Wednesday, September 24, 2014

CCL rates one judge Not Qualified for retention, but it's not the same judge singled out by the CBA

Continuing with a look at the release today of the Alliance retention ratings (the Chicago Council of Lawyers is an Alliance member) -- scroll down or click here for the complete Alliance "grids" on judicial retention candidates.

The Chicago Council of Lawyers rated 72 of the 73 Circuit Court judges seeking retention on the November ballot as Qualified (or better). Only one judge was singled out by the CCL as Not Qualified. This was Judge Ann O'Donnell, of whom the Council stated:
Judge Ann O’Donnell --- Not Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Ann Louise O’Donnell served as an Assistant Cook County Public Defender between 1987 and 1995. She was a solo practitioner focusing on criminal defense matters between 1995 and 2008. She was elected to the bench in 2008. She currently presides over the Preliminary Hearing Call. Her past assignments include serving as a floating judge in misdemeanor and felony branch courts. Lawyers report that she has the legal ability and knowledge necessary for her current assignment. Many lawyers, however criticize her judicial temperament as being unduly flip, sarcastic and rude. Judge O’Donnell was criticized by some lawyers for a recent practice (within the past year) of refusing to appoint an Assistant Public Defender to a number of indigent defendants in the belief that family members should have been paying for a private lawyer. She was doing this while failing to conduct a required indigency hearing – defendants were not being asked to complete the asset and liability form provided by the Circuit Court. More egregiously, she required certain of those defendants to return to her courtroom the next day with a private attorney, and continued to order these defendants to return each and every day until they were represented by private counsel. This sometimes went on for weeks, and was described by many as an abusive practice. Chief Judge Evans has now issued a General Order requiring an indigency determination before an Assistant Public Defender can be appointed or denied.
(I believe this link will take the reader to the Order referred to above.)

The Chicago Bar Association did find Judge O'Donnell "Qualified" for retention. The CBA noted:
Judge Annie O’Donnell is “QUALIFIED” for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge O’Donnell was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1987. Judge O’Donnell served as an Assistant Public Defender and was engaged in private practice as a criminal defense lawyer before her election to the bench in 2008. Judge O’Donnell is currently assigned to a preliminary felony hearing call in a branch court. Judge O’Donnell is well regarded by the lawyers who appear in her court for her knowledge of the law, diligence, and fine temperament.
Alliance members other than the Council were split in their evaluations of Judge O'Donnell. The Black Women Lawyers' Association, Cook County Bar Association, Decalogue Society of Lawyers and the Illinois State Bar Association all agreed with the Council in recommending against O'Donnell's retention. However, the Women's Bar Association of Illinois, the Puerto Rican Bar Association, the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, the Hellenic Bar Association, and the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area all advise a "yes" vote for Judge O'Donnell.

FWIW readers will remember that the Chicago Bar Association came out in favor of retaining all but one Cook County Circuit Court judge seeking retention this year. The one jurist singled out was Judge Thomas Flanagan. However, the Chicago Council of Lawyers rated Judge Flanagan "Qualified" for retention:
Judge Thomas E. Flanagan --- Qualified
Thomas E. Flanagan has been a judge since his election in 1984. He has been assigned to the Law Division for most of his judicial career. Judge Flanagan hears civil jury cases at the Daley Center. Judge Flanagan is considered to have good legal ability. He is respected as a solid jurist with good temperament and case management skills. The Council finds him Qualified for retention.
Every other Alliance member has also urged a "Yes" vote for Judge Flanagan.

In my post last week about the CBA ratings, I mentioned that Judge Laura Sullivan had received a favorable rating from the CBA despite the controversy that erupted when a law professor was taken into custody in her courtroom while taking notes. The law professor later wrote about this experience in the Chicago Tribune and I wrote about the story in this post.

The Chicago Council of Lawyers has joined the CBA in recommending Judge Sullivan's retention. The CCL states:
Judge Laura Marie Sullivan --- Qualified
Prior to becoming a judge, Laura Sullivan served as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney as both a trial attorney and as a supervisor. Judge Sullivan is currently sitting at the First Municipal District, where she presides over bond hearings. She was first elected to the bench in 2002. Judge Sullivan’s previous judicial assignments included the Traffic Court, Felony Preliminary Hearing Section, and Misdemeanor Section in the First Municipal District, and the Domestic Violence Division. Judge Sullivan is considered to have good legal ability and knowledge of the law. She is reported to be well prepared and hard working. Judge Sullivan has been criticized in the press on two separate occasions. While these incidents give the Council pause, on balance the Council finds her Qualified for retention.
Five Alliance members do urge a "No" vote on Judge Sullivan, however. These are the BWLA, the CCBA, the DSL, the ISBA and the LAGBAC. Five Alliance members besides the Council recommend a "Yes" vote for Judge Sullivan. These are the AABA, the HBA, the HLAI, the PRBA, and the WBAI.

Judges O'Donnell and Sullivan received the most negative ratings from Alliance members. Most Alliance members rated nearly all retention candidates positively. The Alliance member giving out the most negative ratings to retention candidates was the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, but LAGBAC rated 67 of 73 retention candidates positively.

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