Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Four more employees of the Chief Judge's Office test positive for COVID-19

I've been pleased to report signs that the world is getting back to normal as COVID-19 vaccinations become more widely available.

But it's not over yet: The Office of the Chief Judge has today announced that four more employees have tested positive for COVID-19. A total of 310 employees of the Chief Judge's Office have now testied positive since the start of the pandemic, including 110 Juvenile Temporary Detention Center employees.

Of the four employees newly identified, one works for the Adult Probation Department at the Juvenile Courthouse, a second works for the JTDC, and two work for the Juvenile Probation Department. Of these last two, one was last in the Rolling Meadows Courthouse in mid-January, while the second was last at the Markham Courthouse earlier this month.

In addition to the 310 employees of the Chief Judge's Office, there have been 21 Cook County judges who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, as well as 87 JTDC residents.

Advocates Scholarship Golf Outing set for May 14

The Advocates Society of Polish American Attorneys will hold its Second Annual Golf Outing on Friday, May 14, at Delbrook Golf Club, 700 S. 2nd Street, in Delevan, Wisconsin.

Golfers can check in at noon. The outing will be conducted in a scramble (best ball) format; shotgun start is at 1:00 p.m. The $100 per person ticket price includes lunch, dinner, 18 holes of golf, and cart access. There will be prizes in men's and women's categories for longest drive, longest putt, and lowest team gross. There will also be a raffle.

Reservations are requested by May 5. Checks payable to the Advocates Society can be mailed to Ann Melichar c/o Advocates Society 5214 W. Lawrence Ave., #4, Chicago, IL 60630.

Non-golfers are invited for dinner, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The dinner-only ticket price is $40. A cash bar will be available.

Sponsorship opportunities include:

  • A Tee Sign for $200;

  • Bar Sponsorship, which, for $500, includes a banner to be displayed at the bar, signage on the carts, and a complimentary foursome; and

  • A $1,000 Event Sponsorship, which includes your banners displayed during the golf event and at the dinner, signage on the carts, and two complimentary foursomes.

Donations for raffle prizes are also being sought and will be acknowledged accordingly.

For more information about sponsorship opportunities, or to confirm your sponsorship, call Steve Rakowski at (847) 204-4106 or Allison Pawlicki at (847) 942-4750.

Proceeds from this event will be used for the Polish-American Advocates Scholarship Foundation.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Chief Judge Evans: Trials and other criminal proceedings in Cook County have continued through pandemic

The following is a statement issued this afternoon by the Office of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans, reproduced here in full.

Recent suggestions that the criminal courts have not held trials, or have been otherwise inactive, during the past 13 months of the pandemic are based on misinformation.

The Cook County Circuit Court has held hundreds of bench trials during the pandemic. Criminal jury trials resumed last month, after numerous precautions and preparations by the Office of the Chief Judge to ensure the safety of both jurors and court personnel.

It should be noted that the vast majority of criminal cases are resolved before they go to trial. Nationally, 92% of felony cases are resolved through guilty pleas or dismissal of charges, while just 5% go to trial, according to the National Center for State Courts. In Cook County in 2019, of all cases that did go to trial, 10 percent went to a jury trial while the rest went to bench trials.

Between March 17, 2020 and March 5, 2021, the criminal courts authorized to conduct trials of felonies disposed of 7,897 cases after a finding of probable cause by the court or a grand jury indictment, which means that the cases were resolved through trial, a guilty plea, or dismissal of charges. In addition, the courts disposed of 9,767 domestic violence cases, and the remaining criminal courts disposed of 39,967 criminal cases, including felony cases resolved prior to a finding of probable cause and misdemeanor cases. A portion of the felony cases filed in these courts were transferred to felony courts after a finding of probable cause.

While the coronavirus pandemic has created a challenge for the operations of the Cook County Circuit Court, as it has for all parts of our society, the court has continued to administer justice through the use of innovation and technology. With 400 courtrooms equipped for Zoom teleconference hearings, the court hosted nearly 1.5 million hours of Zoom court sessions with more than 1.8 million participants between March 17, 2020, and March 11, 2021, in all divisions and districts. The court has not been idle, and is increasing access to justice as the community begins to re-open, with all divisions and districts preparing to resume jury trials as of May 3.

Bail reform, instituted by the Circuit Court of Cook County in 2017, is based on the constitutional principle that people should not be punished by imprisonment before they are tried, unless they pose a significant danger to the community. Looking at individual tragic cases in isolation may contribute to the speculation that releasing individuals before trial rather than incarcerating them -- whether by placing them on Electronic Monitoring (EM) or other forms of supervision -- means an increase in crime. But a speculation based on isolated cases is not the same as a reality based on a complete picture. A Loyola University study last November confirmed a previous internal court study that bail reform has kept hundreds out of jail, while not contributing to an increase in crime, and saved Cook County residents from having to post more than $31 million in bail in just one six-month period.

Regarding criticisms of judges releasing some individuals charged with crime to EM, judges are guided by looking at the criminal backgrounds of defendants before them. Only those individuals judged to pose a clear and present danger to society are kept in jail before trial. In determining whether to confine an individual before trial, or to set restrictions such as EM as a condition of their release, judges consider multiple factors, including the facts of the case, input from the defense and prosecution, and the Public Safety Assessment (PSA) tool. This helps to assess danger to the public by calculating the risk of failure to appear, risk of new criminal activity and risk of new violent criminal activity. During the pandemic, judges have also had to balance the risks of incarceration to the health of jail detainees, corrections staff, and the greater community, with more traditional public safety considerations. EM is used throughout the country as an alternative to incarceration pre-trial.

Once defendants are convicted of serious offenses by trial or through guilty pleas, most go to prison. For example, for weapons cases that did not involve murder and attempted murder but may have included armed robbery and aggravated battery with a firearm, more than 90% resulted in a conviction, either through guilty plea or jury or bench trial, according to a recent Circuit Court data analysis. Of these weapons offenses that involved a victim, almost 72% were sentenced to a term in prison, with an average sentence of 80 months.

A sign, perhaps, that the world is slowly coming back to normal

The Illinois Judges Foundation has announced that its annual golf outing will take place this year on Friday, July 30, at the Odyssey Golf Course, 19110 S. Ridgeland, in Tinley Park.

Here is yet another hopeful sign that, despite new viral variants, and rising case numbers, COVID-19's stranglehold on our lives, our purses, and even our tortured dreams may finally be lessening: With hopes fueled by increasing vaccination rates, normal events, like golf outing fundraisers, are being announced for normal times.

I can hear the hue and cry from those who want all judges dragged into the courthouses yesterday, and chained to their benches, without hope of release until all backlogs are dissipated. These unhappy souls would say that judges should not be setting up social events until their work is entirely caught up. What these folks miss (other than the income they would have no doubt enjoyed had the courts stayed open lo these past 13 months) is that the announcement of a live, in-person, social event, complete with beer carts (presumably), also means that normal, everyday events like regular work schedules, even jury trials, are also coming back above the horizon. Because normality will mean a return to work as well as play.

Of course, the IJF has not put out this Save the Date announcement as a beacon of hope for the pandemic-weary.

Actually, as you'll notice, they are looking for sponsors: Interested persons should contact either Judge Helaine Berger (ret.) or IJF Auxiliary Board Member Dawn Gonzalez to learn more about sponsorship opportunities.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Virtual Vanguard Awards Event on April 28

This year's Vanguard Awards ceremony will be held virtually on April 28, starting at noon. To sign up for the event, click here.

The Vanguard Awards honor the lawyers, judges and institutions that have made the law and the legal profession more accessible to and reflective of our community. In alphabetical order, the 2021 recipients of the Award are:

Hon. Tommy Brewer
The Chicago Bar Association

Hon. Gloria Chévere
Puerto Rican Bar Association

Hon. Michael J. Chmiel
Advocates Society

Hon. Megan Goldish
Decalogue Society of Lawyers

Hon. Sophia Hall
LAGBAC, Chicago’s LGBTQ+ Bar Association

Maggie Hickey
Women’s Bar Association of Illinois

Hon. LaShonda A. Hunt
Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago, Inc.

Hon. Toi Hutchinson
Cook County Bar Association

John K. Kim
Asian American Bar Association

Vivian R. Khalaf
Arab American Bar Association of Illinois

Mary Carmen Madrid-Crost (posthumously)
Filipino American Lawyers Association

Juan Morado, Jr.
Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois

Tejas Shah
South Asian Bar Association of Chicago

Virginia Yang
Chinese American Bar Association of Greater Chicago

Chief Judge Evans establishes blue-ribbon committee to advise on best practices for juvenile detention

Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans last week announced the formation of a blue ribbon committee of experts to examine current Juvenile Temporary Detention Center procedures and outcomes, "especially as they relate to room confinement."

“We want the best possible results for the young people who are detained at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center while awaiting the outcome of their cases. We want juveniles at the facility to have an opportunity to become better educated, better adjusted, and better able to become healthy and productive members of society once they leave the facility,” said Judge Evans. “To this end, we have asked esteemed members of our medical and justice communities to examine procedures at the JTDC and figure out what is being done right and what can be done better.”

The appointment of the committee came ahead of the submission on Thursday, April 15 to the Cook County Board of a report by the JTDC Advisory Board that makes recommendations concerning the Center. The report was requested by the board and follows a board hearing last December. The recommendations include holding hearings to examine how “punitive confinement” is currently used and stopping the use of “punitive confinement.” Citing independent reviews of the facility, JTDC leadership says that, as a matter of policy, punitive confinement is not used extensively at the center and is used only as a last resort.

The committee will gather information from other juvenile facilities around the country to determine best practices, as well as examine current academic research on the impact of trauma on the minds of young people.

The committee, which is in formation, will be chaired by Dr. Gene Griffin, a clinical psychologist and expert on childhood trauma with extensive experience working with children involved in the criminal justice system. He is a member of the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership and the Illinois Childhood Trauma Coalition, and also chaired the Health Committee for the Cook County Chief Judge’s Juvenile Temporary Detention Center transition committee. A former Cook County assistant public defender, Dr. Griffin is a retired assistant professor with the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Others on the committee were also members of the JTDC transition committee and are leaders in the health, education, juvenile justice advocacy, and legal communities. They include:

James D. Montgomery, Sr., J.D., committee co-chair
Managing Partner, James D. Montgomery & Associates, Ltd.
Assistant United States Attorney, Northern Dist. of Ill. (ret.)
Corporation Counsel, City of Chicago (ret.)

Paula Wolff, M.A., Ph.D., committee co-chair
Policy Advisor, Illinois Justice Project
Former Senior Executive, Chicago Metropolis 2020 and Metropolis Strategies (leader of the Justice and Violence Group)
Former President, Governors State University
Co-chair, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Public Safety Transition Policy Committee

Honorable Larry Suffredin, J.D.
Commissioner, Cook County Board of Commissioners, 13th District
Chair, Legislation and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee and Rules and Administration Committee, Cook Co. Bd. of Commissioners

Honorable Richard R. Boykin, J.D.
Former Commissioner, Cook County Board of Commissioners, 1st District
Bridge Builders Consulting & Legal Services, LLC
Former Equity Partner, Barnes & Thornburg, LLP
Former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Danny Davis

Beverly J. Butler, Ed.D.
Special Assistant for JTDC Transition, Office of the Chief Judge
Chicago Public Schools, Teacher and Administrator (ret.)

Frances G. Carroll, Ed.D.
Chicago Public Schools, Teacher and Administrator (ret.)
Member, Board of Trustees at the University of Illinois (ret.)

Edward Harrison, M.B.A.
President and CEO, National Commission on Correctional Health Care (ret.)

Marisel A. Hernandez, J.D.
Chairwoman, Chicago Board of Election Commissioners
Attorney, Jacobs, Burns, Orlove and Hernandez

Samuel V. Jones, J.D.
Professor, UIC John Marshall Law School
Police Officer and Judge Advocate, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps (ret.)
U.S. Marines (ret.)

Dr. Barbara Radner, Ph.D, M.S.T.
Educational Consultant
Former Executive Director, Polk Bros. Foundation Center for Urban Education, DePaul University Chicago

Michael J. Rohan, M.A., M.S.
Director, Juvenile Probation and Court Services Department, Circuit Court of Cook County (ret.)
Interim Director, Juvenile Court Clinic for Forensic Clinical Services, Circuit Court of Cook County (ret.)
Instructor/lecturer, Loyola University, Chicago Police Academy, University of Illinois at Chicago and the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Bryan Samuels, M.P.P.
Executive Director, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, a policy research center dedicated to improving the lives of children, families and communities

Dr. Robert T. Starks
Professor Emeritus
Founder, Harold Washington Institute for Research and Policy Studies
Northeastern Illinois University’s Jacob Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies, Politics and Economic Development
Chairman, Black United Fund of Illinois

Honorable Michael P. Toomin, J.D.
Presiding Judge, Juvenile Justice Division, Circuit Court of Cook County
Previous assignments: Judge, Illinois Appellate Court, First District; felony trial judge and Supervising Judge, Criminal Division, Circuit Court of Cook County

Illinois Judicial Council to co-sponsor Zoom symposium on restorative justice this Saturday

The Illinois Judicial Council and the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School will conduct a virtual symposium this Saturday, April 24, from 9:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. entitled "Beyond Punishment: Restorative Justice Practice, Policy, and Potential."

The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required; here is the registration link.

The symposium will explore how Restorative Justice can be implemented in schools, courts, and communities. Practitioners and theorists in those areas will discuss the state of RestorativJustice today and its potential. Judges, scholars, and community leaders are expected to participate along with "the Chicago community at-large."

The Criminal and Juvenile Justice Clinic provides legal representation to indigent children and young adults accused of delinquency and crime. The Clinic bills itself "as a national leader in expanding the concept of legalrepresentation to include the social, psychological, and educational needs of clients."

Here is the symposium schedule:

(If this schedule does not reproduce legibly on your device, try clicking here.)

For questions, or more information about the event, email

Friday, April 09, 2021

Illinois Bar Foundation to host "Virtual Authors' Q&A" on April 28

To be clear, both Appellate Court Justice David Ellis and Chicago attorney Christie Tate are actual authors; they will merely be appearing virtually for this one-hour Q&A, sponsored by the Illinois Bar Foundation, on Wednesday April 28, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. John McNally, the Managing Editor of Chicago Lawyer, will moderate the event.

Tickets for the program are priced at $25 apiece. For $40, attendees gain access to the program and a copy of either Tate's memoir, Group, or Ellis' latest offering (with James Patterson), The Red Book (Patterson usually gets top billing but he is not a member of the Illinois Bar). For $50, attendees can get copies of both books.

Sponsorships are available (Gold - $1,000, Silver - $500.00, or Bronze - $250). For more information about tickets or sponsorships, click here and follow the links. Proceeds of this virtual event benefit the charitable programs of the Illinois Bar Foundation. Ticket purchases, donations, and sponsorships of this event are 100% tax deductible. For questions concerning the event, or more information, contact Jessie Reeves at (312) 920-4681.

The Illinois Bar Foundation was established in 1951. Its initial commitment was to provide aid to deserving members of the Illinois Bar who, because of age or infirmity, could no longer provide for their own care or support. Since then, the Foundation has expanded its scope to ensure meaningful access to the justice system, especially for those with limited means, and to assist lawyers who can no longer support themselves due to incapacity. For more about the IBF's mission, click here.

Well-Being Week in Law starts May 3

The Institute for Well-Being in Law, "a 501(c)(3) non-profit that evolved from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being," is promoting "Well-Being Week in Law," running from May 3 to 7. The infographic above, taken from the organization's site, lays out a general schedule for the week.

Well-Being Week in Law (WWIL) is being promoted as an annual event, to occur in the first week of May this year and each succeeding year to "align with Mental Health Awareness Month in May." If you guessed it was tied into Law Day, you apparently guessed incorrectly.

Organizations participating in WWIL include the American Bar Association (ABA) Law Practice Division and its Attorney Well-Being Committee and the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Program’s (CoLAP) Well-Being Committee. Judging by the email I received from the Appellate Lawyers Association, I would guess the ALA is in on this as well.

Your personal invitation "to be a well-being champion" can be found by clicking here.

Organizers of the week note, "Too many in the legal profession struggle with mental health and alcohol use disorders. Many others, while not dealing with a diagnosable illness, still are not fully well. The aim of WWIL is to raise awareness about mental health and encourage action and innovation across the profession to improve well-being."

Monday, April 05, 2021

Tragedy tomorrow -- comedy tonight! Well, actually, on April 28....

The Illinois Judges Foundation, the charitable arm of the Illinois Judges Association, is going to hold its first ever (and perhaps first annual) Judges Joke program on April 28 at 7:00 p.m.

The virtual program will be free (although a "good will" donation of up to $30 is encouraged). Registration is required, of course, and is available from this page of the IJF website (where sponsorship information can also be found). Registrations must be made by April 27. A link to join the live program will be emailed on April 28, 2021, in advance of the 7:00 p.m. curtain.

The event will feature current and former judges teaming with talent from the legendary Second City comedy troupe in an effort to bring cheer to the challenging days of the pandemic.

The IJF has recently announced its cast for the event. In alphabetical order, the judicial cast includes: Dan Locallo, a retired judge from Cook County, who serves as the Secretary of the IJF; Brian McKillip, a retired judge from DuPage County, who serves as the Treasurer of the IJF; Marty Moltz, who currently serves as a Cook County judge and as a Director of the IJF; Michael Otto, a Cook County judge and Co-Chair of the IJA Pension and Employment Benefits Committee; and Joan Smuda, a former Cook County judge and a Past President of the Advocates Society.

“Thanks to these wonderful jurists, who auditioned and were selected to work with talent from The Second City, to show the positive role of judges in our community,” says Judge Mike Chmiel of McHenry County, who serves as President of the Foundation.

The IJF is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation working to facilitate various benevolent and educational efforts, including those of the Illinois Judges Association. In the fall of 2020, the IJF had a record demand for scholarship help from law students, and doubled its awards. In this pandemic year, the IJF has also sponsored two virtual tours of the Illinois Holocaust Museum for the IJA, and an externship program of the American Bar Association.

“We thought it was especially important to provide our Judges Joke program free of charge,” says Retired Judge Mike Bender of Chicago, who serves as Chair of the Donor and Development Committee of the Foundation. “Several folks have already committed to sponsor the program and make free-will donations, to cover the cost of the program and help with the ever-escalating demand on the limited resources of the Foundation.”

Chicago will continue to lag behind the State of Illinois in opening up vaccine availability

So reports ABC News, in this article by Marlene Lenthang entitled, "Chicago mayor defies governor, refuses to open COVID-19 vaccine to all due to uptick in cases." An excerpt:

Lightfoot noted that the uptick in cases emerged primarily on the North Side of the city in neighborhoods like Old Town, Lakeview, Lincoln Park and Portage Park, especially among 18-to-39-year-olds.

"We're not going to see anything more significant in the reopening front until we see those numbers stabilize and start to come down," Lightfoot said.

She blamed the spike in infections on young people resuming life as normal as the warm weather moves in. She tweeted Tuesday, "Folks, the pandemic is not over. Warmer weather is not an excuse to make reckless decisions."

This is craziness, and must end in tears.

Yes, the Mayor is surely correct when she says the pandemic is not over. Yes, she is likewise correct when she says that people should not act foolishly just because the weather is getting better. People, even 18-to-39-year-olds, need to take responsibility for their own actions. And to recognize, I might add, their obligations, not only to themselves, but to the rest of society.

That said, the only justifiable rationale for rationing vaccines has been scarcity: We gave shots first to those most at risk -- seniors in nursing homes, then to other old folks, first responders, teachers conducting classes in person, grocery store clerks. Old folks were most at risk for severe complications; they were the most likely to tax our hospital resources. The rest were a priority because they were most likely to spread the disease, even unknowingly, because many might not even develop symptoms.

Now others, no doubt chafing like the rest of us from the year's worth of lockdowns, are venturing out and about. They shouldn't be jumping the gun.

But the City should not be imperiling all of us, especially with contagious new variants spreading, by not doing something about it.

Look... the City, bowing to the anguished howls of the restaurant and hospitality industry, and to its own incresingly desperate need for tax revenues, has started to ease restrictions on restaurants and bars and other places of public amusement. Essentially, then, the City has invited the 18-to-39-year-olds back into the streets, even while scolding them for doing so.

If cases really are going up, and there's no reason to doubt otherwise, the City can either close everything down again... or vaccinate the people in the street.

Vaccines are not as scarce as they were in January, and every day they are less so. City Health Department workers should be flooding the streets where people are congregating, offering vaccinations to those wandering in and out of newly reopened taverns. Register them as they meander down the public ways, and innoculate them immediately, preferably with the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine so no follow-ups are necessary. Turn potential super-spreaders into viral dead ends.

Doesn't the City ever want this to end?

Free IVI-IPO Zoom program tonight on the "myths of carjacking"

Since no further details are provided, I will not speculate on the myths that may be identified and dispelled. To join the meeting, follow this link to register.

Meanwhile, from the HeyJackass! website, here are some statistics about the explosive growth in carjackings in Chicago over time:

Thursday, April 01, 2021

There really is a company called TimeSolv. However... this can't be a good marketing idea

My late mother-in-law was overly impressed with personalized marketing.

Every time she'd get a solicitation from an insurer, or a company offering to lower her property taxes, using publicly available information in its pitch, she'd call to tell us. "They must know me," she'd say, often with some wonder in her voice. "They know all about me!"

Sometimes, in her view, this was a good thing; sometimes it was frightening. She always thought it noteworthy.

In the modern day and age, most of us have become immune to personalized pitches. Immune and/or mildly resentful. My wife had me looking up different types of yarn for some projects she was working on recently, and for the last several weeks, I haven't been able to read the news headlines, or browse Facebook, without pushing past a number of ads for yarns, knitting patterns, and crochet patterns. I don't know which annoys me more: That the Internet provides ads based on my browsing history or that the Internet doesn't understand that I'm not the least bit artsy or craftsy.

But I got a new one this morning: I received an email from a time management software outfit called TimeSolv. The graphic above is from the company's website. It's apparently a Thomson West spinoff, with an excellent BBB rating and positive reviews and all that good stuff. So what, you say. Another ad? Don't we all get dozens, even hundreds of ads every day?

Well... yeah. Except this wasn't an ad. This email was bannered "Welcome to TimeSolv" and purported to provide me with my very own user name and password. And it had a link to click to begin.

We've all endured seminars on Internet security, providing advice on how to avoid embarrassment, or even discipline, by being more vigilant online. I didn't see any of the telltales on this morning's emailthat are supposed to alert us to a possible scam -- no slightly off email address, a telephone number consistent with the Minnesota origins of the company, no glaring grammatical errors in the text of the email itself.

Are the Nigerian generals' widows getting that sophisticated?

Who knows? Maybe this morning's email was legit -- but just really badly timed. Maybe someone thought lawyers like me might stay with, and ultimately pay for, time management software if we were automatically enrolled -- and, Lord knows, I could be much more efficient -- but sending the email on April Fools Day?


Bad things can happen when you click blindly on 'click here' -- as today's edition of Brewster Rockit illustrates:

I marked the email as spam. I will have to become more efficient some other way.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Technically, the judge was not 'carjacked'

And CBS2, which was among the outlets reporting the unnamed judge's misfortune, corrected the text of its article when it updated this story late Saturday. (Some initial accounts said the judge had been carjacked.)

According to the story, the judge "was near a business on the 3400 block of South Ashland Avenue around 11:55 a.m., when someone got into her car and fled the scene, after she left the key fob inside the vehicle." The ABC7 account (above) suggests the judge was pumping gas when the car was stolen.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Still time to enter Law Day Youth Civics Contest

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the Chicago Chapter of the Federal Bar Association are reaching out to educators, students, parents, "fans of American Civics", and aspiring filmmakers about their inaugural Law Day Youth Civics Contest.

Law Day is celebrated on May 1st each year and celebrates the role of law in our society and aims to foster greater understanding of the legal profession.

To celebrate Law Day, students enrolled in 6th to 12th grades are invited to submit a video recording which answers the question, “why are the courts important?” Videos may not exceed two minutes and must be the original work of the student/students.

Group entries are permitted, but if selected as a winning entry, only one prize will be awarded to the group. All members of the group must be in the same grade level cohort (6th to 8th or 9th to 12th), and each member must submit an entry form.

The deadline for submissions is 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, March 31, 2021. Entries will be judged on how they demonstrate understanding of constitutional principles, clarity and effectiveness in expressing the theme, and originality/creativity.

A $500 first-place winner, a $250 second-place winner, and a $100 third-place winner will be chosen from each grade level cohort (6th to 8th grade, 9th to 12th grade). The teacher or organization leader (i.e. scout leader or club advisor) who referred winning students to the contest will receive a $50 Target gift card for classroom or club materials.

Winners will be announced the week of April 26, 2021.

The fillable entry form can be downloaded here. Video entries and entry forms must be submitted here.

Here's the fine print:

Missing the submission deadline, providing false or incomplete entry information, or not residing within the district are grounds for disqualification. Entries by children, step-children, grandchildren, siblings of employees of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois will not be considered.

The Northern District of Illinois includes the following counties: Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, Lake, La Salle, Will, Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside, Winnebago.

Contest entries may be posted on court websites and materials, in the court history museum, and shared with outside organizations.

Questions about the contest may be sent to

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

41st Ward COVID-19 vaccination event kind of makes my point for me

This was in my email this evening.

No walk-ins. Appointments only.

No phone number for seniors to call. Only online registration.

Excerpt from Ald. Napolitano's email newsletter (emphasis and color as in original):

Appointments are required. If you are a Senior Citizen who has not yet been vaccinated, please click the link below to fill out a request form for an appointment. Appointment times will be issued randomly for March 30th. You will receive an email confirmation from Albertsons that will include your appointment time. Please be patient, it will take 24 to 48 hours to receive your email confirmation. Vaccines will be administered at Amazing Grace Senior Living located at 7432 W. Talcott Avenue. Our ward office will notify you if you do not receive an appointment.

I appreciate the efforts of Ald. Napolitano and the other elected officials who have arranged or sent out notices of similar events. I understand that they have to work with what the City gives them. But a lot of the intended audience for this item will receive notice only indirectly.... (*ring* *ring* Hello, Mom? Can I try and sign you up for a Covid shot on March 30?....) If one were really making seniors a priority, this would not be the way to do it.

Use 'em or lose 'em: Some facts and some observations about COVID-19 vaccinations

I truly wish the judges had gone somewhere other than Loretto Hospital. That said, however, there has been a lot of hot air expended concerning whether unused vaccines were at risk of being wasted.

I was recently directed to this article by Kwame Anthony Appiah on the New York Times Magazine website. (The accompanying illustration was lifted from that site.) In the course of answering a question from a 20-something reader about whether he should try and get in line for a COVID-19 vaccination, Professor Appiah provided some information that FWIW readers may find helpful (emphasis in original):

With anything perishable — whether it’s a head of lettuce or a defrosted carton of Covid-19 vaccines — you can have excess and spoilage amid an overall shortage. The minimum Pfizer vaccine order is a tray with about 1,200 doses; once the vials begin thawing, they have to be used in five days. With all the authorized vaccines, a vial, once opened, must be used within six hours — for Johnson & Johnson’s, it’s two hours at room temperature. Each Pfizer vial has up to six doses. Johnson & Johnson, which has a minimum order of 100 doses, puts five doses in a vial; Moderna will soon put 14 doses in each vial.

The point is that vaccines don’t come as “loosies.” Vaccination sites can misjudge the number of sign-ups, and even if everything is properly planned, there are sometimes no-shows. Even when a site has a standby list of qualified recipients, there will be occasional instances in which a vaccine will go to waste unless the eligibility rules are suspended.

None of this excuses Loretto Hospital arranging vaccinations at jewelry stores or suburban churches instead of in its own Austin community. And, as indicated, the vaccination site should have a "standby list" of qualified recipients to default to when extras become available. That's how my wife got her vaccination -- because she was a qualified person (a teacher) on a standby list. had a roundup item this morning on vaccine availabiity Downstate. Among the items was this one, from Metropolis, Illinois (about as far away from Chicago as you can get and still be in Illinois), saying that walk-ins are now being accepted for vaccinations there.

I wish walk-ins might be accepted here, at least when leftovers might be available at the end of a vaccination center's appointment schedule, but that's not going to happen here any time soon. So even a responsible vaccination center may have to face the prospect of wasting vaccine -- which surely is a sin and a shame when so many are so anxious to get it -- or else bending, or ignoring, eligibility standards.

The Washington Post had an interesting graphic article last August, by Harry Stevens, entitled, "A vaccine, or a spike in deaths: How America can build herd immunity to the coronavirus." My takeaway: Herd immunity does not depend on vaccinating people in any certain order; rather, it depends on getting a critical percentage of persons vaccinated. In other words, even when the "ineligible" receive vaccinations out of turn, the population as a whole is benefitted. That should not be seen as a license to ignore the priorities set by the public health officials -- but it is a reminder that there is a benefit to the public from every shot that goes into an arm. Any arm.

The other thing that should be kept in mind is that all of these controversies should fade into irrelevance as vaccines become more widely available. That situation improves with every passing week. Only, apparently, not as fast in Chicago as elsewhere.


Related: Rep. Ford resigns in protest from Loretto Hospital board (coverage on

Statement from the Chief Judge's Office regarding judges invited to receive vaccinations at Loretto Hospital

The Office of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans released this statement, reproduced here in full:

This is in response to press inquiries regarding some judges who are not in the county’s “1B” category receiving COVID-19 vaccinations at Loretto Hospital.

Judges who have received the shots were informed that the vaccines were already mixed and would be destroyed if not used by the end of the day, so they could get shots after 3:30 p.m., supply permitting. The Loretto Hospital website makes clear that COVID-19 vaccinations are given up until 3 p.m., so shots given after this would be surplus. Judges who received shots did not take shots away from other eligible persons, but used shots that would otherwise have been destroyed.

Currently, judges in Cook County who are under 65 are not classified as 1B, the group currently eligible for the vaccine. However, the Illinois Supreme Court’s position is that vaccines should be available for all court officials and staff that have regular contact with the public and others in congregate setting, and judges under 65 in many other counties have already been vaccinated, according to Supreme Court spokesman Chris Bonjean.

Despite multiple precautions taken by the Office of the Chief Judge to protect court personnel and members of the public during the coronavirus pandemic --which has included conducting most proceedings by videoconference and teleconference -- judges and other court employees have not been immune from this virus. A total of 282 employees of the Office of the Chief Judge and 21 judges have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

COVID-19 vaccination is to protect against a deadly virus, and judges under 65 who have been able to get these shots violated no ethical rules, but acted in a responsible manner to protect themselves, their loved ones and the public, while not taking shots away from others in the 1B category.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Updating: WBEZ had named the names of judges offered vaccine at Loretto Hospital several readers have pointed out, mostly in tones of outrage. Here's the link.

Here is the excerpt that names the names:

The 13 judges who were sent the email invitation from [Judge Diann] Marsalek were: William Sullivan, Susanne Groebner, Celia Gamrath, Michael Hogan, Athanasios Sianis, Krista Butler, Cara Smith, Daniel Tiernan, Lindsay Huge, Lynn Weaver Boyle, Patricia Sheahan, Clare Quish and Joe Panarese.

Here, however, is the bottom line regarding the alleged line jumping:

It’s unclear if any of them got the shots through that offer or brought others with them for vaccines at Loretto. WBEZ sent messages to all 13 judges and none of them would comment. Loretto’s CEO, Miller, said federal health privacy law prevented him from discussing specific cases.

The real news is that the City of Chicago has cut off Loretto Hospital from further supplies of City-controlled COVID-19 vaccines.

One might have thought that Loretto Hospital, at 645 S. Central, in the heart of a community hit especially hard by the COVID-19 virus, could be chastised, and publicly shamed, and thereafter more carefully monitored as it continued the vital mission of distributing vaccine in the area.

Of course, there have been further allegations about hospital management arranging to vaccinate people outside the Austin community, including members of the CEO's suburban Oak Forest church. I have received comments, some of them quite specific, that contend that nearly every Cook County judge had the opportunity to be vaccinated at Loretto, not just the 15 so far named by WBEZ. I have no idea what the City has been able to determine, but it is certainly possible that the City deemed the hospital beyond redemption.

The optics are bad for the judges. Granted. There is certainly an appearance of impropriety. Because the supplies of vaccine have been so limited, and there are so many people who so despearately want it -- and can't figure out how to get it.

But that, ladies and gentlemen, is the real problem here. None of this "excuses" the judges -- all of whom surely could have found ways to obtain vaccinations somewhere else than Loretto Hospital. But focusing on the judges takes the glare off the City of Chicago.

The City of Chicago has to take a huge amount of blame here.

Science teaches us that getting the vaccine into the arms of as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, will be the best way out of this mess. It really doesn't matter who gets vaccinated first in terms of developing true herd immunity. Only numbers count.

Common sense, empathy, and, yes, political reality, however, all demanded that we "prioritze" the vaccine rollout, especially because our initial supplies have been so limited: Vaccinating nursing home residents was the absolute first priority, since so many nursing home residents died from COVID-19. We could send people into the nursing homes with needles, and did, though not as fast as public health authorities wanted.

Communities of color were also hard hit by the disease, so it also made sense that the City would make these the next priority. But vaccines are still scarce, so the City had to limit availability, at least at the outset, to the elderly in those communities.

And that's where things went wrong.

And predictably so.

There is a well-documented inverse correlation between increasing age and decreasing computer literacy. And there is an equally well-documented digital divide or technology gap between Black and Brown communities, on the one hand, and European-descended communities on the other.

So... older people in communities of color are the least likely to be comfortable online, or even to have online access, and the City of Chicago rolls out its vaccination program for online registration only. No, you can't make a vaccination appointment when you pick up your prescriptions. No, you can't make a vaccination appointment when you see your doctor. Zocdoc is the City's preferred platform.

Is it any wonder that the City is lagging far behind the rest of the State on vaccinations?

And don't give me statistics about 'how many' have been vaccinated in Chicago as opposed to outside. Chicago is going to enter Phase 1C of the vaccination rollout on March 29, a week from today. The State says any resident 16 or older (Phase 2 of the rollout) will be able to register for vaccinations as of April 12. The City's target date for Phase 2 is currently May 31.

All public health authorities are aware that there is some... reluctance... some resistance... to vaccinations in communities of color. There are perfectly understandable historical reasons for this. So there was always going to be an element of persuasion in some areas in any large-scale vaccine rollout.

Why didn't the City partner with churches from the outset when starting large-scale distributions? Granted, the City had trouble getting some of them to close in the first place. And God forbid that some progressives miss any chance to forbid God.

But ramping up vaccine distributions through the churches would have given the churches the opportunity to resume operations, or resume full operations, and promote the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination, without computers. Older people would have had a level of comfort going to their churches for vaccinations that they'd never, ever get from Zocdoc. The politicians have no difficulty asking churches for help at election time. Why couldn't they have asked for their help on this? (And there are some churches now getting involved... not just those attended by officers of Loretto Hospital. Efforts were made along these lines in Aurora, for one example. Why couldn't it have been done here, too? And much, much sooner.)

Stepping down, now, from soapbox....

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Link to, and questions about, WBEZ report on judges getting vaccinated at Loretto Hospital

Updated March 19, 2021

A number of comments have popped up this afternoon concerning a WBEZ story, by Dan Mihalopoulos and Kristen Schorsch, posted yesterday on the radio station's website, "Cook County Judges — And Spouses — Offered Special Chance At COVID-19 Vaccine At Loretto Hospital."

I am grateful for the comments, because they allowed me to locate and post this link to the story.

One takeaway from the story, certainly, is that judges and lawyers generally are in Category 1C and, unless they qualify for a higher priority category because of age or underlying health conditions, judges and lawyers are not yet eligible for vaccination in the City of Chicago.

Inasmuch as the story does not identify the 13 judges and/or their spouses who were offered vaccinations from Loretto Hospital, and inasmuch as we do not know anything about the underlying health conditions of those judges, their spouses, or the two judges identified in the article, we do not know for certain that they were not yet eligible. That is the assumption under which the article proceeds, obviously. But the authors did not know, and could not know, about the actual eligibility of these individuals absent either a HIPAA waiver by the individuals involved, or a HIPAA violation by the hospital. There is a further assumption in the article that 14 judges and/or their spouses were in fact vaccinated on the evening of March 8. Perhaps they all were. Perhaps some were.

The only judge who was certainly vaccinated at Loretto, according to the article, was Judge James A. Shapiro. He was not part of the group invited by Judge Diann Marsalek, the acting presiding judge of the Cook County Circuit Court’s Traffic Division. I did see his Facebook posts, mentioned in the article, which, as I recall, expressed gratitude for his vaccination and encouraging everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Not suprisingly, those Facebook posts appear to be gone this afternoon.

But... isn't 'get yourself vaccinated as soon as you are able' the official, consistent, and unanimous message of all health officials?

My wife is a teacher in the Chicago Catholic Schools. She has been providing in-person instruction at her school since August. While teachers have been eligible for some time, slots for shots have been rare as hen's teeth. A nurse at a downtown hospital, who has children attending the school where my wife teaches, made arrangements with the school's principal: If shots were left over at the end of the day, the nurse would call the principal and the principal would reach out to teachers. That's how my wife got her shot: We got a call on a Wednesday night at 7:30; she could get the shot if we got there by 8:00. We made it with a minute to spare.

My wife was told that it was a fairly commonplace occurrence. Despite careful planning, there were always some people who didn't show up as scheduled. The bad weather last month exacerbated this situation. The bottom line with the vaccines is use it or lose it. It doesn't keep long once it's received, and once a vial is opened it must be used or discarded.

Now, admittedly, my wife was eligible when she was offered her vaccination. I offer no opinion about Judge Shapiro's eligibility -- but, according to the linked article, Judge Shapiro was initially told he was not eligible, but then he was called back. That seems significant to me.

The City of Chicago appears to be having some difficulty distributing COVID-19 vaccines. When the State of Illinois moved into Phase 1B+ on February 25, the City of Chicago lagged behind. Since all Chicago residents are necessarily State residents, too, it has been my understanding that Chicago residents, if eligible under State standards, are free to seek vaccines wherever they may be obtained.

The most disturbing allegation of the WBEZ story is the inclusion of spouses or "plus ones" in the vaccination offer extended to certain judges.

Not that it doesn't make sense, logically, scientifically, and from every other imaginable human standpoint, that persons desiring vaccine to protect themselves would also want vaccination for those closest to them. The bureaucratic mind, however, is hostile to every normal human impulse. And, whatever the rules may be at any given moment (and they are changing constantly), they are the product of bureaucratic minds, so anyone administering the rules would presumably know that "plus ones" would not be automatically included.

That does not mean, of course, that any spouses or significant others actually vaccinated at Loretto Hospital on March 8 did not otherwise qualify under state or local standards. It only means that they do not qualify merely because of their status as significant others. An open-ended offer by the hospital to vaccinate such persons, if made, would appear to be inappropriate.

The Biden administration wants every American to be eligible for vaccination by May 1. The State of Illinois announced today that all persons 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination on April 12. That skips the State from Phase 1B+ to Phase 2, bypassing Phase 1C entirely. The City of Chicago says it plans to enter Phase 1C on March 29 -- which would make judges and lawyers eligible along with other 'essential workers' and persons with particular underlying health conditions.

Though the City of Chicago hasn't officially moved beyond Phase 1B, all residents of Chicago's 9th Ward (and some residents of the 6th, 10th and 34th Wards) aged 40 or older were invited to reigster to receive the Pfizer vaccine earlier this week at the Pullman Community Center. That's not line jumping because the line was apparently redrawn by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

And the mass vaccination site at the United Center, operated by FEMA, was initially open to all Illinois residents 16 and older with an underlying medical condition, but the rules changed after the site went into operation and shots were limited to persons only from certain Chicago Zip Codes. Eleven Democratic Members of Congress signed a letter to FEMA protesting the change. The lines were drawn, and then redrawn.

That doesn't excuse any judges from line jumping, obviously. But, though WBEZ insinuates, it does not establish that any such behavior occurred. And the lines are perhaps a bit more fluid and confusing than some of the critics will acknowledge.

Perhaps the real story here is that the City of Chicago is not getting people vaccinated nearly as quickly as the rest of the State. Maybe there should be some inquiries into that.

On the one-year anniversary of our two-week shutdown

The retrospectives have been running for nearly a week now on the nightly newscasts, as we look back, and try to make sense of, the COVID-19 world in which we've been living for the past year.

The shutdown was looming as early as March 11 when the 2020 St. Patrick's Day Parades were all called off. Right before the primary? That was... unsettling. Then, on March 12, I ran a post just reciting the cancellations of various events I'd received in that day's email. They were falling like leaves from an oak tree on a windy day in October.

The Archdiocese of Chicago suspended the public celebration of Mass and closed its schools as of March 13. Governor Pritzker closed schools statewide shortly thereafter. I put up a post last March 14 addressing the widespread skepticism about the need for such draconian measures. By this time, the Circuit Court of Cook County had made its initial shutdown announcement, too. I noted at the time that there were only 46 reported COVID-19 cases in total in the entire state.

Those first few days were like a horror movie -- a good one, one where the monster is not revealed right away -- because the movement in the shadows, the inexplicable rustle of something in the darkness, is more terrifying than anything the audience can actually see. We heard ominous tales from Italy and California and Washington State -- but there really wasn't anything yet happening here (only 12 cases were reported on March 16; the very first COVID-19 death was not reported until March 17, 2020) -- and, yet, our lives had been abruptly stopped.

Stopped, yes, but not stopped entirely.

We had to do the primary first.

I was confused by the mixed messaging from our state and local leaders. At a time when we were told that every other normal activity had to be curtailed, the primary would have to go ahead. Why?

Looking back, my suggestion that the primary be reset for August would not have been helpful. The virus was much more than a rumor by August and it probably would have been more dangerous to stage an election then than in March. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

But, anyway, the reason why I submit that today, March 18, 2021, is the true anniversary of our continuing two-week shutdown is because, as far as I could tell, the real shutdown did not begin until the polls closed on the Feast of St. Patrick.

More than a half million Americans have died since. So many, many more contracted the disease. I know of one 2020 primary candidate who contracted the virus, as did that candidate's spouse. Another 2020 judicial candidate lost his father to the disease. I'm sure there have been others, but this is what I know for certain.

I also know that there are those---still---who contend that the number of fatalities has been inflated. There are widely shared anecdotes about persons in hospice on account of terminal cancer who also caught the virus -- and were therefore counted as a COVID-19 fatality. There are stories, perhaps apocryphal, perhaps not, of persons brought into the morgue with any number of bullet holes but whose blood, on autopsy, tested positive for the virus. Any such bullet-riddled corpse was allegedly counted as a COVID-19 casualty. Let us stipulate that some of the numbers can be whittled back in this fashion.

But if you take those persons out of the total, you must in fairness add in persons like the mother of a friend of ours. Past 90, she was moved into a different facility shortly before the lockdown began. Already confused, but in excellent physical health, she became lost entirely when COVID-19 protocols prevented her family from seeing her. She could talk to family members on the phone but she couldn't understand why they could not come to visit. Could not be with her. Despite her good physical health, she deteriorated rapidly and died lonely, confused, and hurt. She did not contract the virus, and is recorded in no one's totals, but COVID-19 killed her just the same. She was surely not the only one.

The 538,000 American COVID-19 deaths (to date) still pale in comparison to the 675,000 Americans who died from the Spanish Flu in 1918, especially when one takes into account that our national population is now more than three times greater than what it was then. If there were as many people living in America in 1918 as are living here now, all other things being equal, the death total from the Spanish Flu would have been around 2 million. And the Spanish Flu, like COVID-19, had a disproportionate impact on the elderly. But the Spanish Flu also targeted, and carried away, huge numbers of healthy people aged 20-40. Thankfully, this has not happened with COVID-19.

Objectively, then, by many measures, COVID-19 is 'not as bad' as the Spanish Flu was. Don't be suprised, though, if relatives of COVID-19 victims don't see it that way. And there is the very real phenomenon, too, of "Long COVID," persons who are afflicted with significant symptoms, including difficulty breathing, months and months after they have allegedly 'recovered.' (There is some exciting new evidence that vaccination is helping at least some Long COVID sufferers, but this is by no means certain.)

So COVID-19 has been bad. People will argue forever about whether things might have been better if we'd done this or that. Many of us acquired a new mantra in the past year: "Follow the Science."

Mr. Trump's baseless promises that the virus would just disappear, for example, were easy to mock in this way.

But the sad truth was "science" was all over the board on this one -- although it was understandable why. This was, after all, a "novel" virus -- it was new -- persons with experience dealing with flu outbreaks, or Legionnaires Disease, or Zika, or Ebola all had something to offer, but their experiences were not entirely transferable to the new crisis. It may be hard to remember now, but serious scientists, not just White House hacks or Red State governors, were genuinely divided on the efficacy of mask-wearing. The experts could not even agree that the disease could be acquired from airborne transmission. A lot of us had a lot of time to read a lot of serious, and seriously contradictory, scientific advice during the lockdown. Despite the contradictions and disagreements---and, I dare say, because of them, because that's how good science actually works---enormous progress has been made in treating the disease and, now, preventing its spread via vaccination.

Most of you reading this probably know at least some people who have at least begun their vaccinations.

So the end is in sight. Finally.

There are signs of life returning to our world.

It was eerily quiet by my Northwest Side home in those first several weeks of the shutdown. With almost all flights suspended at O'Hare, the skies were nearly as quiet as they'd been in those unnerving days following September 11, 2001. The Kennedy Expressway, just a couple of blocks from my home, usually provides a near-constant roar, punctuated, now and then, by CTA Blue Line trains. But with nearly everyone sheltering in place, that roar was not even a murmur.

The traffic noise is back now. It has been building, gradually, for a while. The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament gets underway today. Major League Baseball is back on track, too. Chicago will even allow some fans in the stands when the Cubs and the White Sox open play.

Our two weeks are almost up. And it only took a year. We could never have imagined that it would take so long. And that's probably just as well.

Chief Judge's Office looks back at the Year of Pandemic

The Office of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans released a press release yesterday looking back at the past year. FWIW reproduces it here in full:

The Cook County Circuit Court did not let a global pandemic shut down the fair and efficient administration of justice in the Chicago area. Instead, Cook County judges, working with public and private sector attorneys, clerks, and other court personnel, have employed technology, innovation, and a spirit of cooperation to meet the coronavirus challenge, resulting in 1,474,274 hours of Zoom court sessions with more than 1.8 million participants between March 17, 2020 and March 11, 2021 in all divisions.

The court also handled 894,991 motions and orders between March 17, 2020 and March 5, 2021, which includes adult criminal matters, plus most civil matters (not including the Child Protection, County and Traffic Divisions, or the Juvenile Justice Division).

A comparison of the total number of case filings and case dispositions in all parts of the court in the second and third quarters of 2021 shows how quickly the courts were able to recover after the initial shutdown in March 2020. In the second quarter of 2020, between April and June, 83,001 cases were filed or reinstated, while 44,648 cases were disposed, according to numbers from the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts. That made for a “clearance” rate of almost 54%, which measures how a court is keeping up with its case load.

The courts got busier in the summer of 2020, and judges and other court personnel were able to meet the demand. In the third quarter of 2020, 146,362 cases were filed or reinstated in all court divisions, and 126,862 cases were disposed, for a clearance rate of almost 87%. This compares favorably with the third quarter of 2019, which had a clearance rate of 73%. This shows how the courts got busier in the summer of 2020, and judges and other court personnel were able to meet the demand.

“The judges, lawyers, and court personnel have been tremendously creative, flexible, and good-humored in the transition to online proceedings,” said Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans. “I have been immensely proud at how willing and determined our judges and our staff have been to find solutions to continue to serve the people of Cook County while addressing the safety concerns posed by this virus.”

Both representatives of the private bar and public sector attorneys have complimented the Circuit Court for its response to the challenges raised by the pandemic.

“We had a chief judge who was amenable from the very beginning of the pandemic to the courts going virtual, and who was not resistant to it,” said Chicago Bar Association President Maryam Ahmad, a former judge who now heads the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Juvenile Justice Bureau.

“The past year has been jarring for people in the system as well as those working in the system, however, the flexibility and creativity of all the criminal justice partners during this time is extremely commendable,” said State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. “We continue to work collaboratively to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of all of those in the pursuit of the administration of justice.”

“Chief Judge Evans was instrumental in providing a process for the safe release of my clients from the jail, before the first detainee had tested positive,” said Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli. “We were able to be proactive, working together with the judiciary, State’s Attorney, and the Sheriff, allowing us to safely reduce the jail population by several thousand and literally prevent many deaths.”

Judge Evans singled out for praise the efforts of Michael Carroll, director of Information Services for the Office of the Chief Judge, who led the effort to install Zoom in all courtrooms and instructed judges and other court personnel in its use, and Eileen Heisler, administrative assistant for the office, who visited all courthouses throughout the county to aid in the transition to virtual proceedings and the planned resumption of jury trials.

“Zoom Rooms” were established in all courthouses to accommodate litigants who lacked access to videoconferencing or teleconferencing technology. For those who did come to the courthouse, personal protective equipment was provided to judges and courtroom personnel, social distancing was maintained, and no one was allowed to enter court facilities without a temperature check and passing a health screening.

The use of videoconferencing and teleconferencing for court procedures has been so successful and popular that judges are discussing continuing its use in some situations after the threat of COVID-19 lifts.

For example, the Hon. Judge Diann Marsalek, Acting Presiding Judge of the Traffic Division, plans to continue to use teleconferencing for minor traffic cases to save litigants from having to take time off work, spend money on transportation, and come to court to resolve cases that involve only fines.

“People like to move on with their lives,” said Judge Marsalek said of the division’s efforts to continue to resolve cases despite the pandemic. “They don’t like to be stuck in a holding pattern.”

In the Child Protection Division, the use of teleconferencing increased the participation of children’s parents “dramatically,” said the Hon. Judge Robert Balanoff, Acting Presiding Judge. He said that beyond the pandemic, the division plans to work with attorneys and other stakeholders to come up with a hybrid system to allow teleconferencing for some matters.

Another example of the flexibility shown by the courts is the sharing of duties among judges within divisions. In the Law Division, for example, since jury trials could not be held, judges that typically handle trials have taken work from judges who handle motions, in order to reduce their heavy burden and prevent a backlog, according to the Hon. James P. Flannery, Jr., Presiding Judge. Judge Flannery said that motion judges had been working up to 11 hours a day, since they also were doing the work of clerks.

The most significant impact of the pandemic has been experienced in terms of civil and criminal jury and bench trials. The court has not been able to hold jury trials, and the number of bench trials has been limited. However, the court is planning to resume criminal jury trials next week, and is taking extensive precautions to protect the health of jurors, judges, lawyers, litigants, witnesses, and other court personnel.

The Circuit Court of Cook County also has continued other reforms started before the pandemic, including opening two new Restorative Justice Community Courts in Avondale and Englewood to provide alternatives to incarceration and second chances to young people who are arrested for non-violent offenses.

“The pandemic, while tragic and challenging on many levels, has also been a source of education for the courts,” said Judge Evans. “We have learned something from it about the flexibility and the resiliency of judges, attorneys and all court personnel that will benefit us in delivering justice going forward.”

Numbers in this press release come from both the Circuit Court and from the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts, available here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Dr. Klumpp reports on 2020 Cook County judicial candidate spending

by Albert J. Klumpp

With the 2020 election cycle behind us, and with nearly all of the required candidate filings now on record, it was time for my biennial slog through the hundreds of campaign finance reports filed by judicial candidates here in Cook County.

As mentioned before here on FWIW, part of my research on judicial elections includes compiling campaign spending totals for all of Cook County’s judicial candidates. Originally these totals were gathered strictly to measure the impact of campaign spending on election results, but with the data set now covering every candidate dating back to 1980, it has proven useful on its own for examining trends in campaign activity over time.

As usual, my procedure was to review every expense item on every report, and calculate primary- and general-election totals for each candidate covering all relevant campaign spending. In calculating the totals, items reported as in-kind contributions are included, and irrelevant items are excluded (such as loan repayments that are technically required to be reported as expenditures).

Most likely there are still a few general-election expenditures still to be disclosed, on reports filed in the coming months. But with that minor asterisk, the figures are otherwise complete. Here is a summary of what they reveal.

Record setting spending for Supreme Court vacancy

The seven candidates for the Freeman vacancy on the Illinois Supreme Court spent a total of more than $5.4 million on their campaigns. Shelly Harris was by far the biggest spender at $2.1 million—most of that on broadcast media advertising—establishing a new record for spending by a Supreme Court candidate in Cook County. (Harris also holds the record for Appellate Court campaign spending, at an inflation-adjusted $1.1 million for his successful 2014 campaign.) Every candidate, though, spent at least $290,000 and six of the seven spent $480,000 or more.

Figure 1 compares the primary-election spending in the Freeman contest to that of previous primaries for supreme court vacancies in Cook County. The older figures are inflation-adjusted into November 2020 dollars to provide a proper comparison.

Lower Courts reach new high in spending in 2020

The remaining 110 candidates for Appellate Court (6) and Circuit Court (104) vacancies spent a total of $9.2 million. Two years earlier a total of $8.7 million was spent (coincidentally also by 110 candidates), setting a new high for a single election cycle. That amount was eclipsed in 2020.

The ten biggest spenders in Circuit Court contests for countywide and subcircuit vacancies were:

The most significant figures among the Circuit Court candidates are the record-breaking totals in the two general election contests for the vacancies in the 12th and 13th subcircuits. The total general election spending by the Democrat and Republican candidate pairs was $674,000 in the 12th and $491,000 in the 13th, both far above the previous record of $271,000 in the 12th in 2004 (or $369,000 in 2020 dollars).

Frank DiFranco, a Republican running in a once-competitive subcircuit that has voted increasingly Democratic over the years, obliterated the previous total spending record for a Circuit Court candidate (James Shapiro, 2018, $491,000 / inflation-adjusted $507,000) but fell just short of victory in the general election. Susanne Groebner also surpassed the previous record, running successfully as a Democrat in the historically Republican but recently more competitive 13th Subcircuit.

Historical Trends

In the November/December 2019 issue of the CBA Record, I presented an analysis of my spending data, focusing on how spending behavior has changed over time. Figures 2 and 3 are taken from the Record article and show, respectively, median spending amounts by decade and numbers of candidates spending $100,000 or more by decade.

How do the 2020 numbers compare to these results? Median spending by countywide Circuit Court candidates was roughly $47,000, slightly below the previous decade’s median; the figure for subcircuit candidates was roughly $49,000, slightly above. There were only six appellate court candidates, too few for useful insight.

Individual election cycles can be variable enough to make year-to-year comparisons difficult; this in fact was the reason for the charts displaying decade figures instead of single-year figures. So the median amounts are not necessarily revealing. But consider the numbers of $100,000 spenders: In the entire decade of the 2010s there were 101 candidates who spent $100,000 or more on their campaigns. In 2020 alone there were 30 such candidates.

Figures 2 and 3 show that spending is has become a bigger and bigger part of judicial candidacies in recent years. And while research has found that spending has only the smallest, barely detectable impact on election results in countywide judicial contests, this has not discouraged countywide circuit and appellate candidates from spending as aggressively as subcircuit candidates (who, research has shown, receive a far greater electoral return per dollar).

The 2020 figures, while not conclusive on their own, show no sign that the increasingly aggressive spending of Cook County judicial candidates has yet leveled off.


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, "Evaluating Judicial Merit Selection," in the November 2020 issue of Arizona Attorney (the link will take you the magazine website; you'll have to click around a bit to access the article). The CBA Record article referred to in the article above is "Campaign Spending in Cook County Judicial Elections."

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Gonzales case may answer the question of shills in judicial races

Some readers get aggravated with me from time to time, and never more so when the subject is "shills."

I accept the possibility that, perhaps, now and then, this candidate or that one has entered the lists at the behest of another candidate -- statistics show that, for example, in general, a male candidate will be disadvantaged in a one-on-one race with a female. But... maybe... if the male candidate can recruit one or two other women to enter the race -- just enter the race, without campaigning -- sufficient votes may be divided between or among the female candidates to allow the male candidate to slip through.

That's the theory, at least. In practice, it doesn't work out so well.

In a comment submitted to FWIW on a post last year, Dr. Albert J. Klumpp, a research analyst with a public policy PhD, and the author of several scholarly works analyzing judicial elections, stated that his research disclosed 33 instances of probable shill candidacies in countywide circuit court contests between 1994 and 2004. He found that "there were instances where a ringer meant the difference between victory and defeat for a slated candidate. But the success rate was less than 25 percent. So it’s no surprise that there were none after 2004. Benefits didn't justify costs."

I'm not positive that there haven't been any shill candidacies in countywide judicial races since 2004 -- but I am dead certain sure that there haven't been nearly as many as charged.

In the last election cycle, Injustice Watch ran a story (published also in the Chicago Sun-Times) calling out a number of alleged "shills" by name. I ran a lengthy response here. (See also, Wait... I thought shills weren't supposed to have lawn signs... and Guest Post: Bonnie McMgrath responds to Injustice Watch story on shills.)

The bottom line is that, as employed in recent years, the accusation of being a "shill" is just another campaign slur, like "extremist" or "Trumpite" or "lizard person."

OK, I haven't actually seen a mailer accusing a Cook County judicial candidate of being a lizard person. Yet. But I wouldn't be at all surprised.

And "shill" is a particularly good slur to bandy about because it is intended to injure at least two people: The candidate who is allegedly the shill and the candidate who recruited the shill. And the implication is that both the recruiter and the recruited have done something illegal, immoral, or fattening.

Gonzales v. Madigan, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 6635 (No. 20-1874, 3/8/21), does not resolve the morality question. But Judge Easterbrook's brief, tart opinion leaves little doubt that the use of shills is not illegal.

Jason Gonzales challenged Michael J. Madigan in the 2016 Democratic Primary for state representative. Also on the ballot that March were Grasiela Rodriguez and Joe Barboza. Quoting now from the Gonzales opinion (slip op. at p. 2),

Gonzales contends in this suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 that Rodriguez and Barboza were stooges put on the ballot by Madigan’s allies to divide the Hispanic vote and ensure Madigan’s victory. The effort was hardly necessary, since if every non-Madigan vote had gone to Gonzales he still would have lost in a landslide. Nonetheless, Gonzales contends, the appearance of two candidates who served only as distractors violated the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment and entitles him to damages (perhaps represented by the expenses of his failed run).

Dismissal of the suit was upheld because, even if the other two Hispanic candidates were recruited by Madigan (who denied any such thing), the alleged "sponsorship" was no secret. Quoting again from the opinion (slip op. at p. 3),

Gonzales smelled a rat from the start and made that known to the electorate, which swept Madigan back into office anyway. An editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times agreed with Gonzales about the provenance of the Rodriguez and Barboza candidacies, so the voters did not have to take his word for it.

Gonzales relied on Smith v. Cherry, 489 F.2d 1098 (7th Cir. 1973), which, according to the new Seventh Circuit opinion (slip op. pp. 2-3), "held that a stalking-horse candidacy, in which the nominal contestant secretly planned to withdraw after winning the primary and permit a party commitee to name the candidate for the general election, could in principle violate the Equal Protection Clause." The Gonzales court describes Smith as "a bolt from the blue. It does not have any predecessors that we could find. Nor has it had any successors" (slip op. at p. 5).

I'd have thought, reading Smith, that its predecessor was Shakman v. Democratic Organization of Cook County, 435 F.2d 267 (7th Cir. 1970), which the Smith court quoted for the principle, "The interests of candidates in official treatment free from intentional or purposeful discrimination are entitled to constitutional protection" (489 F.2d 1098, at 1103, quoting from 435 F.2d at 270). Shakman isn't just a predecessor of Smith: Though now over 50 years old, the case is still pending (see, Shakman v. Clerk of Cook County, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 67626 (opinion by Magistrate Judge Schenkier)).

Michael Shakman was a young lawyer when he sought election to Con-Con -- the same Constitutional Convention at which a young Michael J. Madigan got his start in electoral politics.

Shakman ran from a district that included Hyde Park, where he had attended law school.

In 1969 there were few places within the corporate limits of the City of Chicago where the legendary Machine of Mayor (and, more imporant, Cook County Democratic Party Chairman) Richard J. Daley did not hold sway. But Hyde Park was one of these. Even Mr. Shakman admitted, in this 2008 interview for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, that the Machine could not "reliably dominate" the district from which he ran. In fact, as the interview reveals, Shakman got through the initial round of voting to be elected as a delegate. There were four finalists, independents Shakman and civil rights activist Al Raby, and the "organization" candidates, Attie Belle McGee and Odas Nicholson (later a Circuit Court judge). Raby and Nicolson won. Shakman finished third.

Shakman's claim, that he was constitutionally disadvantaged by the patronage armies of the Daley Machine in Hyde Park, must have seemed as implausible to the District Judge initially assigned to that case, Arbraham Lincoln Marvoitz, as Jason Gonzales' claim that Michael J. Madigan needed to recruit ringers in order to win, seemed to Judge Easterbrook. But a panel of Easterbrook's predecessors reversed Marovitz.

Anyway, it would appear that Cook County judicial candidates are free to recruit shills if they think it will help their prospects. Which it probably won't.

Besides, if "just run" is deemed a plausible and even potentially successful campaign strategy, how the heck would you be able to tell a shill from anyone else?

And Gonzales won't stop people from accusing some candidates of being shills. But I don't have to repeat baseless accusations here.