Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Justice Theis announces application process for three judicial vacancies

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis has today announced an application process for three new judicial vacancies, one in the 11th Subcircuit, and (for the first time) two countywide (at large) vacancies.

The countywide vacancies were created by the death of Judge Richard Elrod and the pending retirement of Judge Thomas L. Hogan. The 11th Subcircuit vacancy was created by the September retirement of Judge Susan F. Zwick.

The deadline for application for these vacancies is November 24.

The Supreme Court's press releases stress that candidates wishing to be considered for these vacancies will be screened by the 11-member Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening and the Chicago Bar Association and, in addition, by the special screening committee established by Justice Theis in 2013. This screening committee is co-chaired by retired U.S. District Court Judge Wayne R. Andersen and retired Illinois Appellate Court Justice Michael J. Gallagher.

Persons interested in applying for any of these vacancies should request an application. The application is available at the Supreme Court's website, illinoiscourts.gov (prospective candidates will need to click on the link found under the caption "Latest News" -- that is a scrolling display so interested persons may have to wait a moment or two for the right link to surface).

Further information about the application process is available at the Supreme Court's website or by following the links above to either of the press releases.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cook County Bar Association releases judicial candidate ratings

The Cook County Bar Association is a member of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening, so regular FWIW readers have already seen the candidate ratings it has issued in both contested and retention elections.

However, for those who may not have previously seen the Alliance retention grids or other, prior posts on the largely uncontested elections for current judicial vacancies, the CCBA ratings may be of interest.

There are only two contests in elections for judicial vacancies and these just happen to be the only two races in which the CCBA has issued "Not Recommended" ratings. In the race for the 12th Subcircuit vacancy, Republican James Pieczonka was rated "Not Recommended." His opponent, Judge James L. Kaplan is rated "Recommended." In the race for the 4th Subcircuit Billik vacancy, the Republican candidate, Ian Brenson, was "Not Evaluated" while the Democratic nominee, Assistant State's Attorney John J. Mahoney was rated "Not Recommended." Two persons who are uncontested in their bids for their respective countywide vacancies, both of them judges appointed to the bench by the Illinois Supreme Court, were rated "Highly Recommended" by the CCBA. These are Judges Cynthia Y. Cobbs and Andrea Michele Buford.

On the retention ballot, the CCBA urges a "no" vote for only three judges. These are Themis N. Karnezis, Ann O’Donnell, and Laura Marie Sullivan. With the exception of a couple of judges who were not evaluated by the CCBA, the CCBA urges a "yes" vote on all other retention candidates, including Appellate Court Justice Thomas Hoffman, seeking another term on the Appellate Court and Judge Thomas E. Flanagan, the one judge not recommended by the Chicago Bar Association. (Judge Flanagan was recommended for retention by each of the other Alliance bar groups as well.)

For more information about the retention ballot, you may wish to see these posts:
Voters in the far north suburban 12th Subcircuit or far west suburban 4th Subcircuit may also find these posts helpful:

Supreme Court issues press releases on recent judicial appointments

I'd already mentioned this in the comments to the respective posts, but it may be helpful to put this up front: The Illinois Supreme Court has issued press releases regarding the recent appointments of Edward J. King and Associate Judge Marianne Jackson and you can see either press release by following the indicated links.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Judge Marianne Jackson elevated to full circuit judgeship

The Illinois Supreme Court today appointed Associate Judge Marianne Jackson to a full circuit judgeship, filling the 7th Subcircuit vacancy created by the recent passing of Judge Anthony L. Burrell. Judge Jackson's appointment is effective November 7 and terminates on December 5, 2016.

Judge Jackson has served as an associate judge since 1997. Before becoming a judge, Jackson had a private criminal law practice. She also served as an Assistant United States Attorney and was named Chief of the Criminal Division.

Jackson was a candidate for the 7th Subcircuit Taylor vacancy in this year's March primary. She was rated Qualified or Recommended by all the evaluating bar groups, garnering "Highly Qualified" ratings from the Illinois State Bar Association and the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois and "Highly Recommended" ratings from the Cook County Bar Association, the Decalogue Society of Lawyers, the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, and the Puerto Rican Bar Association.

Welcome early voters!

Welcome early voters! Of course, if you didn't also vote in the Democratic Primary (with very limited exceptions) it is far too late to have any influence on who will be elected to the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court or to the Cook County Circuit Court: The winners of nearly all of the Democratic primary races -- in all of the countywide races and nearly all of the Circuit Court races -- are unopposed. We'll come back to these races eventually.

But, first, early voters, let's look at where you can still exercise your franchise in a meaningful manner. You can vote for (or against) the over 70 judges (including one elected Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court) who are seeking retention.

If you think that's a lot of judges to keep track of, you are in good company. According to Michael Sneed's column in this morning's Chicago Sun-Times, President Obama himself complained about the length of the retention ballot when he voted early yesterday. Sneed quoted the President as saying, "You gotta shorten the ballot! Two many judges! Seventeen pages of names! You are killing me!"

Clearly, POTUS does not read this blog. (Apparently the Sun-Times has laid off the last of its copy editors as well.)

But there are resources for voters looking for information or guidance concerning the retention judges. The retention judges themselves have their own website. You will find there a linked list of all jurists seeking retention. As of Saturday morning, many of those links provided biographical information, pictures or .pdf resumes. To wit:
You may find some these prior posts here on FWIW to be helpful as well:
The Chicago Tribune follows the lead of the Chicago Council of Lawyers on the retention ballot, urging a no vote only on Judge Annie O'Donnell.

The Illinois Civil Justice League has today released its ratings of Cook County retention hopefuls on its IllinoisJudges.net site. The ICJL rated retention candidates as Highly Recommended, Recommended, No Position, or Not Recommended. According to ICJL President Ed Murnane, the "No Position" rating was assigned to candidates or judges "who did not return our questionnaire and/or their candidacy left us insufficient information to assign a rating." The ICJL rated candidates "Not Recommended" if, in the opinion of that organization, there were "questions about the integrity, impartiality, fairness, or conduct of the candidate, judge, or their campaign." According to Murnane, judges earned a "Recommended" rating if they "demonstrated a satisfactory level of competency in regards to their legal and/or judicial careers, and/or who have demonstrated their commitment to educating the voters about their background, experience and viewpoints on the judicial system." The "Highly Recommended" rating was reserved, according to Murnane, for "judges who have demonstrated a high level of competency based on those criteria."

The ICJL gave "Highly Recommended" ratings to four Cook County Circuit Court judges, Gregory Wojkowski, Themis Karzenis, Lewis Nixon, and Donna Cooper. Justice Thomas Hoffman received a "Recommended" rating from the ICJL in his bid to be retained on the Illinois Appellate Court.

Here is the complete ICJL list of Cook County Circuit Court judges as published this morning in its daily newsletter:
Assigned to the Appellate Court:
Michael Hyman – Recommended
Robert Gordon – No Position
Mary Anne Mason – No Position

Assigned to the Law Division:
Joan Powell – Recommended
Eileen [O'Neill] Burke – Recommended
Patrick Sherlock – Not Recommended
Eileen Brewer – No Position
James O’Hara – Not Recommended
Margaret Brennan – Not Recommended
Janet Brosnahan – Recommended
Lynn Egan – Recommended
Gregory Wojkowski – Highly Recommended
James Flannery – No Position
Thomas Lipscomb – Recommended
Themis Karnezis – Highly Recommended
Thomas Flanagan – No Position

Assigned to the Chancery Division:
Lewis Nixon – Highly Recommended
Kathleen Kennedy – Recommended
Rodolfo Garcia – No Position

Assigned to the Probate Division:
Mary Ellen Coghlan – Recommended
Ann Collins-Dole – Recommended
Kathleen McGury – Recommended
John Fleming – Recommended
James Riley – Recommended

Assigned to the County Division:
Edmund Ponce de Leon – Recommended
Margarita Kulys Hoffman – Recommended

Assigned to the Domestic Violence Division:
Diana Kenworthy – Recommended
Ursula Walowski – Recommended
Sebastian Patti – Recommended

Assigned to the Domestic Relations Division:
Debra Walker – Recommended
Raul Vega – Recommended

Assigned to the Criminal Division:
Diane Gordon Cannon – Recommended
William Lacy – Recommended
Clayton Crane – Recommended
Kenneth Wadas – Recommended
Evelyn Clay – Recommended
Thomas Byrne – Recommended
Rickey Jones – Recommended
Mauricio Araujo – Recommended

Assigned to the Juvenile Justice Division:
Donna Cooper – Highly Recommended

Assigned to the First Municipal District:
Anita Rivkin-Carothers – Recommended
Jackie Portman – Recommended

Assigned to the Second Municipal District:
Shelley Sutker-Dermer – Recommended

Assigned to the Fourth Municipal District:
Kristyna Ryan – Recommended

Assigned to the Fifth Municipal District:
Patrick Rogers – Recommended
Peter Felice – Recommended

Assigned to the Sixth Municipal District:
James Rhodes – Recommended
Anna Demacopoulos – Recommended
Frank Zelzinski – Recommended
The IVI-IPO has also recommended several Circuit Court judges seeking retention for a "yes" vote. The IVI-IPO has not announced that it opposes any judicial retention bid; it has merely endorsed some, but not all, of the Circuit Court judges seeking retention. The retention candidates singled out by the IVI-IPO are:
  • Ann Collins Dole
  • Anna H. Demacopoulos
  • Clayton J. Crane
  • Debra Walker
  • Diana Kenworthy
  • Donna Cooper
  • Edmund Ponce de Leon
  • Edward A. Arce
  • Eileen Brewer
  • Eileen O'Neill Burke
  • Evelyn B. Clay
  • Jackie Marie Portman
  • James P. Flannery, Jr.
  • James Rhodes
  • Kathleen Kennedy
  • Kathleen McGury
  • Kenneth J. Wadas
  • Kristyna C. Ryan
  • Lewis Nixon
  • Lynn M. Egan
  • Marilyn F. Johnson
  • Marjorie C. Laws
  • Mary Anne Mason
  • Mauricio Araujo
  • Michael B. Hyman
  • Raul Vega
  • Rickey Jones
  • Robert E. Gordon
  • Sebastian Thomas Patti
  • Thomas J. Lipscomb
  • Ursula Walowski
  • William Lacy
So -- early voters -- you have some resources with which to make informed decisions on the judicial retention ballot, even if the retention ballot is, like this post, rather long.

But -- and this is where we came in -- most of you won't have any say in who gets elected to the bench for the first time. I told that you that, with just a few exceptions, the winners of the Democratic primaries, countywide and subcircuit, are unopposed for election.

Here are the exceptions:

In the 13th Subcircuit, no Democrat filed. Thus, John Curry, the Republican candidate is unopposed.

In the 12th Subcircuit, Democrat James Kaplan is opposed by Republican James Paul Pieczonka.

In the 4th Subcircuit, Democrat John J. Mahoney is opposed by Republican Ian Brenson in the race for the Billik vacancy.

These prior FWIW posts may be helpful to voters in the far north suburban 12th Subcircuit or far west suburban 4th Subcircuit:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Retention Judges: The default vote is "yes"

Judicial retention elections seem strange to many voters. The over 70 Circuit Court judges (and one elected Justice of the Appellate Court) that are up for retention in Cook County this year do not run against anyone; the candidate's name is on the ballot in the form of a question that comes down to this: Should Judge X remain a judge? Or should Judge X look for work elsewhere come December?

If Judge X receives at least a 60% "yes" vote, he or she keeps the job.

Past results suggest that the current class of judges have excellent prospects for success in this retention election; the last time any Cook County judges failed to achieve a 60% yes vote was in 1990, when seven judges were removed (though one was simultaneously elected to the Appellate Court).

But that doesn't mean that judges have no reason to take retention elections seriously. It is a fact that at least two out of 10 voters will mark "no" on every single judge, no matter how qualified. In the 2012 retention election, for example, out of the roughly 60 jurists on the retention ballot, no one received an 80% "yes" vote. Appellate Court Justice James Fitzgerald Smith received a 79.81% "yes" vote and four Circuit Court judges -- Patricia Banks, Maureen Elizabeth Connors (who was simultaneously elected to the Appellate Court in 2012), Mary Colleen Roberts, and Diane M. Shelley received "yes" votes from more than 79% of the voters.

Thus, the stars of the newspapers' editorials, the individuals rated most highly qualified by all the various bar groups, can still expect to be rejected by 20% or more of the voters. Those inclined to 'throw the rascals out' will vote the retention ballot no matter what. Can we safely assume that the just-say-nay voters will number no more than 20 or 25% of the retention voters? As a lot of people learned first-hand with their IRAs in recent years, past results are not a guarantee of future performance.

But wholesale removal of judges in Cook County would not be in the public's best interests.

We have many very good, hard-working, scholarly judges in Cook County. All of the judges on the 2014 retention ballot are recommended by some of the bar associations that screen judicial candidates; the vast majority have been recommended by each each and every one of the bar groups. Here's a linked list of the posts I've put up about the bar association ratings:
For more information about Cook County judges on the retention ballot, see the 2014 Cook County Retention Judges Website.

I mean to express no opinion about whether any particular judge should or should not be retained -- but I do submit that the default vote on the judicial retention ballot, in the absence of a good reason to vote otherwise, should be "yes."

Friday, October 17, 2014

Edward John King appointed to 4th Subcircuit vacancy

The Illinois Supreme Court today appointed Edward John King to the 4th Subcircuit vacancy created by the recent retirement of Judge William J. Kunkle. The appointment is effective October 24 and terminates December 5, 2016.

At the time of his appointment, King was a practitioner in west suburban La Grange. According to his Sullivan's entry, King focused his practice in municipal law, eminent domain and condemnation practice. He has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1981.

Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis had announced an application process for the Kunkle vacancy this past July.

These obscure elected offices which voters reflexively ignore are important, too: Observations prompted by the Waukegan school strike

My sister Jodee is not shown in this picture of striking Waukegan teachers that I lifted this morning from the Chicago Tribune website, but she is a teacher at Waukegan High School and has been on strike now, along with her colleagues, for a couple of weeks. From what I can salvage from the flotsam and jetsam of my Facebook newsfeed, the teachers are encouraged by the support they've received from their students and their students' parents.

It is not at all surprising that a deep dissatisfaction with the Waukegan School Board has also emerged as a theme in the newsfeed Mr. Zuckerberg's Facebook algorithm sends my way on account of my sister walking the picket line. But I did not expect to see a number of posts fuming about the fact that the Waukegan school board is elected -- and griping that absolutely no education-related credentials of any kind are required in order to run. I saw one post that compared -- irony alert -- what is required to serve on the Waukegan school board (3,000 votes, allegedly) with the supposedly extensive credentials required to serve on the unelected school board in -- I warned you -- Chicago. (No, I can't find, or link to that post. Facebook doesn't work that way.)

The teachers' union in Chicago wants an elected school board to counter the mayor's control of the schools, while -- apparently -- at least some teachers in Waukegan, or their supporters, wish their school board had appointed members with some appreciation of what teachers do and how they do it so that they might be more willing partners in negotiation. (Jodee, you may wish to break this gently to your colleagues: We had a teachers' strike here in Chicago, too, recently, unelected school board and all.)

But -- and here's how I tie this morning's topic back to a recurring theme on this blog -- what I see, in both the Chicago teachers urging an elected school board, and in the Waukegan teachers wishing their board were appointed -- is a misplaced focus on process. Changing the stickers and the paint job on a race car will not necessarily make it go faster; sometimes what is really needed is a different driver.

Regular readers of this blog know that some of our local bar associations advocate fiercely for merit selection of judges (while other bar associations remain strongly opposed). In the not-so-distant past some of the bar associations that favor merit selection gave short shrift to the merits of the many persons running for judge: The lede was always we need merit selection... and only further down the page, where few bothered to read, did the association say whether, in its opinion, Candidates A through Z were, or were not, qualified for judicial office.

That's changed somewhat in recent years, I believe, and for the better. The bar associations, even those that support merit selection over judicial election, are spending a lot more time and effort now getting their evaluations about individual candidates out to the electorate: These bar associations still want different stickers on the car, but they realize that they can't win the race without the right driver -- or improve the quality of the bench without the right candidates.

Of course I realize it is a little late now for the teachers in Waukegan to field their own slate for the school board....

Isn't that funny? There is a belief, particularly among Republicans, that the public employee unions have all but hijacked the Democratic party, and particularly the primary process, so that the unions can effectively dictate terms at contract renewal time. And maybe, in some times and in some places, that has proved true -- not in Waukegan obviously -- but the theory does not explain how, in Illinois generally, for example, or in Chicago, these allegedly staunch public employee union-backers failed to make required pension contributions for so many years. You'd think that would have been a priority for a union-oriented elected official, wouldn't you?

Here's the bottom line, though: Many of us want to change the "system." (To improve it, of course.) But too many of us fail to also work with, and study, and understand, the system we have. School boards, library boards, water reclamation districts -- all of these "minor" or "obscure" public bodies spend tax dollars just like the City, county or state. All of these bodies, and of course the courts too, have an enormous influence on our lives and our pocketbooks. We have a right -- and it is surely in our best interests -- to pay attention to all public bodies, no matter how obscure or seemingly unimportant. Who are we allowing behind the wheel of those race cars? And, yet, voter turnout in November will be... what? 25%? 30%?

The people I really feel sorry for in the Waukegan strike are the senior athletes. The football players, and soccer players, and volleyball players -- anyone in a fall sport. These kids are really being punished for the strike. They can't play. They can't practice. And -- most of 'em anyway -- can never get these days back: There won't be another season.

I've watched my own sons play football and baseball and, whether that last season comes in high school or college, I can't help but ache with them as that time in their lives comes to an end. I've watched kids -- "kids" who can bench press hundreds of pounds, "kids" who could break me in half if they'd a mind to -- dissolve in unashamed tears after their last game as the finality overwhelms them. It's even tougher for the kids who get injured during their final seasons, but they can at least lean on crutches on the sideline or along the bench and share those last fleeting moments with their teammates. But even the sidelines have been taken away from the senior athletes in Waukegan.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Alliance issues revised ratings in 4th Subcircuit, one retention race

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening has announced revised ratings in the contested 4th Subcircuit race between Ian Brenson and John J. Mahoney. FWIW readers will recall that the ISBA modified its rating of candidate Brenson earlier this week.

Here is the revised 'key' issued by the Alliance:

(Clicking on images here may increase their size or clarity depending on the device on which you are viewing this post.)

This is the new Alliance 'grid' in the race for the Billik vacancy in the 4th Subcircuit.

Brenson was formerly rated "Not Recommended" by every Alliance bar group. The ISBA, as you will note from the grid, is an Alliance member. Brenson was rated "Qualified" by the Chicago Bar Association. The Alliance ratings for John J. Mahoney remain those ratings issued for the March primary; Brenson was not a candidate in the March primary.

The Alliance also announced that the Hellenic Bar Association changed its recommendation on the retention of Judge Joan Powell from "No" to "Yes." Here (with my graphic abilities stretched to the breaking point) is the revised Alliance 'grid line' for Judge Powell.

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening is comprised of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area (AABA), Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago (BWLA), Chicago Council of Lawyers (CCL), Cook County Bar Association (CCBA), Decalogue Society of Lawyers (DSL), Hellenic Bar Association (HBA), Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI), Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago (LAGBAC), Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois (PRBA), and Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI).

Related: Council, Alliance ratings in the two contested Cook County judicial elections

Alliance releases, or re-releases, ratings in races for Cook County judicial vacancies

Alliance retention "grids" issued

Today's civics lesson: Sorority did not 'infringe' on college newspaper's 'First Amendment Rights'

The Chicago Tribune reports this morning that five members of an Elmhurst College sorority are in trouble with school authorities for swiping 800 copies of the Elmhurst College Leader (over half of the paper's bi-weekly 1500-issue press run) and dumping the pilfered papers in trash cans and compost bins around campus.

According to Annemarie Mannion's Tribune story, the Rho Theta chapter of the Phi Mu sorority had been investigated by the national organization because of hazing allegations. The national determined, and the Leader reported, that the hazing allegations were unfounded but, according to the Mannion's account, quoting Desiree Chen, a college spokeswoman, "I guess they were still upset about it."

The editor of the college paper, Zachary Bishop, is quoted in Mannion's story as well, as saying he was saddened "to see our work tossed out just because a couple of people didn't like what we wrote."

But Bishop also said, "It seems like they were trying to censor us, and they infringed on our First Amendment Right of Freedom of the Press." And the college spokesperson, Ms. Chen, is also quoted as saying, "This was an attack on [the newspaper's] First Amendment rights. They were right to protest it."

And thus we see the need for a civics lesson. Because the editor and the school spokesperson could not be more mistaken.

The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...." The First Amendment has been recognized as expressly applicable to the states through the due process clause of the 14th Amendment since at least Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697, 51 S.Ct. 625, 75 L. Ed. 1357 (1931). Therefore, unless the five sorority girls who allegedly swiped the newspapers can be somehow made into agents of the government (government actors), they did not violate the newspaper's First Amendment Rights.

Young Mr. Bishop also said the sorority girls were out to "censor us."

But, again, this is not so. The City of Chicago used to censor films shown within the City limits. The FCC censors what may be seen or said on prime-time TV. To be a censor one must have legal or at least de facto authority to determine what other people may see or read or hear. The sorority girls were presumably not authorized by anyone, other than themselves or possibly other members of their sorority (Mannion reports that another investigation is underway), to swipe the newspapers.

If the girls are guilty of swiping the newspapers as alleged, they are not censors. They are thieves. Vandals, perhaps. They may be guilty of converting the school newspaper's property. And it was a dumb and stupid thing to do, besides.

College students (and college spokespersons) and, certainly, newspaper reporters should know the difference between censorship and 'infringing' someone's First Amendment rights and theft. And the rest of us should as well.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

ISBA modifies rating of Republican candidate in 4th Subcircuit contest

The Illinois State Bar Association has changed its rating for Ian Brenson, the Republican candidate for judge in the far west suburban 4th Subcircuit.

Like all of the other Alliance bar associations, the ISBA previously had issued a Not Recommended rating for Brenson on the grounds that he did not submit to Alliance screening after he was appointed by Republican committeemen to the November ballot. I didn't find out about Brenson's candidacy until September; I was told the Alliance also did not find out about Brenson's candidacy until recently. Today, FWIW has learned that the ISBA has changed its rating to, simply, "Not Rated." The ISBA has so far issued no explanatory statement explaining the change. If I were to speculate, I'd guess that the ISBA's change may have come because it may have determined that Brenson's failure to participate was not willful, in that he (unlike some other candidates rated Not Recommended by all Alliance bar associations) may not have failed to respond to Alliance screening requests. If the Alliance didn't know about Brenson's appointment to the ballot, it could not have reached out to him. On the other hand, according to Alliance sources, Brenson seems not to have reached out to the Alliance either.

Brenson was rated Qualified by the Chicago Bar Association.

Brenson's Democratic opponent in November is Assistant State's Attorney John J. Mahoney.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Why does the Sun-Times have a beef against Robert Kuzas?

Judicial candidate Robert D. Kuzas is singled out on the Sun-Times editorial page today as "another example of how firmly politicians continue to control who sits on the Cook County bench."

The newspaper's editorial agitation stems from a Watchdogs column, by Tim Novak and Chris Fusco, in yesterday's paper entitled, "How a white police attorney got a West Side judge seat."

Kuzas isn't on the bench yet; he is unopposed, however, for the late-opening Hardy-Campbell vacancy in the 7th Subcircuit.

And it was a late-opening vacancy. Had it been announced only a few days later, it would have triggered the special filing period provisions of §7-12(1) of the Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/7-12(1). The second paragraph of §7-12(1) provides,
Where a vacancy occurs in the office of Supreme, Appellate or Circuit Court Judge within the 3-week period preceding the 106th day before a general primary election, petitions for nomination for the office in which the vacancy has occurred shall be filed in the principal office of the State Board of Elections not more than 92 nor less than 85 days prior to the date of the general primary election.
In the 2014 primary season, there were no additional vacancies to trigger the additional filing period (which would have run from December 16 to 23). A special filing period was necessary to accommodate a last-minute Circuit Court vacancy during the 2010 primary season; the death of Appellate Court Justice Robert Cahill triggered a special filing period during the 2012 season as well. The resignation of Judge Hardy-Campbell must have come right at the cutoff for the regular filing period (that would have been November 11, 2013, 21 days exactly before the close of the regular petition filing period on December 2).

The Sun-Times indicates that Kuzas' would-be challenger, Mable Taylor, had only 19 days to gather up her petitions; that suggests she found out about the vacancy on November 13. I had news of the vacancy posted 17 days before the filing deadline, on November 15. According to the Hearing Examiner designated by the Cook County Electoral Board to evaluate the challenges to Taylor's petitions, the Illinois State Board of Elections did not know about (or certify) the Hardy-Campbell vacancy until November 14, 2013, 18 days before the filing deadline. (Hearing Examiner's Report and Recommended Decision, Rockford v. Taylor, 13-COEB-JUD-36 at ¶16, citing the Affidavit of ISBE Deputy Director Kenneth Metzel.) Interestingly, according to the Hearing Examiner's Report, a few of Taylor's challenged petition sheets were apparently notarized before the Hardy-Campbell vacancy was certified. (Report at ¶17.)

(Why the discrepancy between the date of the judge's resignation and the date on which the ISBE certified the existence of a new vacancy? I'm not privy to the exact mechanics, but there are channels that must be gone through when a judge retires, for obvious reasons.)

Whether it's 21, 19, or 18 days, though, there was not a lot of time to print proper petitions and obtain 1,000 valid signatures. In her haste to meet the deadline, Taylor mustered 4,807 signatures, but only 685, or 315 less than the required amount were found to be valid. The Hearing Examiner stated, "The several noted discrepancies suggest to the Hearing Examiner that there was far more than carelessness or unintentional mistakes in the submissions of the noted Circulators of the Candidate, Mable Taylor’s nomination papers for the Office of Judge of the 7th Judicial Subcircuit" (Report at ¶19). On the other hand, the Hearing Examiner expressed her opinion that "while the Candidate, Mable Taylor, did not participate in the []bad behavior of the Circulators, her having hired a petition gathering company, Mr. Jet’s Petitions, her reliance on their process was to her detriment" (Report at ¶20, emphasis in original).

In my opinion, the Sun-Times is not wrong to suggest that this very compressed period of time for circulating nominating petitions favors the well-funded, better-connected sort of candidate as opposed to the 'nobody that nobody sent.'

Of course, the time period used to be shorter.

In late 1985, some may recall, a Cook County judge's sudden retirement triggered a vacancy three hours before the close of the filing period -- and, lo and behold, 80 minutes later, a candidate walked into the State Board of Elections in Springfield ready to file for that vacancy with the then-necessary 500 signatures all present and accounted for. It was truly a miracle of precision timing... but the January 18, 1986 Chicago Tribune reported that Judge Prentice Marshall threw out a suit seeking to prevent that candidate from being certified for the ballot, stating that he found no evidence that the retiring judge conspired with the well-informed candidate to prevent anyone else from seeking the vacancy.

Three weeks, or most of three weeks, is surely better than three hours. I could agree with the Sun-Times that more time would be better still -- but, wherever the line is drawn, someone may find themselves on the wrong side of it. Such is the harsh nature of deadlines.

The part I'm having trouble with is why the Sun-Times seems so upset with Mr. Kuzas in particular. It can't be because his supporters attacked his would-be opponent's petitions, could it? Attacking petitions may not exactly be the most courteous thing to do, but it certainly is legal and FWIW readers will recall that, in this primary season, there were a number of judicial races (including the race for the other 7th Subcircuit vacancy) in which every single candidate's petitions were challenged. In anticipation of the 1996 primary, supporters of a then-obscure community organizer brought petition challenges in their candidate's State Senate race. With the challenges upheld and the field cleared of competition (including the incumbent State Senator), the community organizer won election unopposed. The then-obscure community organizer is now President of the United States.

Clearly, Mr. Kuzas has some important friends among political leaders in the 7th Subcircuit. According to Rock and Fusco's Watchdogs piece, Kuzas obtained "the endorsements of black political figures including Secretary of State Jesse White and White’s protégé, Ald. Walter Burnett (27th)." Today's editorial also notes the support Kuzas received from Ald. Jason Ervin (28th). But Kuzas was also rated Qualified or Recommended by every single bar association. So it's not as if Mr. Kuzas has only political skills or connections, at least in the view of the various bar associations.

Still, I shed no tears for Mr. Kuzas. I do not know the man, but he has put himself into the public arena by running for judge and, as Finley Peter Dunne said a century ago, "Politics ain't beanbag." But I don't understand why the Sun-Times felt the need to cast aspersions on Mr. Kuzas in order to make an otherwise valid point about the desirability of greater ballot access. As a long-time 'nobody that nobody sent,' I am in sympathy with the Sun-Times on this goal. If I were Philosopher-King, I would demand less restrictive ballot access rules, lowering the signature requirements perhaps, and making it easier to survive petition challenges. But since neither I nor the Sun-Times editorial writer will ever reign as Philosopher-King, all hope of reform lies with the political process, a process that requires building coalitions, even with politicians. How does a seemingly gratuitous slap at an apparently qualified judicial aspirant further the stated goal of ballot reform?

Monday, October 06, 2014

IVI-IPO makes endorsements in some (but not all) Cook County judicial races

Updated and corrected 10/6/14

The Independent Voters of Illinois - Independent Precinct Organization has posted its endorsements for the November election. That's a link to the IVI-IPO's endorsement page in the preceding sentence.

The IVI-IPO made an endorsement in one of Cook County's two contested judicial races, choosing Judge James Kaplan over James Paul Pieczonka in the race for the Jordan vacancy in the far north suburban 12th Subcircuit.

The IVI-IPO has also singled out several Circuit Court judges seeking retention as worthy of a "yes" vote. The IVI-IPO has not announced that it opposes any judicial retention bid; it has merely endorsed some, but not all, of the Circuit Court judges seeking retention. The retention candidates singled out by the IVI-IPO are:
  • Ann Collins Dole
  • Anna H. Demacopoulos
  • Clayton J. Crane
  • Debra Walker
  • Diana Kenworthy
  • Donna Cooper
  • Edmund Ponce de Leon
  • Edward A. Arce
  • Eileen Brewer
  • Eileen O'Neill Burke
  • Evelyn B. Clay
  • Jackie Marie Portman
  • James P. Flannery, Jr.
  • James Rhodes
  • Kathleen Kennedy
  • Kathleen McGury
  • Kenneth J. Wadas
  • Kristyna C. Ryan
  • Lewis Nixon
  • Lynn M. Egan
  • Marilyn F. Johnson
  • Marjorie C. Laws
  • Mary Anne Mason
  • Mauricio Araujo
  • Michael B. Hyman
  • Raul Vega
  • Rickey Jones
  • Robert E. Gordon
  • Sebastian Thomas Patti
  • Thomas J. Lipscomb
  • Ursula Walowski
  • William Lacy
By my county, nine of the judges on the IVI-IPO's list of favorites are among the 16 rated "Well Qualified" for retention by the Chicago Council of Lawyers. These are Judges Clayton J. Crane, James P. Flannery Jr., Marilyn F. Johnson. Marjorie C. Laws, Sebastian Thomas Patti, and William Lacy and Appellate Court Justices Michael B. Hyman, Mary Anne Mason, and Robert E. Gordon. (Hyman, Mason and Gordon are all Circuit Court judges serving on the Appellate Court pursuant to Supreme Court assignment. They must stand for retention, however, as Circuit Court judges.)

Friday, October 03, 2014

Judith C. Rice gets a head start on her judicial career

Former Chicago Revenue Director and Water Commissioner Judith C. (Judy) Rice will be sworn in as a Cook County Circuit Court Judge on Monday, October 6, according to an order entered yesterday by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Rice won the Democratic nomination for the Taylor vacancy in the 7th Subcircuit vacancy in the March primary. This is the vacancy to which she has now been appointed. She faces no opponent in November.

Judge Freddrenna M. Lyle had been assigned to that vacancy by the Illinois Supreme Court; in August, however, Judge Lyle was reassigned to a 5th Subcircuit vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Jane L. Stuart.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Bad Judge, worse TV

Kate Walsh plays Judge Rebecca Wright on NBC's Bad Judge

I saw the commercials and was not enthused. Still, I thought it might be fun to watch NBC's Bad Judge and possibly do a review. I thought a review might fit in with the other judge-related stuff I put up here. My son-in-law, Arne, egged me on: There was a doctor, he told me, who blogged his reviews of the Fox TV show House, explaining the medical decisions in each episode, winding up with a book deal from his efforts.

Next to Judge Rebecca Wright,
Judge Harold T. Stone of TV's Night
was a reincarnation of Benjamin
Cardozo and Learned Hand
About 15 minutes into the show, I asked my son-in-law if he remembered the doctor's name.

No, he admitted, adding that he wasn't even sure the doctor really did get a book deal out of his online reviews.

Another couple of painful minutes dragged by. "Did the poor doctor keep his license?" I asked.

Bad Judge is truly awful. And I'm trying to be nice. If a creature such as "Judge" Rebecca Wright really did exist, and if she really did the things that the TV character did, she would lose her robe, her law license, and quite possibly her liberty. And that's just from the pilot. To illustrate: Judge Wright's courtroom deputy walked into her chambers while she was engaged in (the network television equivalent of) sex with a witness who had just testified in her courtroom. We were just reenacting a case, she told the deputy. "I know the case," the bemused deputy says, "I saw it late night on Cinemax." Judge Wright and her, um, conferee are still pulling on their clothes when in walks the supervising judge. He wants Judge Wright to "file a motion."

File a motion? Did a page from an old L.A. Law script accidentally get mixed in this mess?

Of course, especially because she's a 'bad judge,' Judge Wright doesn't do as her supervisor requests; instead, she leaves her post in response to a phone call, heading to a nearby grammar school, there to represent a child (whose parents she'd sent to prison) in a dispute with his school. The kid is an artistic soul -- his troubles all come from drawing objectionable pictures of his teachers -- who is being bullied at the group home where he is awaiting his parents' release from stir. We are supposed to think kindly of Judge Wright on account of these efforts, because we the audience are supposed to see that her heart is in the right place, even though she has had "wine and cake for breakfast."

But in Illinois a judge cannot practice law or represent clients, even troubled and bullied young artists. Maybe California is different. I doubt that it's that different.

I could go on, but I won't. First of all, I want to start suppressing this entire experience as soon as possible.

I express no opinion on whether a funny show could be made about a 'bad judge.' But this sure wasn't it.

In Talamine v. Apartment Finders, Inc., 2013 IL App (1st) 121201, ¶17, in a concurring opinion, Justice Michael B. Hyman wrote, "Every ad hominem smear, insult, and innuendo, every speculative accusation, every potshot leveled at members of the judiciary has the capacity of weakening confidence in the judiciary as a whole, confidence which is essential to the vitality of our legal system." Don't get me wrong: I don't think Bad Judge should be taken that seriously. And, even if it were taken seriously, if tonight's episode is any indication, the show is unlikely to be around long enough to do any lasting damage. But, just in case, Mr. and Mrs. America, please do not judge America's judiciary by the character portrayed in the NBC program Bad Judge.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Judge James Kaplan interviewed on NTNM

Judge James Kaplan, a candidate for the Jordan vacancy in the far north suburban 12th Judicial Subcircuit, is a guest on this week's edition of Avy Meyers' North Town News Magazine and his interview has now been posted online.

Judge Kaplan's interview airs Thursday, October 2 on CAN-TV at 7:30 p.m., and again on Friday, October 3 at 2:30 p.m. It also airs on a number of cable systems in the suburbs between October 2 and 6. Check your local listings for air times. Meanwhile, with the permission of NTNM host and moderator Avy Meyers and his entire technical crew Sonny Hersh, you can watch the interview here.

Judge Pamela Loza interviewed on NTNM

Judge Pamela Loza, a candidate for retention in the upcoming November election, is a guest on this week's edition of Avy Meyers' North Town News Magazine and her interview has now been posted online.

Judge Loza's interview airs Thursday, October 2 on CAN-TV at 7:30 p.m., and again on Friday, October 3 at 2:30 p.m. It also airs on a number of cable systems in the suburbs between October 2 and 6. Check your local listings for air times. Meanwhile, with the permission of NTNM host and moderator Avy Meyers and his entire technical crew Sonny Hersh, you can watch the interview here.

The website for the entire retention class may be found at CookCountyJudges.com.