Tuesday, October 21, 2008

12th Subcircuit roundup: Loza v. Morask

In the 12th Subcircuit race for the Devlin vacancy Democrat Pamela Loza (at left) is battling Republican Laura J. Morask (right).

The Chicago Tribune recently endorsed Loza; the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Morask.

Both Morask and Loza have been rated "qualified" by the Chicago Bar Association. Of Morask, the CBA stated:
Laura J. Morask is "Qualified" for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Morask was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1987 and is a highly skilled and experienced supervisor in the Cook County State's Attorney's office. Ms. Morask possesses all the requisite qualifications to serve as a Circuit Court Judge.
The CBA said this about Loza:
Pamela E. Loza is “Qualified’ for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Loza was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1978. Ms. Loza is a sole practitioner who handles her family practice well and efficiently. She has both civil and criminal trial experience. She is bilingual and knowledgeable about diverse communities and practice issues. She is smart and organized and capable of handling any cases presented to her.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers also found Loza qualified:
Pamela E. Loza has been a lawyer since 1977. She is currently a sole practitioner specializing in family and criminal defense law. From 1984 to 2003, she handled similar cases as a lawyer in the firm of Cameron, Loza & Associates. From 1978 to 1981, she did appellate work as a Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney. Lawyers report that she has good legal ability and that she is a zealous, but fair advocate for her clients. She has substantial litigation experience. The Council finds her Qualified for the Circuit Court.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers initially found Morask "not recommended" because she failed to participate in the Alliance evaluation process. All of the other Alliance groups found likewise.

This chart shows the Alliance ratings for both Loza and Morask (click to enlarge):

In a January 11 comment to this January 9 post, Ms. Morask explained that Alliance "required their application back in the last week of August after only a short time of being available." She was unable to comply with that "strictly enforced deadline," she wrote, because she "was out of town on our only annual family trip with my husband and two teenage boys before one goes off to college."

There is no question that moving the primary from mid-March to early February created enormous time pressures for candidates and evaluators alike.

But the Chicago Council of Lawyers believed Ms. Morask's family vacation was not the only reason why she did not participate in the Alliance evaluation and it said so in this revised evaluation:
Laura Morask is running to fill a judicial vacancy in the 12th Subcircuit. For the February 2008 primary, she refused to cooperate with any of the ten bar associations comprising the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening. As a result, she was found either Not Recommended or Not Qualified by all of these bar groups. The Chicago Council of Lawyers followed its policy of finding Not Recommended any judicial candidate who refuses to submit materials to the Council for evaluation. However, upon further analysis, it is clear why Ms. Morask refused to be evaluated by the Council – a bar group which has been evaluating judges since 1970. For the past nine years, she has been cited numerous times by both the Illinois Appellate Court and the Illinois Supreme Court for prosecutorial misconduct. As a career Cook County prosecutor, Ms. Morask has the job of upholding justice – convicting guilty defendants while upholding the ethical framework of the criminal justice system. Based on court opinions she has done the former but has ignored the latter. In 1999, the Illinois Appellate Court found that Ms. Morask "acted contrary to the spirit of discovery rules and that her conduct "troubled" the court." In 2000, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed a murder conviction and remanded for a new trial due to Ms. Morask's "pervasive misconduct" in rebuttal argument. The Illinois Supreme Court rebuked her performance in a 2001 decision. In 2002, the Illinois Appellate Court found that she engaged in "intentional and systematic misconduct" that "called into question the State's commitment to fair and just enforcement of the law." In 2003, the Illinois Appellate Court concluded that Ms. Morask misstated the law, but that her misconduct did not affect the outcome of the case. In 2004 an Illinois Appellate justice described Ms. Morask’s courtroom statements as "uncivil and overly sarcastic, if not downright boorish" and had "no place in a trial." In 2006, the Illinois Appellate Court in an unpublished decision found that Ms. Morask's closing argument mischaracterized the evidence to the jury. The Council believes that Ms. Morask’s history demonstrates that she cannot be impartial as a judge and we change our finding to Not Qualified.
I have been able to confirm that 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), and that her trial conduct came under unfavorable scrutiny by the Illinois Supreme Court in People v. Moss, 205 Ill.2d 139, 792 N.E.2d 1217 (2001). It may be that none of the other cases cited by the Council were published. (The Appellate Court disposes of many cases in unpublished orders pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23.)

Non-lawyers may be surprised to learn that lawyers seeking judicial office are expected to disclose instances where they've been criticized by a court -- to tell on themselves -- but that does not explain how the Council would have had access to unpublished orders critical of Ms. Morask, assuming that Ms. Morask refused to cooperate with the Council, as the Council report states.

Loza and Morask were both rated "qualified" by the Northwest Suburban Bar Association for the February primary.

Both Morask and Loza have posted statements about their candidacies on Cook County Clerk David Orr's website. Here is Loza's statement; this is a link to Morask's statement. Ms. Morask was one of several primary candidates who submitted a statement to this blog in her own words.

Ms. Loza's campaign website is www.lozaforjudge.com. Ms. Morask's website is electlaura.net.


Anonymous said...

Here is the link to People v. Fluker, the third case wherein Ms. Morask was criticized. I have read that the court usually does not name attorneys who break the rules unless they are repeat offenders.


Anonymous said...

Loza is now endorsed by the Independent voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization, The Illinois Committee for Honest Government, Chicago Fire Fighters Union Local No. 2, Italian American Political Action Coalition, Jewish Political Alliance of Illinois, The Polish Daily News, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 134 and Chicago Federation of Labor.

Kelly Schaefer said...

Laura Morask has been endorsed by the Italian American Political Coalition, the Jewish Poltiical Alliance, the Polish Daily News, The Rebublican Jewish Coalition, as well and the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police as well as the Illinois State Council of the Fraternal Order of Police and is the only candidate to be certified by the Illinois Supreme Court Capital Litigation Trial Bar, the blue ribbon committee charged with reforming our capital litigation process, as having the ethics, knowledge and experience to qualify to even handle a capital case.
Ms. Loza is currently under investigation on complaints pending for having falsely claimed a newspaper endorsment she did not have and mailing and distributing flyers stating this as well as for irregularites in the Filings in the State Board of Elections.

Kelly Schaefer
Park Ridge, Illinois

Anonymous said...

The particular comment in your blog attributed to the Cook County Council of lawers came from where? It does not seem to be sourced here and a look at their bar evaluations and explanations does not list this as the only one ever listd for this candidate was not evaluated, therefore not recommended. Your quoted portion does not appear on their website,

Sue Kamman said...

In response to Ms. Schaefer's comments, Ms. Morask was endorsed by IAPC in the primary. The IAPC endorsed Ms. Loza for the general election; I accepted that endorsement on her behalf at the Togetherness Reception in October when Ms. Loza had to leave early for a prior commitment to a Boy Scout troop. The JPAI endorsed Ms. Loza for the general election in a letter dated October 2, 2008. The reference to the newspaper endorsement refers to clarifying that a paper endorsed Ms. Loza in the primary and had not released a general election endorsement in the race. I suspect the candidates in this and other races need to catch up their web pages and materials to clarify primary versus general election endorsements. Ms. Schaefer's mistaken comments are an innocent example of how hard it is to keep up with the quick pace of elections today. In regard to Anonymous’ 10/26/08 question, it is the Chicago Council of Lawyers. Go to www.chicacocouncil.org and look for evaluation results for the 11/2/08 ballot. There are two links that take you to the Council’s full judicial evaluation report and the comments.

Kelly Schafer said...

Kelly Schaefer responds;

Ms. Hamman, your blog post is dangerously ill informed, inaccurate and not responsive in the least. First, Ms. Morask was unquestionably endorsed by the Italian American Poltical Coaliation (IAPC) both in the primary and general election and has the confirmatory letter of congratulations dated September 28th, 2008. Ms. Morask's thank you letter was in fact read aloud at their reception held on October 9th, by the President Thomas Battista himsf. Perhaps you left too early.
Your talk about websites and clarifications have nothing to do with the knowing deception and misleading statements characteristic of Ms. Loza's campaign and are Clintonesque in their attempt to change a proven falsehood into a "clarification" The truth does not change and a lie does not become reality by "clarification."
Ms. Loza has been demonstrating a troubling lack of attachment to the truth. Loza claimed a false endorsement by the Journal & Topic’s newspapers mailing out a flyer before she even participated in the newspaper’s scheduled endorsement session. Loza’s actions were a shocking deception to voters as she knew that this endorsement was false. Furthermore in every edition of the Journal & Topics the publisher himself stated that “the candidate’s flyer was erroneous.” Loza then admitted to this conduct despite your phrasing of such admission as a "clarification. There are only two possible choices in portrayal of her conduct; 1)her disingenous claim that because she got the primary endorsement for her party (they endorsed Ms. Morask as well) that somehow that meant she could claim it as the general election endorsement or 2) what has actually been proven-that she knowingly, after the joint interview for the general endorsement had been scheduled, sent out by US mail to all voters of the 12th subcircuit a flyer proclaiming she was endorsed by this paper IN THE GENERAL ELECTION, as well as distributed them door to door. Each of these choices are shocking conduct for any candidate let alone a judicial one. Claiming a false newspaper endorsement is one of the worst of ethical lapses, listed prominently in the Judical Ethics guidelines so the first choice would mean that Loza never read or is not familiar with the code of ethics. The second choice ( which is the reality) is simply shocking conduct for a judicial candidate to engage in a voter deception of this magnitude.
Furthermore, in the newspaper article admitting to this conduct, Ms. Loza gave assurance that this flyer was removed from circulation. However the distribution of this flyer continues unabated.
Her conduct is currently under investigation by two state boards. It is shocking that someone running for judge, a position of highest honor and trust would knowingly mislead the public. Integrity, honesty and experience should be the benchmark for any judge.
Finally, your comments regarding the Council of Lawyers are equally misinformed, as particularly illustrated by the fact there is no November 2nd ballot. The comments attributed to the Council by Ms. Loza are not on their website and are again another example of voter deception.
It is sad and quite telling that this candidate cannot run on whatever her own qualifcations may be and feels so threatened as to resort to these tactics of knowingly decieving the voters.

Sue Kamman said...

The name is Kamman, not Hamman. I think it is great that you are an ardent supporter of Ms. Morask. She certainly has worked hard in this race, and I'm sure she appreciates your loyalty. The investigations you refer to are initated by her supporters. That is their right. If Ms. Loza has done something wrong, she will be corrected. If she has not, she will be vindicated. I did not leave the reception early, and I did not hear a thank you note read. I'm sorry you can't find the information on the Chicago Council website. It is there. Mr. Leyhane is correct with his information. I think the comments are becoming very personal in nature. This is a judicial race. Perhaps it is time for all to step back from the emotion and focus on that. Positive campaigns always speak the loudest for the candidates. I won't respond to any additional comments. That is not really what this website is for, and I think it denigrates its purpose. Tread lightly on accusing people of deception, particularly in writing. Good luck.

Kelly Schaefer said...

Kelly Shaefer comments;

Ms. Kamman, I am quite sorry that you did not understand my comments and took them personally to you but again you retreat from the responsibility of having evidnce to support allegations. The only thing we agree on is the need for positive campaigns and thats one of the reasons I became a huge supporter of Ms. Morask. She has never once campaigned negatively. From hearing her speak at public forums, I know she truly believes that if a person can't campaign on their own qualifcations, they have no busiiness campaigning. In fact, if you follow this race as you claim, then you know that starting mid-July, Ms.Loza has done nothing but attack her opponent. To the contrary, as befits a truly qualifed judicial candidate, Ms. Morask's campaign never uttered her opponent's name or anything about her at all. But, after seeing the garbage used by Ms. Loza, it is imperative for any candidate to defend or be defended from baseless, ridiculous attacks. Just by way of example, Ms. Loza's website had a slide show as early as July claiming that unlike her opponent, Loza was not connected to "machine politics" Apart from utter nonsense, as the only machine in Cook County is the Democratic party one, of which Ms. Loza is a part, this early attack was as baseless as her future ones would be.
The investigation into Ms. Loza's conduct is simple fact in black and white. Pointing out a falsehood in someones' campaign materials is no less credible whether pointed out by a supporter or an opponent. Do you think that perhaps many people became supporters of Ms. Morask after witnessing the manner in which Ms. Loza conducts herself? Futhermore, would a supporter of Ms. Loza be likely to point out her misconduct?
Finally, the warning about treading lightly makes little sense in light of the Journal & Topics Newspaper article wherein the headline reads; Publisher states: Candidate Flyer Erroneous" referring to Ms. Loza's false campaign literature. While I do appreciate the lecture about the purpose of this blog, it is a citizens' obligation to vote for quality judges and notably the factual issues which are a matter of public record pointed out in my comment, are simply not addressed by you. There is no need for you to respond as there is no defense for the negative, baseless campaign run by Ms. Loza and I credit the voters with the intelligence to understand that bar associations are only as good as the lawyers within them and with understanding the difference between a true major independant bar association like the CBA and special interest or agenda based bar associations with questionable political motivation. I do apologize for the typo of your name.

Sue Kamman said...

Have a nice day!

Anonymous said...

You should apologize for slurring Asians, blacks, Hispanics gays and Jews. Those bar associations are not "special interest" groups with political motivations. They were formed to help open doors and encourage people to aspire to be the best that they can be, despite narrow-minded people who fear people who are different. Is it that your candidate was not endorsed by these groups,and that is the spin, or is there racism afoot in a judicial race?

Kelly Schafer said...

Kelly Schafer responds;

"My" candidate is Jewish. So your ridiculous comment is just that-ridiculous. She was endorsed by the Jewish Political Alliance in the Primary and by the Republican Jewish Coalition in the Primary and the General. The reference to special interest groups you refer to is accurate-each of these bar associations are a special interest group that without question devote themselves to worthy goals of furthering the diversity and inclusion of their groups. That however does not change the fact that they should not be doing bar assoications as if they are the gospel as all canons of ethics demand Blind Justice-that is why Lady Justice is blindfolded. How would you feel if you appeared as a defendant in front of a female judge who took into account that your opponent was a female (assuming you are a man) and gave them even unconsiously the benefit of the doubt because of furthering the goal of diversity. That is what is improper and why bar associations such as the CBA and the Northwest Suburban Bar Association have far more credibility as they do not use ethnic, racial, gender, or orientation as a basis for their evaluation. You who profess to have the market on determining quality judges ironically prove the point.

Sue Kamman said...

The groups to which you refer do not use ethnicity, race, gender or orientation as a basis for their evaluation. Your comments are unfortunate in this day and age.

Kelly Schaefer said...

Kelly Shafer responds;

Actully you might want to look at the Alliance questionnaire as well as consider many of the interviewers' questions as to how will you as a judge further the goal of diversity in the court system? That in and of itself is an inappropriate question; furthering diversity while a worthy aim is most certainly not a relevant question to one's qualifcations for judicial office since as stated before; Justice should and must be blind.

Sue Kamman said...

I have looked at the questionnaire. It is the same one I used on behalf of the NWSBA (the bar you actually like) to evaluate sitting judges for retention this year. Thousands of lawyers and judges around the state have deemed it appropriate to ask the questions. In fact, Ms. Morask also used to be a screener for the NWSBA. The questions are a very minimal component of the evaluation. By the way, the Decalogue Society is the bar association for Jewish Lawyers; it also is part of the Alliance. The questionnaire is coordinated by the ISBA on behalf of the various bar associations you dislike. You refer to the following questions:

"52(b). Please describe instances which you have experienced or witnessed discrimination and what efforts you have made in your personal or professional life to combat discrimination.

52(c). Please indicate whether you have taken any continuing legal education courses or other training addressing diversity concerns. For each such course or training, please discuss the nature of the program and what you learned from it.

53. What is the proper role of the judiciary in promoting diversity in the legal profession and on the bench? How can the judiciary better address diversity issues?"

Per Webster's, diversity is the inclusion of diverse people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization. Judicial screeners use the questions to try to determine whether you are open to the facts, not assumptions based upon your personal opinions. For example, do you have certain beliefs that presuppose guilt of a black defendant? Diversity training also is important in helping a judge relate to litigants from different cultures and life paths, and assisting litigants understand our judicial system.

Kelly Schaefer said...

Ms. Kamman;

Ms. Morask was indeed a prior member of the NWSBA committee and filled out the questionairre as a candidate this time. I have seen that document and nowhere on it does the NWSBA reflect those questions so if you ask them they are certainly not part of the NWSBA which by the way is the exact as the CBA which again does not ask those questions. I am not sure what your point was in the fact that the Decalogue is a member of the alliance. I am well aware of that as was my candidate. In fact Laura is a member of Decalogue and has been on their judicial evaluation committee prior. This shows exactly my point-Ms. Morask is consistent in the well-founded principle that no matter how laudable this goal of diversity is, that the ends (of using the judiciary to achieve this) never justify the means. Ms. Morask has grown up her entire life with stories of her fathers interment in Malthausen concentration crime put there by the Nazis for the simple fact of being a Hungarian Jew. So, I think she understands persectuion, minorities and diversity far better than almost anyone I know. My point in this is it still does not change that question 53 is inappropriate and in conflict with Canon 67. The judiciary has no place promoting diversity or non-diversity in the legal profession or the bench. The judiciary's job is to judge each case on its own facts and apply the law without regard to diversity/culture/heritage, no matter what nice noun you call it you are asking judges to use those things you decry in making their decisions. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Citing prosecutorial misconduct, judge voids conviction
By Patricia Manson
Law Bulletin staff writer

A man convicted of felony murder after the lead prosecutor described him as a ''deranged Energizer bunny'' and used deceit to open the door for improper evidence was denied a fair trial, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo on Wednesday rejected the notion that the prosecutor's misconduct did not warrant throwing out defendant Evan Griffith's conviction.

Instead, Bucklo held that the wrongful — and deliberate — efforts of Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Laura J. Morask to portray Griffith as ''an inhuman killing machine'' destroyed the integrity of Griffith's trial.

Bucklo granted Griffith 's petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

The lead attorney for Griffith, Cook County Assistant Public Defender Harold J. Winston, said he was pleased with Bucklo's ruling.

''It's really important that prosecutors respect the right to a fair trial,'' Winston said Thursday. ''That would help maintain the integrity of the trial in the State of Illinois .''

Winston said the next move was up to the Illinois attorney general's office.

The office could ask Bucklo to reconsider her ruling or could appeal to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Winston said.

Winston said the attorney general's office also could return the case to Cook County prosecutors for retrial.

The attorney general's office did not have a comment on Bucklo's ruling by early afternoon Thursday.

Efforts to reach Morask and Cook County State 's Attorney Richard A. Devine for comment were unsuccessful.

Griffith was convicted in the 1985 slaying of Leroi Shanks, who was hit with a hammer and stabbed with scissors and two knives.

Griffith, who was 16 years old and homeless at the time of the crime, claimed that he had spent the night at Shanks' apartment and awakened to find Shanks fondling him.

Shanks became angry when he pushed him away, Griffith claimed. He claimed Shanks left the apartment after ordering him to be gone by the time he returned.

Griffith claimed he decided to break into a safe that Shanks kept in the apartment to retaliate for the alleged sexual abuse.

Shanks returned after he opened the safe — it was empty — but before he could leave, Griffith claimed.

He claimed he hit Shanks to knock him out and escape, and then stabbed him when he remained conscious.

Griffith later pleaded guilty to Shanks' murder, but the plea was thrown out after it was found to be involuntary.

Griffith was convicted of felony murder following a trial in 1999. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Illinois Appellate Court upheld Griffith 's conviction.

The Illinois Supreme Court effectively upheld the conviction when it split 3-3 in the case following the recusal of one justice.

In granting Griffith relief, Bucklo concluded that the state appellate ruling ran counter to precedent established by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bucklo noted that although the Illinois Appellate Court upheld Griffith 's conviction, it used three pages to describe just some of Morask's misconduct during his trial.

Morask urged jurors to ignore extensive evidence concerning Griffith 's alleged mental illnesses and his alleged state of mind at the time of the crime, Bucklo said.

Bucklo said Morask also commented on Griffith 's conviction for slaying a fellow inmate after falsely telling the trial judge she would say only that his claim of self-defense in Shanks' slaying was negated by the fact that he had stabbed another person at another time.

''Indeed, the prosecution's hostile tone crescendoes noticeably over the course of the trial, reaching what comes across as a frenzied pitch at the height of Morask's rebuttal,'' Bucklo wrote.

Bucklo said Morask during her ''toxic rebuttal argument'' described several defense witnesses as ''ridiculous'' and referred to one as a ''joke'' and another as a ''slime ball.''

Morask also accused defense counsel of asking jurors to give Griffith ''a license to kill'' and engaged in ''exaggerated speculation about the violent acts Mr. Griffith would commit in the future,'' Bucklo said.

Bucklo said allowing Griffith 's conviction to stand would weaken the justice system.

''To excuse the prosecutor's lies to the court, the misuse of evidence and other misconduct in this case would indeed render meaningless the principle that every defendant has the right to a fair trial,'' Bucklo wrote.

The case is U.S. ex rel. Evan Griffith v. Donald Hulick, No. 06 C 5371.

In addition to Winston, Griffith is represented by Chicago lawyer Jeffrey D. Colman of Jenner & Block LLP.

Colman on Thursday described Bucklo's ruling as ''an excellent opinion.''

Michael R. Blankenheim of the Illinois attorney general's office in Chicago is the lead attorney for the state.

Morask has been cited for overstepping the bounds of acceptable behavior in other cases. In one of those cases — People v. SanAntone Moss, No. 87134 — the Illinois Supreme Court ''strongly condemned'' her actions.

Anonymous said...

Goodness, gracious. Leave both women alone. Everybody stop. Both women are fine attorneys.