Saturday, November 07, 2009

An update on bar association ratings

In a comment left just last evening on a January 17, 2008 post announcing that the CBA candidate evaluations were online someone asked, "The link no longer works, is there an updated one?"

The short answer is not yet.

The CBA and the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening traditionally do not publish their comprehensive ratings on all the primary candidates until a few weeks before the primary. While I can't say for certain that my post went up on the very day the comprehensive CBA ratings were released, I'm pretty certain it was within a day or two -- and therefore no more than about three weeks before the primary.

Expect nothing different this year.

It's not that the bar associations withhold information -- quite the contrary.

The bar associations are swamped right now, collecting and beginning the investigative process into new candidate questionnaires. These bar association ratings do not materialize out of the ether: Very extensive questionnaires must be completed by the candidates. These are then given to volunteer investigators who actually do contact references, look up cited cases and so forth. Nor are these "references" the strictly positive kind that people give on résumés. Almost anyone can find someone to say something positive about them -- but lawyers hoping to attain the bench must disclose their opponents in litigation -- even the attorney against whom the candidate filed a sanctions motion or the lawyer that filed three motions to compel against the candidate.

All the different bar associations have their own judicial evaluation committees that consider the reports compiled on the hopeful candidates by the investigators.

This takes time.

While the bar associations reveal results to candidates on a rolling basis, they do not publish their findings to the wider world until they have completed, or substantially completed, the process.

Some candidates have their ratings already -- click through the campaign websites in the Sidebar if you wish to test the veracity of that assertion. Judges sitting by appointment were evaluated (if they'd not been evaluated already) at the time the Supreme Court considered the appointments. Persons who are running now but who have previously applied for Associate Judge or who have run in past elections may also have ratings from those attempts. Depending on how long ago those evaluations were made, the bar associations may, in accordance with their bylaws, accept the prior ratings for the current campaign. That reduces the work for the various JECs, but it by no means eliminates it. It merely gives those committees more time and resources to devote to the qualifications of new judicial aspirants. In some cases, also, as per their bylaws, the bar associations may be reconsidering prior negative candidate evaluations.

As of this morning, the Chicago Bar Association website still says that the CBA is accepting candidate questionnaires. The early deadline for Alliance consideration has passed, and that date is still reflected on the ISBA website where Alliance materials are posted. However, I was previously informed that the absolute, drop-dead date for submission of an Alliance questionnaire is November 30. Candidates who have not submitted questionnaires to either the CBA or the Alliance should check out the websites and contact those groups as soon as possible for additional instructions.

When the bar association ratings are released for the 2010 primary, they will be posted here.

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