law and well-reasoned, thoughtful decisions in a difficult assignment. The judge has been the subject of unwarranted and unjustified criticism and should be retained.
The CBA has also released (or in all but one case, re-released) its ratings on judicial candidates seeking election to the bench. I will do a separate post on those ratings soon.

When the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening releases its ratings on Cook County retention candidates, FWIW will cover those as well.

1 comment:

Albert said...

Very unusual that they only recommended against one. Their average for the previous eight retention elections is 5.75. Will be interesting to see if the CCL's number drops as well.