Thursday, September 06, 2007

Follow-up on yesterday's post on appointed judges

Instead of spending so much time looking over back issues of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and archived Supreme Court press releases in my search for information on appointments to judicial vacancies, I should have looked at the newspaper that was delivered to my office on Tuesday evening.

The September 4 edition of the Law Bulletin carried two stories about three Cook County judicial appointments.

Furmin D. Sessoms was appointed to fill the Fifth Subcircut vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Bernetta D. Bush. This is a link to the Supreme Court's August 30 order making that appointment.

The paper also reported that James A. Shapiro and Thaddeus L. Wilson were both sworn in as new Cook County Circuit Judges on Friday, August 31. Both received appointments that will expire December 1, 2008, the day on which judges elected in the coming election will take their oaths of office. Both men also, according to the Law Bulletin, plan to run in this coming election.

But to which vacancies were these men appointed?

I've looked again at the Supreme Court website and at the Westlaw archives of the Law Bulletin and I can't find the answers to this question.

For a candidate circulating petitions for the coming primary, this is not a matter of idle curiosity: An appointed judge in Cook County will usually (unless slated for a different vacancy by the Democratic Party) seek election for that vacancy. Persons appointed by the Supreme Court -- even if not slated -- can run as incumbents. Their credentials have been vetted by the various bar associations and one or more of the associations has found them qualified or recommended to hold judicial office. (In theory, the Illinois Supreme Court can appoint any lawyer it wants to a vacancy, but in practice every justice has some sort of screening committee. The screening process will include bar association review of a potential appointee.)

On the other hand, a first-time candidate for judge will have to wait until the conclusion of the lengthy investigation process into the qualifications of all candidates in the primary -- a process that will conclude mere weeks before the primary date -- before he or she will know if any bar associations have found their qualifications adequate. For this election cycle, with the early primary date, though the Chicago Bar Association and the Alliance of Bar Associations can be counted on to render yeoman service, the gap between the conclusion of the bar review process and the election may be shorter than ever.

Candidates aspiring to the vacancies filled last week by Messrs. Shapiro and Wilson just suffered a major blow to their hopes.

Formal slating is underway today. It will be interesting to see if the newer appointees have a better claim on slating than those appointed earlier.

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