Saturday, February 13, 2010

Looking at the results of the Cook County judicial primaries

Democratic Party Endorsements. As has been pointed out elsewhere, only one Appellate Court candidate slated by the Cook County Democratic Party, Chancery Judge James R. Epstein, won his primary race.

But party-endorsed candidates fared much better in Circuit Court races: In the eight countywide races, two slated candidates were unopposed (Daniel J. Gallagher in the McCarthy vacancy and Thomas V. Lyons in the O'Malley vacancy). In the other six races, slated candidates won in four (William H. Hooks in the Berland vacancy, Raymond W. Mitchell in the Hayes vacancy, John P. Callahan, Jr. in the Kelley vacancy, and Sandra Ramos in the Riley vacancy).

That coveted first ballot position seems to have been as important as ever this year -- and in four of the six countywide races where a ballot lottery was necessary, the slated candidate won the lottery. The only slated candidates who did not win their respective ballot lotteries also fell short in their bids for nomination. (Terry MacCarthy was not the slated candidate for the Bronstein vacancy, but had the top ballot spot and won his race; Susan Kennedy Sullivan was not slated for the Dolan vacancy, but had the top ballot spot and won her race.)

Interestingly, two of this year's slated candidates, Diann K. Marsalek and Sandra Ramos, were "pre-endorsed" for vacancies that never opened up in 2008. There were four such pre-approved candidates in that year -- but one, Judge Dennis J. Burke, ran against the Democratic Party's candidate and won, and another, Stephen James Connolly, became an associate judge in 2009. Marsalek did not win the ballot lottery in her race; Ramos did. Ramos won her primary race.

So... which was more important... the top ballot spot... or party slating?

How appointed judges fared. Sitting judges trying to hold the seats to which they had been appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court fared fairly well in 2010.

Judge Thaddeus L. Wilson (top ballot position) held the Coleman vacancy in the 1st Judicial Subcircuit. In the 3rd Subcircuit, each of the appointed judges won: Allen F. Murphy (Carmody vacancy, top ballot position), Edward S. Harmening (Darcy vacancy, top ballot position), and Daniel Malone ("A" vacancy, top ballot position). In the 15th Subcircuit, Judge George F. Scully (top ballot position) held the Panichi vacancy and Judge John C. Griffin (top ballot position) held the Phelan vacancy.

On the other hand, despite having the top ballot spot, Judge Steven J. Fruth was not able to hold onto the Riley vacancy in the 11th Judicial Subcircuit. In the 9th Subcircuit, neither Judge Yehuda Lebovits (Otaka vacancy) nor Judge Michael Ian Bender were able to hold their seats.

But analyzing these outcomes gets complicated: Judge Geary Kull was appointed to the countywide Kelley vacancy. Passed over by the Democratic Party at slating time, Kull filed for the 9th Subcircuit Otaka vacancy instead. (As of this morning, Judge Kull's margin over Abbey Fishman Romanek is 49 votes -- but 'official' results won't be released until next week.) There were 13 candidates at one time in the 11th Subcircuit race; eleven were on the final ballot, including Judge Pamela M. Leeming, who was appointed to the countywide McCarthy vacancy on October 30 -- after she'd filed in the 11th.

Still... holding a judicial position by Supreme Court appointment seemed to confer a decided advantage in this primary season: Every countywide candidate who was slated and already serving as a judge won their primary race.

Another interesting note: This year, two candidates were "pre-endorsed" by the Democratic Party. One, Assistant Public Defender Daniel J. Gallagher, was pressed into service when the countywide McCarthy vacancy opened up. The other, Associate Judge Mathias W. Delort, will presumably have first call for slating in 2012. With his significant judicial experience, if this year's pattern holds, he should be considered a very strong contender at that time.

Bar Association evaluations. Not every candidate who won in the primary was rated recommended or qualified by each of the several bar associations that investigate judicial candidate credentials. "Glass half full" folks will note that, in several races, nearly every candidate received positive ratings from the bar groups. "Glass half empty" folks will focus on races like the race for the Steele vacancy in the 1st Subcircuit where no candidate received positive ratings from every bar group. Jesse Outlaw was the only candidate in that five candidate race who received more positive evaluations than negative ones.

I line up with the "glass half full" folks. After the primary, Joyce Williams, who coordinates candidate evaluations for the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening, sent me an email in which she noted, "None of the seventeen candidates that bypassed the Alliance's judicial evaluation process won in their respective races." Even unopposed candidates submitted their credentials to peer review (and most fared very well). Put it this way: Every single judicial primary race was won by a candidate who received a qualified or recommended rating from at least one bar association.

Related: Acknowledgments and Archives

No comments: