Judge Bonita Coleman
The Council states, with regard to Judge Coleman:
Judge Coleman was elected to the bench in 2010. She was in private practice before becoming a judge. She is currently assigned to the Domestic Relations Division in Markham.The Chicago Bar Association rated Judge Coleman "Qualified" for retention:
Judge Coleman is reported to be professional and courteous on the bench. The Council is concerned that many lawyers question Judge Coleman’s knowledge of the law, although most respondents note that she does the necessary research to rule. There was a mixed response as to whether she is fair to both men and women who appear before her. Some believe she favors male parties, but others say she is fair and seeks a just outcome. The Council must balance the totality of the positive and negative comments we heard about Judge Coleman’s judicial performance. On balance, the Council finds her Not Qualified for retention.
Judge Bonita Coleman is “Qualified” for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge Coleman was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1992 and was elected to the Circuit Court in 2010. Judge Coleman is assigned the Domestic Relations Division and presides over a high volume call involving many pro se litigants. Judge Coleman is thoughtful, patient, and thorough in explaining the judicial process to pro se litigants. Judge Coleman is well regarded for her legal knowledge, judicial experience, and excellent demeanor.The Illinois State Bar Association has issued narrative explanations of its ratings on judges seeking retention. The ISBA states, with regard to Judge Coleman:
Hon. Bonita Coleman was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1992. She was in private practice concentrating in family law, criminal defense and probate before being elected to the Circuit Court of Cook County in 2010. She is currently assigned to the Domestic Relations Division in the Sixth District (Markham).In addition to the favorable rating from the ISBA, Judge Coleman also received favorable ratings from all of the other Alliance bar groups except the Chicago Council of Lawyers.
Judge Coleman is praised for her temperament and patience with the many pro se litigants who appear before her. Some attorneys have expressed concerns that while she works hard, cases do not always proceed in a timely manner. In addition, attorneys’ opinions on the depth of her legal knowledge were not uniformly positive, although she is considered to be a hard worker who will always research a question of law and who thinks it is important to get things right.
For the 2016 General Election, the Illinois State Bar Association finds Hon. Bonita Coleman Qualified
for retention as a judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Judge Nicholas R. Ford
With regard to Judge Ford, the Chicago Council of Lawyers states:
Judge Ford was appointed to the bench in December 1997, and was elected in 1998. Since 2002, he has been assigned to the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court. Judge Ford was admitted to practice in 1988. He was an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney throughout his career as an attorney.The Chicago Bar Association and the Illinois State Bar Association reached a different conclusion.
Judge Ford is considered to have good legal ability and he is regarded as hardworking. In 2010 his demeanor drew some criticism for impatience and inappropriate remarks, but respondents in the current evaluation praise his temperament as being both patient and in control of the courtroom.
But two decisions handed down by the Illinois Appellate Court since 2010 raise serious concerns about Judge Ford’s ability to decide cases in an impartial manner. In People v. Jackson, the Appellate Court reversed and remanded a first degree murder conviction rendered by Judge Ford at a bench trial, holding he “abandoned [his] role as a neutral and impartial arbiter of fact by adopting a prosecutorial role when questioning [the] defendant’s expert witness and by relying on matters based on prior private knowledge” that were outside the record, thereby undermining the defendant’s right to a fair trial. And in People v. Pace, another first degree murder case, the Appellate Court vacated an aggregate 100 year sentence imposed by Judge Ford upon a 16-year-old defendant, finding that Ford considered and “placed significant emphasis” on impermissible factors during sentencing, including the defendant’s choice to remain silent during the sentencing hearing, Judge Ford’s personal views, and evidence not located in the record. “It is noteworthy,” continued the Appellate Court, “that the portion of the record in which [Judge Ford] announced [his] sentence goes on for 16 pages. At least four of those pages were devoted solely to [Judge Ford] discussing [his] personal feelings about gang violence; other large portions see the judge discussing the victims and stating that he was aligned with them.” In both Jackson and Pace, the Appellate Court remanded the matters to the Circuit Court with instructions to reassign the cases to a different judge.
Judicial impartiality is a foundational component of our legal system. Deviation from this principle not only deprives litigants of due process, but also undermines public confidence in the courts. On balance, the Council finds Judge Ford Not Qualified for retention.
The CBA stated, with regard to Judge Ford:
Judge Nicholas Ford is “Qualified” for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge Ford was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1988 and has served as a judge since 1998. Judge Ford is currently assigned to the Criminal Court and is well regarded for his knowledge of criminal law, judicial experience, and ability to effectively manage a high volume court.The ISBA reports,
Hon. Nicholas R. Ford was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1988. He was an assistant state’s attorney until 1998 when he was first appointed, then elected, to the Circuit Court of Cook County. He has been assigned to the Criminal Division since 2003 after first spending time in First Municipal. He has done some volunteer work.As with Judge Coleman, the negative rating from the Council was the only one received by Judge Ford for this election. All of the other Alliance bar groups recommended Judge Ford's retention.
Judge Ford is considered to have excellent legal knowledge and ability. He runs a tight, but not unfair, courtroom. He has handled some high-profile cases, and is generally considered to have good demeanor and is a hard worker who is always prepared. Concerns have been raised over a couple of Appellate Court decisions which have criticized some questions and rulings as showing bias toward the State by taking into account the defendant choosing not to exercise his right of allocution, and for the tone and manner in which he asked questions of an expert witness for the defense.
For the 2016 General Election, the Illinois State Bar Association finds Hon. Nicholas R. Ford Qualified for retention as a judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County
Judge Daniel Joseph Lynch
The Council stated, with regard to Judge Lynch:
Judge Lynch was elected to the bench in 1998. He is presently assigned to the Law Division. He is a former Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney.The Illinois State Bar Association also recommends against Judge Lynch's retention:
Judge Lynch is widely respected for his knowledge of the law and procedure. He is considered to be well prepared and is reported to be adept at handling long, complex trials. Some respondents complained that he can, on occasion, be short tempered on the bench. Most say that he has a good temperament. The Council is concerned, however, that Judge Lynch on several occasions has reached beyond his immediate role as judge in a particular matter to engage in legal acts that seem to be outside his normal course of deciding a case before him. These matters include seeking or having sought to have the attorneys prosecuted for fraud or obstruction. In another matter, the judge unsuccessfully sought to have the Cook County State’s Attorney prosecute one of the parties before him. These unorthodox uses of judicial discretion, including criminal contempt charges, are troubling to the Council. On balance, the Council finds Judge Lynch to be Not Qualified for retention.
Hon. Daniel Joseph Lynch was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1988. He worked as an assistant state’s attorney until his election to the Circuit Court of Cook County in 1998. He was retained in 2004 and 2010. He is currently assigned to the Law Division, Jury Section. He is involved in community activities.The Chicago Bar Association, on the other hand, reached a different conclusion:
Judge Lynch is generally considered to have excellent legal knowledge and even-keeled, although there were isolated reports of temperament issues. Since last being retained, Judge Lynch has been involved in several cases which have called into question his judicial judgment, including a case within the last year where the Illinois Supreme Court ordered his removal and reassignment of that case to another judge.
For the 2016 General Election, the Illinois State Bar Association finds Hon. Daniel Joseph Lynch Not Qualified for retention as a judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Judge Daniel J. Lynch is “Qualified” for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge Lynch was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1988 and was elected to the Circuit Court in 1998. Judge Lynch is currently assigned to the Law Division’s Jury Section. Judge Lynch has presided over many complex cases, some of which have been the subject of media attention. Judge Lynch is diligent and well regarded for his knowledge of the law, judicial ability, and dedication to the justice system.All of the Alliance bar groups except the CCL and ISBA (and except for the Cook County Bar Association which has so far issued no rating) have recommended a "yes" vote on Judge Lynch's retention.
The complete CBA "Green Guide," showing all of its ratings of judicial candidates on the November ballot, may be accessed by clicking here. The complete report of the Chicago Council of Lawyers may be found at this link, while the complete narrative reports prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association for Cook County judicial candidates can be found here.