Sunday, November 04, 2007

Democratic primary draws crowd in formerly Republican subcircuit

In 2006 Ellen L. Flannigan became the first Democrat elected to the bench from the 12th Subcircuit. This year, four candidates have filed in the 12th as Democrats -- but, on the eve of the last day for filing, only one Republican is in the running.

Two of the four Democrats have already been profiled here: Judge Ellen Flannigan's husband, Thomas Flannigan, and Judge Thomas R. Mulroy, who was appointed to the Devlin vacancy by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Also filing as Democrats were Pamela Elizabeth Loza and Michael John Halloran. Loza is a solo practitioner with offices in Palatine. A lawyer since 1978, her Sullivan's listing says she concentrates in divorce and criminal law.

Halloran is an Assistant Public Defender. A lawyer since 1987, Halloran made the news in 2004 when a Cook County jury cleared him of charges of professional negligence in a suit brought by Richard R. Johnson.

It was a decision many years in the making. An article by Jim Day in the August 2004 issue of Chicago Lawyer summarized the initial issue this way: "In 1991, Johnson was charged with the rape of a 21-year-old graduate student at the University of Chicago. Some serology reports at the time found Johnson was a 'non-secretor,' but others matched an enzyme in Johnson's blood with semen found on the victim's clothing. After consulting with his superiors, Halloran moved to have the conflicting lab results excluded from trial, instead focusing on other weaknesses in the prosecution's case."

Johnson was found guilty and his sentence was affirmed, but eventually DNA testing showed he was not the perpetrator. After being released, Johnson sued Halloran and others in the Public Defender's Office for their strategy of attempting to exclude conflicting, and potentially damaging, test results. The case was initially thrown out on immunity grounds but the Illinois Supreme Court reversed. See, Johnson v. Halloran, 194 Ill.2d 493, 742 N.E.2d 741 (2000).

An article by Mickey Ciokajlo in the June 22, 2004 Chicago Tribune quoted Steven Puiszis, of Hinshaw & Culbertson, one of the attorneys who represented Halloran in the malpractice trial: "Mike has always maintained that Richard Johnson was innocent.... We're pleased that once the jury heard everything ... they realized why [defense counsel] took the strategy that they did, and they reached the same conclusion that we did." Johnson's case against Halloran helped spur enactment of the Public and Appellate Defender Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 19/1 et seq.

The one Republican candidate is Maine Township Trustee and Assistant State's Attorney Laura J. Morask. A lawyer since 1987, Morask filed petitions as a Democrat in 2004 for a 12th Subcircuit vacancy, according to a December 23, 2003 article in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, but she was not on the primary ballot in 2004.

Morask was criticized by the Appellate Court for "prosecutorial excess" in People v. Griffith, 334 Ill.App.3d 98, 777 N.E.2d 459 (1st Dist. 2002); her conduct at trial was also scrutinized by the Illinois Supreme Court in People v. Moss, 205 Ill.2d 139, 792 N.E.2d 1217 (2001).

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