Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chicago Council of Lawyers releases ratings in Appellate Court races

The Chicago Council of Lawyers has today released its ratings of judicial candidates for the upcoming March primary election. That link will take you to the CCL website, where you can download (as .pdf documents) both the Council's complete report and a two page sample ballot (issued by the Committee to Elect Qualified Judges but using the Council's recommendations).

In this post, I'll cover the Council's ratings of Appellate Court candidates. In posts later today, I'll put up posts regarding the CCL's ratings in countywide and subcircuit races.

The Chicago Council of Lawyers considers 12 factors in evaluating judicial candidates. These factors are:
  1. fairness, including sensitivity to diversity and bias
  2. legal knowledge and skills (competence)
  3. integrity
  4. experience
  5. diligence
  6. impartiality
  7. judicial temperament
  8. respect for the rule of law
  9. independence from political and institutional influences
  10. professional conduct
  11. character
  12. community service
The Council's report says that, if "a candidate has demonstrated the ability to perform the work required of a judge in all of these areas, the Council assigns a rating of 'qualified.' If a candidate has demonstrated excellence in most of these areas, the Council assigns a rating of 'well qualified.' If a candidate has demonstrated excellence in all of these areas, the Council assigns a rating of 'highly qualified.' If a candidate has not demonstrated that he or she meets all of the criteria evaluated by the Council, the Council assigns a rating of 'not qualified.'" The Council notes that candidates for the Appellate and Supreme Courts are held to a higher standard than candidates for the Circuit Court because of the "broad impact" that reviewing court judges have on the justice system as a whole. Moreover, the Council states, "qualities of scholarship and writing ability are more important to the work of the Supreme and Appellate Court justices than they are to satisfactory performance as a trial judge."

For the March primary, no candidate received a "highly qualified" rating from the Council, but one Appellate Court candidate, one countywide candidate, and four subcircuit candidates were found "well qualified."

The Council's Report notes its participation in a joint candidate investigation process with the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening. In this investigation, according to the Council's report, the Council considers:
  1. a review of a written informational questionnaire provided to the Alliance by the candidate, including details of the candidate’s career and professional development and information on any complaints filed against the candidate with the JIB or the ARDC;
  2. a review of the candidate’s written responses to the Alliance’s supplemental essay questionnaire;
  3. interviews of judges, attorneys, and others with personal knowledge about the candidate, including those who have and those who have not been referred to the Alliance by the candidate, and not restricted to Council members;
  4. a review of the candidate’s professional written work, where available;
  5. an interview of the candidate done jointly with the Alliance;
  6. review of any information concerning the candidate provided by the ARDC;
  7. a review of any other information available from public records, such as the Board of Election Commissioners and prosecutorial agencies; and
  8. an evaluation of all the above materials by the Council’s Judicial Evaluation Committee; and
  9. submission of the proposed evaluation and write-up to the candidate prior to its public release, to provide an opportunity for comment, correction, or reconsideration.
The Council also notes that, where a candidate is already a sitting judge, it places "special importance on interviews with attorneys who practice before the judge, particularly those who were not referred to the Council by the candidate." Finally, the Council notes, its determination that a lawyer is not qualified to serve as a judge should not be taken as a negative assessment of that candidate's abilities as a lawyer. "A good lawyer may be unqualified to be a judge, for instance, because of a narrow range of prior experience, limited trial experience, or limited work doing legal research and writing. * * * [I]t should be recognized and expected that we will rate some good lawyers 'not qualified.'"

For more about the Council's evaluation process, see the complete Council report. Meanwhile, herewith are the comments made by the Chicago Council of Lawyers regarding candidates for the Appellate Court.

Gordon Vacancy

Hon. Sheldon (Shelly) A. Harris -- Qualified
Judge Sheldon A. Harris since 2010 has been the Presiding Judge of the Appellate Court, First District, Second Division. Before going to the Appellate Court, he served as a trial judge assigned to the Law Division, Trial Section, where he presided over jury and non-jury trials. He was appointed to the bench in 2000, but lost in the 2002 primary election. He was reappointed to the bench in 2005 and served in the Municipal Department until January 2008. He served in Law Division between 2008 and 2010.

Judge Harris enjoyed a good reputation as a lawyer. Since returning to the bench in 2005, practitioners reported that Judge Harris demonstrated a patient and professional demeanor. He was considered to be knowledgeable and hard-working. Those with experience in the Appellate Court say that he is attentive during oral arguments and that is opinions are well-reasoned and well-written. The Council finds him Qualified for the Appellate Court.

Hon. Susan Kennedy Sullivan – Qualified
Hon. Susan Kennedy Sullivan was admitted to practice in 1994 after a 20-year career as a registered nurse. She was elected as a Circuit Judge in 2010 and is currently a Circuit Court judge hearing cases in the Traffic Division, although she has been assigned to the Elder Law Division which has not yet begun to receive cases. As a lawyer, she practiced in the Probate Division and was regularly appointed to be a Guardian ad Litem and to be a court-appointed attorney. As a lawyer, she had substantial litigation experience and is considered an expert in elder law issues. She had numerous publications in her previous career and prepares written opinions in her current judicial assignment. She is considered to have good judicial temperament and is praised for her courtroom management. The Council finds her Qualified for the Appellate Court.

Hon. Freddrenna Lyle – Not Qualified
Hon. Freddrenna Lyle was admitted to practice in 1980. She was appointed to the Circuit Court by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2011. She currently hears cases in the Traffic Division, although she is assigned to the Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies Division. This Division has not yet begun to hear cases. Before becoming a judge, she worked in small firms and as a solo practitioner. She had substantial experience in more complex litigation matters, and was a respected practitioner. She served for 13 years as a member of the Chicago City Council. Judge Lyle is reported to be knowledgeable and is praised for her ability to manage a high volume court call. She is reported to have a good judicial temperament. The Council is concerned that Judge Lyle does not have substantial experience as an appellate lawyer nor does she present substantial numbers of published articles. She is certainly qualified for the Circuit Court, and she has vast life experiences that demonstrate her analytical thinking and that have presented opportunities for writing. On balance, the Council finds Judge Lyle Not Qualified for the Appellate Court.

Murphy Vacancy

David Wayne Ellis -- Qualified
David Wayne Ellis was admitted to practice in 1993. He is the Chief Counsel to the Illinois Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. He represents the Speaker in litigation matters, advises the Speaker on legislative issues such as legislative redistricting cases and the recent lawsuit against Governor Quinn over his line-item veto of legislative salaries. He also negotiates various legislative provisions. He served as House Prosecutor in the Blagojevich Senate Impeachment trial and served as a Special Assistant Attorney General defending the 2011 Illinois redistricting map in federal court against alleged violations of the federal Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause. From 1996 to 1998 he was an associate with Cahill, Christian & Kunkle doing civil litigation. From 1993 to 1996 he was an associate with Phelan Pope & John doing civil litigation. Mr. Ellis is reported to have good legal ability and temperament. He has extensive legislative experience as Chief Council to Speaker Michael Madigan and has significant experience in litigation-related matters. He has experience in substantial number of community activities, including pro bono representation in litigation matters. Mr. Ellis reports handling four appellate matters as principal counsel and many respondents noted the high quality of his written work. The Council finds him Qualified for the Illinois Appellate Court.

Steele Vacancy

Hon. Sharon Oden Johnson – Not Qualified
Hon. Sharon Oden Johnson was admitted to practice in 1996. She was elected to the Circuit Court bench in 2010 and since 2011 has served in the Parentage and Child Support section of the Domestic Relations Division. Before being appointed to the bench, Judge Johnson had a legal career focused on family law matters. She is considered to be a capable jurist in her current assignment with a good judicial temperament. She is praised for being well-prepared. The Council is concerned, however that Judge Johnson did not have substantial litigation experience in complex matters before becoming a judge and has served as a Circuit Judge for a limited time. The Council finds her Not Qualified for the Illinois Appellate Court at this time.

Hon. John B. Simon – Well Qualified
Hon. John B. Simon was admitted to practice in 1967 and was appointed to the Illinois Appellate Court in November 2012. From 1967 to 1974 he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney where he rose to the position of Chief of the Civil Division. From 1975 to 1985 he was a partner with Friedman & Koven doing civil, criminal, and appellate litigation. He then served as a partner with the law firm of Jenner & Block, principally engaged in commercial litigation, until his appointment to the bench. As a lawyer, Judge Simon is described as a knowledgeable and respected litigator with very good legal ability and temperament. He is praised for his litigation skills and was often described as a “superb litigator.” Judge Simon also receives high praise in his role as an appellate court judge. He is an active participant in oral argument – lawyers report that he asks the right questions – and he receives praise for his written opinions. He has been active in court reform activities. The Council finds him Well Qualified for the Appellate Court.

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