Monday, September 24, 2012

Chicago Council of Lawyers releases 2012 judicial retention ratings

The Chicago Council of Lawyers has released its ratings for Cook County judges seeking retention in the November 2012 election.

The Council's complete report is available through its website ( or by clicking here (.pdf document).

The Council finds most of the 58 judges seeking retention to be at least "Qualified" to continue in their posts. Nine were singled out by the Council as "Well Qualified" for retention. Seven other judges were identified by the Council as "Not Qualified."

In this post we look at the judges found wanting by the Council along with the Council's reasons for so stating (presented, according to the Council, in ballot order):
Kathy Flanagan – Not Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Kathy Flanagan was in private practice. Judge Flanagan was elected to the Circuit Court in 1988. She was initially assigned to the Domestic Relations Division as a trial judge. Judge Flanagan currently sits in the Law Division on a motion call.

With regard to fairness and legal ability, Judge Flanagan is generally considered intelligent, with a good grasp of the law, and appropriate diligence. Respondents believe her to be very engaged in the courtroom, giving full attention to the details. With regard to rulings, she is described as “consistent, predictable and follows the law.” Many interviewees characterize her as “very fair” and “always prepared.”

However, a substantial number of respondents had a negative impression of Judge Flanagan’s judicial temperament. She was called “hostile,” “imperious,” “rude” and “discourteous.” She was frequently described as impatient or inflexible. A number of attorneys believe these qualities negatively affected her ability to manage her courtroom efficiently. However, even some respondents who were highly critical of her temper noted that she is “bright” and “truly cares” about the outcomes in her courtroom.

Responses indicate that Judge Flanagan is clearly diligent and capable on the bench. She is prepared for court, punctual and engaged in the proceedings with a reputation for intelligence and general fairness. However, responses show that Judge Flanagan displays inappropriate temper and has created a courtroom atmosphere that is readily described as hostile or unpleasant. In 2006 the Council found Judge Flanagan Not Qualified for retention for these same reasons. There reportedly has been no significant improvement. The Council finds her Not Qualified for retention.

Judge Cynthia Brim – Not Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Cynthia Brim was an Assistant Illinois Attorney General. Judge Brim was elected to the Circuit Court in 1994 and initially assigned to the First Municipal District. Judge Brim is presently assigned to the Fifth Municipal District but has been suspended from duty since March 12, 2012. Judge Brim was arrested on March 10, 2012 on misdemeanor charges related to an altercation with a Cook County Sheriff’s Deputy at the Daley Center.

Most respondents indicated a lack of confidence in her legal abilities. Even though the judge hears generally non-complex matters, her rulings are often described as unpredictable and delayed. Respondents indicate that they regularly file motions for substitution of judge, despite the cost and inconvenience to their clients.

Additionally, there are many complaints that Judge Brim is late to take the bench. Attorneys report repeated continuances because court starts late and because the call is handled inefficiently. Attorneys feel that Judge Brim is particularly rude and unaccommodating of counsel who are on call in multiple courtrooms. Many attorneys described her as “consistently late” and there is some concern that her case management delays resolution of cases.

The consistently negative reports about Judge Brim’s judicial performance and her arrest at the courthouse at the Daley Center in downtown Chicago raise serious questions about whether she can remain effective on the bench. The Council finds her Not Qualified for retention.

Judge Christopher Donnelly – Not Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Christopher Donnelly spent one year in private practice before working as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney. Judge Donnelly was elected to the Circuit Court in 1994. He served in the Juvenile Justice Division prior to being transferred to the Sixth Municipal District in Markham, where he currently sits.

Most attorneys agree that Judge Donnelly has the aptitude to understand the law and apply it. Attorneys reported that Judge Donnelly is “a smart man,” intelligent,” and has “an excellent grasp of what’s going on in his courtroom.” Regarding his courtroom management, interviewees repeatedly praised his efficiency, describing him as running a tight ship and being capable of moving the call along. His judicial diligence and preparedness were not generally questioned.

While many attorneys complimented his intelligence and legal aptitude, a substantial number raised concerns about Judge Donnelly’s temperament and his professionalism. Interview respondents roundly criticized his tone and demeanor while on the bench. Some respondents referred to him as a “bully,” stating that “he goes out of his way to demean people unnecessarily,” he is “mean spirited” and “sometimes can just explode over the insignificant,” and that he “is unprofessional, rude and disrespectful.”

Many respondents had negative responses about Judge Donnelly’s judicial fairness, with most attorneys reporting that he has an unabashedly pro-prosecution perspective. Another attorney suggested that Judge Donnelly’s experience as a former prosecutor weighs heavily on his current role as a judge. One interviewee who summed up many concerns in moderate terms hoped that the evaluation process would inspire the Judge to consider the impression his demeanor makes. The Council finds him Not Qualified for retention.

James Egan – Not Recommended
Judge Egan failed to submit materials to the Council for evaluation, indicating that he would be retiring. However, his name appears on the November retention ballot and thus we are required to rate him as Not Recommended in light of his failure to submit evaluation materials. Nonetheless, given the unique circumstances here – Judge Egan has submitted his materials in the past and it appears he did not do so this time because he plans to retire – the Council has decided to include the following evaluation of Judge Egan based on the work of the Judicial Performance Commission of Cook County:

Evaluation of Judge Egan based on research conducted by the Judicial Performance Commission of Cook County:

Prior to becoming a judge, James Egan was both an Assistant Cook County Public Defender and an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney. Judge Egan was appointed as an Associate Judge in 1989 and became a Circuit Court judge in 1995. He was first elected in 2000. He was initially assigned to the First Municipal Traffic Court and subsequently transferred to the Second Municipal District Criminal Court and the Criminal Division. He currently hears a motion calendar in the Law Division.

Respondents had a high opinion of Judge Egan’s legal ability, his diligence and his fairness. Comments with regard to the Judge’s diligence are good, calling him “prompt and alert,” “very diligent,” and “cordial, prompt and familiar with matters he must address.” Likewise, he is described as “well versed in the law and . . . very fair in his application of the law.” Respondents also felt Judge Egan’s courtroom management is excellent, noting that he never wastes time and maintains a courteous professional manner while moving cases through his courtroom. Attorneys seem comfortable in his courtroom, considering Judge Egan to be calm and even tempered.

Judge Joyce M. Murphy Gorman – Not Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Joyce M. Murphy Gorman worked with the Office of the Presiding Judge of the Sixth Municipal District in Markham for four years. Judge Murphy Gorman then worked as a sole practitioner for one year immediately before being elected to the bench. Judge Murphy Gorman was elected to the Circuit Court in 2000. She was initially assigned to the First Municipal District’s Traffic Court. In 2002, Judge Murphy Gorman was assigned to the Civil Trial Section, non-jury call where she presently presides.

Judge Murphy Gorman was described by most respondents as knowledgeable about the law. Attorneys say she takes the time to understand the issues and respondents reported that she keeps current on developments in the law relevant to the cases heard in her courtroom. There were several respondents who praised her for using her courtroom mediators effectively. The judge is described as punctual and prepared for court and she issues her rulings in a prompt, timely manner. She is considered fair and independent.

Judge Murphy Gorman’s courtroom management skills were given generally favorable marks. Several interviewees stated that she always started her call on time and did not “dilly dally.” Others mentioned how she worked to accommodate attorneys with multiple cases in order to keep the call moving.

Many interviewees stated that Judge Murphy Gorman was diligent. Most attorneys believed she was “always engaged” and “interested in doing a good job.” She also “allowed each side to make their case.” Judge Murphy Gorman was also repeatedly praised for her handling of pro se litigants. Respondents said that she explains things well to pro se litigants “while remaining even-handed.”

However, many respondents believed that Judge Murphy Gorman needs to improve her judicial temperament. Comments included: “could be calmer;” “she can be short with people;” “she lets lawyers get under her skin;” “she is short and testy with people in her courtroom.” The Council found Judge Murphy Gorman Not Qualified for retention in 2006 due primarily to reported problems with her temperament. We continue to hear these complaints. On balance, the Council finds her Not Qualified for retention.

Judge Pamela Hill-Veal – Not Recommended
Judge Hill-Veal failed to submit materials for evaluation. The Council finds her Not Recommended for the Circuit Court.

Judge Gloria Chevere – Not Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Gloria Chevere was a partner at the general practice firm of Ogden & Chevere. From 1987 to 1991, Judge Chevere was Senior Executive Deputy Director for the Chicago Transit Authority. Then from 1991 until 2006, she was a prosecutor and hearing officer for the Secretary of State, as well as a hearing officer for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. She was elected to the Circuit Court in 2006, and was assigned to the First Municipal District.

In May 2010, Fox Chicago News in conjunction with the Better Government Association, investigated whether Cook County Judges were leaving work early. The article mentioned Judge Chevere as a judge who often left the courthouse early. Judge Chevere was reassigned shortly after the story was made public.

Judge Chevere generally received good scores from most attorneys for being able to “move her call.” One respondent stated that he had “seen hundreds in her courtroom” and that Judge Chevere was “still able to keep on top of things.” Many interviewees also believed they were treated fairly in her courtroom.

Her legal ability is generally considered adequate for her call and attorneys believe she runs her courtroom efficiently. However, she is reported to be sometimes "dismissive and rude" on the bench. She reportedly is often unprepared -- many respondents believe she has not read pleadings sufficiently before ruling. She has the reputation of unilaterally cancelling her 2:30 pm call, saying that it is not necessary. There were many negative comments about her performance as a judge, primarily related to temperament and diligence.

Several respondents believe the judge unnecessarily issues arrests warrants for defendants who are late to court, which wastes resources. About half of the respondents also complained that her rulings are erratic, which some attributed to her being too often unprepared. The Council finds her Not Qualified for retention.

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