Dan Mihalopoulos (@dmihalopoulos) gets all the best judicial emails. I admit to being jealous.
FWIW readers probably read Mihalopoulos's column in this morning's Bright One (does the Sun-Times still use that slogan?) and most of them probably went to the Sun-Times website to read Judge Pethers' email and Judge Evans's response. (Judge Pethers' email is no longer downloadable on Scribd, but it was still on the website when I was last there.)
So rather than reproduce Mr. Mihalopoulous's work product here, let me react to some things in the column and in the, um, attachments.
Isn't it interesting that today's column follows so closely on the heels of yesterday's disclosure that Chief Judge Evans may face a challenger next month? Sure, it might just be a coincidence. Then again, as Finley Peter Dunne's Mr. Dooley observed more than a century ago, "Politics ain't beanbag." Mihalopoulos wrote, "[Judge Pethers] doesn’t name any of the allegedly better-clouted colleagues who were promoted unfairly over her. But Pethers put the blame for the situation squarely on longtime Chief Judge Timothy Evans."
I guess we'll know for sure if there are more of these kinds of stories in the next couple of weeks... but there may be some storm clouds gathering on Judge Evans's horizon.
There are obviously different levels of nobody-sent-ness. There's a neologism for you (OED take note). But Judge Pethers, who was elected to the bench (from the 8th Subcircuit, for all you vultures out there salivating about the forthcoming vacancy) in 2004, describes herself as a "nobody nobody sent."
Judging by the comments I regularly receive here, I'm pretty sure that I lost a number of readers to head explosions when they read that.
They'd give anything for that one brief shining moment that Judge Pethers experienced after the 2004 Primary, the moment that she finally learned that she'd bested a field of three challengers (all male) even if it was by only 53 votes over her nearest competitor.
I have a number of readers who would protest that, in winning an election, Judge Pethers necessarily became Somebody, capital-S deliberately inserted. But I also have a friend who never tires of telling me that 'where you stand depends on where you sit'---and in a group where everyone has won an election---where winning an election is just the minimum buy-in to the game---maybe Judge Pethers was politically disadvantaged. She obviously felt that she was.
And I sure as heck have nothing to add on the questions of whether Judge Evans did or didn't respond to Judge Pethers's request for assignment to the Law Division or whether Judge Pethers did or did not withdraw that request. But, while I understand that those of us among the Great Unwashed cannot simply walk in and see the county's Chief Judge, wouldn't you think that fellow judges, especially judges working in the same building, would have just a tad more access?
Why is it not OK to acknowledge that being a judge is a job? Judge Pethers wrote, "I never thought I would refer to being a judge as a 'job,' but it feels that way." Why shouldn't it?
Being a judge is a job. It is also a great honor and privilege---but if there wasn't also a paycheck every couple of weeks to accompany that honor, I daresay most of Judge Pethers' colleagues would likewise quit. Being a judge is (I assert with all the confidence of an outsider) a great job, but I think I'm on safe ground in advancing that claim. As Judge Pethers acknowledged, "Good pay, great benefits, lots of vacation. Even as a 'job,' it's the best one I've ever had."
The real story may be that there are some who have the job but aren't doing it. Judge Pethers mentioned, more or less as an aside, that "there are judges who regularly don't even come to work, but get to choose their courtrooms."
Let's stop that statement before the comma.
There are judges who regularly don't come to work?
Of course Mihalopoulos picked up on that statement.
Andy Shaw at the BGA and Rick Tulsky at Injustice Watch probably perked right up when they saw that one, too.
And I had a commenter here recently who made a very topical joke about two judges "notorious for taking off far more days than they actually show up, [who] gave court personnel and lawyers a shock recently when they both appeared at the Daley Center on one of the days they called in sick. It was soon discovered that [they] were playing Pokémon Go and given their unfamiliarity with the building, did not realize they were in the courthouse."
Maybe this is all so much slander. But, if it's not, I sure hope we can count on the bar association JECs or other reform-minded groups to name names and provide documentation. Because---and my readers know this as well as anyone---there is no shortage of qualified persons willing to step up and replace those who are not doing the job.
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