Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Zay N. Smith, who gained lasting fame with his reporting of the Better Government Association/ Sun-Times Mirage Tavern investigation, passed away last night at the age of 71.

Smith later became the host and moderator of the Quick Takes column at the Sun-Times. Like everything else at that paper, "Quick Takes" shrank, to "QT", before being jettisoned, along with Smith, from the Sun-Times in 2008.

Smith continued the QT column on various websites that I've linked to over the years.

The Mirage Tavern stories were riveting stuff for Phil Zukowsky and me back in 1978, when we were students at Loyola Law School. We did a long 'think piece' about the ethics of reporters inserting themselves into a story as Smith, Pam Zekman, and the rest of the BGA/Sun-Times team had done. Assessing our chances of getting our story into the Columbia Journalism Review as non-existent, we settled for publication in Blackacre, then the student newspaper at the Loyola School of Law.

Thankfully, our article seems to be lost to history.

But I do recall quite clearly that, since Loyola had no journalism school, Phil and I thought we should seek a comment for our story from the Dean of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.

Somehow we got the good man on the phone. We explained our quest -- and he responded: "I don't talk to student reporters." This had to make it difficult to conduct classes.

The linked obituary notes that Smith also taught at Medill. He apparently did speak to student reporters.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Coronavirus impacts even the taking of depositions in Illinois

Before the world ended, Illinois Supreme Court Rule 206(h) provided:
Remote Electronic Means Depositions. Any party may take a deposition by telephone, videoconference, or other remote electronic means by stating in the notice the specific electronic means to be used for the deposition, subject to the right to object. For the purposes of Rule 203, Rule 205, and this rule, such a deposition is deemed taken at the place where the deponent is to answer questions. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph (h), the rules governing the practice, procedures and use of depositions shall apply to remote electronic means depositions.
(1) The deponent shall be in the presence of the officer administering the oath and recording the deposition, unless otherwise agreed by the parties.

(2) Any exhibits or other demonstrative evidence to be presented to the deponent by any party at the deposition shall be provided to the officer administering the oath and all other parties within a reasonable period of time prior to the deposition.

(3) Nothing in this paragraph (h) shall prohibit any party from being with the deponent during the deposition, at that party’s expense; provided, however, that a party attending a deposition shall give written notice of that party’s intention to appear at the deposition to all other parties within a reasonable time prior to the deposition.

(4) The party at whose instance the remote electronic means deposition is taken shall pay all costs of the remote electronic means deposition, unless otherwise agreed by the parties.
Now, at the end of the world, any depositions will be remote depositions.

And the old rule runs afoul of new social distancing requirements -- requiring the court reporter to be with the witness, for example.

So, yesterday, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a new, temporary Rule 206(h) (new language indicated by underscore, deleted language indicated by strikeout):
Remote Electronic Means Depositions. Any party may take a deposition by telephone, videoconference, or other remote electronic means by stating in the notice the specific electronic means to be used for the deposition, subject to the right to object. For the purposes of Rule 203, Rule 205, and this rule, such a deposition is deemed taken at the place where the deponent is to answer questions. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph (h), the rules governing the practice, procedures and use of depositions shall apply to remote electronic means depositions.
(1) Reserved. The deponent shall be in the presence of the officer administering the oath and recording the deposition, unless otherwise agreed by the parties.

(2) Any exhibits or other demonstrative evidence to be presented to the deponent by any party at the deposition shall be provided to the officer administering the oath and all other parties within a reasonable period of time prior to the deposition, unless the deposition participants are able to view the exhibits in real time during the deposition.

(3) Reserved. Nothing in this paragraph (h) shall prohibit any party from being with the deponent during the deposition, at that party’s expense; provided, however, that a party attending a deposition shall give written notice of that party’s intention to appear at the deposition to all other parties within a reasonable time prior to the deposition.

(4)The party at whose instance the remote electronic means deposition is taken shall pay all costs of the remote electronic means deposition, unless otherwise agreed by the parties.

(5) Time spent at a remote electronic means deposition in addressing necessary technology issues shall not count against the time limit for the deposition set by Rule 206(d), by stipulation, or by court order.

(6) No recording of a remote electronic means deposition shall be made other than the recording disclosed in the notice of deposition.

Even lawyers are beset by technical difficulties (actually I think we may be more prone to these than most) -- so the new rule wisely provides that technical difficulties will not count against the three-hour deposition time ordinarily permitted for depositions.

Also note the order stresses that no recording other than that provided for by notice will be permitted -- although you have to wonder who is going to take a video deposition of a picture on a laptop in the first place....

We are now all involuntary experts in Zoom -- and recordings can be made of Zoom meetings.

But not legally.

Court proceedings are now taking place every day on Zoom -- and the Circuit Court of Cook County has made it abundantly clear that "any video recording, audio recording, photographing and/or reproducing of the livestream is strictly prohibited. The recording, publishing, broadcasting or other copying or transmission of courtroom proceedings by video, audio, still photography or any other means is strictly prohibited by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 68(A)(8) and is subject to the penalties for contempt of court."

In other words, don't do it.

And, while we're on the subject of don't do it, the Supreme Court issued a comment with the new, temporary rule 206(h):
Where a deponent testifies from a remote location and no neutral representative or representative of an adverse party is present in the room with the testifying deponent, care must be taken to ensure the integrity of the examination. The testifying deponent may be examined regarding the identity of all persons in the room during the testimony. Where possible, all persons in the room during the testimony should separately participate in the videoconference. In furtherance of their obligations under Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3 (Candor Toward the Tribunal), 3.4 (Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel), and 8.4(d) (Misconduct), counsel representing a deponent should instruct the deponent that (a) he or she may not communicate with anyone during the examination other than the examining attorney or the court reporter and (b)he or she may not consult any written, printed, or electronic information during the examination other than information provided by the examining attorney. Unrepresented deponents may be similarly instructed by counsel for any party.
An attorney who produces a client or other witness for deposition without properly admonishing the witness along these lines may wind up with an ARDC beef if it develops that the witness had a coach or some other undisclosed crutch off camera.

The most solid foundation for the stay-at-home orders is...

...the willingness of people to abide by them. Consensus. The consent of the governed.

Like it or not -- and, if you've been paying attention at all, you know that Gov. J.B. Pritzker does not like it -- the courts are going to get increasingly involved in the questions of what authority the Governor has to implement the many restrictions he has imposed on our day-to-day lives during this coronavirus crisis and whether the Governor has exceeded that authority.

Among the latest challenges is this Complaint, filed by another Republican State Representative, John Cabello.

The Attorney General has, as the Governor has promised he would, asked the Supreme Court to take the appeal directly in the Bailey matter and bypass the Fifth District Appellate court (you can access the Governor's Emergency Motion for Direct Appeal Under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 302(b) and/or Supervisory Order Under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 383 by clicking here).

The deeper you get into the weeds on these questions of authority, the more likely you are to find flaws.

That's not a knock against Gov. Pritzker or his legal team. They are trying to pay attention to the requirements of the law but they are understandably distracted by the demands of reality: People continue to get sick from the COVID-19 virus. Not all of them get better. And a lot of those who do get sick will need extensive hospitalization, potentially swamping our medical systems -- but for the stay-at-home orders.

Gov. Pritzker and the other authorities who talk seriously about this crisis are extraordinarily deferential to the "experts" -- the epidemiologists, the mathematicians, the doctors -- who have prescribed these life-altering stay-at-home orders.

But these men and women are not asking us to shelter in place because they know so much about the coronavirus. On the contrary, their advice is based on the fact that they know so little about it. Remember, just a couple of months ago, these same experts were absolutely convinced that you could not get the disease unless you got sneezed on by someone recently arrived from Wuhan, China.

The experts have learned an awful lot in the last eight or 10 weeks, and they've been sharing what they've learned with the rest of us right along. Sometimes what they learned, or thought they learned, on Monday was undercut by something they learned on Tuesday. Sometimes the experts don't agree with each other. None of this makes them bad experts.

The experts tell us we need to stay at home, and to maintain a "social distance" from everyone we encounter whenever we are forced to venture out, because that's the surest way to avoid picking up any infectious disease.

That makes sense.

Now... there's a balancing that has to be done here... and everywhere... whether the damage to the economy caused by the shutdown is outweighed by danger of this particular disease. Open the economy back up too soon, or too fast, and more people will die. On the other hand, as Gov. Pritzker has said himself many times, it's not a question of whether you will get the disease, it is only a matter of when. So we can't stay put forever.

And, clearly, some people are getting more antsy than others.

Not surprisingly, there is more discontent in areas where the disease has not made the same inroads as it has in other communities.

But it seems to me -- and maybe it's the bubble that I live in, but I don't think so -- that there is broad support for the continuation of the stay-at-home orders, at least for now.

And that's the best possible news for the Governor and his team.

Unless the Governor is prepared to abandon the stay-at-home orders entirely, there really is no alternative to forging and maintaining a consensus. (That's not to say there could not be other approaches -- Sweden did not do a complete lockdown, for example -- but the Governor has determined a course of action, consistent with the approach taken, at least initially, by most other American states.)

Think about it.

The only alternative to consensus acceptance is bayonets. And, while the Chinese Communists may have done it in Wuhan without hesitation, the American people would not stand for shooting people for failing to maintain a proper social distance.

That's why the Governor keeps saying that he counts on people to 'do the right thing', making only vague threats of 'consequences' for those who do not comply. That's the approach Mayor Lori Lightfoot has taken as well. (If the host of that infamous house party really is an Ambulance Commander in the Chicago Fire Department, however, I would not expect that the mayor to be as diplomatic in private as she has been in public.)

The courts will address the challenges to the Governor's orders. That's their job.

The legislature may yet convene and provide support or assistance for the orders or (and this is not likely, as a practical matter) challenges to the Governor's actions. That's their job.

But, in the meantime, the best thing the Governor and his team can do is maintain and sustain the consensus supporting the actions he's taken so far. That's not a legal defense to the various lawsuits challenging his authority, but it's his best defense.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Looking at the source of the Governor's emegency powers, the challenge thereto, and the potential resolutions to the controversy

The Governor's stay-at-home orders, both the original and all subsequent ones, are grounded in §7 of the Emergency Management Act, 20 ILCS 3305/7.

According to that statute, where a disaster (as defined by §4 of the Act) exists, "the Governor may, by proclamation declare that a disaster exists. Upon such proclamation, the Governor shall have and may exercise for a period not to exceed 30 days the following emergency powers" (14 of them, if you're counting, delineated in great detail).

And there is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic is within the §4 definition of "disaster."

Section 4 of the Emergency Management Act defines "disaster" as an "occurrence or threat of widespread or severe damage, injury or loss of life or property resulting from any natural or technological cause, including but not limited to fire, flood, earthquake, wind, storm, hazardous materials spill or other water contamination requiring emergency action to avert danger or damage, epidemic, air contamination, blight, extended periods of severe and inclement weather, drought, infestation, critical shortages of essential fuels and energy, explosion, riot, hostile military or paramilitary action, public health emergencies, or acts of domestic terrorism" (20 ILCS 3305/4).

The Governor's original coronavirus-related disaster declaration came on March 9 -- and that is why, in accord with the statute, the original stay-at-home order was set to expire on April 8.

The stay-at-home orders have been "extended" twice now -- that's the way it's been explained to the public -- most recently with some modifications that are to take effect on May 1. But §7 says nothing about 'extending' any proclamation; indeed, the statute says that, pursuant to any disaster proclamation, the Governor's extraordinary powers last only "for a period not to exceed 30 days."

So what actually happened was that, on April 1, the Governor again declared that a "continuing disaster exists within the State of Illinois and specifically declare[d] all counties in the State of Illinois as a disaster area." That proclamation was intended to extend the Governor's authority another 30 days, to April 30. Presumably another proclamation has been, or will shortly be, filed with the Secretary of State.

This brings us to Rep. Darren Bailey's suit against the Governor and the TRO entered yesterday afternoon, during Gov. Pritzker's daily press briefing.

The Governor was asked about the TRO before Clay County Circuit Court Judge Michael D. McHaney's signature was dry -- and Gov. Pritzker was not happy. He called Bailey's suit insulting and dangerous.

Pritzker didn't cool down overnight. He began this afternoon's daily briefing with a blast at Bailey's suit, calling it a "cheap political stunt designed so that the representative can see his name in headlines." He said that the State has already appealed (and the Clay County docket already reflects the filing of a notice of appeal).

Later, during today's question and answer period, the Governor stated that he has great respect for the judiciary and supports everyone's right to go to court -- even though he sees Bailey's suit (and there's apparently another one that may soon be filed by another state representative, too) as reckless in the extreme. Rich Miller's substantial (and invaluable) notes of today's proceedings didn't pick this up, but I distinctly heard the Governor say that he expects "responsible members of the judiciary" to overturn yesterday's decision.


There are any number of reasons why Bailey's suit may ultimately fail and I hope to go into some of them in a future post. And, certainly, if one were forced to bet, the smart money would go against Judge McHaney's April 27 ruling being affirmed.


Lawyers will probably not be shocked to discover that there is almost no case law interpreting the Illinois Emergency Management Act and, according to my Lexis search today, none at all regarding the all-important §7.

The Governor's powers in this emergency, though substantial, are not just grounded in the Emergency Management Act, they are bounded thereby.

Our government functions, or is supposed to function, on a system of checks and balances. In junior high school, when you were studying for the Constitution tests, you learned that this was why we have three coequal branches of government. But checks and balances exist within each branch as well: When a governor or a judge or any other government employee is given great powers, they are either narrowly focused or, if broad, are of limited duration -- like the 30-day period of §7.

I completely agree with the Governor and the responsible medical authorities that the COVID-19 pandemic is real, it is continuing, and (much as I wish otherwise) it has not gone away. But it is only one pandemic.

That fact -- that there is one and only one pandemic -- may not necessarily preclude the Governor from making multiple, valid disaster declarations. But only if the statute can be read to permit this.

And there is one other inescapable fact, namely, that the statute does not specifically or expressly provide for extensions of a governor's extraordinary powers, even where the disaster has refused to go away, as here, within the initially allotted 30 days.

In fact, though the Governor is downright scornful about it, it seems a reasonable and logical construction of the statute that, where there is only one disaster, there can be only one proclamation.

It may take some creative judicial thinking to get around all this.

My own unhappy experience may suggest one way.

I had a case in the Appellate Court many years ago involving the owner of eight McDonald's restaurants. All eight restaurants were insured under a single policy. Every day the franchise owner sent a courier around to pick up the proceeds from each of his restaurants and take them to the bank.

The courier had a run of bad luck.

First, his vehicle was broken into after the cash had been picked up from seven of the restaurants (the courier was inside the 8th store when it happened).

Thereafter, he got robbed again, but this time he'd been to only four of the stores.

How many robberies were there?

Two, right?

That was my client's position -- I represented the insurer -- and, therefore, my client owed the restaurant owner $20,000, because the policy provided for a $10,000 per occurrence limit for losses like this. The insured, however, contended and, eventually, the Chancery Court and the Appellate Court agreed, that there had been 11 occurrences, not two. (The Appellate Court did agree with my client that, logically, these appeared to be only two occurrences; no news reporter, for example, would have said otherwise. But that was only the beginning of the analysis, not the end. For my client, all went downhill from there.)

Gov. Pritzker may well prevail over Rep. Bailey -- as I said, there are many reasons why and not all may reach this question of how many disaster declarations a governor can issue for a single disaster.

But judges will occasionally reach a result that is unpopular or unexpected because they find that the law compels, and their oaths require, it. Even when the whole world has contrary expectations. There's a reason why lawyers can never guarantee results in any case.

Of course, any confusion here about the Governor's authority can be speedily rectified by action of the General Assembly.

I would assume that there would be broad, bipartisan support for an amendment to §7 of the Emergency Management Act that would allow for multiple extensions, in appropriate circumstances.

If the Legislature could be coaxed into session, that is. With the obvious exception of Rep. Bailey, the Legislature has not been heard from much in this crisis. And the legislative year is fast drawing to a close.

Section 22 of the Emergency Management Act provides, "No emergency services and disaster agency established under the authority of this Act shall be employed directly or indirectly by any person or persons for political purposes." And the Governor has pleaded on many occasions for party sentiment to be put aside as we all deal with the Covid crisis. Let's do that. Let the courts figure out how best to construe §7 while we continue to observe the reality of the orders in effect and the disease that has so disrupted our lives. And, in the meantime, could we get an amendment to Emergency Management Act in place that eliminates the controversy in the first place?

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

The official list of the Cook County judicial primary winners... the majority does not always rule

Now that all the votes are counted, and the results certified, we know for certain who won each Cook County judicial race.

Just for fun, I've bolded the names of those successful candidates who achieved more than 50% of the votes in the Democratic primary.

Note that this list does not contain the names of the winners of primaries in the 12th and 13th Subcircuits. I'll explain why in a moment.

But first, the list:

Illinois Supreme Court

P. Scott Neville, Jr., Freeman vacancy

Illinois Appellate Court

Michael B. Hyman, Neville, Jr. vacancy
Sharon O. Johnson, Simon vacancy

Circuit Court - Countywide

Tiesha L. Smith, Bellows vacancy
Kelly Marie McCarthy, Coghlan vacancy
Laura Ayala-Gonzalez, Ford vacancy
Celestia L. Mays, Funderburk vacancy
Levander "Van" Smith, Jr., Larsen vacancy
Chris Stacey, Mason vacancy
Teresa Molina, McCarthy vacancy
Sheree Desiree Henry, Murphy Gorman vacancy
Elizabeth Anne Walsh, O'Brien vacancy
Lynn Weaver Boyle, Patti vacancy (uncontested)
Lorraine Mary Murphy, Roti vacancy
Maura McMahon Zeller, C. Sheehan vacancy
Jill Rose Quinn, K. Sheehan vacancy

Circuit Court - Subcircuits

Krista D. Butler, 1st Subcircuit Hughes vacancy (uncontested)
Tyria B. Walton, 1st Subcircuit Crawford vacancy (uncontested)

Sondra Nicole Denmark, 2nd Subcircuit "A" vacancy

Daniel Edward Maloney, 3rd Subcircuit Filan vacancy (uncontested)
Regina Ann Mescall, 3rd Subcircuit Flynn vacancy
Erin Haggerty Antonietti, 3rd Subcircuit Murphy vacancy

Jamie Guerra Dickler, 6th Subcircuit Nega vacancy
Eileen Marie O'Connor, 6th Subcircuit Pantle vacancy

Pamela Reaves-Harris, 7th Subcircuit Jackson vacancy

Jonathan Clark Green, 8th Subcircuit Fleming vacancy
Michael A. Forti, 8th Subcircuit Gubin vacancy (uncontested)

Thomas M. Cushing, 9th Subcircuit Axelrood vacancy
Julie Bess Aimen, 9th Subcircuit Luckman vacancy

John G. Mulroe, 10th Subcircuit Allen vacancy (uncontested)
Maire Aileen Dempsey, 10th Subcircuit McGing vacancy
Mary Catherine Marubio, 10th Subicruit O'Brien vacancy

Gerardo Tristan, Jr., 14th Subcircuit Bertucci vacancy
Perla Tirado, 14th Subcircuit Lacy vacancy

Nichole C. Patton, 15th Subcircuit Griffin vacancy

Every person listed above faces no opponent on the November ballot. They aren't elected yet -- but it would take something extraordinary to derail any of these candidates at this point.

There are two contested judicial races on the November ballot, one each in the nothernmost and northwestern corners of the county.

In the 12th Subcircuit, Judge Patrica M. Fallon (who won the Democratic Primary with 57.70% of the vote) will have to face Frank R. DiFranco, who was unopposed in the Republican Primary.

In the 13th Subciruit, Suzanne Michele Groebner won the Democratic Primary with 42.60% of the vote. Gary William Seyring won the Republican Primary with 72.65% of the vote and will face Groebner on the November ballot.

Interestingly, while there will be almost no contests for judicial vacancies on the November ballot, most of November's presumptive winners did not even command a majority of the votes in their own primaries.

In the most extreme example in this primary, one candidate won nomination, and almost certain election, with only 20.97% of the primary vote. Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr. will get a full 10-year term on the Illinois Supreme Court despite winning only 26.21% of the votes in the primary.

Only 19 of the Democratic Primary winners received more than 50% of the vote (18 on the original list, plus Judge Fallon) -- and six of those races were uncontested. If Illinois had adopted a nonpartisan primary for judicial races, a great many of these now successful and presumptively elected candidates would be facing very competitive, interesting races in November. (In a nonpartisan primary system, if no candidate achieves 50% of the primary vote, the top two finishers face off in the general election.)

Many voters will show up at the polls in November and be confused, or even angry, when they realize that they have no say in the election of judges in this county. And the majority of our judges will, once again, be elected without obtaining a majority of votes cast in any election. This does not inspire confidence in the democratic process generally, or in the judiciary in particular. With a nonpartisan primary process, however, voters who did not participate in the primary would still have a meaningful say in shaping the county judiciary.

This could be accomplished legislatively. But will there be any support for the idea?

Mescall over Glennon by 281 votes in 3rd Subcircuit

All the votes have been counted now; the results have been certified.

The final tally in the crowded race for the Flynn vacancy in the 3rd Subcircuit shows Regina Ann Mescall with 3,079 votes in the suburbs and 9,725 votes in the City of Chicago, for a total of 12,804. Lauren Brougham Glennon finished with 2,996 votes in the suburbs and 9,527 votes in the City of Chicago. The winning margin was 281 votes, far and away the closest finish in any Cook County judicial race.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Coronavirus in the court system: An update

The Sun-Times reported yesterday that 11 employees of the Clerk of the Circuit Court have tested positive for COVID-19. Two of three most recently diagnosed employees are now hospitalized, according to David Struett's article.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Chief Judge advised yesterday that a sixth employee of that office has tested positive. The latest employee to test positive works for the Social Service Department on the lower level of the Daley Center and last reported for work on March 18.

One of the newly diagnosed Circuit Clerk's employees last reported to work in the Traffic section in the lower level of the Daley Center on March 19; another last reported for work in Domestic Relations, on the 8th floor, on March 20, according to the Sun-Times account.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Updated election returns in 2nd, 3rd Subcircuit races

Looking at City returns updated March 30 and County returns updated last evening, here is where the 2nd and 3rd Subcircuit races now stand.

In the 2nd Subcircuit, Judge Sondra Nicole Denmark has 10,309 suburban votes and 7,689 City votes, for a total of 17,998. Felicia H. Simmons-Stovall has 8,417 votes in the suburbs and 8,819 votes in the City, for a total of 17,236. Denmark's margin has lengthened since Election Night, as additional votes have been counted. The trend certainly appears to be in her favor.

In the race for the Flynn vacancy in the 3rd Subcircuit, Lauren Brougham Glennon has 2,980 votes in the suburbs currently and 9,468 votes from City precincts, for a total of 12,448. Regina Ann Mescall stands with 3,067 votes from the suburbs and 9,625 votes in the City, for a total of 12,692, a margin of 244 votes.

This margin, though razor-thin, represents a turnaround from Election Night, when Glennon had a roughly 200 vote margin.

Yesterday was the last day that mail-in votes could be received by the election authorities. Votes received as late as yesterday will be counted so long as they are postmarked or certified as having been mailed on or before March 17.

We are now 15 days out from the primary election. The City and County election authorities are required to certify the election results by no later than 21 days following the primary.

Clearly, votes have been counted since Election Night by both City and County election authorities. FWIW has no information at this juncture as to how many votes remain to be counted.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Guest Post: Dr. Klumpp evaluates the March primary

by Albert J. Klumpp

For most of the period leading up to the March 17 primary, much of the buzz surrounding our judicial contests was about the large group of female candidates with Irish names, and the proven tendencies of some voters to favor females and Irish names. In the final days, the focus turned to coronavirus and how much of an impact it would have on voter turnout. But in the end, neither was much of an issue, and the primary was mostly business as usual. There was no Bonnie Lass Invasion, and the virus had much less of an impact than expected---although with an unexpected twist.

Voter turnout

Taking on faith the estimate of 80,000 mail votes still to be counted, turnout for the primary will end up at roughly 33% countywide. Figure 1 puts this figure into historical perspective—and shows that the turnout was very respectable compared to past primaries.

While there was a competitive majority-party presidential contest, the contest had a feel of inevitability to it by the time it reached Illinois, and its intensity was nowhere near that of the 2008 or 2016 primaries when presidential candidates with local ties pushed interest and turnout to very high levels. And while there were certain local and congressional races of significance, overall the contests and issues were not such a compelling group that a lower turnout would have been a surprise. Throw in a pandemic scare and 33% is actually an impressive number.

But for our purposes, there was no particular characteristic of the turnout that had any unusual impact on the judicial contests. For instance, the dropoff-versus-completion rate for the judicial section of the ballot was consistent with previous primaries:

And let’s put to rest the claim that the turnout was racially disproportionate. Figures 3 and 4 cover the 2012-2020 primaries and show the relative proportions of the Democratic vote and total vote, respectively, coming from black-majority, Hispanic-majority, white-majority, and mixed-race wards and townships. Both figures show that the 2020 proportions were virtually unchanged relative to 2016 and 2018, and that no one group turned out in disproportionately high or low numbers this year.

No more one-trick pony

For some time now the “name game” in judicial contests has been evolving as the county’s demographics have changed. Irish names have slightly less value than in past decades, and names common to African-Americans (based on US census data) have gradually become nearly as advantageous as Irish names. And while in the past there had been too few Hispanic names on the ballot to evaluate statistically, the 2018 primary showed for the first time that Hispanic names can generate a substantial advantage of their own.

The March 17 results show these trends continuing. In fact, statistical estimates of name values produced for the first time ever a higher value for African-American names (8.9 points per contest) than for Irish names (7.2 points). These estimates have margins of error and in this instance cannot be called statistically different, but they do add to the evidence of a gradually shifting electorate. And Hispanic names did even better, with a per-contest bump of more than 12 percentage points.

The Irish-named candidates also hurt their own cause by virtue of their sheer numbers. In many contests multiple Irish names competed against one another and subdivided the name advantage rather than monopolizing it. This worked to the benefit of opponents--black, Hispanic, even Jewish—who were not competing against similar opponents and did not subdivide whatever advantage(s) they held.

Other factors

Sorting through the other major variables:
  • Gender remains a high priority among Democratic voters. The pro-female vote was roughly 15 points per contest, consistent with its long-term average. However, more than half of the judicial candidates on the 2020 ballot were female, and in many contests the gender advantage was subdivided. Several male candidates benefitted from this.
  • Recommendations from the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Bar Association and Chicago Council of Lawyers were worth a combined 9.5 percentage points—a lower amount than in most years. It’s likely that the sheer volume of coronavirus coverage in the media had a crowding-out effect against the dissemination of bar rating information and against its reception by the electorate. This would explain the smaller number. (The Chicago Sun-Times, for instance, gave less attention to bar ratings than usual.)
  • On the other hand, candidates slated by the county Democratic party received a bump of roughly 11 percentage points. This is slightly higher than the long-term average, and considering the severe drubbing of the party establishment’s mayoral candidate just last year, might seem surprising. But the party’s two slate-card mailings were sent with their usual impeccable timing, and with alternative information being less publicized, it may be that slating information partially filled a void. Purely speculation but plausible.
  • The first ballot position gave an advantage of roughly 6.7 percentage points relative to a non-first-position candidate. In a 2018 published article I explained how this is a bit of an oversimplification and that any higher position is better than any lower position. But as a single metric, the 6.7 figure is consistent with recent past primaries.
  • Campaign spending figures aren’t yet available and so will be examined in a future post. However, spending in countywide judicial contests historically has almost no detectable effect on vote totals, and in reviewing preliminary spending reports there is no reason to expect anything different this time.

The subcircuits

Subcircuit contests are more difficult to analyze because every subcircuit has unique characteristics and each has only a small number of contests to study. But overall the subcircuit results to add further support to the crowding-out idea offered above, with local endorsements and candidate evaluations appearing to be less influential than usual relative to ballot cues. For instance, eleven of the twelve contests with at least one female and one male were won by a female, and fifteen of the sixteen Democratic contests were won either by a female or by a male in the first ballot position. And several candidates who diligently rounded up local party endorsements appeared to gain fewer votes than expected from them.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Two final bits of fine print. To reiterate, the statistical estimates cited here do have margins of error, but all are considered highly statistically significant. Also, the estimates might change slightly when the remaining mail votes are counted, but unless those ballots heavily over- or under-represent different categories of voters, any such changes will be trivial.


Albert J. Klumpp has been a generous and frequent contributor to FWIW over the years. A research analyst with a public policy PhD, Klumpp is the author of several scholarly works analyzing judicial elections including, most recently, "Campaign Spending in Cook County Judicial Elections," CBA Record, Nov.-Dec. 2019 (p. 30)

Five suggestions to improve judicial evaluations and judicial primaries

A very strange, and hopefully unique, primary season is almost past -- there are still vote totals to finalize, and at least one judicial race left to decide -- but, while memory is yet green, we need to discuss what changes are needed so that the process will be better next time out.

My top five suggestions, in order from easiest to accomplish to hardest, are as follows:

1. We must jettison ratings of Qualified and, especially, Not Qualified.

If you, dear reader, have a valid Illinois law license, you are eligible to be a judge. The 1970 Illinois Constitution (Art. VI, §11) expressly provides, in pertinent part:
No person shall be eligible to be a Judge or Associate Judge unless he is a United States citizen, a licensed attorney-at-law of this State, and a resident of the unit which selects him.
For most people, eligible and qualified are essentially interchangeable words. If one is eligible for something, it is because that person possesses the requisite qualifications.

We lawyers parse words for a living. So we know that qualified can also mean specially trained or particularly competent. Qualified therefore means more than merely eligible.

However, in our legal system, there is no one recognized course of training for judges. Good judges come from many and diverse backgrounds. Also, and unfortunately, there is no certain way to predict in advance which lawyers will make good judges. Some persons with seemingly stellar credentials have made poor judges.

So the distinction, while valid, is not necessarily useful as applied to judicial candidates.

Expressed as a negative, it is even less helpful.

Judicial wannabes who fail or refuse to participate in the bar association screening processes are automatically rated Not Recommended. To my ear, and I think to many, Not Recommended does not mean not eligible. It means only that, because a candidate has not participated, the bar groups can not recommend the candidate for judicial office.

Not Qualified, on the other hand, strongly implies not eligible, at least to the lay ear. And it is presumptuous in the extreme for a bar group to say that a candidate is not eligible when the Constitution expressly says otherwise. At the very least, Not Qualified sounds worse than Not Recommended, and that is a terrible thing to do to a person who has voluntarily submitted his or her credentials for the intrusive screening process.

This is the easiest fix to implement because each bar group that needs to can do this on their own.

2. Bar evaluations should be released on a rolling basis.

This, I think, is another easy fix.

The bar groups do tremendous work contacting candidates, soliciting candidate participation, and, ultimately, investigating and interviewing and issuing evaluations for judicial candidates.

Joyce Williams, who coordinates the Alliance evaluation process, and Therese Kurth, who performs that function for the Chicago Bar Association, both do yeoman work in collecting and processing candidate questionnaires, organizing investigations and interviews, and managing the information generated. But the bar groups do not release that information to the public until early voting gets underway.

The reason for this is that the bar groups believe that this information will have the most impact if it is released only when all the evaluations are complete and as close as possible to the start of voting. And it is generally accepted that most voters don't think about their choices in judicial elections until the very last minute.

Of course, this year, news of the COVID-19 pandemic increasingly crowded information about judicial evaluations out of the news columns and public consciousness.

God willing, nothing like that will happen in 2022.

But early voting starts earlier and earlier each election cycle. Waiting until the last evaluation is complete means that some voters will go to the polls without knowing for certain which candidates have what ratings. (Candidates can and do publish their ratings on their campaign websites, and in their mail pieces, and anywhere else they can. But I have not published ratings until the bar groups have put them out. It's not that I think any judicial candidate would misrepresent their ratings -- but, without confirmation, I have so far refused to publish.)

Even though I realize that all the ratings can not be completed until shortly before the primary, I think the public would be better served if ratings were put out on a rolling basis. FWIW can still do the "grids" and the roundup posts close in time to the primary -- when most voters start looking for information -- but ratings, whenever published, are newsworthy. And in every election cycle it would be helpful to dispel rumors and outright lies about this candidate, or that one, being slammed by this bar group or that one. You didn't see the many comments along these lines left in my comment queue. But they were in my inbox, and I'm sure they were circulating elsewhere as well.

This is a relatively easy fix as well particularly inasmuch as I believe each bar association can release its ratings as it chooses.

3. Bar ratings need to be standardized.

Many bar groups have two positive ratings; other have only one. The Chicago Council of Lawyers has three (Qualified, Well Qualified, and Highly Qualified). The Chicago Bar Association has two positive ratings for candidates seeking election to the bench, but only one for those applying for Associate Judge.

As noted above, the first thing I'd like to do is change "Qualified" to "Recommended." That's not the kind of standardization I'm talking about here.

Should we all the bar groups have one positive rating? Two? Three?

I've been trying to get on the bench (with, obviously, zero success) since 1993. Over the years I've been screened and re-screened by the several bar groups on many occasions. During that time, I can attest from personal experience that some bar groups have changed from two positive ratings to one. In 2001, for example, on one of the many occasions that I applied for Associate Judge, I was rated "Highly Recommended" by the Women's Bar Association of Illinois. The WBAI dropped that rating some years ago. Conversely, I believe, though I won't swear to it, that others may have gone from one positive rating to two.

It's easy to see both sides here. After a candidate is interviewed, the members of each bar association judicial evaluation committee (JEC) vote on whether or not to recommend that candidate. Each group has its own rules but, generally, any candidate must get a certain percentage of positive votes in order to achieve a positive rating. If a high enough percentage of the voters rate the candidate positively, the candidate is deemed Highly Recommended.

Groups that have gone away from multiple positive rates have noticed that, if even one Pollyanna was in the room on a given evening, a lot of candidates might be found highly rated. The impact, for good or ill, of any single evaluator is clearly ameliorated by having more evaluators -- but one of the reasons that the Alliance groups banded together in the first place is that JECs are always in need of members. JEC work takes time and commitment. There are easier ways to pad a résumé. So, for groups concerned about unequal ratings being given out depending on which committee members show up on any given night, it makes sense to drop down to only a single positive rating.

On the other hand, having multiple positive ratings may be a good way to raise an association's profile, not just among judicial candidates but with the public at large. Being able to provide more than one positive rating may be an inducement for members to join a JEC. And, if having a super-positive rating encourages the electoral prospects of that group's members, that might be a side benefit.

For the public, which isn't tuned into the finer points of bar evaluations, I suspect that it may be confusing when one group issues a Highly Recommended Rating while another says that Recommended is its highest possible rating.

Right now, a majority of the bar groups issue two (or more) positive ratings. With the caveat that I'd like to see all the bar groups beef up the ranks of their JECs, I think it would be best if every bar group offered two positive ratings.

This is a more difficult reform because the various bar groups would have to agree among themselves.

4. JECs need training to develop common standards for evaluation of judicial candidates.

There are now 12 Alliance bar groups. With the Chicago Bar Association, that's 13 different groups issuing ratings for judicial candidates. It makes no sense to have all these groups if they are not permitted to differ in their opinions. But there is no consensus or coordination among the groups as to what makes a good judicial candidate.

Many groups are concerned about a candidate's experience with "complex" litigation -- but is there any shared understanding as to what is, or is not sufficiently "complex"? Why does "recent" experience matter more than the totality of a career? Why do some bar groups find it problematic when a candidate has only civil law experience or only criminal law experience? (When I was a baby lawyer, I saw for myself how some judges in DuPage and McHenry Counties had both civil and criminal cases on their calls. But that was a long time ago now -- and never, over the course of my career, have Cook County judges been obliged to do this kind of double duty. A judge without criminal law experience might be assigned to a criminal courtroom -- but not without resources, such as a bench book, or the assistance of colleagues. And a newbie judge from a criminal law background might receive a civil assignment, too. But, chances are, a newer judge coming over from the criminal court would have the opportunity to get his or her feet wet on the 11th floor or in some other Municipal courtrooms; he or she would not be hearing medical malpractice jury cases on Day One.)

Because of the confidentiality of the judicial evaluation process, JEC members don't necessarily have a lot of opportunity to share their experiences or concerns or questions.

Here's where a CLE course or two in predicting performance on the bench might be very handy. The bar groups could make it mandatory for JEC members -- and free, too, at least for persons committing to serve on a JEC for the coming year (which might be a good way to pick up some new members). And the courses could serve as a great clearinghouse for the exchange of ideas, for coordination, and for standardization. There would still be 13 voices in the choir, but they might be singing from a common hymnal.

Clearly, this would be a tougher reform than the first two. Not only would the many bar groups have to agree that a CLE for JEC members is a good idea, a course or two would have to be designed and pass muster with the MCLE Board. But it could be very helpful, for the bench and bar and public alike.

5. Judicial primaries must be made nonpartisan.

This would be the toughest fix of all.

The General Assembly would have to implement this reform -- and reform and Springfield don't always go well together in the same sentence.

On the other hand, what kind of a crazy world is it where we have allegedly nonpartisan primaries for the Mayor of Chicago and Chicago City Council -- but partisan primaries for judges?

Now, inasmuch as the Democratic Party has huge majorities in both the Illinois House and Senate, I suppose it doesn't hurt to emphasize that switching to nonpartisan primaries in Chicago municipal elections did not exactly lead to a Republican renaissance in our fair city. And there is no reason to suppose that this would that happen in the County Cook generally if judicial races were also made nonpartisan.

But, from my perspective, the real benefit is that we would no longer disenfranchise Cook County primary voters who fail to take a Democratic ballot. Also, if we go to a jungle primary system for judicial races, we might have more contests in the November general election. That's when the most voters come out.

If we're going to have judicial elections, we should find a way as many voters as possible to participate in them.

But, right now, the truth is, in Cook County, nearly every single judicial race was decided in the Democratic primary. There are no Republican judicial candidates in Cook County except for one judgeship each in the 12th and 13th Subicrcuits. With those two exceptions, when Cook County voters go to the polls in November, they'll have exactly no opportunity to say in who serves in our courts. How does that inspire confidence in our courts?

In races for Chicago alderman, if no candidate receives a majority in the primary, the top two finishers face off in the general election. Why not do that with judicial elections, too? There were several judicial races this year (as in every year) where the winner in a multi-candidate race achieved nowhere near an actual majority of the votes cast. It would be tough on those candidates to have to face off against their nearest challenger again in November. But it would surely increase interest among voters in general. It might even spark some interest in the media.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Three employees of the Chief Judge's Office have tested positive for COVID-19

The most recent employee to test positive for the virus, who last came to work on March 16, works for the Adult Probation Department on the lower level of the Leighton Criminal Court Building, according to a statement issued yesterday afternoon by the Office of the Chief Judge.

Yesterday's announcement follows another on Wednesday, in which it was disclosed that another Adult Probation Department employee, also working on the lower level of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, and an Office of the Chief Judge employee working on the the 23rd floor of the Daley Center, tested positive for COVID-19. These employees last reported for work on March 13.

Deep cleanings of the areas where these employees worked have been requested.

The Chief Judge's Office advises that Human Resources personnel will contact any individuals identified as having had contact with any of these employees.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Supreme Court results illustrated

The color palette may change slightly when the outstanding mail-in votes are fully counted, but this gives a pretty fair picture of where the Supreme Court candidates found support in last week's primary.

Courtesy of FrankCalabrese.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Guest post: Sean Tenner analyzes the primary results

Today I turn the microphone over to 46th Ward Committeeman Sean Tenner for his take on the primary election that, believe it or not, took place only one week ago.

This was truly an election unlike any other, and I appreciate Jack’s willingness to allow me to share a few thoughts, trends and lessons I observed from this most unique of campaign cycles.

Even in these challenging times, I am still inherently an optimist when it comes to elections. While campaigns get heated and elections are by their very nature adversarial, in the end it is the voters themselves that decide every race from the White House to the Court House. And in this 2020 primary election, even non-stop news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic didn’t deter approximately one million Cook County voters from casting their ballots.

Total Cook county turnout (City and suburbs, including GOP primary voters) stands at 941,744 as of this writing. However, estimates show approximately 80,000 vote-by-mail ballots may still await counting by the Election Boards, which have postponed processing them for public health reasons until at least April 6th.

To put this in perspective, let us consider that Cook County’s 2020 Democratic Primary turnout was significantly higher, even in the middle of a pandemic, than in the hard-fought 2018 gubernatorial primary. It did not reach – nor should anyone have expected it to reach – the levels of the 2016 Illinois Democratic Primary which came on the heels of Senator Bernie Sanders’ stunning upset win in the Michigan Primary (March 8, 2016) and a significantly tighter presidential nominating contest overall.

We must not forget that Hillary Clinton was not declared the delegate winner and presumptive nominee until June 6th, 2016. Conversely, this year I believe both Biden and Sanders supporters would agree that since Super Tuesday the media narrative has not portrayed the presidential race as truly competitive anymore.

So why, despite a frightening pandemic and a presidential race that the media portrayed as over, did approximately one million Cook County voters participate in the election?

As often in Democratic politics, the answer can often be found in the absolutely inspiring commitment of African-Americans to vote despite any obstacle that is put in their way. As I looked at strong early vote numbers coming in from African-American wards and townships in the lead-up to this primary election day, I thought back to powerful images of African-American voters in major cities standing in line for several hours to vote for President Obama or to participate in other historic elections.* And I thought back to the images of the civil rights movement when African-Americans risked and gave their lives for the right to vote. I also thought of the 2017 Alabama special U.S. Senate election (where I had the honor of campaigning against Roy Moore in his hometown of Gadsden on Election Day) -– which Democrats only won because of an astonishing 98% share of the vote from African-American women.

After everything African-American voters have had to put up with over the years, there was just no way consistent voters were going to sit this one out – not with so much on the line.** The Kim Foxx race was of paramount importance as was, of course, the choice of a nominee to take on President Trump.

Consider the suburban townships with the highest voter turnout percentages in the Democratic Primary. Oak Park (#1) and Evanston (#2) have significant African-American populations, along with a deep culture of civic engagement overall, with majority African-American Rich Township (#3), Proviso Township (#7), Calumet Township (#8), and Thornton Township (#9) close behind.

When we look at raw vote totals, the importance and strength of African-American voters becomes even more clear. Predominantly African-American Thornton Township cast the highest number of Democratic votes of any township or ward with 29,021. A close second was majority African-American Proviso Township at 27,604.

Looking at the City of Chicago, I am struck by the high turnouts in the majority African-American 4th (13,601 votes) and 5th (11,714 votes) wards. By the time vote-by-mail ballots are counted, both will likely have exceeded 40% turnout. Both may be among the top 5 turnout wards in Chicago. Two other north side wards likely to end up in or near the ‘top five’ also include significant numbers of African-American voters. These are the 48th ward (13,932 votes), which includes Edgewater, and my home 46th Ward (12,604 votes), which includes Uptown.

What did this mean for judicial races? African-American women did exceptionally well. Both female African-American Judges slated countywide –- Judge Sheree Henry and Judge Celestia Mays -– won. Kim Foxx won over 50% of the vote in a very strong showing –- though nearly every expert predicted a much closer race. Kim Neely Dubuclet, the only African-American woman running for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, was the clear top vote-getter in a field of 10. African-American Circuit Judge Sharon Johnson defeated slated Appellate Court Justice John Griffin and African-American Tiesha Smith, who was not slated, won the countywide Bellows vacancy.

At the top of the judicial ticket, Justice P. Scott Neville beat six other candidates –- including many who spent significantly -- in a hard-fought campaign and will remain Illinois’ only African-American Supreme Court Justice.

But these candidates were not the only winners on election day. The thousands of Election Judges and election support staff who worked 14+ straight hours on election day to ensure the right and ability of people to vote, in extraordinarily difficult circumstances, are true heroes. Everyone who ran, volunteered or voted is to be commended for doing their part for democracy in this most challenging of election cycles.


* Of course, no one should have to wait in line for hours to vote. Voter suppression -– and a lack of adequate funding for the running of elections nationwide -- is a very serious problem which needs to be addressed. But we will save that for another article.

** It is also worth noting that times of great tragedy and crisis often increase –- rather than decrease –- the propensity of people to vote, as voters realize the impact of government (both good and bad) to their lives. The 2011 study “Flooding the Vote: Hurricane Katrina and Voter Participation in New Orleans,” by Betsy Sinclair, Thad E. Hall and R. Michael Alvarez showed that “registered voters who experienced more than six feet of flooding were more likely to participate in the election than those who experienced less flooding.” In a similar vein, New York City voter participation surged dramatically in the municipal elections held after the September 11th, 2001 (itself an election day) terrorist attacks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

What will the mail-in ballots bring?

A few commenters have suggested that we need to wait for mail-in ballots to be counted before declaring victors in several Cook County judicial races.

There are, because of the crazy times we are in, more of these than ever. Perhaps another 71,000 mail-in votes are yet to be tallied in the City of Chicago according to the Sun-Times. How will these be distributed? How many of these persons requesting mail-in ballots actually returned them?

Supposedly, fears of COVID-19 notwithstanding, more older voters came out yesterday than younger ones. So are all the mail-in ballots from young people? Or do these also skew toward older, but more cautious, voters? Or will these play out roughly in proportion to the results already tabulated?

There are two subcircuit races that are achingly close insofar as we know now.

In the 2nd Subcircuit, Judge Sondra Nicole Denmark leads Felicia H. Simmons-Stovall, by 535 votes, 16,740 to 16,205.

The race for the Flynn vacancy, in the 3rd Subcircuit, is even closer. Lauren Brougham Glennon leads Regina Ann Mescall 11,504 to 11,343.

Mail-in votes had to be postmarked by yesterday and must be received by March 31 in order to be counted, according to the linked Sun-Times article.

Starting to look at yesterday's results: There's a disconnect in the numbers

According to the unofficial summary reports issued just after midnight this morning, suburban turnout was allegedly 437,841 out of a registered total of 1,570,127. That's about 27.89%. The City claims a 31.32% turnout, with 477,444 voters taking ballots, out of 1,524,598 registered.

Those are low turnout figures, to be sure. But only about 24% of registered voters came out in the City in the 2012 primary -- and only about 16% in 2014.

So there have been much lower turnouts.

On the other hand, my polling place was practically a ghost town yesterday.

Perhaps many voted early? That's the current story, and I've seen lots of anecdotal evidence, at least, to bolster the theory.

The conventional wisdom is that low-turnout primaries favor the political establishment, haves over have-nots.

And there's evidence for this proposition in some of yesterday's results. Frank Avila, dumped by the Cook County Democratic Party in his bid to remain a Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, was ousted yesterday, despite a favorable ballot placement (third on the ballot) and despite the decidedly unfavorable ballot placement of the slated candidates. Yet M. Cameron "Cam" Davis, Kimberly Neely Dubuclet, and Eira L. Corral Sepúlveda, down toward the bottom, but not at the end of, a long list of candidates, all outpolled Avila.

And the county Party did carry the day for State's Attorney Kim Foxx in perhaps the highest profile race on yesterday's ballot.

On the other hand, the Party could not carry Abdelnasser Rashid to victory in the race for the 1st District Board of Review -- nor could it win the day for Michael M. Cabonargi over State Sen. Iris Y. Martinez in a race for Clerk of the Circuit Court that can only be considered "high profile" among practicing attorneys.

The Cook County Democratic Party got 10 of 15 candidates elected in contested judicial primaries, including the retention of Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr. on the Supreme Court -- a .667 batting average, as I noted last night -- but, in the abysmal turnout year of 2014, the Cook County Democratic Party delivered victory to six of its eight candidates on the judicial slate. (I still think the real service the Party rendered to judicial hopefuls in 2014 was clearing the field for so many, so that there were an unusually large number of uncontested races.)

Was it the Irish Massacre predicted by so many of my faithful trolls?

Cristin Keely McDonald Duffy and Kerrie Maloney Laytin arguably cancelled each other out, clearing a path to victory for Tiesha L. Smith in the race for the countywide Bellows vacancy.

There's certainly an argument to be made that being an Irish male is no longer any boost at the polls (*sigh*). Michael O'Malley did not fare well in his race (for the McCarthy vacancy) against Judge Teresa Molina. Former Judge John O'Meara lost decisively to Laura Ayala-Gonzalez in the race for the Ford vacancy. Dan Walsh was not much of a factor in the race for the countywide Murphy Gorman vacancy.

In the race for the Funderburk vacancy, Daniel L. Collins ran against three women, two with Irish surnames -- supposedly a sure winning strategy, at least if you read the comments here -- which actual voters evidently did not. In that race, Jacqueline Marie Griffin and Mary Therese Quinn arguably cancelled each other out, clearing the way for Associate Judge Celestia L. Mays to reclaim her full circuit judgeship.

And in the race for the Larsen vacancy, Suzanne Therese McEneely and Megan Kathleen Mulay may also have cancelled each other out, assuring victory for Judge Levander "Van" Smith, Jr.

Jennifer Patricia Callahan's bid for the Mason vacancy might have been hampered by Bonnie Carol McGrath's presence on the ballot. Slated candidate Chris Stacey had only a slim margin over Callahan.

On the other hand, Kelly Marie McCarthy won her race for the Coghlan vacancy even though one of her three opponents was Elizabeth "Beth" Ryan. Elizabeth Anne Walsh won her race for the O'Brien vacancy and Lorraine Mary Murphy won her race for the Roti vacancy. And, while they weren't reliant on green and white billboards, Maura McMahon Zeller and Jill Rose Quinn both prevailed in their races for the C. Sheehan and K. Sheehan vacancies, respectively.

But I submit that it is not Irish names per se that matter anyway, but familiar ones. Think about the LaRouchie takeover of the Democratic statewide ticket in 1986, when Janice Hart beat Aurie Pucinski for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State and Mark Fairchild beat George Sangmeister for the nomination for Lieutenant Governor.

Women continue to do better than men in judicial races. Thus, in a race between candidates with familiar-sounding surnames, Judge Sharon O. Johnson bested Justice John Griffin. This is not to ignore the voters who came out specifically to support either candidate, and surely that was the majority of voters in this race. But those who braved the COVID-19 scare to specifically support candidates in other races, and had no favorites in this one, would have favored Johnson over Griffin.

And I further submit that we need to adjust our thinking to admit that the universe of 'familiar sounding' (and therefore 'good' ballot names) now includes familiar Hispanic surnames. Martinez. Gonzalez. Ramos.

The trolls will want to turn the race for the Appellate Court Neville, Jr. vacancy into a story of Maureen Patricia O'Leary cancelling out Judge Carolyn J. Gallagher. However, Judge Sandra G. Ramos did better than either of them in City and suburbs both. Justice Michael B. Hyman had the official support of the Cook County Democratic Party and the Tribune endorsement, two benefits at least that Collins did not have in his quest for the Funderburk Circuit Court seat.

Dr. Klumpp may offer quantification of these factors for this election at some point, but the factors are evident to even my untrained eye.

Turnout was bad generally, but worse in some places than others.

There is well-recognized phenomenon of ballot dropoff. In a given election, if 100,000 take a ballot, maybe only 80,000 or 85,000 will see it through clear to the end. When all the numbers are crunched, I expect that more people will have voted in the State's Attorney's race than in any of the judicial contests. More people will have voted for the Supreme Court vacancy than for their respective subcircuit candidates (if any).

But let's look at voting figures in the subcircuits.

The lines have not been redrawn in the Cook County subcircuits since they were set up in 1990. (They will be redrawn after the pending Census.) So populations have shifted, arguably, as well as demographics. Not all subcircuits are created equal, at least not any longer.

But in the all-suburban 12th Subcircuit, there were a total of 52,069 votes cast in the Democratic primary, and another 10,387 in the Republican primary. Only 38,733 made it all the way down the Democratic ballot to the Hanlon vacancy. We need that number for an apples-to-apples comparison because the City of Chicago report does not tell us how many ballots were taken in any given subcircuit; it just reports the votes tabulated in each subcircuit race.

In the all-Chicago 8th Subcircuit, some 52,195 voters made their choices known in the race for the contested Fleming vacancy. Just under 39,000 voters made it to the bottom of the ballot in the all-Chicago 6th Subcircuit (38,680 voting in the Nega vacancy, 38,990 voting in Pantle vacancy).

But in the 14th Subcircuit, which is mostly in the City but has some suburban precincts, fewer than 29,000 voters made it to the subcircuit races (28,415 votes case in the race for the Bertucci vacancy, 28,614 in the race for the Lacy vacancy).

In my home subcircuit, the 10th, a largely City subcircuit which also stretches into the suburbs, 47,319 voters made it to the McGing vacancy, and 45,037 voters made it all the way to the O'Brien vacancy.

The one thing I'm sure of, but don't know how to prove, is that, but for the COVID-19 disruption, there would have been more voters yesterday and some results would likely have been different.

Cushing wins in the 9th Subcircuit

Judge Thomas M. Cushing finished third in City voting in the race for the Axelrood vacancy in the 9th Subcircuit, coming in behind both Pamela "Pam" Stratigakis and former State Sen. Ira I. Silverstein, but he dominated in suburban returns, ultimately finishing ahead of Stratigakis in the overall result by just over 2,000 votes.

Appointed Judges Fallon and Patton win at either end of the county

Judge Patricia M. Fallon won an outright majority of votes cast in her north suburban 12th Subcircuit race, turning back two challengers.

Meanwhile, at the other end of County Cook, in the 15th Subcircuit, Judge Nichole C. Patton bested her sole challenger.

In the northwest suburban 13th Subcircuit, an appointed judge seeking confirmation at the polls did not fare as well: Susanne Michele Groebner, who ran last time out as a Republican, bested Judge Michael P. Gerber, who also ran as a Republican last time out, and three other candidates to win the Democratic nomination for the Kulys Hoffman vacancy. Joe Gump, a former Assistant Public Defender, who had run for judge before in 1996 and 2008 (as a Democrat), finished second.

Groebner will face Gary William Seyring, the winner of the one and only Republican judicial primary in Cook County, in November. In the 13th Subcircuit Republican primary, Seyring handily defeated first-time judicial candidate Angel Garcia.

Seyring was a Republican nominee for judge in a 13th Subcircuit race in 2018, where he came up short against Judge Ketki "Kay" Steffen.

There will also be a judicial contest on the ballot for 12th Subcircuit in November. Frank R. DiFranco was unopposed for the Republican nomination there. DiFranco and Judge Fallon will face off in the fall.

Cliffhanger in 3rd Subcircuit

Regina Ann Mescall had 11,119 votes, but Lauren Brougham Glennon had 11,319 at last count -- a true cliffhanger for the Flynn vacancy in the 3rd Subcircuit with nearly all precincts reported.

This one may take awhile to resolve.

Pamela Reaves-Harris wins 7th Subcircuit seat

Marcia O'Brien Conway won the suburban precincts, but Pamela Reaves-Harris' margin in the City of Chicago was more than enough to carry her to victory in the crowded 7th Subcircuit race.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Jill Rose Quinn wins, county Democratic Party slate bats .667

Jill Rose Quinn, the first transgender candidate ever slated by the Cook County Democratic Party, won the race for the K. Sheehan vacancy handily.

It was, on balance, a pretty good night for the party slate.

Let's look at the results.
Bellows vacancy - Party loss - Tiesha L. Smith beat slated Judge Kerrie Maloney Laytin
Coghlan vacancy - Party loss - Kelly Marie McCarthy beat slated Judge James T. Derico, Jr.
Ford vacancy - Party win for Laura Ayala-Gonzalez
Funderburk vacancy - Party win for Judge Celestia L. Mays
Larsen vacancy - Party win for Judge Levander "Van" Smith, Jr.
Mason vacancy - Party win for Chris Stacy
McCarthy vacancy - Party win for Judge Teresa Molina
Murphy Gorman vacancy - Party win for Judge Sheree Desiree Henry
O'Brien vacancy - Party loss - Elizabeth Anne Walsh beat slated Judge Lloyd James Brooks
Roti vacancy - Party loss - Lorraine Mary Murphy beat slated Araceli Reyes De La Cruz
C. Sheehan vacancy - Party win for Maura McMahon Zeller
K. Sheehan vacancy - Party win for Jill Rose Quinn
So that's eight out of 12 in contested races.

The Democratic Party's slated candidates split in the races for the Appellate Court, but Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr., the Party's slated candidate, held his seat on the Supreme Court.

So call it 10 out of 15 in contested races -- that's a .667 batting average.

Not a sure thing, by any means, but pretty darn good in any league.

Henry will hold the Murphy Gorman vacancy

The Illinois Supreme Court appointed Judge Sheree Desiree Henry to the Murphy Gorman vacancy and the Cook County Democratic Party slated her.

Tonight she was elected, turning back three challengers, winning an outright majority in City returns and nearly 50% in suburban returns.

Levander "Van" Smith, Jr. leads in the race for the Larsen vacancy

The Illinois Supreme Court appointed Levander "Van" Smith, Jr. to the countywide Larsen vacancy. The Cook County Democratic Party slated him for that vacancy.

But Smith gave up the vacancy -- though not the slating -- to accept appointment as an associate judge a few months back.

Now it appears that he will be elected to fill the vacancy he stepped away from.

Smith has a comfortable lead in both the City and suburban returns reported so far over Suzanne Therese McEneely and Megan Kathleen Mulay.

Tiesha L. Smith leads in the race for the countywide Bellows vacancy

There are three candidates in this race. Appointed Judge Kerrie Maloney Laytin was the Cook County Democratic Party's slated candidate.

The three candidates split the votes fairly equally in the suburbs, but in the City, Tiesha L. Smith has a nearly 30,000 vote lead over Cristin Keely McDonald Duffy, 33,000 more than Judge Laytin.

The City is reporting 77.72% of precincts reporting at this point.

Hyman, Johnson apparent winners in Appellate Court races

Judge Sharon O. Johnson has maintained a narrow margin over appointed Justice John Griffin in the race for the Simon vacancy on the Appellate Court. Her margin in City returns is substantial. With 77.72% of City precincts reporting and 95% of the suburban votes counted, Johnson leads Griffin, 256,248 to 228,159.

In the race for the Appellate Court's Neville, Jr. vacancy, Justice Michael B. Hyman has 160,899 votes to 138,376 votes for Judge Sandra Gisela Ramos. Maureen Patricia O'Leary is running third in that race.

Griffin and Hyman were the slated candidates of the Cook County Democratic Party.

McAuley election results

There were several graduates of Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School on Chicago's Southwest Side on today's judicial ballot.

McAuley graduate Elizabeth Anne Walsh appears headed to victory in the race for the O'Brien vacancy. Her margin is less than 6,000 votes in the City, but she has a better than 19,000 vote margin in the suburbs.

Other McAuley graduates have not fared as well. McAuley graduate Elizabeth "Beth" Ryan is running second to Kelly Marie McCarthy in both the City and suburbs for the Coghlan vacancy. An appointed judge, Judge James T. Derico, was the Cook County Democratic Party's slated candidate in that race.

McAuley graduate Jacqueline Marie Griffin ran second to Judge Celestia L. Mays in both the City and suburbs. Mays was the Cook County Democratic Party's slated candidate.

Another McAuley graduate, Jennifer Patricia Callahan, is running a strong second in the race for the countywide Mason vacancy. Slated candidate Chris Stacey has 120,547 votes, City and suburbs, to Callahan's 114,488.

Maura McMahon Zeller, the Cook County Democratic Party's slated candidate for the C. Sheehan vacancy, has a significant lead over Deidre Baumann and former Judge Russell W. Hartigan. An FWIW commenter claimed Zeller is also a McAuley graduate, although I can not confirm this.

Zeller, Walsh, Ryan, and Callahan were all endorsed by the Chicago Federation of Labor in this primary.

Two of the three slated countywide Latinas are likely winners

Laura Ayala-Gonzalez is well ahead, in both the City and suburbs, over U. O'Neal and former Judge John O'Meara in the race for the countywide Ford vacancy.

Teresa Molina is well ahead of Michael O'Malley in both the City and suburbs in the race for the countywide McCarthy vacancy.

But the third Latina slated by the Cook County Democratic Party, Araceli Reyes De La Cruz, appears to be running well behind Lorraine Mary Murphy for the countywide Roti vacancy. De La Cruz has a narrow edge in the City, but Murphy holds a commanding lead in suburban returns.

Suburbs giving Justice Neville a lead in the Supreme Court race

Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr. and Appellate Court Justice Jesse G. Reyes are running neck and neck in the City but, when the suburban votes are added in, Neville has 105,847 votes to Reyes' 95,190.

Mescall, Glennon emerging from the field in crowded 3rd Subcircuit race

Regina Ann Mescall leads Lauren Brougham Glennon, 6,410 to 6,202 in the crowded race for the Flynn vacancy in the 3rd Subcircuit. David A. Bonoma leads the rest of the field.

Judge Erin Haggerty Antonietti is leading comfortably in the race for the Murphy vacancy in the 3rd Subcircuit.

Judge Sondra Nicole Denmark in 2nd Subcircuit cliffhanger

Felicia H. Simmons-Stovall has a narrow lead with 74.45% of the City votes counted, but adding the numbers, City and suburbs, Judge Sondra Nicole Denmark leads Simmons-Stovall, 8,994 to 8,807. Sixty-one per cent of the suburban votes have been counted at this point.

9th Subcircuit results so far

Judge Thomas M. Cushing has 10,437 votes so far, City and suburbs, but Pamela "Pam" Stratigakis has 9,645 and the race for the Axelrood vacancy in the 9th Subcircuit appears too close to call at this juncture.

In the race for the Luckman vacancy in the 9th Subcircuit, Judge Michael Alan Strom is running well behind Julie Bess Aimen in both the City and suburbs. With 75.53% of the City vote counted, and 56.37% of the suburban vote counted, this race trending to Aimen. Basileios "Bill" Foutris is a strong third in suburban returns.

Dempsey, Marubio lead in the 10th

Maire Aileen Dempsey looks like a probable winner over John Garrido and slated candidate Jon Stromsta in the race for the McGing vacancy in the 10th Subcircuit. She has 11,508 votes, City and county combined, besting Garrido by 4,500 votes and Stromsta by over 7,000.

In the race for the O'Brien vacancy in the 10th Subcircuit, votes are scattered over a larger field, but Associate Judge Mary Catherine Marubio appears to have more than any of her competitors. Associate Judge Daniel Alexander Trevino, who campaigned with Dempsey, and Audrey Victoria Cosgrove are the closest vote-getters to this point.

Tristan, Tirado leading in the 14th Subcircuit

With 58.78% of the votes counted, Perla Tirado leads Judge Daniel O. Tienan in the race for the Lacy vacancy in the 14th Subcircuit by 3,000 votes.

Turnout has to be very low -- there are less than 10,000 votes counted in that race.

Meanwhile, in the race for the Bertucci vacancy, Judge Gerardo Tristan, Jr. appears to be comfortably ahead of Steve Demitro.

Justice Hyman has a significant lead in the suburban returns so far

It's enough, at this point, to put him ahead of Judge Sandra Gisela Ramos, who is still leading by just less than 800 votes in City returns (53.41% of the City votes counted so far).

Appellate Court races -- Griffin may be in trouble

At this moment Judge Sharon O. Johnson has a commanding lead in the City, 56.36% to 43.64% over Justice John Griffin in the race for the Simon vacancy.

In the suburbs, the margin is only about 750 votes, but Johnson is still in the lead.

Suburb numbers coming in

And with a vengeance.

And Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr. is leading the field in suburban returns, with over 59% of the votes counted.

Is it enough to overcome Justice Jesse G. Reyes' City lead?

Right now... yes.

While we're waiting for county numbers, let's look at City-only subcircuits

With 38.80% of the votes counted in the race for the Fleming vacancy in the 8th Subcircuit, Jonathan Clark Green is leading Bradley R. Trowbridge 54.6 to 45.4%. The margin is just 1,300 votes, give or take.

With 40.38% of the votes counted in the race for the Nega vacancy in the 6th Subcircuit, Jamie Guerra Dickler holds a roughly 600-vote lead over Anne Shaw, 52.58% to 47.42%.

In the other 6th Subcircuit race, for the Pantle vacancy, Eileen Marie O'Connor has 55.73% of the vote, well ahead of her two challengers.

No county numbers yet

I keep refreshing the screen... but there are no numbers yet cropping up on the Cook County Clerk's website.

Very, very early election returns

With 23% of the City vote counted, Appellate Court Justice Jesse G. Reyes is leading the field with 28.41% of the vote. Right now... and I'm sure this can't possibly hold... the results in the Supreme Court race, one through seven, are in ballot order.

The results are more jumbled in the race for the Neville, Jr. vacancy in the Appellate Court. Justice Michael B. Hyman is trailing Judge Sandra Gisela Ramos with only 23.20% of the City vote reporting. Maureen Patricia O'Leary is currently in third place.

In the race for the Simon vacancy, Judge Sharon O. Johnson has 56.37% of the votes so far counted over Justice John Griffin.

These are City-only numbers so far.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Start here for the most complete information about every 2020 Cook County judicial race

What Cook County judicial race are you interested in?

What follows is a list of the various Cook County judicial vacancies. Each contested vacancy on the list links to a roundup post about that race. Voters can navigate back and forth from this post to any linked contest on their ballot. Each roundup post will be updated as necessary, in some cases multiple times, right on up to St. Patrick's Day. Each linked post collects bar ratings and endorsements that I have been able to verify for every candidate in that race, and there are links that will take you to campaign websites, candidate statements, and questionnaire responses (if any) for each candidate. After you've looked a given race over, a link at the bottom of that post will bring you right back here.

I will keep this post at or near the top of this page in the days leading to the primary.

Please note that scrolling down this page will not necessarily get you to all the Organizing the Data posts. Some will be posted on page two of this site.

Please also note that not every endorsement that a candidate has received will appear on FWIW's roundup posts; I am only including those that I have verified. For more about what endorsements are included, read this post.

So, again, what Cook County judicial race are you interested in?
Supreme Court - Freeman vacancy

Appellate Court - Neville, Jr. vacancy
Appellate Court - Simon vacancy

Countywide - Bellows vacancy
Countywide - Coghlan vacancy
Countywide - Ford vacancy
Countywide - Funderburk vacancy
Countywide - Larsen vacancy
Countywide - Mason vacancy
Countywide - McCarthy vacancy
Countywide - Murphy Gorman vacancy
Countywide - O'Brien vacancy
Countywide - Patti vacancy (uncontested)
Countywide - Roti vacancy
Countywide - C. Sheehan vacancy
Countywide - K. Sheehan vacancy

1st Subcircuit - Brooks vacancy (uncontested)
1st Subcircuit - Crawford vacancy (uncontested)

2nd Subcircuit - "A" vacancy

3rd Subcircuit - Filan vacancy (uncontested)
3rd Subcircuit - Flynn vacancy
3rd Subcircuit - Murphy vacancy

6th Subcircuit - Nega vacancy
6th Subcircuit - Pantle vacancy

7th Subcircuit - Jackson vacancy

8th Subcircuit - Fleming vacancy
8th Subcircuit - Gubin vacancy (uncontested)

9th Subcricuit - Axlerood vacancy
9th Subcircuit - Luckman vacancy

10th Subcircuit - Allen vacancy (uncontested)
10th Subcircuit - McGing vacancy
10th Subcircuit - O'Brien vacancy

12th Subcircuit - Hanlon vacancy (Democratic primary contest only; Republican uncontested)

13th Subcircuit - Kulys Hoffman vacancy (contests in both Democratic and Republican primaries)

14th Subcircuit - Bertucci vacancy
14th Subcircuit - Lacy vacancy

15th Subcircuit - Griffin vacancy

Second Ward offers endorsements in Cook County judicial races

The 2nd Ward Democrats have endorsed Nathaniel Roosevelt Howse for the Illinois Supreme Court.

With that single exception, the 2nd Ward Democrats follow the Cook County Democratic Party's judicial slate.

In the race for the Fleming vacancy in the 8th Subcircuit, the 2nd Ward Democrats have endorsed Jonathan Clark Green. For the Nega vacancy in the 6th Subcircuit, the 2nd Ward Democrats support Anne Shaw.

The Organizing the Data posts are being updated accordingly.

This seems like a good point to mention (again) that, where a ward organization follows, or largely follows, the county slate in judicial races, I am not separately listing that organization separately in the Organizing the Data posts.


In theory, when the Cook County Democratic Party puts together a judicial slate, all 50 ward organizations and 30 township organizations are expected to support it.

If you've been following these endorsement posts over the last several days, you've noted that many ward and township organizations depart from the slate, often substantially. Those are generally the endorsements I add to the Organizing the Data posts. In some cases it may appear that a list of endorsements is longer, perhaps significantly longer, for a challenger than for a slated candidate. But with endorsements, as with many things, it's not how many you have, it's how much the ones you have are worth. We'll know how much any of these endorsements are worth in a little over 24 hours.

Hat tip to Frank Calabrese for the 2nd Ward palm card.

Back to "Start here for the most complete information about every 2020 Cook County judicial race"