Monday, March 10, 2014

Tribune makes endorsements in subcircuit races

I take the liberty of reproducing the Tribune's subcircuit endorsement editorial in full.
The Tribune made endorsements Sunday in countywide races for the Cook County Circuit Court. Here are our choices for contested races in the court's 15 subcircuits. These are Democratic primary elections, except for a Republican race in the 13th subcircuit.

2nd subcircuit (O'Neal vacancy): Steven G. Watkins is a well-rounded solo practitioner, handling civil litigation, criminal defense and real estate cases. Prosecutor Nyshana K. Sumner didn't participate in bar evaluations or respond to the Tribune. Watkins is endorsed.

3rd subcircuit (Donnelly vacancy): Attorney Terrence J. McGuire was found qualified by the Chicago Bar. The Council of Lawyers said he "has the potential to be a good circuit judge" but isn't qualified, based on limited experience. Lauren Brougham Glennon didn't screen with bar groups and wasn't recommended by any of them. McGuire is endorsed.

4th subcircuit (Billik vacancy): John J. Mahoney, supervisor of the public corruption and financial crimes unit of the Cook County state's attorney's office, stands out in a talented field. He was a first chair felony prosecutor and an attorney for Peoples Energy Corp.. He's a co-author of the state's financial crimes law. We admire Brian Stephenson, who has been a prosecutor and a defense attorney, has extensive civil experience and deserves credit for his volunteer work. He runs a nonprofit program for inner city youth called Turn the Corner and conducts summer fishing outings for developmentally disabled people. Judge Daniel Lawrence Peters hears misdemeanor and traffic cases in Bridgeview. Maureen Masterson Pulia is an arbitrator for the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission. James J. Ryan didn't submit to screening. Mahoney is endorsed.

4th subcircuit (Mulhern vacancy): Our choice is John M. Allegretti, general counsel for the Cook County treasurer. He has been a prosecutor, tax attorney, corporate counsel to a real estate management firm and general counsel to the Cook County assessor. Attorney Martin D. Reggi was a prosecutor from 1980 to 1985 and has been in private practice since then, concentrating on DUI and criminal cases.

7th subcircuit (Taylor vacancy): Judge Marianne Jackson has been on the bench since 1997, mostly in the juvenile justice division, and is active in the Austin neighborhood, where she lives. "For all of these years, I have tried to be an example for these young people," she wrote in our candidate survey. "I have tried to show them that even if one grows up on the West Side of the City of Chicago (which I did), education, hard work and dedication allows you to change your life for the better." Jackson spent more than 20 years as a trial attorney. Judy Rice, a senior vice president at BMO Harris Bank, served as deputy chief of staff for the mayor's office, city treasurer, revenue director and water commissioner. But she hasn't practiced law since 1990, according to the Chicago Bar, which did not recommend her. Owens J. Shelby didn't participate in bar evaluations. Jackson is endorsed.

9th subcircuit (Goldberg vacancy): Judge Jerry A. Esrig earns enthusiastic praise for his legal skills, the scope of his experience and his professionalism. He is active in pro bono and civic matters. He was appointed last year after being vetted by Justice Theis' screening panel. Megan Elizabeth Goldish, a first chair felony prosecutor with extensive trial experience, also is a strong candidate. Nathan Benjamin Myers skipped most of the evaluations. Esrig is endorsed.

9th subcircuit (Meyer vacancy): The clear choice is Anjana Hansen, an administrative law judge for Evanston. She's a former Evanston alderman who spent 12 years in the state's attorney's office. Attorney Monica Forte's limited trial experience doesn't stack up here. Defense attorney Thomas Peter Kougias spent most of his career in the state's attorney's office but "has not distinguished himself as a prosecutor," according to the Council of Lawyers. Hansen is endorsed.

9th subcircuit (Preston vacancy): It's a pity these five strong candidates are running in the same race, since all would make capable judges. Two — Michael Alan Strom and Thomas M. Cushing — earned exceptional ratings from bar associations. Both have outstanding legal credentials and long records of community service, making this a very close call. "I want to devote the balance of my career to being a peacemaker rather than a gladiator," Strom wrote to us. "Our best judges resolve cases earlier and with less expense to our court system." Judge Michael Francis Otto gets high marks from lawyers for his work in the chancery division. Abbey Fishman Romanek has handled Medicaid fraud cases for the attorney general as well as criminal defense and medical malpractice cases in private practice. Brian Edward Alexander focuses on family, business and real estate law. Strom is endorsed.

10th subcircuit (A vacancy): Judge Anthony C. Kyriakopoulos spent almost 20 years in the state's attorney's office before he was appointed to the bench in 2010. He's our pick over Katherine A. O'Dell, whose experience is limited mostly to property tax appeals.

11th subcircuit (A vacancy): The best of four solid candidates is Judge Pamela McLean Meyerson, who hears mortgage foreclosure cases in the chancery division. Meyerson practiced law for 30 years and taught at the University of Chicago law school. Joanne F. Rosado has been a lawyer since 2002, all of it in the public defender's office. Gina Allyson Crumble is a prosecutor who supervises child protection cases. Scott Michael Kozicki is an assistant public defender.

12th subcircuit (Jordan vacancy): Our choice is James Edward Hanlon Jr., a well-rounded attorney skilled at complex commercial litigation. Another candidate, Judge James L. Kaplan, boasts of "a lifetime of service to our community," but a WGN/Medill Watchdog report found that he rented an apartment in this subcircuit while his family home — where his wife and son live — is in Lake County. Attorney Samuel Bae's practice is built around personal injury and domestic relations cases. Ralph Eugene Meczyk, one of ex-cop Drew Peterson's defense lawyers, was found not qualified by the Council of Lawyers because of a 1980 felony conviction for underreporting income. (He was pardoned by President Bill Clinton.)

13th subcircuit (Iosco vacancy): This is the rare Republican primary in Cook County. Our choice is Gary W. Seyring, an attorney and certified public accountant who has been in private practice for 35 years, with emphasis on estate and tax planning and real estate, domestic relations and business law. John Curry's career path included stops in the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the Illinois attorney general's office before he settled in private practice, focusing on business litigation.

15th subcircuit (Doody vacancy): The CBA found Patrick Kevin Coughlin highly qualified. He is deputy chief of the state's attorney's narcotics prosecution bureau. Judge Diana Embil spent 15 years as an attorney for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before her appointment to the bench last year. Attorney John S. Fotopoulos does mostly personal injury, work comp and criminal defense cases. Coughlin is endorsed.

15th subcircuit (Sterba vacancy): Five candidates are running, two stand out. Judge Chris Lawler spent 25 years in private practice, much of it representing plaintiffs or defending insurers in personal injury cases. He was appointed to the bench last year. He's praised for his high standards and his charity work. Michael B. Barrett specializes in personal injury and workers' compensation cases and gets good marks from peers and bar associations. Mary Beth Duffy is a prosecutor. Sondra Denmark and Robbin Perkins did not participate in evaluations by the major bar associations. Lawler is endorsed.

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