Saturday, February 22, 2014

More and more voter resources for persons interested in making informed decisions in judicial elections

Yesterday I mentioned that the Law Bulletin had begun publishing judicial candidate questionnaire responses in different contested Cook County races. (The latest entry in this series looks at the "A" vacancy in the 10th Subcircuit.)

The Great Myth of judicial elections is that nothing is known about judicial candidates and nothing can be known.

Certainly, it's very hard to see anything with your eyes resolutely shut.

But for voters who want to look for information about Cook County judicial candidates, there are all sorts of resources over and above the bar association ratings (for the CBA ratings, scroll down the page; the Alliance ratings are coming soon).

Regulars here will have noted Avy Meyers' North Town News Magazine candidate interviews, and Tony Joyce's CAN-TV "Election 2014 Specials." Some candidates have taken up my invitation to supply statements -- more may yet -- where they can say anything they want voters to know about them.

Cook County Clerk David Orr allows candidates for all countywide candidates to provide statements. These are linked from this page on the County Clerk's website. A number of Cook County judicial candidates (to date, Martiza Martinez, Patricia S. Spratt, Diana Rosario, Judge Jerry A. Esrig, Judge Pamela McLean Meyerson, and Judge James L. Kaplan) have statements posted.

The Daily Herald has also posted questionnaire responses from several countywide judicial candidates. That link will take you to the Daily Herald site. is starting to post questionnaire responses on its site. Only a couple of Cook County candidate responses are posted so far ( covers all the Downstate contests as well), namely, 13th Subcircuit Republican candidate John Curry and countywide Democratic candidate (there are no countywide Republican judicial candidates) Carolyn Joan Gallagher, but more will be posted soon., a project of the Illinois Civil Justice League, has a fairly lengthy questionnaire, with some questions open-ended, and others more pointed:
  1. State the qualifications and experiences that make you qualified to serve on the bench in Illinois.
  2. One prominent Illinois judicial evaluation survey asks attorneys to evaluate candidates on Integrity, Impartiality, Legal Ability and Temperament. Critique yourself in these four areas as to how they make you qualified to serve on the bench.
  3. Describe the case in which you are most proud of your work as a lawyer.
  4. Name one change you would make in the Illinois court system.
  5. Are there civil litigation reforms that you would like to see enacted to remedy particular problems that you have detected, either as a practicing lawyer or as a sitting judge? Are there reforms that would benefit the civil justice system? What needs to be changed? Should the enactment of any such changes be the province of the legislature, the Supreme Court or by Constitutional amendment?
  6. Do you believe that our judicial system adequately deters and penalizes frivolous litigation? If not, what reforms would you like to see?
  7. Do you believe the Illinois Constitution precludes legislative establishment of limitations on civil damages? Are there or should there be distinctions among economic, non-economic and punitive damages?
But, then, the ICJL will use these questionnaire responses to make endorsements in certain races.

It isn't just the ICJL that asks pointed questions in candidate questionnaires. The IVI-IPO announced its endorsements in judicial ratings recently. The IVI-IPO's endorsements were based, at least in part, on responses to these questions:
  1. What do you believe are the major strengths and weaknesses of the Circuit Court? How could the circuit court be improved?
  2. How should judges be assigned to the various divisions of the Court? If you are elected, to what division would you like to be assigned and why?
  3. What are the pros and cons of an elected, an appointed, or a hybrid system for the judiciary? How might the Illinois courts benefit or suffer from a change?
  4. Please cite and explain the case or cases which best illustrate your understanding of the scope of the right to privacy under the Illinois Constitution.
  5. How has mandatory sentencing affected the criminal justice system in Illinois?
  6. How has automatic transfer of juveniles for felony charges affected the criminal justice system in Illinois? How has it affected the recidivism rate of juveniles?
  7. Do you think the juvenile justice system should focus on rehabilitation or punishment? Why?
  8. How do you account for the disproportionate number of minorities prosecuted and incarcerated? What can the courts do to correct the disparity?
  9. What do you consider the important aspects of a judge's decision in handling a petition by a minor for a waiver of parental notice with the intent to have an abortion?
  10. What options available to a judge under Illinois law would you consider most effective in sentencing perpetrators of hate crimes? Please explain your choices.
  11. 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?
The IVI-IPO has posted questionnaire responses from candidates in other races (including the Appellate Court) on this page; when and if Circuit Court candidate responses are posted, they will presumably be at that page as well.

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