Friday, September 28, 2007

Seminar provides practical advice for judicial hopefuls

Who's running for judge this year? A lot of men and women who are thinking very seriously about making a run came to Judge Moshe Jacobius' ceremonial courtroom on the 19th floor of the Daley Center last night to hear tips and advice about how to make a successful bid for the bench.

Pictured above are most of the speakers and some of the sponsors of last night's program. From left to right (first row), Kamilah Parker, Assistant State's Attorney Z. Williams (First VP of the Cook County Bar Association), Judge Marjorie C. Laws, Judge Patrick E. McGann, Judge Sandra R. Otaka, Associate Judge Mathias W. Delort, and Judge Sebastian T. Patti; second row, Associate Judge Leonard Murray, Matthew Jannusch of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association and Carl Turpin (President of the CCBA).

Ms. Williams provided the welcome on behalf of the sponsoring organizations and Judge Murray served as emcee.

Judge McGann led off the evening's speakers with a talk about ethics and a friendly warning: Judicial candidates are subject to discipline for violation of the Cannons of Judicial Ethics (see Illinois Supreme Court Rule 67 and Rule 8.2 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct). Judge McGann discussed the Supreme Court case of Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), and what sorts of opinion disclosures may be appropriate for a judicial candidate. I suspect that this will be a topic for future posts as various interest groups send questionnaires to judicial hopefuls.

Judge Delort spoke next about campaign financing -- and how to stay in compliance with the financial disclosure rules of the Illinois State Board of Elections. Full disclosure department: Judge Delort, while in private practice as an elections lawyer, represented me in my judicial campaigns. (My failures at the polls weren't his fault; his job was to help me get on the ballot -- which he did.)

Judge Murray stepped out of his role as emcee next and spoke about nominating petitions and other prerequisites for getting on the ballot. The large audience -- most of whom are circulating petitions right now -- had a great many technical questions for Judge Murray who, like Judge Delort, practiced as an election lawyer before going on the bench.

Judge David Delgado (who is not shown in the accompanying picture) spoke next about the passion that a candidate must have in order to succeed in the election process. "You have to want it," he stressed, repeatedly, "and you have to have a plan." And, he suggested, a candidate must be prepared for "moments of darkness" when things will appear very bleak to a candidate. A candidate must, he said, surround himself with "positive people."

Judge Delgado was elected from Cook County's 6th Subcircuit. Judge Marjorie Laws, who spoke next, was elected from the 2nd Subcircuit.

Judge Laws asserted that an extensive political résumé is not required before becoming a candidate -- she had no substantial political experience, she told the audience, but she sought out, and obtained, political support when she undertook her candidacy. You have to get close to the politicians, she told the group.

Judge Laws suggested that churches are wonderful places to get votes and taverns are good places to obtain petition signatures. With children at home, Judge Laws said, she was initially content to let her husband go to the taverns in the evening looking for signatures -- but he reported back that people wanted to see the candidate: She had to go, too.

One night, Judge Laws told the group, she was in a long, narrow tavern, shaking hands and greeting patrons and following her husband, who was holding the clipboard for signatures. Suddenly he doubled back. "We have to go now," he told his wife, and began leading her from the premises. Judge Laws was surprised; she thought that things were going well.

She asked her husband why they had to leave. "There's a guy in the back," he told her, "who said you sent him to the penitentiary." (Judge Laws had served as a prosecutor before seeking election as a judge.)

Judge Sebastian T. Patti was the only one of last night's speakers who'd been elected countywide. The audience gasped when he revealed how much he raised -- and spent -- in 1996. Campaigns are only more expensive now, he cautioned the audience, and the county has gotten no smaller. He suggested that a candidate would need a driver to maximize the ability to cover events on either side of the county in a single day; valuable time is lost while getting one's car from a parking garage. He suggested that a candidate might want to consider taking a leave of absence from his or her job to make the run; at the very least, he said, a candidate will need to take the last two or three weeks off before the primary.

Judge Sandra R. Otaka was elected from the 9th Subcircuit. She is proud to be the first Asian American elected judge in Cook County and she told the audience how all the politically savvy people told her that this was impossible. (The 9th Subcircuit has traditionally elected Jewish candidates.) Judge Otaka had some very practical, nuts and bolts advice about precinct analysis and organization and how to allocate resources.

The panelists thereafter fielded questions from the audience. Practical advice was dispensed in equal proportion with encouragement. Other organizations sponsoring last night's event were the Asian American Bar Association, Black Women Lawyers' Association of Greater Chicago, the Illinois Judicial Council, and the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois.

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