Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pamela McLean Meyerson: In her own words

Judge Pamela McLean Meyerson is a candidate for the "A" vacancy in the 11th Subcircuit. Her punch number is 174.

I am currently serving as a Circuit Court judge, appointed last year by the Illinois Supreme Court after an extensive vetting process. I decided to become a judge because, in my many years in legal practice, I saw judges make decisions every day that changed people’s lives. I knew that if I were standing before a judge, I would want the judge to be someone like me — someone with experience, empathy and ethics.

EXPERIENCE. The Illinois Supreme Court appointed me to the bench in June, 2013, on the recommendation of Justice Mary Jane Theis’ bipartisan judicial screening committee. (See http://www.state.il.us/court/media/PressRel/2013/042313.pdf.)

The committee looked at my unanimous positive ratings from every one of the 12 bar associations that evaluated me. They looked at my training at the University of Chicago Law School. They looked at my 30 years of experience in and out of the courtrooms of Cook County. They looked at my community service. They interviewed people who know me—colleagues, judges and opposing counsel. The committee concluded that I have the skills and experience to be a judge, and the Supreme Court agreed.

When I went on the bench, I asked the Chief Judge to assign me wherever I’m needed most. Like other new judges, my first assignment was in traffic court. After one month I was transferred to mortgage foreclosures. I now hear hundreds of cases every week. My approach is to give all parties a chance to be heard, whether they have an accomplished lawyer or are struggling to represent themselves; apply the law consistently; and adhere to the highest ethical standards.

Before becoming a judge, I had 30 years of broad experience representing individuals and small businesses in many areas of law. I was a civil litigator, small business advisor, arbitrator, teacher and community leader. After I graduated from the University of Chicago Law School, for six years I handled commercial lawsuits for two Chicago firms, then started my own practice in Oak Park. I represented individuals and small businesses in civil disputes involving contracts, construction, fair housing, consumer fraud, and other conflicts. I also organized and advised small businesses and reviewed and drafted their agreements. My business clients ranged from restaurants to record companies, contractors to computer consultants, midwives to meatpackers.

I also helped teach trial practices at the University of Chicago Law School and arbitrated hundreds of cases with Cook County’s Mandatory Arbitration Program.

EMPATHY. The judicial screening committee’s co-chair, retired U.S. District Court Judge Wayne R. Andersen, said I bring to the bench "fidelity to the law, intelligence and, perhaps most importantly, considerable experience and empathy regarding the difficult circumstances of life that judges resolve every day."

What did they see in my experience that convinced them I would be a good judge? They observed that I used my legal skills and energies over the years to help others and to improve my community — through pro bono legal work such as representing homeowners in foreclosure mediations and assisting unrepresented litigants in small claims court in Maywood. I also served in leadership positions supporting the schools, youth, arts, congregations and voters of my community.

ETHICS. The Chicago Council of Lawyers said that, as a lawyer, I was “respected as a hard-working, knowledgeable and highly ethical practitioner.” I bring these same qualities to the bench. As a judge, I am and will always remain free of corruption or outside influences.

Please help me continue to serve the people of Cook County as a judge with experience, empathy and ethics.

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