Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Appointed, yes, but will they be chosen?

Circuit court judges are elected in Illinois, but when vacancies occur the Illinois Supreme Court can fill those vacancies by temporary appointment.

The appointed judge can seek election to a full term at the next election. There was a time when a judge appointed to a Cook County vacancy would have a good chance of being slated by the Democratic party at that next election.

I don't believe that this is the rule any more -- but there is one way to find out: Slating is scheduled for this week. We will soon know who's been slated; we can compare that list with the list of those appointed.

Not all posted vacancies are in fact vacant: Judges can announce they will not seek retention and serve in office until December 1, 2008 when their current term expires. The Supreme Court may choose not to fill some actual vacancies. However, working from Supreme Court press releases and back issues of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, I have put together this partial list of vacancies which have been filled:

Countywide Vacancies

Vacancy of the Hon. Michael T. Healy -- Maureen Ward Kirby, appointed 8/22/07

Vacancy of the Hon. Michael R. Keehan -- Marilyn F. Johnson, appointed 3/06

Vacancy of the Hon. Anthony S. Montelione -- Joseph D. Panarese, appointed 8/06 (subsequently accepted appointment as Associate Judge)

Vacancy of the Hon. Michael J. Murphy -- Assoc. Judge Dennis J. Burke, appointed 6/5/07

Vacancy of the Hon. Julia M. Nowicki -- Michael B. Hyman, appointed 6/06

Subcircuit Vacancies

4th Subcircuit Vacancy of the Hon. Lon W. Shultz -- William E. Gomolinski, appointed 7/17/07

10th Subcircuit Vacancy of the Hon. Robert J. Kowalski -- James E. Snyder, appointed 3/23/07

13th Subcircuit Vacancy of the Hon. James T. Ryan -- Margarita T. Kulys, appointed 7/06

I do not pretend that this is an exhaustive list; it is merely what I can personally verify after searching the referenced sources over several hours this past long weekend. Park Ridge attorney Russ Stewart mentioned in a recent column on his website that the Supreme Court had appointed Kenneth Fletcher to fill the vacancy created by Aurelia Pucinski's move from a 10th Subcircuit seat to a countywide one.

Stewart, himself a former judicial candidate, was not optimistic about Fletcher's or Snyder's chances of being slated. Stewart wrote, "Each Democratic committeeman has a rotating pick. This year, it’s Pat O’Connor’s (40th) and Gene Schulter’s (47th) turn. Fletcher, from the 41st Ward, and Snyder, from the 46th Ward, will both run, but, without party backing, they have no chance."

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