Wednesday, September 17, 2014

CBA ratings in "contested" Cook County judicial races on the November ballot

The word "contested" is rendered in quotes because so few of the contests on the November ballot are, in fact, contested.

These could have been contested, however, at least arguably, if the Republicans slated a field of candidates in the countywide judicial races or in any subcircuit except the 13th (that's the mirror-image subcircuit where only Republicans file in the primary and Democrats abstain). But in nearly all of True-Blue Cook County (the 13th Subcircuit excepted), the winners of the Democratic judicial primaries would be heavy or even prohibitive favorites to win, whether they were opposed or not. So nearly all Cook County judicial hopefuls run as Democrats.

If you're a November-only voter who has come here looking for information about your choices in races for the three Appellate Court vacancies and the many Circuit Court vacancies, you are destined for disappointment. Even if you live in the 4th or 12th Subcircuits, where the only two actual judicial contests will be decided, your choice will be limited to that one local race -- the three Appellate Court races and all 11 countywide Circuit Court races being just as uncontested there as elsewhere in Cook County.

That's the bad news.

The good news for the public -- and if you see Mark Suppelsa, you might want to pass this along -- is that, in the opinion of the Chicago Bar Association, at least, all three unopposed candidates for the Appellate Court are at least 'Qualified' (Justice John D. Simon being rated 'Highly Qualified'), and 25 of the 28 Circuit Court candidates are rated either 'Qualified' or 'Highly Qualified.' In the 11 countywide vacancies, where no candidate is opposed, the CBA rates 10 of the 11 candidates are rated 'Qualified.' In the subcircuit races, 15 of the 17 candidates are rated 'Qualified' or better (four subcircuit candidates received the CBA's 'Highly Qualified' rating).

In the north suburban 12th Subcircuit, the CBA has rated the opposing candidates thusly:
James Pieczonka is “Not Recommended” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Pieczonka was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1983 and is currently a solo practitioner concentrating in Taxation, Real Estate and Condominium Law. Mr. Pieczonka’s practice and court experience is limited. Mr. Pieczonka held a real estate broker’s license from 2004-2007 and was actively involved as a broker during this period. The candidate owns a number of properties that are currently in foreclosure and is personally involved in several residual court actions. Mr. Pieczonka needs to gain additional practice experience and resolve these financial responsibility concerns before reapplying to serve as a Circuit Court Judge.

Judge James L. Kaplan is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Judge Kaplan was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1971 and was appointed to the Circuit Court in 2010. Judge Kaplan is thoughtful, possesses a good demeanor, and has performed well on the bench.
There are two vacancies in the west suburban 4th Subcircuit, but only one contest, for the Billik vacancy. Of the two opposing candidates, the CBA states:
John J. Mahoney is “Highly Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Mahoney was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1984 and is currently serving as Deputy Supervisor of the Public Corruption and Financial Crimes Unit of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Mr. Mahoney has extensive criminal trial experience and has handled many complex cases. Mr. Mahoney is well regarded for his knowledge of the law, legal ability, fine demeanor, and temperament.

Ian Brenson is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Brenson was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1989 and is a sole practitioner concentrating in general litigation, business law, and appellate practice. While Mr. Brenson has limited jury trial experience, he possesses the requisite legal knowledge, temperament, and ability to serve as a Circuit Court Judge.

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