Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Advocates Society Annual Installation Dinner set for February 20

The Advocates Society will host its annual Installation Dinner on Wednesday, February 20, at the Hotel Allegro, 171 West Randolph Street.

The Advocates will confer its 2019 Award of Merit on Judge Diann Marsalek at the dinner. Incoming Advocates President Lucas Figiel and the new slate of executive officers will also be recognized.

A cocktail reception begins at 5:00 p.m. The dinner and program follow at 6:00 p.m.

Advance tickets are $150 per person; tables of 10 are available for $1,350 if purchased by February 12. Tickets may be purchased on the evening of the event, if available, for $175 per person.

Checks for tickets should be made payable to the Advocates Society and may be sent to the Advocates Society c/o Lucas Figiel, 7111 West Higgins Avenue, Chicago 60656. For more information, email lucas@figlaw.com.

Judges and "juror-evaluators" wanted for March trial competition


The National Criminal Justice Trial Competition, held in Chicago, is co-sponsored by the Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association and The John Marshall Law School.

Twenty teams from the best law school trial advocacy programs in the country will participate in this year's contest, which runs from Thursday, March 14 to Saturday, March 16, and JMLS is looking to recruit judges and "juror evaluators" from the local legal community to judge the competition.

Jurists and practicing attorneys are asked to volunteer for approximately three hours to observe and evaluate student performances in a simulated trial. This year, teams will prosecute and defend the case of People v. Shane Waters, a delivery of a controlled substance causing death case. Judging or evaluating this competition has been approved for CLE.

Kelly Navarro, the Associate Director of the JMLS Center for Advocacy & Dispute Resolution, says first-time volunteers will find this a "gratifying experience." Persons who have previously served as a judge or evaluator before can attest to "the rewards of watching these well-prepared student-advocates," she added.

Judge and juror/evaluators are needed for sessions on Thursday night, Friday morning, Friday afternoon, and Saturday morning. Interested persons can sign up for more than one time.

For more information, or to volunteer, email Navarro at knavarro@jmls.edu.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Michael A. Strom installed as Circuit Court Judge


As my kids used to say, it's Facebook official.

Michael A. Strom was sworn in yesterday to the Luckman vacancy in the 9th Subcircuit, as this picture, lifted from Facebook, attests.

Somewhere Avy Meyers is smiling.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Two judges reinstated

The Tribune scooped me on this one -- 2 Cook County judges — one cleared of gun charge, one reassigned for anger management — to return to bench at criminal court -- and congratulations to Mother Tribune for that, I say.

The order apparently returns Judges Joseph Claps and William Hooks to their regular duties, although Megan Crepeau's linked article advises that there are some conditions imposed on the jurists' return.

What this reinstatement means, if it is not entirely clear from the article, is that the Judicial Inquiry Board has decided not to bring charges against either judge before the Illinois Courts Commission.

The Tribune article refers to the confidentiality of the judicial disciplinary process but members of the public may not fully understand why the process is confidential.

And in our sad corner of the world, confidentiality is often seen as an easy excuse for protecting the corrupt.

But not, I submit, in the case of judicial discipline.

Here, confidentiality is not merely a matter of choice or convenience. Confidentiality in the matter of judicial discipline is actually required by the Illinois constitution.

Pursuant to Article VI, Section 15(c) of the 1970 Illinois Constitution, as amended, the Judicial Inquiry Board is authorized to receive, initiate, and investigate complaints concerning active Illinois state court judges. When warranted, it is the responsibility of the Judicial Inquiry Board to file a public complaint against a judge with another constitutional creation, the Illinois Courts Commission. In that instance the JIB serves as prosecutor and the Courts Commission decides what sanction, if any, will be entered against the judge.

The process followed by the JIB in responding to complaints is detailed at this page of the JIB website.

Essentially, though, when presented with a complaint, the JIB may close the complaint because it does not sufficiently allege misconduct or incapacity under the law, investigate the complaint to determine whether the allegations may be well-founded, or require the judge to appear before the board to answer questions regarding the alleged incapacity or misconduct.

Only if the JIB takes the next step, that of filing a complaint with the Courts Commission, will the JIB's evaluation of the charges become public.

And -- if you think about it -- this makes sense. In any case that is resolved by a judge, there is a winner and loser. Although they may not always do so with stoic resolve, most disappointed litigants eventually accept their result. But some -- some disappointed litigants are convinced that the judge must have been bought off -- or stupid -- or acting under orders -- and they are not shy about proclaiming their beliefs to all and sundry. I've seen a lot of accusations in my inbox about just about every Cook County judge that's ever made a decision. And I'm just an obscure blogger.

But let's make an extreme, ridiculous assumption. Suppose that half of these complaints are well-founded. (Our legal system would collapse in chaos were this even remotely plausible -- but let's put on our tin-foil beanies and play the game.)

Even under this crazy assumption, fully half of those accused would be wholly innocent of wrongdoing. Needlessly besmirched.

That would not be fair to the individuals falsely accused. And it would likewise not be fair to our judicial system as a whole. As Justice Michael Hyman said, in his concurring opinion in Talamine v. Apartment Finders, Inc., 2013 IL App (1st) 121201, ¶17-18, "Every ad hominem smear, insult, and innuendo, every speculative accusation, every potshot leveled at members of the judiciary has the capacity of weakening confidence in the judiciary as a whole, confidence which is essential to the vitality of our legal system. * * * [E]very personal attack on the impartiality and integrity of judges diminishes the client's (and the public's) already limited trust in the fairness of the legal system."

Now, I know that there will be some -- perhaps even some lawyers -- who will say that confidentiality in regards to charges of judicial misconduct is just another code of silence. But confidentiality may, and in this instance does, serve a useful, legitimate purpose.

In the cases of Judges Claps and Hooks the public found out a lot more about the judicial discipline process than the framers of the Illinois Constitution may have intended.

In fact, the only reason we knew that a complaint had been made to the JIB in the case of Judge Hooks is that the Circuit Court of Cook County announced that it had done so. I didn't report the reassignment of Judge Claps at the time, but there was an announcement about that as well -- though the Claps announcement did not expressly state that a referral had been made to JIB. Apparently, however, someone did (hardly a surprise given the publicity surrounding the charges).

We only know that the JIB has closed their investigations on Claps and Hooks because (1) these two judges reported the news to the Circuit Court, (2) the Circuit Court took action restoring these judges to more regular duties, and (3) someone told the Tribune about it.

Looking at the linked article, it is clear that the Tribune got hold of the actual order issued by the Executive Committee of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Pat Milheizer, Director of Communications for Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans, and a former Law Bulletin editor, often circulates these orders and issues press releases when the Executive Committee takes action on matters that may be newsworthy. I am frequently included on these releases -- from which I often shamelessly crib, albeit with (I hope) proper attribution. The absence of an email on this occasion -- though of course the court is under no obligation to send me beans -- at least suggests that the disclosure in this case was not from the court itself. As of the time this post was published, there was no press release on the Circuit Court's website concerning this matter.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Who Sits Where -- National Bubble Bath Day edition

Granted, I can't think of any possible links between bubble baths and judicial elections -- but today, January 8, is National Bubble Bath Day. You could look it up.

I was originally going to tie this post to another event -- a sporting event -- one played with a prolate spheroid -- but the way things worked out -- well, I'm just not ready to go there yet. Even typing "post" just now was painful. It reminds me of a certain compound word of which post is the second part.

So, to distract us from our shared pain, I offer this list.

This not a comprehensive list of Cook County judicial vacancies but, rather, a list of vacancies that have either been filled by Supreme Court appointment, or for which an application process has been announced, or that I am pretty sure exist even though no announcement has been made. Some of the "vacancies" listed below may not yet be vacant -- and several of the persons identified as filling these vacancies have not yet actually taken office -- but an official announcement has been made. There are likely to be other vacancies, beyond those reported here, which the Supreme Court has neither filled nor announced. And, of course, new vacancies will occur in the ordinary course. I can and will update as necessity requires and opportunity permits.

But this is the best information I have now.

As always, all errors of omission or commission in this list are mine alone and I am grateful for additions and corrections provided.

Supreme Court Vacancy

Vacancy of the Hon. Charles E. Freeman -- P. Scott Neville, Jr.

Appellate Court Vacancies

Vacancy of the Hon. P. Scott Neville, Jr. -- Michael B. Hyman1
Vacancy of the Hon. John B. Simon -- John C. Griffin

Countywide Vacancies

Vacancy of the Hon. Carole K. Bellows -- Kerrie Maloney Laytin
Vacancy of the Hon. Matthew E. Coghlan -- James T. Derico, Jr.
Vacancy of the Hon. Raymond Funderburk -- Celestia L. Mays
Vacancy of the Hon. Jessica A. O'Brien -- Lloyd James Brooks
Vacancy of the Hon. Sebastian T. Patti -- Lynn Weaver-Boyle
Vacancy of the Hon. Kevin M. Sheehan -- Marina E. Ammendola

Subcircuit Vacancies

1st Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Rodney Hughes Brooks -- Fredrick H. Bates
Vacancy of the Hon. Vanessa A. Hopkins2 -- Unfilled

2nd Subcircuit
"A" Vacancy3 -- Sondra Nicole Denmark

3rd Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Denise K. Filan -- Daniel E. Maloney

6th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Marya Nega -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Kathleen M. Pantle -- Unfilled

8th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. John J. Fleming -- Unfilled4
Vacancy of the Hon. Deborah J. Gubin -- Michael A. Forti

9th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Marvin F. Luckman -- Michael A. Strom

13th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Margarita Kulys Hoffman -- Unfilled

14th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Robert Bertucci -- Gerardo Tristan, Jr.
Vacancy of the Hon. William G. Lacy -- Unfilled

15th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. John C. Griffin -- Nichole C. Patton

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1 Justice Hyman is a Cook County Circuit Court judge sitting by appointment to the Appellate Court. The language of the Supreme Court's order appointing Justice Hyman to this vacancy suggests that, unless he runs for, and wins a seat on the Appellate Court in 2020, he will return to his original position as a Circuit Court judge. For this reason I have not included a "Hyman vacancy" among the countywide openings.

2 The late Rhonda Crawford won the Democratic Party's nomination for this vacancy in the 2016 primary but never took office.

3 Vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Alexander White.

4 Jeanne Marie Wrenn was appointed to this vacancy, but, last November, Judge Wrenn was elected to fill the 8th Subcircuit vacancy of the Hon. Sheryl Pethers. Accordingly, I believe this vacancy to be open once again.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Daniel E. Maloney appointed to 3rd Subcircuit vacancy

The Illinois Supreme Court entered an order yesterday appointing Daniel E. Maloney to a 3rd Subcircuit vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Denise K. Filan.

The appointment is effective February 8, 2019 and terminates December 7.

After 16 years as an Assistant Cook County State's Attorney, Maloney became Division Counsel for the United States Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration in 2017.

A graduate of the Valparaiso University School of Law, Maloney holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame. He has been licensed to practice law in Illinois since 2001.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Michael A. Strom appointed to new 9th Subcircuit vacancy

Updated

It's official now.

As reported earlier today in this space, the Illinois Supreme Court today appointed Michael A. Strom to a 9th Subcircuit vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Marvin Luckman. The appointment is effective January 10, 2019, and will terminate December 7, 2020.

Licensed in Illinois since 1977 and currently employed in the office of Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans, Strom worked for Schaffenegger, Watson & Peterson early in his career before moving to CNA as staff counsel.

Strom recently received the Light of Righteousness Award from the Decalogue Society of Lawyers (Strom served as President of this group in 2012-13). Working with the Chicago Coalition for Law-Related Education, Strom has also served as a teacher and coach of mock trial teams at South Shore High School. He was a candidate for a 9th Subcircuit vacancy in the 2014 primary.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

James T. Derico, Jr. appointed to Coghlan vacancy

The Illinois Supreme Court today appointed James T. Derico, Jr. to the countywide vacancy created by the retention defeat of Judge Matthew E. Coghlan.

The Supreme Court also issued a press release with today's order, confirming that this appointment was made on the recommendation of Justice Mary Jane Theis.

Justice Theis did not announce any appointment process for this vacancy; however, the Court's press release indicates that Derico's credentials were reviewed by Justice Theis's screening committee. The implication is that Derico was a finalist for one of the two countywide appointments announced yesterday.

Licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1985, Derico began his career as an associate with Gardner, Carton & Douglas (now Drinker, Biddle & Reath). He subsequently worked in-house for Borg-Warner Corporation and an Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago specializing in contracts and commercial law. Derico founded his present firm, Derico & Associates, P.C., in 1992. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Derico did his undergraduate work at the University of Notre Dame.

According to the Supreme Court's press release, Derico has served on the Illinois Supreme Court Committee for Civil Jury Instructions. He was the recipient of the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS) Distinguished Service Award in 2009 and 2014. Derico is a member of the Chicago Bar Association (serving as Chair of the YLS Corporate Practices Group) and the Cook County Bar Association.

Derico's appointment is effective January 18, 2019; it will terminate on December 7, 2020.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Illinois Supreme Court fills four vacancies

Updated 12/18/18

The Illinois Supreme Court today filled four vacancies on the Circuit Court of Cook County, two countywide vacancies, and one each in the 2nd and 14th Subcircuits.

These vacancies were announced in September by Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis. Each of the appointments made today will terminate on December 7, 2020.

The Supreme Court appointed Lynn Weaver-Boyle to the countywide Patti vacancy (press release).

Weaver-Boyle, currently a partner in the Chicago office of a partner in the Chicago office of Grotefeld Hoffmann Schleiter Gordon & Ochoa, LLP, was on the associate judge 'short list' earlier this year. Licensed as an attorney in 1990, Weaver-Boyle served as an Assistant State's Attorney for nine years. Her appointment is effective January 11, 2019.

The Supreme Court appointed Assistant Corporation Counsel Kerrie Maloney Laytin to the countywide Bellows vacancy (press release).

Currently serving as Senior Counsel in the Appeals Division of the City of Chicago Law Department, Maloney Laytin is a 1997 graduate of Columbia Law School. She began her legal career as a clerk for Judge Robert P. Patterson, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, later clerking for the Hon. Carolyn Dineen King, Chief Judge of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Licensed in Illinois since 2000, Maloney Laytin also serves on the Board of Directors for High Jump, a two-year tuition-free academic enrichment program that serves motivated 7th and 8th grade students from families of limited economic means. Her appointment is effective January 18.

Will County Assistant State's Attorney Sondra Nicole Denmark was appointed to the 2nd Subcircuit vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Alexander P. White.

Denmark has been licensed in Illinois since 2004. She was a Cook County Assistant State's Attorney for three years; she has served in Will County for the last 10 years. She has also worked as a solo practitioner, according to the Supreme Court's press release. Denmark was a candidate for a 15th Subcircuit vacancy in the 2014 primary. Her appointment is effective December 27.

The Supreme Court also appointed Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Gerardo Tristan, Jr. to the Bertucci vacancy in the 14th Subcircuit (press release).

Tristan has been licensed in Illinois since 2004, according to ARDC. The Court's press release notes that Tristan has served on the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois and as Regional President of the National Hispanic Prosecutors Association. His appointment is effective January 11, 2019.

CBA "Holiday Sparkle" Concert on Wednesday


December is surging past us, going faster than Santa's reindeer, and, with one obligation or another, this blogger has missed the opportunity to plug nearly every holiday program. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

But I still have time to mention -- and you still have time to attend -- a "Holiday Sparkle" concert, by the Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, this Wednesday, December 19, at 7:30 p.m., at St. James Episcopal Cathedral, at Wabash and Huron.

Tickets are $12 in advance (available here) or $20 at the door.

The CBA Symphony Orchestra and Chorus is composed of musicians who also work as lawyers, judges, and law students. One of the conductors Wednesday will be Michael D. Poulos, one of my law school classmates.

For more information about the concert, visit this page of the CBA website.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Congratulations to Dr. Klumpp on the publication of a new article

Frequent and generous FWIW contributor Albert J. Klumpp, Ph.D., has a lead article in the November issue of the CBA Record, "The Early Bird Gets the Term." The article addresses ballot position and its impact on Cook County judicial elections... a topic which, I believe I may say without fear of contradiction, is of considerable interest to many regular visitors here.

(NB: The October issue of the CBA Record is still up on the CBA website as of the publication of this post -- but I'm sure that will change shortly.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Bates, Forti receive new appointments

In separate orders entered yesterday, the Illinois Supreme Court reappointed two judges who were unsuccessful candidates in this year's judicial primary.

The Court appointed Judge Fredrick H. Bates to the 1st Subcircuit vacancy created by the pending retirement of Judge Rodney Hughes Brooks. The court also appointed Judge Michael A. Forti to the 8th Subcircuit vacancy created by the pending retirement of Judge Deborah J. Gubin.

Both appointments are effective Monday, December 3, and terminate December 7, 2020.

Judge Bates had been serving by appointment to a 2nd Subcircuit vacancy. He was an unsuccessful candidate for this vacancy in March.

Yesterday's order marks the third time Bates has received a judicial appointment from the Supreme Court. Bates was first appointed to a countywide vacancy in December 2015. He was an unsuccessful candidate for a different countywide vacancy in the 2016 primary.

Judge Forti was an unsuccessful candidate for an 8th Subcircuit vacancy this past March; the Supreme Court appointed him to that vacancy in September 2016. Thus, yesterday's order marks the second time Forti has received a judicial appointment.

Though slated by the Democratic Party, Forti was also an unsuccessful candidate for a countywide vacancy in 2012. He made the Associate Judge short list in 2014.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Ammendola receives new Circuit Court appointment; Mays, Brooks also appointed

Corrected November 28, 2018

In separate orders entered yesterday, the Illinois Supreme Court filled three countywide vacancies with persons who were passed over in the most recent round of associate judge selection.

Judge Marina E. Ammendola was appointed to the countywide vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Kevin M. Sheehan. Her new appointment is effective December 3, the date on which her current appointment, to a countywide vacancy, will expire. Ammendola was an unsuccessful candidate for a 14th Subcircuit vacancy in the March primary.

A former school teacher, Ammendola has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1989. Ammendola made the Chicago newspapers at the turn of the century when she represented Ald. Ed Burke and his wife, now-Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke, in the "Baby T" custody case. Before setting up her own practice in 2001, Ammendola worked for Patricia C. Bobb & Associates.

Celestia L. Mays was appointed to the countywide vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Raymond Funderburk. A former President of the Cook County Bar Association, Mays, who has been licensed in Illinois since 1990, currently practices law as Celestia L. Mays, P.C., with an office in Chicago's Loop. Her appointment is effective January 25, 2019. Mays filed for a 5th Subcircuit vacancy in the 2016 primary, but withdrew from the race.

Lloyd James Brooks was appointed to the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Jessica A. O'Brien. A founding partner of the Matteson-based Consumer Legal Group, Brooks has been licensed in Illinois since 2000.

While Brooks focused his practice mortgage foreclosure defense, having taken a number of such cases up on appeal, he also engaged in other consumer protection litigation, real estate and insurance coverage matters. Brooks is also a Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter.

Brooks's appointment is effective December 7, 2018. All three appointments expire on December 7, 2020.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Guest Post: Dr. Klumpp reviews the results of the retention election

This morning FWIW is proud to present a guest post from Albert J. Klumpp, PhD, analyzing the results of the recent retention election.

Throughout my dissertation research and in every subsequent election, I was able to study Cook County’s judicial retention voting using the same approach, with a small group of basic variables. On November 6th that all went out the window. It was the most complicated retention election the county has ever seen and added a half-dozen new variables to my analysis. Much more could be written about the results than fits in a blog post, so I’ll simply run down the basics:
  • The number of votes cast on retention judges was the highest for a midterm election since 1966, and by a large margin. The median for circuit judges was 1,204,682 (based on preliminary results), a 41% increase over the 2014 median and a 32% increase over 2010. In part this was due to more voters turning out than in past midterms, and in part to a much higher percentage of voters completing the retention section of the ballot. Typically when more voters turn out, the participation rate for retention judges decreases, but this November’s results showed the opposite. In fact the participation rate was the highest ever for retention judges in Cook County, as shown below.

  • The base approval rate for a judge with no name-cue advantages and no negative performance ratings was 75.3 percent, a figure very consistent with previous elections. Female judges got a boost of 3.3 percentage points, the highest amount ever, and an Irish name was worth 1 percentage point. Because of outliers in my initial analysis, I added a variable based on a U.S. Census list of the most common African-American surnames--which I’ve used routinely in primary election analyses--and found those names to add 2.6 points. There also was a Hispanic name boost of 1 percentage point. (All of these estimates have margins of error but are considered statistically significant.)
  • The major sources of voter information were somewhat difficult to evaluate due to overlap with other factors, but as best as I could estimate them, the Tribune, ISBA, CBA and CCL recommendations were unusually equal, each worth roughly 5 percent of the vote. The ISBA result was a major surprise since there had never been evidence of ISBA ratings influencing past Cook County elections. The results of my initial analysis compelled their inclusion, though, and the revised analysis confirmed their impact. Furthermore, two judges who received negative ratings from smaller Alliance members were outliers by roughly 2 percentage points, indicating that even those ratings were seen and used by scattered voters despite relatively little publicity. The latter results suggest the use of the Internet and smartphones by a detectable number of retention voters to seek out and apply information from a broader group of sources than in the past.
  • Social media also played a detectable role for the first time. There were several judges whose approval percentages were negative outliers in my analysis for no apparent reason—until I found the November 9 Sun-Times story about the “Girl I Guess” progressive voter guide and how it appeared to resonate with and be widely distributed through social media by young voters (who turned out in large numbers). Sure enough, the retention recommendations in that guide explained the outliers, and their inclusion in my analysis suggests that roughly 3 percent of retention voters used information from the guide or other sources that referenced it.
  • Finally, the 800-pound gorilla: the county Democratic Party’s decision to recommend against Matthew Coghlan’s retention and advocate its decision in its mass mailings. The wide distribution, ideal timing, and clear formatting of its vote-no message checked all of the boxes necessary to turn a piece of negative information about a retention candidate into a defeat. Once the above-mentioned variables are accounted for, the targeted vote against Coghlan measures out to a whopping 10.3 percent of the retention electorate. Without it Coghlan would have won retention with at least 62.7 percent of the vote and very likely more, since the mass mailings almost certainly caused at least some of the increase in retention participation.
It should be noted that there also were non-party, largely city-based efforts to target Coghlan, mainly by community groups in certain areas, and that those efforts undoubtedly influenced some voters and contributed to the 10.3 percent total. I haven’t yet dug deeply enough into the ward and township breakdowns to know exactly how much (and I will do so, but running eighty separate analyses takes time). However, simply analyzing the city and suburban results separately produces targeting estimates of 11.2 percent for the city (which includes at least fourteen party ward organizations that were particularly outspoken against Coghlan, possibly more) and 9.6 percent for the suburbs—not all that different. So at least for now the lion’s share of the targeted vote, and the margin between retention and removal, gets attributed to the party’s decision and indirectly to whichever factors influenced it.

Stepping back from the vote numbers, one other important fact about Coghlan’s removal should be mentioned. Twelve U.S. states currently use retention elections for most or all of their state-level trial court judges, and including this month's retention election, a combined total of 11,978 judges have stood for retention to trial courts in those states. Coghlan’s defeat is only the second time ever in which a judge was targeted and removed by a political party. Retention defeats are rare for any reason: including this November, only 96 of the 11,978 trial court candidates failed to win retention. But a political party targeting a trial court judge at all, much less removing one, is virtually unheard of.

Majority party organizations in most of the retention jurisdictions could remove judges routinely if they wanted to. But parties have typically stayed far away from retention elections, especially at the trial court level. In large part this is because they have higher priorities, but there also is a danger of being perceived as trying to politicize and manipulate the judicial system.

As a researcher I have no desire to pass judgment on Judge Coghlan’s worthiness for retention or anyone’s decision to support or oppose him. I simply observe that there are larger implications of this November's election and how future elections will unfold in its wake, and that it is likely that few people, even among party leaders, have yet fully considered them. There also is a wake-up call in these retention results for bar associations regarding how they deliver information and which voters they reach. We’ll see if they hear it.

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Albert J. Klumpp has been a generous and frequent contributor to this blog 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, Alaska’s Judicial Retention Elections: A Comparative Analysis, 34 Alaska Law Review 143-160 (2017). Other works include Judicial Primary Elections in Cook County, Illinois: Fear the Irish Women!, 60 DePaul L. Rev. 821 (2011); "Voter Information and Judicial Retention Elections in Illinois," 94 Ill. B.J. 538 (October 2006); and "Cook County Judicial Elections: Partisanship, Campaign Spending, & Voter Information," CBA Record, January 2007 (p. 34).

Thursday, November 08, 2018

One thousand two hundred eighty three new laborers admitted to the legal vineyard

In six ceremonies around the state today (two of them in Chicago), 1,283 new lawyers were admitted to practice in Illinois. Most of these -- 1,051, to be precise -- were admitted at morning and afternoon sessions in Chicago.

Presiding at this morning's session at the Arie Crown Theater were Supreme Court Justices Mary Jane Theis and P. Scott Neville, Jr.


A number of bar association officials were on hand to welcome the new admittees. Two had speaking roles. Shown above is Chicago Bar Association President Steven M. Elrod. Also speaking was Kalia Coleman, Vice President of the Black Women Lawyers' Association.

Appellate Court Justice Mary K. Rochford and ARDC Administrator Jerome E. Larkin moved for admission of the morning class.

Eventually, the new admittees were invited to stand and take the oath.


Many of the this morning's speakers made it a point to tell the new admittees that they had been sitting in that same auditorium once, some longer ago than others, and for the same purpose.

I can not make this claim. That's not the beginning of a stunning confession -- the fact is, in 1980, I was sworn in at a ceremony in Elgin. My parents lived in Lake County at the time. So I admit to some curiosity at seeing how these things are done in the big city.

Still, inasmuch as I have never covered one of these events before, some readers may wonder why I chose to cover today's celebration.

There is, of course, a reason.

Shown here is my daughter-in-law, Gabriella Leyhane, with her parents, Frank and Rose Obregón, and my son, John. I am very happy for, and proud of, Gabby on this special day. My congratulations to her and all the new admittees.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

What role did 'low information' voters play in this election?

Updated November 8, 2018 to correct factual error.

It's time to start poking through the ashes of the 2018 campaign.

What can we learn? What lessons may be applicable in future campaigns?

There's a lot of anecdotal evidence out there suggesting that some of this year's voters were... less than well informed about... oh, everything.


Criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield saw a lot of certitude based on attitude out there in Social Media Land.


But, OK, you say, that's Twitter. Donald Trump's playpen. Take Twitter seriously? That way lies madness, you say.

And, if you're a regular FWIW reader, you are very likely a well-informed voter. You may not even know any low information voters.

(Notice -- I'm not using any more pejorative terms here. I could. But I am sick and tired of all the sanctimonious claptrap about being civil and taking the high road -- just as soon as the worst offender on the Other Side stops first. It's coming on Christmas, as Joni Mitchell sang, and one of the songs of the season you will soon hear in heavy rotation is "Let There Be Peace on Earth." Well, as the song says, let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.)

Anyway, you are inclined to dismiss anecdotal evidence as wholly unreliable.

OK.

Let me direct your attention to Exhibit A -- the more than 56,000 in Illinois' 3rd Congressional District who voted for an actual Illinois Nazi. Not Henry Gibson from The Blues Brothers (pictured at right) but a genuine, self-proclaimed Illinois Nazi.

Are there really 56,350 Nazi sympathizers in this mostly Southwest suburban district? (There are 203 Chicago precincts in this district as well.)

Were there 56,350 pranksters out there, just funnin' at the polling place?

Or were there, perhaps, a lot of folks who voted for the Illinois Nazi without having the first clue about what they were doing?

Let me show you now what I'm calling Exhibit B, the race for the Lawrence vacancy in the far northwest suburban 13th Judicial Subcircuit.

For the first time ever -- Dr. Klumpp will correct me if I'm wrong about this -- Democrats won all three vacancies.

There is considerable overlap between the 13th Subcircuit and the northernmost chunk of the reverse comma-shaped 6th Congressional District. If there was a Blue Wave anywhere last night it was in suburban areas -- not just in the Chicago area, but around many major cities across the country. And last night, in the 6th District race, Democrat Sean Casten unseated longtime Republican Congressman Peter Roskam.

The 6th Congressional District was a district, remember, that was drawn to hem in as many Republicans as possible.

In most years, Democrats don't even bother fielding judicial candidates in the 13th.

This year, however, the Democrats had two good candidates, former Judge Ketki "Kay" Steffen and current Judge Samuel J. Betar III.

And to be fair, these two candidates did do significantly better than the Democrat running for the Lawrence vacancy in the 13th. Judge Betar won his race by 8,572 votes. Steffen won hers by 11,133.

But Democrat Shannon P. O'Malley -- a candidate who began his legal career as Philip Spiwak -- who skipped assessment by each and every bar association -- who was called out by the Illinois Civil Justice League and Injustice Watch -- also won his race for the aforementioned Lawrence vacancy. By 2,278 votes. Not a landslide, certainly, but indisputable.

This is not to say that Judge O'Malley (or Judge Spiwak, if he resumes his former handle) will not provide good and useful service to the citizens of County Cook. Six years hence, at retention time, he may well enjoy the support of each and every bar group. There was at least one candidate on this year's retention ballot who eschewed bar evaluations in 2012 -- but who was unanimously rated qualified this time around.

But... I respectfully submit that O'Malley was the fortunate beneficiary of voters who came out specifically, and only, for Casten. Many of his votes may have come from low-information voters -- that is to say, voters who did not seek out available information about judicial candidates. Maybe they were swayed by the sonorous, and androgynous, appellation. Maybe they merely hewed to the party line.

The good news here is that this same evidence can also be interpreted to show that many of these judicial voters in the 13th did study up on the ballot and did know what they were doing in judicial races. That's why Steffen and Betar won by significantly more than O'Malley. But without the surge for Casten, Republicans might have swept all these races, as they always had in the past.

So the broader lesson is clear: Judicial candidates are at the mercy of high-profile races further up the ballot. Judicial candidates can't turn out large numbers at the polling place, but they may be buoyed up -- or buried -- by turnout beyond their control. Perhaps it was ever thus. Turnout is the key. And I hope to look at turnout in some key Cook County races in another post.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Coghlan appears to be the first retention judge candidate to lose since 1990

In 1978, John S. Boyle was Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County when he was defeated for retention.

In 1986, after being targeted by columnist Mike Royko and the Fraternal Order of Police, Judge Lawrence Passarella lost his retention bid.

In 1990, Cook County voters rejected seven judges seeking retention -- although they simultaneously elected one of these to the Appellate Court.

But in every election since, from 1992 until tonight, every judge seeking retention was retained.

Tonight, however, after the Cook County Democratic Party turned against him, after the Tribune editorialized against him, and after a vigorous "Dump Matt Coghlan" campaign on social media, Judge Matthew E. Coghlan has lost his retention bid.

With 86% of the City vote counted, Coghlan has just over 50% 'yes' votes. He is polling better in the suburbs -- but with just under 80% of the votes counted, Coghlan has 54% 'yes' votes. He needed to get 60%.

Other judges who received significant negative ratings -- like Lisa Marino (the only judge who was not recommended for retention by the Chicago Bar Association) or Maura Slattery Boyle (who, like Coghlan, received negative attention from Injustice Watch -- will apparently finish with under 70% 'yes' votes -- but significantly above the crucial 60% line.

Marino and Slattery Boyle were also targeted by the Tribune.

But they were not abandoned by the Democratic Party.

Democratic Party opposition seems to be a major factor in this result.

Democrats faring well so far in 13th Subcircuit

With 56% of the votes counted, former Judge Ketki "Kay" Steffen has a better than 4,000 vote lead over Republican Gary William Seyring. Judge Samuel J. Betar, running as a Democrat, is leading Republican Christine Svenson by roughly 3,000 votes. Republican Daniel Fitzgerald has a whisker-thin lead over Demcorat Shannon P. O'Malley. O'Malley, who did not participate in evaluations by the Chicago Bar Association or any of the Alliance bar groups, began his legal career sub nomine Philip Spiwak.

In the one contested 15th Subcircuit race, at the opposite end of the county, with over 60% of the votes counted, Democrat Scott McKenna has a comfortable lead over Republican Karla Marie Fiaoni.

In the 12th Subcircuit, with almost 58% of the returns counted, Democrat Joel Chupack has a roughly 8,400 vote margin over Republican David Studenroth.

All retention judges seem likely to survive -- except Coghlan

The numbers are starting to stack up now.

With 61% of the City vote counted, Judge Matthew E. Coghlan has 'yes' votes from only 50.44% of the voters. In the suburbs, with just over 40% of the votes counted, Coghlan is faring better -- but still running under the necessary 60% 'yes' vote required for retention.

In contrast, Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke has just over 81% 'yes' votes in the City, and nearly an 80% 'yes' vote in suburban returns so far.

OK... Clerk's website is showing results on the Suburban Summary Report

But not yet on the online results page.

Judge Matthew Coghlan has only 55% 'yes' votes -- but, again, these are early, early results, with only about 5.4% of the votes counted.

It looks like we'll have to wait a little while yet for more meaningful numbers.

Stay tuned.

Only City numbers are posted so far... but Coghlan in trouble in early returns

Judge Matthew E. Coghlan, abandoned by the Democratic Party in his retention bid, the focus of a very vocal Coalition to Dump Matt Coghlan, seems to be in serious trouble in early returns. With 28.61% of the City votes counted, Coghlan has 'yes' votes from only 51.01% of the electorate.

A judge must receive 'yes' votes from more than 60% of the voters in order to be retained in office.

By way of comparison, with the same number of votes counted, Judge Moshe Jacobius has 75.83% favorable votes.

Caveat: These are City-only results. Nothing is yet showing up on the Cook County Clerk's website, where suburban results are posted.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Updated: Resources for Cook County voters looking to make informed choices in judicial races

Cook County judges seeking retention in 2018
As we head into the last few days of early voting and look forward to Election Day on Tuesday (hallelujah! the commercials will finally stop... at least for a few days before the mayoral commercials start up on us), visitors here may be looking to do their due diligence and figure out how to make informed choices about the many judicial races on the November ballot.

There are two types of judicial races on the ballot. First, there are elections to fill judicial vacancies -- to replace judges who have left the bench. For most Cook County voters, there are no choices to make here. All countywide races were decided in the March Democratic Primary; so too were most of the subcircuit races.

There are five exceptions. Voters in the 12th and 15th Subcircuits have to decide one contest in each of their respective subcircuits. Voters in the 13th Subcircuit will have choices in the election of three judges.

The second type of judicial race on the ballot is the retention election. Here, voters get to decide whether judges who were elected (for the most part) six years ago (or any multiple of six) shall be retained in office.

This year, there is one Supreme Court justice and one Appellate Court justice on the retention ballot. Justices of these courts are elected to 10 year terms. But, like their colleagues on the Circuit Court bench, they must also face the voters on the question of whether they shall be retained in office.

There are 59 Circuit Court judges seeking retention this year.

Some voters find the sheer number of retention candidates to be intimidating. But the Chicago Bar Association and the 11 bar groups that together comprise the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening have reviewed all the judges seeking retention and have weighed in with their opinions. The retention judges also have their own website that you can visit for information about jurists seeking to remain in office. (The photograph that accompanies this post was taken from that website.)

What follows are links to FWIW posts regarding the bar associations' evaluations of retention candidates and candidates seeking election in the five contested subcircuit races. You will note that opinions regarding some of these candidates differ. But this information will, hopefully, be of some use to voters:
If the above and foregoing is stillnot enough for you, here are some additional FWIW posts that you may find useful as you decide which judges or judicial candidates are worthy of your vote:

Alliance issues grids with all the blanks filled in

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening has today issued updated 'grids' for the Cook County judicial retention election. What follows are the most up to date, complete grids (click to enlarge or clarify the images as necessary):

My thanks again to Alliance Administrator Joyce Williams for keeping this blog up to date.

Recommendations and ratings provided by Alliance members are advisory only and do not constitute an endorsement of any candidacy.

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening is comprised of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area (AABA), the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago (BWLA), the Chicago Council of Lawyers (CCL), the Cook County Bar Association (CCBA), the Decalogue Society of Lawyers (DSL), the Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois (HBA), the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI), the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago (LAGBAC), the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois (PRBA), and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI), all working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois.

BallotReady compiles information regarding judicial candidates


The Chicago Tribune recently touted BallotReady as a resource for voters trying to make sense of the Cook County judicial ballot.

From the main screen (that's a snippet of the home page, above) a voter can enter his or her address and get information on every race that will be on the real ballot.

At least, that's the plan.

And it's very encouraging that this is the second go-round for BallotReady (I had a post about the site during the 2016 primary season). In my time covering this beat, ambitious groups tend to surface for this race or that one -- but go dark before the next election rolls around.

But.

I spent some time with Ballot Ready noodling around the retention candidates. No, I did not go through them all.

But I did go through enough to see that, while there seems to be some information for every retention judge, every one that I reviewed was missing something. The Chicago Bar Aassociation rating. The Cook County Bar Association rating. The Black Women Lawyer's Association. The Decalogue Society. Someone. This one had 11 ratings, that one only 9. Some less than that. And when I thought I'd detected a pattern (no CBA ratings) the next several all had CBA ratings but missed one or more Alliance bar groups.

Also, the candidates are not listed in ballot order. Strangely, on my 'ballot,' the retention judges were listed first -- but there was a countywide vacancy inserted right underneath the Supreme Court and Appellate Court retention candidates.

And, unless I missed it, there were no links to the three bar groups that issue narrative ratings of candidates (the CBA, Chicago Council of Lawyers, and the ISBA). But BallotReady certainly provides a lot more information for Cook County judicial retention voters than most sources.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Further updating Alliance retention grids

Really careful readers may have noticed the discrepancies between the Cook County Bar Association retention judge ratings announced earlier this week and the CCBA ratings shown in the last set of Alliance grids that I published here on FWIW.

I admit, I missed it.

To be specific, that last set of Alliance grids showed Judges Mike McHale, Mary Colleen Roberts, and Erica L. Reddick as having not been evaluated by the CCBA (and not because of any fault on the candidates' part).

The CCBA ratings showed that the group had completed evaluations of these three judges and had recommended a "yes" vote for their retention.

Updated Alliance grids follow (as always, click to enlarge or clarify):

My thanks, as always, to Alliance Administrator Joyce Williams for providing the corrected information.

Recommendations and ratings provided by Alliance members are advisory only and do not constitute an endorsement of any candidacy.

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening is comprised of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area (AABA), the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago (BWLA), the Chicago Council of Lawyers (CCL), the Cook County Bar Association (CCBA), the Decalogue Society of Lawyers (DSL), the Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois (HBA), the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI), the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago (LAGBAC), the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois (PRBA), and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI), all working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Almost complete: The Alliance issues updated grids on Cook County judicial retention candidates

With just a couple of exceptions, all the ratings from the members of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening are in now for Cook County jurists seeking retention this November.

Herewith the updated 'grids' as of this morning (click on the images to clarify or enlarge):


Recommendations and ratings provided by Alliance members are advisory only and do not constitute an endorsement of any candidacy.

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening is comprised of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area (AABA), the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago (BWLA), the Chicago Council of Lawyers (CCL), the Cook County Bar Association (CCBA), the Decalogue Society of Lawyers (DSL), the Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois (HBA), the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI), the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago (LAGBAC), the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois (PRBA), and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI), all working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois.

Cook County Bar Association recommends "yes" vote on all but three Cook County retention judge candidates

The Cook County Bar Association has released recommendations for judicial candidates seeking retention in the November election.

The CCBA is recommending a "yes" vote for Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke, Appellate Court Justice Margaret Stanton McBride, and 56 of the 59 Cook County Circuit Court judges seeking retention.

The three Circuit Court judges given a negative rating by the CCBA are Catherine Marie Haberkorn, Maura Slattery Boyle, and Matthew E. Coughlan.

Haberkorn was rated Qualified for retention or recommended for retention by every other Alliance member and also by the Chicago Bar Association. Slattery Boyle and Coughlan were both rated Qualified by the Chicago Bar Association and the Illinois State Bar Association. Both, however, were rated negatively by the Chicago Council of Lawyers and the Black Women Lawyers' Association. While Slattery Boyle was rated positively by Decalogue Society of Lawyers, the Hispanic Lawyers of Illinois, the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, and the Puerto Rican Bar Association, Coughlan was rated negatively by each of these groups.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Judge William Hooks referred to anger-management counseling, reassigned to administrative duties until further notice

In a press release issued yesterday evening, Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans announced that the Executive Committee of the Circuit Court of Cook County has relieved Judge William H. Hooks of his duties in the Criminal Division, assigning him to administrative duties until further notice, and referring him for anger-management counseling.

According to the court's press release, "Judge Hooks is accused of acting in such a manner that created a hostile work environment for another judge." Except for reporting that Judge Hooks "expressed contrition" regarding the matter, no other details of the alleged misconduct have been provided.

While performing administrative duties, Judge Hooks will report to the Sixth Municipal District Courthouse in Markham. According to the press release, Hooks "will be co-mentored by Circuit Judge Sharon M. Sullivan, Presiding Judge of the County Division, and Circuit Judge Tommy Brewer, Presiding Judge of the Sixth Municipal District."

The court's announcement also notes that the matter involving Judge Hooks has been referred to the Judicial Inquiry Board.

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Suburban Bar Coalition offers its ratings of Cook County retention candidates

Click on any image below to enlarge or clarify. The preview images look fuzzy to me, with or without my glasses, and they may likewise appear fuzzy for you, but that is a reflection of my technological limitations rather than any problem with the source material received. I'm particularly concerned that this post may not be as 'mobile-friendly' as I would prefer. I will update later, if I figure out a different way to do this.

Per email received from Suburban Bar Coalition President Deidre Baumann, herewith that group's ratings of jurists seeking retention in the November election (Circuit Court retention candidates are listed in alphabetical, not ballot, order):


The Suburban Bar Coalition of Cook County, Illinois (SBC) is composed of the Northwest Suburban Bar Association (NWSBA), North Suburban Bar Association (NSBA), West Suburban Bar Association (WSBA), Southwest Bar Association (SWBA), and South Suburban Bar Association (SSBA), each of which operates in suburban Cook County. The members of the SBC are composed of representatives from each of the suburban bar groups and collectively represent over 1,000 attorneys.

Updated Alliance retention grids

Not all the Alliance bar groups have yet spoken (as you will see) but some of the blanks have been filled in since our last post on the 'grids' issued by the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening in the Cook County judicial retention election.

Herewith the grids as of this morning (click on the images to clarify or enlarge):

Updated grids will be released as additional recommendations are received.

Recommendations and ratings provided by Alliance members are advisory only and do not constitute an endorsement of any candidacy.

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening is comprised of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area (AABA), the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago (BWLA), the Chicago Council of Lawyers (CCL), the Cook County Bar Association (CCBA), the Decalogue Society of Lawyers (DSL), the Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois (HBA), the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI), the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago (LAGBAC), the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois (PRBA), and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI), all working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Injustice Watch offers useful tool for retention voters

Injustice Watch has a nifty Voters' Guide for persons looking for more information about Cook County Circuit Court judges on this year's retention ballot. Here is a link to that guide.

Injustice Watch certainly has a point of view. Some readers will applaud its advocacy, some may be far less enthusiastic. But there's no denying that, from a technical point of view, the Injustice Watch Voters' Guide is easy to navigate and chock-full of information. I'm jealous.

The Injustice Watch site uses "flags" to call attention to particular retention candidates; several candidates are flagged more than once. Here are the flags used on the Injustice Watch Voters' Guide:


I wonder about the use of "former prosecutor" or "former public defenders" as "flag" points. This is biographical information at most -- unless the judge in question has been unable to shed the role of advocate for the neutral judicial role. But, at that point, what was in the judge's past would not be the problem; it would be the judge's present behavior that would be worrisome. Injustice Watch has published a number of stories in this election cycle about a few judges who appear to 'lean' toward the State in criminal cases -- and these are all linked from the Voters' Guide -- but it has 'flagged' 16 former prosecutors (and nine former PDs). As it happens, and as these flags prove, service in the State's Attorney's Office or as a Public Defender is a frequent item in judicial résumés. Other well-worn paths to the bench go through the Attorney General's Office or the Chicago Corporation Counsel's Office. So... what's the significance of these two particular prior occupations supposed to be?

The Injustice Watch also offers 'side by side' comparisons of candidates seeking the five contested subcircuit vacancies (you'll have to scroll down a bit for these).

Here are some other posts (with links to sites) that retention voters (and voters in the contested subcircuit races) may find of interest:

Advocates Society Judges' Night this Thursday, October 18

The Advocates Society will hold its Annual Judges' Night this Thursday, October 18, from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m., at the Polish Museum of America, 984 North Milwaukee Avenue.

Each year the Advocates Society invites every current sitting Cook County judge, and all surrounding county presiding judges, for an event that has no speeches, no assigned seating, but does have dinner.

Tickets will be available at the door -- $75 for non-Advocates members, $50 for Advocates members (including guests of judges and retired judges). Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. Free parking is available behind the museum. For more information, or to reserve tickets, email Lucas Figiel at lucas@figlaw.com.

Who Sits Where -- 2018 isn't over and we're already looking at 2020

Updated October 17, 2018
Updated October 30, 2018
Updated November 14, 2018

While voters are still trying to figure out who's on the November ballot, wannabe candidates, their confidants, and their consultants are already looking ahead to 2020.

So what are they looking at?

What follows is not a comprehensive list of Cook County judicial vacancies but, rather, a list of vacancies that have either been filled by Supreme Court appointment or for which an application process has been announced or that I am pretty sure exist even though no announcement has been made. Some of the "vacancies" listed below aren't yet vacant -- but the current officeholder chose not to file for retention. There are likely to be other vacancies which the Supreme Court has neither filled nor announced. And, of course, new vacancies will occur in the ordinary course. I can and will update as necessity requires and opportunity permits.

But we all have to start somewhere.

As always, all errors of omission or commission in this list are mine alone and I am grateful for additions and corrections provided.

Supreme Court Vacancy

Vacancy of the Hon. Charles E. Freeman -- P. Scott Neville, Jr.

Appellate Court Vacancies

Vacancy of the Hon. P. Scott Neville, Jr. -- Michael B. Hyman1
Vacancy of the Hon. John B. Simon -- John C. Griffin

Countywide Vacancies

Vacancy of the Hon. Carole K. Bellows -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Raymond Funderburk -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Jessica A. O'Brien -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Sebastian T. Patti -- Unfilled

Subcircuit Vacancies

1st Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Rodney Hughes Brooks -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Vanessa A. Hopkins2 -- Unfilled

2nd Subcircuit
"A" Vacancy3 -- Unfilled

6th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Marya Nega -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Kathleen M. Pantle -- Unfilled

8th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. John J. Fleming -- Jeanne Marie Wrenn4
Vacancy of the Hon. Deborah J. Gubin -- Unfilled

9th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Marvin F. Luckman -- Unfilled

13th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Margarita Kulys Hoffman -- Unfilled

14th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Robert Bertucci -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. William G. Lacy -- Unfilled

15th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. John C. Griffin -- Nichole C. Patton

----------------------------------------------------------------
1 Justice Hyman is a Cook County Circuit Court judge sitting by appointment to the Appellate Court. The language of the Supreme Court's order appointing Justice Hyman to this vacancy suggests that, unless he runs for, and wins a seat on the Appellate Court in 2020, he will return to his original position as a Circuit Court judge. For this reason I have not included a "Hyman vacancy" among the countywide openings.

2 The late Rhonda Crawford won the Democratic Party's nomination for this vacancy in the 2016 primary but never took office.

3 Vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Alexander White.

4 Judge Wrenn was appointed to this vacancy, but she is unopposed on the November ballot for election to the 8th Subcircuit vacancy of the Hon. Sheryl Pethers. As of the first Monday in December, this vacancy will reopen.

Friday, October 12, 2018

ISBA releases explanations of its ratings in contested subcircuit elections

Voters in the far north-suburban 12th Subcircuit and far south-suburban 15th Subcircuit will have a say in the election of one judge each. Voters in the far northwest suburban 13th Subcircuit will have a say in the election of three judges.

The Illinois State Bar Association has issued ratings for the candidates in each of these contested races. (To access the complete ISBA reports for all judicial candidates on the November ballot, including retention candidates, visit this page of the ISBA website.)

Here are the ISBA's evaluations of candidates in the contested subcircuit contests:

12th Subcircuit

Vacancy of the Hon. William O. Maki

David Studenroth (R) – Qualified

David Studenroth has been licensed since 1987. After several years working for the State’s Attorney’s Office, in 1998 he opened his solo practice focusing on criminal defense. He has substantial trial experience and is considered knowledgeable with a good temperament and high character. He is active in his community. Mr. David Studenroth is found to be Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Joel Chupack (D) – Qualified

Joel Chupack was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1982. He is currently a partner at Henrich & Kramer, focusing on real estate litigation, after working with several other firms as well. He has also served as a commercial arbitrator. Mr. Chupack has experience with both bench and jury trials, and also with appeals. He is considered to be very intelligent, a good researcher, and a patient person with high integrity. He has lectured on legal topics and is a past president of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers. In addition, he has been active with the ISBA on the Real Estate Section Council and the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee. Mr. Joel Chupack is found to be Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

13th Subcircuit

Vacancy of the Hon. Clayton J. Crane

Gary W. Seyring (R) – Qualified

Gary W. Seyring has been licensed since 1978. He is a sole practitioner and a CPA focusing on domestic relations, real estate, estate planning, and business law. He does have litigation experience in those areas. It is reported that he has good legal knowledge and is diligent with a good demeanor. Mr. Gary W. Seyring is found to be Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Ketki “Kay” Steffen (D) – Highly Qualified

Ketki “Kay” Steffen has been licensed since 1991. In November 2015 she was appointed to the circuit court, assigned to the Third District, until December 2016. She is currently an arbitrator for the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission. She also served as a circuit court judge by appointment from 2010 – 2013 and was then appointed to be an Administrative Law Judge for the Illinois Compensation Commission from 2013 – 2015. Before her original appointment to the bench, Ms. Steffen spent nineteen years with the State’s Attorney’s Office where she obtained extensive litigation experience. She is considered knowledgeable in a variety of areas of law and is highly regarded by attorneys who have appeared before her. Ms. Ketki Steffen is found to be Highly Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Vacancy of the Hon. Jeffrey Lawrence

Daniel Patrick Fitzgerald (R) – Qualified

Daniel Patrick Fitzgerald was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1991. He is currently a litigation attorney for the Walgreen's Corporation, focusing on health care litigation from case evaluation to settlement. Prior to that position, he was on the staff of the Office of inspector General, Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services; General Counsel for the Illinois Racing Board; and an assistant attorney general. Attorneys reported that he has a thorough understanding of the entire legal process, and is very good at analyzing legal issues, with high integrity. He has been active with the Northwest Suburban Bar association and active with civic affairs in Barrington Township. Mr. Daniel Patrick Fitzgerald is found to be Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Shannon P. O’Malley (D) – Not Recommended

Shannon P. O’Malley declined to participate in the judicial evaluation process. Pursuant to ISBA guidelines, Mr. Shannon P. O’Malley is found to be Not Recommended for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Vacancy of the Hon. Ann O’Donnell

Christine Svenson (R) - Qualified

Christine Svenson was admitted in 1995. She opened her own practice in 2008 focusing on domestic, chancery, workers’ compensation, and tort matters. She is also a mediator and an arbitrator and did civil litigation with two firms. She has minimal jury trial experience and some bench trial experience. Most attorneys reported positive comments on her diligence and she is considered to have sound knowledge of workers’ compensation. She has community involvement. Ms. Christine Svenson is found to be Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Samuel J. Betar, III (D) - Qualified

Samuel J. Betar III has been licensed since 1983. He was appointed to a full circuit court judgeship in July 2017, after serving as an associate judge since 1998. Judge Betar is currently assigned to Municipal District 3 (Rolling Meadows) and to the Domestic Violence Division. Prior to his election as an associate judge, he practiced with several firms doing commercial litigation. He is considered to be fair, even-keeled and will always research when needed. He is a co-founder of the Arab-American Bar Association, and teaches new judges. Judge Samuel J. Betar III is found to be Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

15th Subcircuit

Vacancy of the Hon. Frank G. Zelezinski

Karla Marie Fiaoni (R) – Not Qualified

Karla Marie Fiaoni was admitted in1989. Since 2001 she has been a solo practitioner focusing on criminal defense, domestic relations and administrative hearings. Prior to opening her practice, she was an assistant state’s attorney for five years, both the police chief and superintendent for Chicago Heights, and the Project Director, Domestic Violence unit Chicago Heights. Reports from attorneys about her legal knowledge ranged from adequate to excellent; concerns were raised over her lack of complex cases, and also over reports that at times cases lingered too long unnecessarily. Incomplete and inadequate answers to the Alliance questionnaire also raised concerns about diligence and organization. Ms. Karla Marie Fiaoni is found to be Not Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Scott McKenna (D) – Qualified

Scott McKenna was admitted in 1996. He is currently a partner at Best, Vanderlaan & Harrington, concentrating on civil litigation. He joined that firm in 2005,
after working at several other private firms. He has substantial civil jury experience, and is considered to be well-prepared, even-keeled and punctual. He has lectured on legal issues. Mr. Scott McKenna is found to be Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

* * * * * * * * *
The ISBA provides an explanation of its judicial evaluation processes on this page of its website. The ISBA also evaluates judicial candidates Downstate -- which, in this usage, means everywhere outside Cook County. The Downstate evaluation process is also explained on the linked page.