Monday, September 28, 2020

Retention judges to hold virtual fundraiser October 7

The Committee for Retention of Judges in Cook County will host a virtual program on maintaining judicial independence on Wednesday, October 7, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.

The program will feature Andrea Zopp, the President and CEO of World Business Chicago; former Cook County Judge Stuart A. Nudelman, now working as a mediator, arbitrator, and consultant; and criminal defense attorney Sam Adam, Jr.

Tickets for this event are $125 each, and sponsorships are available (Advocate - $250, Supporter - $500, Friend - $1,000, Host - $2,500, and Co-Chair - $5,000). A link to the program will be provided upon purchase of a ticket.

Co-Chairs for the Committee for the Retention of Judges already includes Joe Balesteri, Bob Clifford, Michael Cogan, Ben Crane, James M. Hagler, Shawn Kasserman, Daniel Kotin, Marvin Leavitt, Jeffrey M. Leving, Lisa M. Longo, James McKay, Jim Morici, Kerry Peck, Joe Power, John Power, Larry Rogers, Jr., Antonio Romanucci, Patrick Salvi, Thomas Siracusa, and Tim Tomasik.

The Lawyers Committee for this year's retention class includes Gemma Allen, Wayne Andersen, Larry G. Axelrood, Bernadette Barrett, Gloria Block, Yolande Bourgeois, Perry Browder, George Brugess, Kate Conway, Thomas Cronin, Martin Dolan, Leon Finkel, Jonathan Green, John Hourihane, Marc McCormack, Ted McNabola, Robert Napleton, Katherine O'Dell, Jesse Outlaw, Thomas J. Power, Steve Roeder, Daron Romanek, Donald Schiller, Marty Schwartz, Terrence Sheahan, Karen Shields, Mariyana Spryopoulos, and Adrian Vuckovich.

To register for the event, visit the Retention Judges website, CookCountyJudges.org. For any questions about the event, or for additional information, email Kaitlin Delaney at kaitlin@p2consultinginc.com or call (312) 854-8018.

A guide to the only two contested Cook County judicial races

There are only two contested judicial races on the November ballot, one in the far north suburban 12th Subcircuit, the other in the far northwest suburban 13th. All other Cook County judicial seats up for election this year, for the Supreme Court, Appellate Court, and Circuit Court alike are unopposed; the winners of the Democratic primary are all running uncontested and will take their seats on the first Monday in December.

FWIW organizes the data in the two contested subcircuit races in this post.

This post may be updated and possibly bumped up for greater visibility as Election Day nears.

12th Subcircuit (Hanlon vacancy)

Patricia M. Fallon - #91



Campaign Website

Law Bulletin Questionnaire

Bar Association Evaluation Narratives

The Chicago Bar Association says:
Judge Patricia M. Fallon is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Judge Fallon was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2001 and was appointed to the Circuit Court in 2019. Judge Fallon has practiced law in the private, corporate and government sectors. Judge Fallon is well regarded for her knowledge of the law, trial experience, and excellent temperament and demeanor.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers says:
Hon. Patricia Maria Fallon was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 2001. Prior to her appointment to the Circuit Court, in 2019, she served as Chief of Human Resources for the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. From 2004 to 2017, she worked for the Labor and Employment Unit of the Cook County State’s Attorney Office, where she served as an Assistant State’s Attorney and also as a Supervisor (2015-17) and Deputy Supervisor (2013-2015).

Ms. Fallon is considered to have good legal ability with litigation experience in both state and federal court. She is described as hard-working with good temperament, and is praised for her supervisory skills. The Council finds her Qualified for the Circuit Court.
The Illinois State Bar Association says:
Patricia Fallon has been licensed since 2001. She was appointed to the circuit court in July 2019 and currently sits in the First Municipal District – Traffic Section. From June 2017 until her appointment, she was chief of Human Resources at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. She came to that position after spending thirteen years as an assistant state’s attorney in the Labor and Employment Unit becoming supervisor in 2015. Prior to joining the State’s Attorney’s Office, she had been a contract attorney for a law firm and for Abbott Laboratories. She has been on committees and a section council member for the Illinois State Bar Association and is a member of other bars. She has also done legal writing.

Attorneys gave favorable comments about her legal knowledge and ability, pointing to her experience in state and federal courts, diligence and good temperament. She has jury and pretrial motion experience and has handled appeals. She has appeared before several county and state agencies handling employment matters. ISBA finds Judge Patricia M. Fallon qualified to serve as a judge to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Other Bar Association Evaluations

Arab American Bar Association: Recommended

Asian American Bar Association: Qualified

Black Women Lawyers' Association: Recommended

Cook County Bar Association: Recommended

Decalogue Society of Lawyers: Recommended

Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois: Recommended

Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois: Highly Recommended

Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago: Recommended

Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois: Highly Recommended

Women's Bar Association of Illinois: Recommended

Endorsements (for the March primary)
Chicago Federation of Labor
AMVOTE PAC
Indo-American Democratic Organization
Fraternal Order of Police, Chicago Lodge No. 7
Italian American Police Association
Advocates Society (Recommended)
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Frank R. DiFranco - #92


Campaign Website

Bar Association Evaluation Narratives

The Chicago Bar Association says:
Frank R. DiFranco is “Qualified”for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. DiFranco was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1987 and is currently a solo practitioner concentrating in criminal felony, misdemeanor, DUI, traffic, and personal injury matters.Mr. DiFranco has extensive experience in a wide range of civil and criminal matters and is well regarded for his knowledge of the law, legal ability, and good demeanor.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers says:
Frank Rocco DiFranco was admitted to practice in 1987. He has been in private practice as a sole practitioner or as a lawyer within a small firm since 1995 handling criminal defense and personal injury cases. From 1987 to 1995 he served as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney.

Mr. DiFranco is reported to have good legal ability. He enjoys a reputation of being a zealous and knowledgeable advocate. Most respondents say he has a good temperament. The Council finds him Qualified for the Circuit Court.
The Illinois State Bar Association says:
Frank R. DiFranco has been licensed since 1987. From 1987 to 1995 he was an assistant state’s attorney where his assignments included Appeals, Traffic, Night Narcotics, and Felony Trial. Since 1995 he has been in private practice currently as the principal with DiFranco and Associates, focusing on criminal defense and civil cases. He is a member of some bar associations, has lectured to law enforcement officers and high schools, and is on the board of the Standing Tall Foundation.

Attorneys generally reported that he is very competent and diligent and represents his clients with great zeal. There were some mixed comments on temperament with some stating that he has a good temperament, while a few felt he could be argumentative at times. He has both civil and criminal jury trial experience and substantial criminal bench trial experience. ISBA finds Mr. Frank R. DiFranco qualified to serve as a judge to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Other Bar Association Evaluations

Arab American Bar Association: Recommended

Asian American Bar Association: Not evaluated through no fault of the candidate

Black Women Lawyers' Association: Recommended

Cook County Bar Association: Recommended

Decalogue Society of Lawyers: Recommended

Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois: Recommended

Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois: Not evaluated through no fault of the candidate

Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago: Recommended

Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois: Recommended

Women's Bar Association of Illinois: Recommended

Endorsements (for the March primary)

Italian American Police Association
Advocates Society (Recommended)
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13th Subcircuit (Kulys Hoffman vacancy)

Susanne Michelle Groebner - #91


Campaign Website

Bar Association Evaluation Narratives

The Chicago Bar Association says:
Susanne Groebner is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Groebner was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2000 and is currently serving as a Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney in the Third Municipal District. Ms. Groebner has tried many complex cases and is well respected by judges and lawyers for her knowledge of the law, outstanding trial skills, fine demeanor and temperament.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers says:
Susanne Groebner was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 2000. Since 2001, she has worked as an Assistant State’s Attorney in the Cook County State’s Attorney Office, where she currently works in the Felony Trial Division in Rolling Meadows, IL (2013-present). She previously served in the Felony Trial Division in Chicago (2008-2013); in the Felony Review, Preliminary Hearings, and Grand Jury Units (2004-2008); in the Juvenile Division (Abuse and Neglect/Delinquency, 2001-2004); and in the Child Support Division (2001).

Ms. Groebner is considered to have good legal ability. Respondents to this evaluation say that she has good litigation skills and that she is an honest and fair prosecutor. She has substantial litigation experience in more complex matters. The Council finds her Qualified for the Circuit Court.
The Illinois State Bar Association says:
Susanne Michele Groebner has been licensed since 2000. She is a career prosecutor first with Cook County and for the past few years in McHenry County. Her assignments in Cook County included Juvenile Justice, Child Support and Felony Trials in the Third Municipal District (Rolling Meadows).

She has extensive criminal jury trial experience and attorneys reported that she has a thorough knowledge of legal concepts, is well prepared, honest, and impartial. ISBA finds Ms. Susanne Michele Groebner qualified to serve as a judge to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Other Bar Association Evaluations

Arab American Bar Association: Not evaluated through no fault of the candidate

Asian American Bar Association: Recommended

Black Women Lawyers' Association: Recommended

Cook County Bar Association: Not Recommended

Decalogue Society of Lawyers: Recommended

Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois: Recommended

Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois: Recommended

Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago: Recommended

Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois: Recommended

Women's Bar Association of Illinois: Recommended

Endorsements (for the March primary)
Chicago Tribune
Italian American Police Association
Personal PAC
------------------------------------------------------

Gary William Seyring - #92


Campaign Website

Bar Association Evaluation Narratives

The Chicago Bar Association says:
Gary William Seyring is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Seyring was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1978 and is currently engaged in private practice concentrating in family law, real estate, business law, and wills, trusts and estates. Mr. Seyring has commercial litigation experience and is well regarded for his knowledge of probate, tax and family law. Mr. Seyring is actively involved in community service and highly regarded by the judges before whom he has appeared.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers says:
Gary W. Seyring was admitted to practice in 1978. He is also a Certified Public Accountant. He is a solo practitioner focusing on domestic relations, real estate, estate planning, tax planning, and business law. A substantial percentage of Mr. Seyring’s practice involves litigation. He is considered to have good legal ability and temperament. The Council finds him Qualified for the Circuit Court.
The Illinois State Bar Association says:
Gary William Seyring has been licensed since 1998. He has been a private practitioner since with his own practice: Law Offices of Gary Seyring, focusing on various areas of civil law including domestic relations, real estate, probate and estate planning, and business law. He has taught at Roosevelt University, been active on committees with the Chicago Bar Association and the Northwest Suburban Bar Association and assisted military families with tax preparation through a pro bono program. He is on the board of the Illinois Youth Soccer Association.

He is considered to be a well-prepared litigator with good writing skills. He has a diverse clientele and is patient and calm. He has substantial civil trial experience including in complex matters. ISBA finds Mr. Gary William Seyring qualified to serve as a judge to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Other Bar Association Evaluations

Arab American Bar Association: Not evaluated through no fault of the candidate

Asian American Bar Association: Qualified

Black Women Lawyers' Association: Recommended

Cook County Bar Association: Recommended

Decalogue Society of Lawyers: Recommended

Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois: Recommended

Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois: Recommended

Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago: Recommended

Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois: Recommended

Women's Bar Association of Illinois: Recommended

Endorsement (for the March primary)
Chicago Tribune
------------------------------------------------------

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Latest update of Alliance retention grids

Released yesterday, this version includes BWLA ratings and completes the ratings issued by the CCBA.

Further updates will be posted when available. In the meantime, click on any image to enlarge or clarify.

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening is comprised of the Arab American Bar Association (AABAR) (the newest Alliance member), the Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago (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), working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois.

The Alliance does not include the Chicago Bar Association (CBA), which maintains its own evaluation process. (Click here for a post on the CBA's retention evaluations.)

Despite all the hype, all the angst, all the hoopla, many of our neighbors aren't voting. Why?

Now that early voting is upon us, there will be some new visitors coming to this page, namely, voters looking for information about judicial races. I'll have a "welcome" post or two up soon.

This post, however, is addressed to those of you who come here regularly, all year long. You, Dear Regular Reader, are also a voter.

In fact, chances are pretty good that you haven't missed an election of any kind---primary, regular, special, municipal, whatever---since you turned 18. If you live in the suburbs you dutifully vote for library boards, school boards, and township officials. You vote on all bond issues. You're not just voters, you're VOTERS. Do you know what else you are?

You're a bunch of danged unicorns, that's what.

I'd like to believe otherwise. I'd like to think that every citizen of our fair Republic would take the minimal time required to vote in every election. We were all taught in school that this was our duty as citizens. It is, quite literally, the least we can do. But the evidence is overwhelming that folks who vote in every election are exceedingly rare. In other words, unicorns. (I could say as rare as hen's teeth, but, given the choice, I assume most of you would prefer being a unicorn to a hen's tooth.)

Slightly more than half of all Americans of voting age bothered to cast ballots in 2016 (55.7%, according to this report from Pew Research). That linked report also suggests that only about 64% of the voting age population in America was even registered to vote.

And you already know that turnout for a primary is lower than turnout in a general. And turnout in an Illinois gubernatorial primary is usually lower than turnout in a presidential primary. And you further know that turnout drops off even more as voters move down the ballot. But you don't drop off -- you trudge through the primary ballot down to the subscircuit races. You'll vote on each and every retention judge on the November ballot. And a lot of you are already thinking about 2022.

Before you abandon yourself entirely to thoughts of 2022, maybe you could take a moment now to wonder: Who are these people who don't vote? Who don't even register to vote? Why aren't they participating? Across the nation, reformers are trying to restore felons to the voting lists; we will have a polling place in the Cook County Jail. Facebook is haranguing me whenever I sign on -- Jack, are you registered to vote in Illinois? My wife has gotten 10 or more solicitations to register for a mail-in ballot. I've gotten one... I feel a little slighted. Secretary of State Jesse White recently wrote to us both, in separate letters, and in a half dozen different languages, reminding us that we could ask for a mail-in ballot. It is already impossible to watch a news broadcast or sporting event without multiple political commercials; soon it will be impossible to watch any program on TV without encountering someone's political message.

A person has to exert some serious effort to avoid the forthcoming election.

And, yet, my Dear Unicorns, somewhere between a third and one-half of your neighbors will not vote or aren't even registered.

Many of you are actively involved in current campaigns. Your immediate thoughts are about getting as many of 'your' voters out as possible. So you're not thinking about those who won't vote---they're neither a help nor a threat to you and your chosen candidate. But I wonder if it might not be a worthwhile exercise to at least wonder why so many of our neighbors will not vote.

I suppose that some of the many non-voters are simply satisfied with everything. Since everything is wonderful, why bother to vote?

But I can't imagine that satisfaction with the status quo is the only reason, or even a reason that applies to many non-voters.

Are many non-voters so turned off, so disgusted, by our political antics that they have given up on the system? Why?

I don't know the answers. I don't pretend to know. But I am pretty sure that it would be a huge mistake to assume that those non-voters, if they could be dragged out to the polls, would agree with 'your' side, whatever side you're on.

Right now, everyone is shouting at the non-voters, telling them that they must vote, and must vote as we say. Maybe, in the long run, the country would be better off if we could hear, and really listen to, an explanation from the non-voters as to why they're not going to participate.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Committee to Retain Michael P. Toomin established

A Committee to Retain Michael P. Toomin was registered today with the Illinois State Board of Elections. William P. Murphy is the listed Chair of the Committee.

Establishing a campaign committee will give supporters of Judge Toomin the ability to raise and spend funds in an effort to keep him on the bench, something that most Circuit Court retention candidates do not usually have to worry about, but something that became an issue for Judge Toomin when the Cook County Democratic Party withheld support for his retention bid.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

CBA recommends "yes" vote for 60 of 62 jurists seeking retention

The Chicago Bar Association today released its ratings of the 62 jurists seeking retention on the November ballot.

The CBA found all but two of these jurists qualified for retention.

Singled out as "Not Recommended" for retention were Cook County Circuit Court Judges Mauricio Araujo and Patricia Manila Martin.

Judge Martin told both the CBA and the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening that she was planning to retire from the bench but did not withdraw from the ballot in time.

Neither Judge Araujo nor Judge Martin participated in the CBA's evaluation process and were automatically rated "Not Recommended" as a result.

The Judicial Inquiry Board has filed a complaint against Judge Araujo before the Illinois Courts Commission. Araujo is current assigned to administrative duties (colloquially referred to as "judges' jail") pending the disposition of the JIB complaint.

The CBA ordinarily issues narratives explaining its candidate ratings. The CBA's ratings for candidates seeking election to the bench this year are published in its "Judge Smart Guide" (which can be linked from this page of the CBA website), but nearly all of these candidates are running uncontested.

However, as has been noted elsewhere, this is the Year of Never Ending Pandemic. "In light of impact of COVID-19 on the judicial evaluation process," said Ann Glynn, the CBA's Public Affairs Director, "the CBA’s Judicial Evaluation Committee rules were amended this year to eliminate the inclusion of a statement of reasons for those judges who have been found qualified in a retention election."

In a written statement, issued with the ratings today, Timothy S. Tomasik, Second Vice President of the CBA and a former General Chair of the CBA JEC, stated, "Judicial independence is the cornerstone of our democracy and judges are required to apply the law fairly and equally to all who appear before them. It is reprehensible for politicians and politically backed organizations masquerading as independent judicial watchdog groups to use innuendo and guilt-by-association tactics in the media to unfairly discredit the reputations of qualified men and women who are serving honorably as members of Illinois' judiciary."

Tomasik's statement continued, "Politically motivated attacks on the judiciary are antithetical to the justice system and undermine the core values of our judiciary. These attacks cannot be ignored and/or tolerated without endangering the independence of the entire court system. There is good reason why the founders of our country created three separate but equal branches of government and the independence of each must be preserved."

Guest Post: Frank Calabrese looks at 2018 retention results and what these may portend for 2020

by Frank Calabrese

This year's judicial retention election is unprecedented, with the Cook County Democratic Party dumping two judges, one of them apparently over politics.

I've been asked by a lot of people if Judge Michael P. Toomin, a well-respected judge, can lose because of the snub by the Cook County Democratic Party. The answer is yes. (The answer is also yes for Judge Mauricio Araujo, although his situation is completely different than Judge Toomin).

I mapped the results of the 2018 judge retention results for Judges Matthew Coghlan, Maura Slattery Boyle, and Lisa Ann Marino. These judges were all not recommended for retention by the Chicago Tribune, but their results were very different. Only Judge Coghlan was defeated for retention.

Marino, who was the only judge not recommended for retention by the Chicago Bar Association, "lost" (i.e., failed to achieve a 60% yes vote) in the most affluent precincts, such as Winnetka and River Forest. In other words, she lost in areas where voters read the editorial section of the Chicago Tribune. Boyle, who was opposed by the Chicago Tribune and many liberal organizations, lost basically the entire North Side of Chicago, where white liberals live in big numbers. Coghlan, who was the only judge officially opposed by the Cook County Democratic Party, lost everywhere besides the Southwest Side of Chicago and some suburban areas.

White liberal voters are fairly engaged in judicial elections and typically make their decisions without help from the Democratic Party. Boyle lost white liberal areas without the organized opposition by the party that defeated Coghlan. However, minority areas tend to vote more based on the recommendations by the party. Boyle won Black and Hispanic precincts while Coghlan lost basically every Black precinct. Coghlan did win many Hispanic precincts, especially on the Southwest Side of Chicago where he was supported by the 13th Ward, however it wasn't enough to win retention.

I believe Toomin can win certain areas that Boyle lost, like the North Shore; however, he will have trouble winning minority areas if the patterns of 2018 play into 2020. Judge Toomin will have to appeal to voters who do not read the editorial sections of the newspapers if he wants to break 60% for the election this year.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Another update of the Alliance retention grids

Today's installment features most of the ratings from the PRBA and some newly reported ratings from the HLAI. (Click on any image to enlarge or clarify.)

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening is comprised of the Arab American Bar Association (AABAR) (the newest Alliance member), the Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago (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), working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois.

The Alliance does not include the Chicago Bar Association (CBA), which maintains its own evaluation process.

Monday, September 21, 2020

North Suburban Bar Association plans October 22 Installation & Recognition Virtual Event

The North Suburban Bar Association will install Judge Megan E. Goldish as President on Thursday, October 22, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.

This being the Year of Never Ending Pandemic, of course, the NSBA event will be a virtual one. Registration is required in order to participate -- but a swag bag will be available to the first 100 to sign up.

Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans will swear in Judge Goldish and the other NSBA Officers and Directors. And the NSBA will present Appellate Court Justice Jesse G. Reyes with its L. Sanford Blustin Award during the program.

The L. Sanford Blustin Award is given in memory of Lee Blustin, one of the founders of the organization, when it was known as the Niles Township and North Shore Bar Association. Blustin is remembered as a renaissance man, active in many organizations, including the Chicago Civic Opera.

To register for the event, click here.

Persons or organizations wishing to help sponsor the event, at amounts ranging from $100 to $1,000, should email Tricia Fusilero at NorthSuburbanBar@gmail.com.

First update: Alliance Retention Grids

Still not complete, but more than there were before.

I'll have updates here when they become available. (Click on any image to enlarge or clarify.)
The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening is comprised of the Arab American Bar Association (AABAR) (the newest Alliance member), the Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago (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), working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois.

The Alliance does not include the Chicago Bar Association (CBA), which maintains its own evaluation process.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Who knew what, and when? A look inside the Cook County Democratic Party's decision to withhold its endorsement of Judge Toomin's retention bid

  • The Chicago Council of Lawyers released its ratings of Cook County jurists seeking retention on Tuesday, September 15;
  • On Monday, September 14, the Cook County Democratic Party Central Committee voted to withhold its endorsement of Judge Michael P. Toomin's retention bid.

The newspapers were concerned---and alarmed---about why Judge Toomin was denied the Party's endorsement. Was he really dumped for the reasons stated -- or was Judge Toomin targeted in retaliation for his decision to appoint a special prosecutor in the Jussie Smollet case?

And that's a valid question. But I had another one.

According to Evanston Township Committeeman Eamon Kelly's report for the Party's Judicial Retention Committee (JRC), "the Committee began its review of Judge Toomin after learning that at least one bar association had found him unqualified."

How could the Democratic Party's JRC find out about a negative evaluation before any ratings were released?

Persons unfamiliar with the judicial evaluation process may not realize, but the evaluation process is highly confidential. Lawyers and judges contacted by JEC members must have confidence in the confidentiality of the process in order to speak candidly about a candidate. Bar association Judicial Evaluation Committee members take an oath not to reveal what is discovered during candidate invesitgations or interviews. The results of an evaluation are communicated to the candidate, but not released publicly, not right away.

There are two reasons for this. First, the bar associations have long taken the position that revealing all the ratings at once, close in time to the particular election (whether primary, general, or retention election), maximizes the potential persuasive impact of those ratings on voters. Whether this is actually the case is beyond the discussion here.

The second, and more pertinent, reason for not publicly disclosing judicial evaluations as soon as they are issued, is that every bar group allows a candidate to appeal a negative rating. Bar groups sometimes revise their initial findings. That process, too, is highly confidential.

Kelly's JRC report mentioned that "at least one bar association" had given Toomin a negative evaluation. A negative bar rating is included in the 2018 Cook County Democratic Party bylaw as part of the definition of "good cause" allowing the Party to withhold its retention endorsement.

But... since it wasn't publicly available... how did the Democratic Party JRC know about any negative rating?

In an interview with FWIW earlier this week, Committeeperson Kelly explained that the members of this year's retention class had agreed to self-disclose any negative bar ratings to his JRC. While Judge Toomin did not report any negative ratings intially, Kelly said, when he heard "rumors" that Toomin had indeed received a negative review, he contacted Hanah Jubeh, the spokesperson and political consultant for the retention class, and inquired. Jubeh thereafter provided confirmation of the one negative rating, along with documentation that had been provided in support of Judge Toomin's appeal of that rating.

An appeal which, by the way, was ultimately successful.

In a separate interview with FWIW, Jubeh explained that, when she was retained to assist the retention class in July, she and the class agreed that it would be helpful to be "proactive" with groups monitoring the retention process, including the Cook County Democratic Party and the Injustice Watch website.

Jubeh confirmed that Kelly had asked for early disclosure of any negative ratings for any retention class member but, she said, the class did not agree. Some individual members, perhaps two or three, did advise Kelly's JRC of their negative ratings, but the group as a whole did not.

Kelly called Jubeh, Jubeh said, specifically asking her about the rumors he had heard concerning Judge Toomin's negative evaluation from one bar group, and asking for confirmation. She relayed Kelly's request to Judge Toomin, and he agreed to this disclosure and to provide the materials submitted in support of his appeal to that bar group.

"We thought we had good grounds for an appeal," Jubeh said.

Which, apparently, they did, inasmuch as the bar group in question did reverse itself.

Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown, reporting about the Party's decision evening, said it was the Chicago Council of Lawyers which had given Toomin the adverse rating. Kelly and Jubeh confirmed Brown's reporting on this point to FWIW, with Jubeh also confirming that the Council's decison to reverse itself, and issue a favorable rating to Toomin, took place this past Saturday. Except that the Council has confirmed to FWIW that the favorable appeal decision was made on Thursday, September 10.

Either way, the timing was apparently unfortunate.

Jubeh said she thought she had reached an understanding with the Party that the Party's JRC would not recommend withholding an endorsement from any retention candidate who had unanimously positive ratings.

Since all the bar ratings have have not yet been publicly disclosed, FWIW cannot confirm this, but neither Kelly nor Jubeh suggested that there were any other unfavorable ratings concerning Judge Toomin other than the since-rescinded CCL evaluation.

But, Jubeh said, the JRC had voted before last Friday to recommend that the Party withhold its retention endorsement from Judge Toomin. And the Party's Executive Committee voted last Friday to accept that recommendation.

Still, at the very least, the CCL had reversed course before Monday's full Central Committee vote. And the Council has told FWIW the appeal was granted on September 10, before the Party's Executive Committee voted.

And none of this answers the question of how Committeeperson Kelly became acquainted with the "rumor" of the negative recommendation in the first place. Kelly himself was vague on this point. Judges gossip, he said; one hears things.

A bar association executive told FWIW there was no doubt about the ultimate source of the rumor: It was almost certianly Toomin himself, the bar executive said.

And, admittedly, it is an explanation that fits the available facts: Judge Toomin went from being the one jurist singled out by the Council for its highest rating, "Highly Qualified," in his last retention bid, in 2014, to an initial rating of Not Recommended for 2020. It would be extraordinary if, under these circumstances, Judge Toomin did not tell someone outside the official, confidential appeals process about this disappointment; in fact, one might expect a person in these circumstances to maybe even complain a little, or even a lot, to colleagues or friends.

And, from there, it could have been off to the races....

Pope Francis periodically decries the gossipy nature of the Roman Curia (he recently called gossip a "worse plague than the coronavirus") -- but if the prelates of the Curia are the world champions of gossip, the judges of Cook County are a close second. There are those who will argue the order should be reveresed.

Committeeperson Kelly clearly might have learned about the Council's initial negative rating from gossipy judges, or other courthouse personnel. There were certainly ways for Kelly to learn about Toomin's rating without any JEC member violating their oath. For what it's worth, on the basis of what I've learned to date, I accept the explanation that Judge Toomin himself, though certainly inadvertantly, was most likely the ultimate source of the rumor that reached Kelly's ears.

I will tell you, though, that I have comments in my inbox about a number of retention judges, claiming to have information about negative ratings received by this one or that one, issued by one bar group or another. Some of these could well be from faithless evaluators. Some could be courthouse gossip, reduced to a proffered comment. Some of these are (almost certainly) made up out of whole cloth. And meanness. You, dear readers, are not seeing most of these.

But there is still a cautionary tale to be told here.

The judicial evaluation process depends on volunteers. Committed volunteers. Persons willing to do the thankless work of calling sources, reviewing candidate documents, or interviewing candidates. Persons stepping forward will hopefully have an interest in improving the quality of the judiciary generally, not a specific partisan or political point of view or policy agenda. But such persons cannot necessarily be identified in advance and they certainly can't be excluded on suspicion alone. So a committed group with an agenda, whether of policy or politics, can infiltrate the process and potentially skew a particular bar association's evaluations. They can be best countered, and outweighed, by large numbers of persons interested only in the betterment of the bench coming forward to assist. Interested lawyers meeting that description should contact the Judicial Evaluation Committees of any bar groups to which they belong. Step up and help out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

First Look: The Alliance Retention Grids

They're not yet complete, as you will see, but the first set of grids was made available today. As different Alliance bar groups finalize their ratings, I will put up additional posts (click any image to enlarge or clarify).


The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening is comprised of the Arab American Bar Association (AABAR) (the newest Alliance member), the Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago (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), working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois.

The Alliance does not include the Chicago Bar Association (CBA), which maintains its own evaluation process.

Chicago Council of Lawyers finds eight jurists Well Qualified for retention, one Highly Qualified

Yesterday, the Chicago Council of Lawyers released its ratings for Cook County judicial candidates seeking retention on the November ballot. (That's a link to the Council's full report in the preceding sentence.)

This year, there are two Appellate Court justices seeking new 10-year terms and 60 Circuit Court judges seeking new 6-year terms. Well... 58 or 59 of the 60 are seeking new 6-year terms, depending on how you count.

But, before trying to explain that, we must point out that a few of these 60 Circuit Court judges are also sitting on the Appellate Court. However, in order to remain on the Appellate Court they must first be retained as Circuit Court judges. (Six of the First District Appellate Court's 24 members are Circuit Court judges assigned to the Appellate Court by the Illinois Supreme Court.)

The CCL found only one of these jurists not qualified for retention.

The one exception is Judge Mauricio Araujo who, the Council reports, did not participate in the evaluation process. The Judicial Inquiry Board is pursuing a complaint against Araujo before the Illinois Courts Commission. He currently is assigned to administrative duties (or, as it is more colloquially stated, he is languishing in "judges' jail").

The Council also reported that Judge Patricia Martin informed the Alliance of her intention to retire. But she did not withdraw in time; her name will appear on the retention ballot. So that makes 59 Circuit Court judges really seeking retention. You'll have to stay with me all the way to the end to see how we get to 58.

Meanwhile, let's accentuate the positive:

The Council found eight jurists, including one of the two Appellate Court justices seeking retention, "Well Qualified."

The Appellate Court justice rated "Well Qualified" for retention is Mary K. Rochford.

The seven Circuit Court judges rated "Well Qualified" by the Council are Cynthia Y. Cobbs, Patrick K. Coughlin, James P. Flannery Jr., Robert E. Gordon, Pamela E. Loza, Lewis Michael Nixon, and Shelly Sutker-Dermer.

Cobbs and Gordon are currently serving on the Illinois Appellate Court, pursuant to assignment by the Illinois Supreme Court. In case you were wondering about the apparent digression, above.

The Council reserved its highest rating, "Highly Qualified," for only one judge seeking retention to the Circuit Court. But that requires further explanation.

So, first, the Council's statements about each of the jurists found "Well Qualified":

Mary K. Rochford -- Well Qualified

Present Judicial Duties

Judge, Illinois Appellate Court, First District, Fifth Division

Elected Associate Judge by Circuit Court in 1991, elected to the Circuit Court in 2006, elected to the Appellate Court in 2010
Prior to being elected to the Appellate Court in 2010, Justice Rochford was an Associate Judge in 2001 and was elected to the bench in 2006. She has served in the Chancery Division, and had also been assigned to the Law Division in the Second Municipal District where she presided over bench and jury trials involving both civil and criminal law matters. Before becoming a judge, she was in private practice and then worked for the Chicago Department of Law in the Appeals Division, where in 1985 she rose to the position of Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel. Justice Rochford serves as chair of the Illinois Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission and serves on the Supreme Court’s Committee on Equality. She is praised for her extensive career as a trial and appellate judge, and as a person working for improving access to the courts for all persons. She is highly praised for her preparedness and for the quality of her opinions. She is also praised for her integrity and for being exceptionally hard-working. The Council finds her Well Qualified for retention to the Appellate Court.

Cynthia Y. Cobbs -- Well Qualified

Present Judicial Duties

Illinois Appellate Judge, First District, Third Division

Appointed as Judge to the Circuit Court in 2011, elected to the Circuit Court in 2014, assigned to the Appellate Court in 2015
Cynthia Y. Cobbs was admitted to practice in 1988. In 2014, she was appointed to the First District Appellate Court, and she remains in that position. Originally, appointed as a Circuit Court Judge in 2011 and then elected in 2014, her previous judicial duties included Forcible Entry and Detainer (2012-2015), Civil Jury Trials (2014), Pro Se Court (2012-2013), Small Claims/Debt Collector/Breach of Contract (2012), and Traffic Court (2011). Prior to becoming a judge, she served in a variety of positions at the Supreme Court of Illinois’s Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, including Director of (2002-2011), Chief Legal Counsel (1999-2002), and Secretary to the Supreme Court Rules Committee (1997-1999). She is a member of a number of bar associations, including the Illinois State Bar Association, the Black Women Lawyer Association, and the Illinois Judicial Council, where she has served as Chair (2018-2019).

Judge Cobbs lacked litigation experience when she took the trial court bench, but has since established herself as both a solid trial court jurist and as an appellate court judge. She is praised for her legal ability and for always being prepared. She is reported to have good temperament. She is also praised for the quality of her written decisions. The Council finds her Well Qualified for retention to the Circuit Court.

Patrick K. Coughlin -- Well Qualified

Present Judicial Duties

Judge, Circuit Court, Sixth Municipal District

Elected to the bench in 2014
Judge Patrick K. Coughlin was elected to the bench in 2014. He was admitted in 1996. Prior to becoming a judge, he served as a career Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney. Lawyers express respect for Judge Coughlin’s legal knowledge and ability. He is reported to be hard-working and shows patience toward those before him, including those unrepresented by legal counsel. He is praised for his courtroom management skills. He was also praised for his initiatives in helping the Markham courthouse respond to the pandemic. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention to the Circuit Court.

James P. Flannery, Jr. -- Well Qualified

Present Judicial Duties

Presiding Judge, Circuit Court, Law Division, Trial Section

Elected to the Circuit Court in 1988
Prior to becoming a judge, Hon. James P. Flannery worked as assistant corporation counsel in municipal and federal litigation for the City of Chicago until 1980, when he was hired as an associate attorney for Murphy, Preston & Jaffe. Judge Flannery worked in corporate, real estate, and labor law for two years before establishing a general practice as an associate at John T. Mitchell & associates. In 1984 Flannery worked as a solo practitioner maintaining his general practice before being hired as chief assistant attorney general where he was assigned to the Land Acquisition division in 1985.

Judge Flannery’s current assignment is Presiding Judge of the Law Division, where he has served since January, 2014 and supervised approximately 50 judges in the Law Division. His administrative duties include handling assignment and motion calls, as well as hearing contested motions involving the Law Jury section, Motion section, Commercial section, Tax and Miscellaneous section, and Individual calendar section of the Law Division of the Circuit Court. Previous judicial assignments include an assignment to the Law Division, Jury Section in 1997, where he presided over jury trials primarily involving personal injury and commercial cases. Before that, Judge Flannery spent 5 years assigned to the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County where he heard every type of felony case, including death penalty cases, with as many as 300 cases on his docket at any given time.

Judge Flannery is considered to have very good legal ability and an excellent knowledge of the law. He has introduced improvements in the Law Division. He is praised for his administrative function, as well as for his performance as a trial judge. He is reported to offer thorough and accurate legal analysis of often complex issues and is reported to serve as a mentor to many other judges. He is also praised for his fairness and integrity. He has an excellent demeanor and many respondents noted that he treats all parties fairly while having a calm yet effective temperament. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention.

Robert E. Gordon-Well Qualified

Present Judicial Duties

Illinois Appellate Judge, First District, Fourth Division

Appointed Circuit Court Judge in 1996; elected to the Circuit Court in 2002; appointed to the Illinois Appellate Court in 2006.
Prior to becoming a judge, Hon. Robert Gordon spent 5 years working as an Associate Partner doing Insurance Defense work at Gordon & Brustin, followed by 10 years as a Partner and Insurance Defense litigator for Gordon Brustin. He then spent another 5 years as a Partner at Gordon, Schaefer, & Gordon, Ltd. where he represented both plaintiffs and defendants in litigation. Gordon then became President of Gordon & Gordon, Ltd. where he spent 15 years in General Litigation.

Justice Gordon is currently a Circuit Court judge sitting by appointment by the Illinois Supreme Court to the Illinois Appellate Court, First District since 2005. Prior judicial assignments also included presiding over jury cases as a Jury trial Judge in the Law Division at Richard Daley Center, and presiding as a Jury Trial judge in the Municipal Division.

Justice Gordon is considered to be a highly knowledgeable Appellate Court Justice who is praised for the quality of his written opinions and for the quality of his questioning during oral argument. He is considered to be exceptionally hard-working and prepared. He is widely praised for his temperament and for his integrity. He was also praised as an excellent trial judge before 2005. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention to the Circuit Court.

Pamela E. Loza -- Well Qualified

Present Judicial Duties
Judge, Circuit Court, Domestic Relations Division, Calendar 99

Elected Circuit Judge in 2008
Prior to becoming a judge, Hon. Pamela Loza was a partner at Loza & Associates, Ltd., where handled mostly divorce and criminal cases in numerous counties in Illinois. She also spent time as partner at Cameron, Loza & Associates and Cameron, Loza and Walsh, P.C. from 1987-2002 and 1984-1987 respectively. As an associate at Marder & Seidler Ltd. she practiced in divorce and criminal court after four years working as a Cook County assistant state’s attorney.

Judge Loza is currently assigned to the Domestic Relations Division. Judge Loza is considered to have very good legal ability and is described as being very knowledgeable about the law. She is praised for her courtroom management skills and for being fair and respectful to all parties. She has participated in major efforts to bring about systemic reform of the Domestic Relations Division. The Council finds her Well Qualified for retention to the Circuit Court.

Lewis Michael Nixon -- Well Qualified

Present Judicial Duties

Supervising Judge, Circuit Court, Chancery Division, Calendar 53
Mortgage Foreclosure / Mechanics Lien Section

Elected Associate Judge by Circuit Judges in 2001; elected to the Circuit Court in 2002.
Prior to becoming a judge, Hon. Lewis Nixon was regional counsel for the United States Department of Housing & Urban Development from 1983 until 2002. Before that, Judge Nixon was a trial attorney for the Burlington Northern Railroad Council Law Department until 1983, after which he was an associate at Conklin &Adler from 1979-1980. Judge Nixon began his professional career as an assistant to the Northern District of Illinois State’s Attorney from 1975 to 1979. He became an Associate Judge in 2001 and was elected to the bench in 2002. Judge Nixon is currently the Supervising Judge of the Mortgage Foreclosure/ Mechanics Lien Section of the Chancery Division. Judge Nixon’s previous judicial assignments included sitting at the Chancery division hearing Mechanics Lien cases until 2008, when he was appointed Supervising Judge. Judge Nixon is considered to have very good legal ability and is exceptionally knowledgeable about the law. He is praised for his courtroom management. He is reported to be fair to all parties and treats everyone with respect. The Council finds him Well Qualified for retention to the Circuit Court.

Shelley Sutker-Dermer -- Well Qualified

Present Judicial Duties

Presiding Judge, Circuit Court, Second Municipal District

Appointed Circuit Court Judge in 1995; elected to the Circuit Court in 1996
Prior to becoming a judge, Hon. Shelley Sutker-Dermer served as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney. Judge Sutker-Dermer is currently the Presiding Judge of the Second Municipal District. Judge Sutker-Dermer was appointed to the bench by the Illinois Supreme Court in 1995 and was elected in 1996. Judge Sutker-Dermer is considered to have very good legal ability and respondents to this evaluation say she is as doing an excellent job as Presiding Judge. She is praised as being fair to those who are in her courtroom. She is described often as polite but no-nonsense on the bench and is praised for her courtroom management. Lawyers report that it is their perception that the Skokie Courthouse (Second Municipal District) runs efficiently. The Council finds her Well Qualified for retention to the Circuit Court.
Now... about the one judge rated "Highly Qualified" by the Council for retention on the Circuit Court.

Michael B. Hyman, the jurist thus singled out by the CCL, is another of those Circuit Court judges who has been serving, by appointment, on the Illinois Supreme Court. But, when Justice Charles E. Freeman retired from the Illinois Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court appointed Appellate Court Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr. in his stead, Justice Hyman, who had already been assigned to duty on the Appellate Court, was reassigned to Justice Neville's vacancy. But this assignment came with an end-date: It would expire when Justice Neville's successor was elected and sworn in.

Justice Hyman has since become the unopposed candidate for election to the Neville vacancy on the Appellate Court. A race in which the Council also rates him "Highly Qualified."

So the Council is saying that Hyman is highly qualified for retention on the Circuit Court. But he almost certainly will not be returning to the Circuit Court bench. Which is why I said only 58 of the Circuit Court judges on the retention ballot are really seeking retention.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Public memorial service tomorrow for Justice Charles E. Freeman

The Illinois Supreme Court's memorial service for Justice Charles E. Freeman will be livestreamed tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday, September 16, at 2:00 p.m. That's a link to the livestream link in the preceding sentence.

Opening and closing remarks for the service will be made by Chief Justice Anne M. Burke.

Those scheduled to offer tributes include retired Supreme Court Justice Benjamin K. Miller, retired Supreme Court Justice Robert R. Thomas, First District Appellate Justice Robert E. Gordon, retired First District Appellate Justice Carl McCormick, attorney James D. Montgomery, Cook County Circuit Judge and Chair of Illinois Judicial Council Thaddeus L. Wilson, and current Illinois Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr.

Charles E. Freeman was born in Richmond, Virginia on December 12, 1933. He graduated from Virginia Union University in Richmond in 1954 with a B.A. in liberal arts. He received his J.D. from the John Marshall Law School in Chicago in February 1962.

Early in his professional career, Justice Freeman served as an Illinois assistant attorney general, an assistant state's attorney and an attorney for the Board of Election Commissioners.

He was appointed as an arbitrator to the Illinois Industrial Commission in January 1965 and served in that capacity until September 1973. From September 1973 until December 1976, he served as a commissioner on the Illinois Commerce Commission, having been appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.

Justice Freeman engaged in the general practice of law from 1962 to September 1976, when he was elected to the Cook County Circuit Court. While a Circuit Court Judge, Freeman became the first African-American to swear in a Mayor of the City of Chicago, his good friend, Harold Washington. Justice Freeman was elected to the Appellate Court in 1986.

He was elected to the Illinois Supreme Court on Nov. 6, 1990 and served until June 14, 2018, as the first African-American member of the Court. On May 12, 1997, he was selected as Chief Justice and served in that capacity until December 31, 1999.

Justice Freeman is survived by his son Kevin Freeman (wife Cami), grandchildren Skye Marie Freeman and Miles Charles Freeman, as well as his brother James Freeman of Richmond, Va. His wife of more than 50 years, Marylee, predeceased him.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Cook County Democratic Party withholds endorsement from two retention candidates


In the Old Days, going back at least to the days of Richard Daley I, the support of the Cook County Democratic Party for judges seeking retention was automatic -- even for those originally elected as Republicans.

In 2018, however, the Cook County Democratic Party adopted a new bylaw (Article VI, Sec. 5) which provides:
The Executive Committee of the Cook County Democratic Party shall have the authority to recommend to the Central Committee whether to withhold endorsement from any judge(s) on the retention ballot, upon good cause shown by any member(s) of the Central Committee. “Good cause” may include consideration of bar association, peer and other ratings and reviews; public proceedings before, or discipline and sanctions imposed by, the Judicial Inquiry Board or the Illinois Supreme Court; a vacancy in office as defined by the Illinois Election Code; and misconduct bringing the office of judge into disrepute. The Central Committee may adopt, in whole or in part, such recommendation not to support retention.
Today the Cook County Democratic Party withheld endorsement from two judges seeking retention this November. One is Judge Mauricio Araujo. The Judicial Inquiry Board is pursuing a complaint against Araujo before the Illinois Courts Commission. He currently is assigned to administrative duties (or, as it is more colloquially stated, he is languishing in "judges' jail").

Michael P. Toomin is the other judge that the Democratic Party refused to endorse.

Toomin has served on the bench since he became an associate judge in 1980. He was elected to the Circuit Court in 1984, as a Republican, to a suburban vacancy (in the days before subcircuits, Cook County judges were elected countywide, or from the City, or the suburbs).

Alice Yin's Tribune story about the snub is entitled "Cook County Democratic Party says it won’t endorse judge who appointed special prosecutor in Jussie Smollett case." The implication of the headline, and the lede, notwithstanding, Yin's story notes that the Democratic Party denies that its decision has anything to do with Smollett or the impact that that case may have on the reelection prospects of Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx.

In the Sun-Times, Mark Brown's column, Judicial politics isn’t child’s play — or is it? Democrats link call to dump judge to juvenile justice, not Jussie Smollett," quotes Mayor Lori Lightfoot as being "deeply concerned" about the Party's decision:
“The optics of this are terrible,” Lightfoot said. “It looks like retaliation.”
Of course, for anyone who may have recently landed on Earth, Mayor Lightfoot is no fan of Cook County Board President (and Cook County Democratic Party Chair} Toni Preckwinkle.

For the record, this is what Evanston Township Committeeperson Eamon Kelly, the Chair of the Democratic Party's Judicial Retention Committee, said in his report to the full Central Committee about Toomin (footnote in original):
The Committee also recommends that Cook County Democratic Party oppose the retention of Judge Michael Toomin, the presiding judge of the Cook County Juvenile Justice division. This recommendation is based on my investigation which concluded he does not show continued fitness to serve as the presiding judge of the Juvenile Court division.

As background, the Committee began its review of Judge Toomin after learning that at least one bar association had found him unqualified. Thereafter, I initiated an investigation that included review of relevant records, interviews with attorneys and advocates familiar with Judge Toomin; an interview with Judge Toomin; and a conversation with Judge Toomin’s presiding judge, Chief Judge Tim Evans.

Based on this investigation I recommended, and the Committee unanimously agreed, that the Democratic Party of Cook County should not support Judge Toomin’s retention. My recommendation was particularly influenced by multiple interviews with Juvenile Justice advocates. I confidentially interviewed multiple advocates—including two law professors, a foundation leader, and several attorneys from legal-aid clinics. These advocates described Judge Toomin’s temperament as “imperial,” “obstructionist,” and “not collaborative.” They universally opposed Judge Toomin’s retention as presiding judge on the grounds that he lacked the appropriate temperament to lead the Juvenile Justice courts, is obstructing efforts at reforming the Juvenile Justice courts and pursues an outdated approach to juvenile justice.

In this regard, Judge Toomin is admittedly influenced by his own experience with the juvenile justice system. While attending New Trier High School Judge Toomin was part of a group of boys that stole a police car. He credits his interactions with the juvenile court system and his subsequent service in the U.S. Marines as life changing. During his interview, however, Judge Toomin did not recognize the multiple privileges that allowed him to successfully navigate the juvenile justice system—as a white male, from a privileged community and the son of an attorney—which privileges are not available to most of the children before the Juvenile Justice division.1

As a concrete example of Judge Toomin’s outdated approach, advocates pointed to Judge Toomin’s collaboration with the Chicago Police Department to establish a mock court to scare children into better complying with a Chicago Police Department diversion program. Under Judge Toomin’s plan, the Chicago Police Department could direct children that had been diverted from the Juvenile Justice courts into “scared straight” court appearances. The hearings were designed to give the impression of a court hearing. Concerns with this program include that the Court had no jurisdiction over the children or basis to order them to appear, and under the plan the children would appear in “court” without a lawyer. The mock court was fortunately shut down quickly when the Chicago Mayor’s office directed the Chicago Police Department not to participate further in the program.

Likewise, advocates and policy makers identified Judge Toomin as responsible for blocking Cook County from participating in the Redeploy Illinois program. This program provides Illinois counties grants to divert children from the state juvenile detention system to community-based settings. Judge Toomin in his interview suggested others were also responsible—but multiple policymakers and advocates familiar with the matter identified Judge Toomin as primarily responsible for blocking the implementation of the program in Cook County.

It is important to note, some criticisms leveled against Judge Toomin in the media were not corroborated by my investigation. For example, Judge Toomin was publicly criticized for refusing to allow hearings on emergency motions for detention release for several weeks early in the COVID pandemic. While that criticism was well founded, the published accounts were incomplete. Judge Toomin did block these hearings for several weeks, but he did so only after working with the public defender’s office and states attorney to proactively release as many children from the Juvenile Detention center as they could identify. On balance a public defender I spoke with criticized his handling of the detention hearings but gave him credit for his overall response to COVID including the proactive effort to release kids from detention where possible.

Moreover, there are other countervailing factors, including Judge Toomin’s notable judicial career beyond the Juvenile courts. Judge Toomin is also extremely diligent and smart; and is well liked by former and current judges with whom he has served.

On the other hand, I find it relevant that Judge Toomin continued after his election as a Republican in 1984 to support Republican candidates for political office by donating to candidates including to Bruce Rauner and Mitt Romney, in his campaign against President Barack Obama (as well as occasional Democratic candidates such as then States Attorney Anita Alvarez). It is my firm opinion that partisan identification, without more, should never be considered in retention decisions. However, given the nature of his judicial assignment, I view Judge Toomin’s continued contributions in these high-profile races and to these specific Republican candidates, together with the other information I gathered, as some evidence that he ascribes to a Republican philosophy that we oppose.

Considering all the information gathered during my investigation, including my interview with Judge Toomin, I recommended and the Committee unanimously agreed that Judge Toomin should not be retained so long as he continues to serve as the presiding judge of the Juvenile Justice division.
1 When asked the difference between him and kids in the juvenile justice system today---Judge Toomin identified only “economic problems” explaining that jobs were plentifully available to him as a result of a “different time” as compared to now when there is “a lot of gloom.”
Kelly's report does not specify which bar association turned thumbs down on Judge Toomin's retention bid, but Mark Brown writes that it was the Chicago Council of Lawyers. However, Brown says, the Council "reversed itself over the weekend and now supports Toomin’s retention." For what it's worth, in 2014, when he last came before the voters for retention, the Council gave Toomin a "Highly Qualified" rating. Toomin was the only judge to earn that rating from the CCL in the 2014 retention election.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Virtual reception for Retention Judges on Monday evening


There is ordinarily only one fundraiser for each class of retention judges, and, in a normal election cycle, it is one of the best-attended events of the season.

But, alas, this is the Year of Never Ending Pandemic, and large indoor gatherings are not permitted.

So the fundraiser for this year's retention class is a Zoom call. To get the sign-in instructions, one must first sign up (that's the link to buy tickets).

Tickets are priced at $125 each, but sponsorships are available (Advocate - $250, Supporter - $500, Friend - $1,000, Host - $2,500, and Co-Chair - $5,000). Recently retired Supreme Court Justice Bob Thomas will be the special guest and Larry R. Rogers, Jr., the current President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, and a partner at Power Rogers, LLP (where Justice Thomas is now also a partner).

For more information about the event, email Kaitlin Delaney at kaitlin@p2consultinginc.com or call (312) 854-8018.

The Transition Integrity Project makes a scary national election even more so -- but it has one point exactly right

A report detailing "crisis scenario planning exercises," conducted by a self-appointed group of solons calling themselves the Transition Integrity Project (TIP), has been available online now for about a month, apparently.

The Washington Post had a lengthy article about the TIP report on September 3, written by Georgetown Law Professor Rosa Brooks, a TIP founder.

The authors of the report believe it "likely" that President Trump will "contest the result by both legal and extra-legal means."

In other words, the authors of the report assume that there is no way Trump can win a second term.

Implicit in that assumption, of course, is the further, danagerous assumption that, if the results appear to show otherwise, the results must be wrong.

This is the exact same type of magical thinking -- Trump can't possibly win -- that cost Hillary Clinton the White House in 2016.

I fell into that same trap in 2016. I was so sure Trump would lose. My wife was mad at me for some time after the results became clear: "You told me he couldn't win," she said. And I had.

But I learned from that.

Obviously, a lot of prominent people have not.

I don't know if Trump will win this November. But, once burned, twice shy: I acknowledge the possibility that he might. I am inclined to believe it will be very, very close, either way.

I do expect Trump to lose the popular vote: Mr. Biden's huge margins in California, New York, and here in Illinois should more than account for the nationwide margin.

But that's not how we elect presidents in this country.

A successful national candidate must win in the Electoral College.

Since 2016 (and since 2000, really) many people have disparaged the Electoral College, calling it obsolete, old-fashioned, and undemocratic. This last charge is certainly true -- but only because, since our Constitution was duly ordained and established in 1788, the United States is not a democracy, it is a republic. A federal republic. A union of states.

So if Trump wins the Electoral College, he wins.

The truly important thing is that we must not let partisans on either side -- on both sides! -- delegitimize the election results before a single vote is cast. Just in case their candidate loses.

Trump -- as is his infuriating custom and practice -- has poured gasoline on this fire by refusing to state that he will accept the results of the election, win or lose. Indeed, the TIP authors cite Trump's recalcitrance as a reason for convening their war games.

But, whether they mean to or not, with their doomsday imaginings, the TIP authors are themselves contributing to the advance delegitimization of the 2020 election. With Trump and TIP, and the many pundits, left and right, who assume 'the other side' will 'stop at nothing' to win, who needs Russia?

But there is one point that the TIP report makes with which I wholeheartedly agree: Quoting now from the Executive Summary of the TIP report, "The concept of 'election night' is no longer accurate and indeed is dangerous."

In this Year of Never Ending Pandemic, more people than ever are going to vote by mail. It is going to take time to collect and count those votes. Even though millions of mail-in votes will be cast before the election, in many jurisdictions, they can not be counted before the polls close on Election Day.

Nevertheless, all the networks will have sharp-looking maps on giant screens, with states flashing red or blue as returns come in. And each will want to be first to 'call' this state or that one.

The media covers every national election like it's a horse race -- and that was always horse-hockey. Candidates don't 'close the gap' or 'widen their lead' as votes are counted. These ups and downs merely reflect the order in which votes are counted and reported.

This year, the horse race model is less appropriate than ever. With so many mail-in ballots, there will be hundreds of thousands of timely-cast ballots still wending their way through the U.S. Mail when the in-person polls close. Therefore, in a close election -- and this presidential election is likely to be close in the Electoral College, where it actually counts -- results will not be known on Election Night. It may take a week or longer to figure it all out.

And that's OK -- or it would be, if the networks don't fan the flames of suspicion and discontent with their "wall to wall coverage" and speculations dressed up as projections.

On Election Night, watch a movie. Read a book. Both sides will be watching each other warily enough. The election authorities will do their best, in these unique circumstances, to fairly report the result. As quickly as they can, too -- but it will take time.

In the meantime, whatever your rooting interest, resolve to ignore those already seeking to delegitimize the results of this election. Even though you may have no faith or confidence in this candidate or that one (or either of them), trust in the integrity of the process, and in the integrity of the people counting the votes.

The people of the Roman Republic lost faith in the fairness and integrity of their elections, and their Republic died. We do not have to follow their tragic example.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Tonight: Illinois Judicial Council Installation & Scholarship Awards Ceremony

To access this virtual event, click here. An access code will be emailed when the registration is complete.

In order to have a two-party system, one must first have two parties

I've cleaned up the Sidebar today, getting rid of all the judicial candidates, winners and otherwise, except where primary winners face an opponent on the November ballot. That leaves, if you look, four names -- two candidates competing for the one 12th Subcircuit vacancy, two others for the vacancy in the 13th Subcircuit.

All the rest, countywide and subcircuit, Appellate and Supreme Court, all Democrats, are unopposed. Voters who missed the Democratic Primary in March are once again precluded from having any say in who serves as a judge in Cook County.

That's a great relief for all but two of the winners of judicial races in the March Democratic Primary -- but it may not be the best thing for the country as a whole.

It's not just in judicial races that there are no contests. Nationwide, according to Ballotpedia, over a third of all state legislative seats in the 44 states holding legislative elections this November are uncontested. Democrats will automatically win 17.9% of all state legislative races because there are no Republican candidates, and Republicans will automatically win 17.3% of all races because there are no Democrats.

In Illinois, again according to Ballotpedia, 11 of 20 State Senate seats are uncontested (only Democrats are running in eight of these, Republicans in the other three). Meanwhile, in the 118 Illinois House races, 53 Democrats are running without Republican opposition, while 16 Republicans are running with no Democratic opponent.

Does this absence of competition demonstrate harmony and consensus between the parties, reflecting an unprecedented era of good feelings? If you answered this question in the affirmative, you need to scale back your visits to legal cannabis dispensaries.

The absence of meaningful competition is not healthy for our country, and the problem is clearly not going away any time soon. But creative map-making is a skill that no party in power will willingly cede.