Thursday, March 06, 2014

Guest Post: Why the March Judicial Primaries Should Tick You Off

This post was written by Susana Darwin, Judicial Evaluation Committee Co-Chair, Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago; Chuck Little, Judicial Evaluation Committee Co-Chair, Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago; and Federico Rodriguez, Judicial Evaluation Committee Chair, Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois. Together they are the Executive Committee Co-Chairs of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening.

It's hard to be a fan of elections without opposition. They seem essentially undemocratic, and where's the fun when there's no suspense? Seven Chicago-area judicial races in the March 2014 primary feature single candidates, so when the candidate's mother casts her vote, as it were, the election's done.

Fortunately, all seven candidates running unopposed in March did voters, their fellow members of the bar, and the judiciary the courtesy of presenting themselves before the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening to have their credentials evaluated. Kudos for appearing anyway to David W. Ellis, Maritza Martinez, Daniel J. Kubasiak, Patricia O'Brien Sheahan, Caroline Kate Moreland, and Thomas J. Carroll. All are running for the Circuit Court of Cook County except for Mr. Ellis, who is running for the Illinois Appellate Court.

It is the six candidates who are seeking election this month who consciously chose not to appear before the Alliance we are calling out. They earn the wrath of the voter.

When candidates decline to be evaluated, each is saying to the voter, “Go ahead. Do your research. You can decide for yourself whether to vote for me or not.

Except who has the time or the resources to undertake this, when as many as 33 judicial candidates could appear on a voter's ballot? Even lawyers who regularly practice in the Circuit Court may be unfamiliar with some of these candidates, so how can the general electorate be expected to have experiences or the time to develop informed choices?

The Alliance's mission is to bring together attorneys with overlapping interests as practitioners and a variety of perspectives that reflect the values and priorities of the people of Cook County to consider the qualifications of judicial candidates. The Alliance has many voices, and although its members may not sing in unison or even harmonize at times, because of the Alliance’s work voters can listen to the voices they care about. Every member of the Alliance volunteers time because we feel so strongly about the need to educate Cook County voters on casting an informed vote when it comes to our judiciary. Candidates and judges who choose not to participate in the Alliance screening strip from the electorate an opportunity to address the ballot in an informed way.

Voting is a privilege we dare not treat lightly. People around the world continue to fight and die for the vote. Even within our own country there are concerted efforts to roll back hard-won voting rights victories.

We hear the hand-wringing about how low voter turnout is likely to be in an off-year election, with no one compelling or dynamic at the top of the ticket to drive interest in the election. But how about this: there are six candidates whose campaign choices suggest not just poor judgment but also contempt for the voter and the very judicial system they are attempting to join.

All of these candidates have been found "not recommended" or "not qualified" by all eleven members of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening for failing to participate in the Alliance's screening process. They include:

Kelly Maloney Kachmarik (Countywide - to fill vacancy of the Hon. Pamela E. Hill-Veal)
Nyshana K. Sumner (Second Subcircuit - to fill vacancy of the Hon. William D. O'Neal)
Lauren Brougham Glennon (Third Subcircuit - to fill vacancy of the Hon. Christopher J. Donnelly)
Owens J. Shelby (Seventh Subcircuit - to fill vacancy of the Hon. W. Taylor)
Sondra Denmark AND Robbin Perkins (Fifteenth Subcircuit - to fill vacancy of the Hon. David Sterba)

The good news is that voters have options in each of these races. Please visit and cast an informed vote in March.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How dare anyone in the Alliance say one negative statement about any candidate that does not submit themselves to evaluation. Darwin is not even authorized to practice law in Illinois and she is a co-chair of the entire Alliance. These bar associations have tiny memberships and a rating by them of either qualified or not qualified is meaningless. The fact that the ISBA is a part of them is very surprising. The biggest smoke and mirror player in the process is the CCL. Read their evaluation of Judy Rice. They disregard their own published criteria and find her qualified. I only look at the CBA ratings.