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.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Leyhane, Could you please explain as to why an Associate Judge is elevated to a Full Circuit Judge. Is an Associate Judge a lesser Judge that is not allowed to hear the same kind of cases as a Full Circuit Judge? Is there any benefit to the People of Cook County for the Supreme Court to make this Appointment?

Anonymous said...

So Associate Judge Jackson runs for Circuit Court Judge in the 7th subcircuit and looses to a slated candidate and is appointed by the Supreme Court several months later? My hat is off to the Supreme Court of Illinois. That is how to show the Cook County Democratic Party the Court's position on slating. Run against a slated candidate and get rewarded. Now if only Judge Jackson was a Republican I would say the appointment was perfect.

Jack Leyhane said...

Anon 12:32, the short answer to your first question is no, an associate judge is not a "lesser" judge. There is a small salary difference (full circuit judges make a little more) and there is a difference in how associate judges are selected (they are elected by the full judges of their circuit, not by the voters).

On paper, there is a distinction between the kinds of cases that may be heard by an associate judge and a full circuit judge. Pursuant to Article VI, Sec. 8 of the 1970 Illinois Constitution and Supreme Court Rule 295, an associate judge can hear any kind of case except felony cases where the defendant may be subject to imprisonment for more than one year -- but, even there, there is a loophole allowing the chief judge of a circuit to petition the Supreme Court to allow particular associate judges to hear felony cases.

My experience in the criminal courts is extremely limited, but it is my understanding that a number of associate judges are regularly assigned to felony courtrooms.

On the civil side, historically (meaning when I was young), associate judges were pretty much automatically excluded from assignments in the 'prestige' divisions like Law or Chancery -- but, in recent years, this is no longer the case.

As to your second question, hopefully the answer is yes: A seasoned associate judge is assigned to a Circuit Court vacancy, creating a new associate judge vacancy which will, in due course, be filled by another qualified person -- and the public benefits on both ends of that transaction.

Anonymous said...

I must say that I do not like the tone of the second Comment whereby the Supreme Court is getting a pat on the back by "rewarding" Judge Jackson. I know Judge Jackson, and I can say first hand that she is a credit to her office. I do not understand however, why she, or any Associate Judge would risk a secure job by accepting a temporary Appointment (which requires resigning from the Associate position) and being forced to run in an election at the end of the appointment period which is two short years away. I believe that Judge Al Swanson who is a resident of the 7th subcircuit, would have been a more logical choice , as he is out of a job at the end of his Appointment which is December of this year, as he failed to win his primary. I have also found him to be a very good Judge. The Supreme Court has Appointed Judge Freddrenna Lyle three times, most recently after her last Primary Election loss.

Anonymous said...

Robert Kuzas took a lot of heat from the Sun-Times recently due to the help he received from political allies that he has made through the years within the 7th subcircuit. Much was made of the fact that he was white and recently moved into the subcircuit. Judy Rice, who also has strong political connections, and recently moved into the subcircuit, but is African American, did not catch the attention of the Sun-Times at all. Go figure? Judicial subcircuits were created to "help" ethnic groups elevate to the bench not to create a racial monopoly of one particular group. This appointment of ANY Associate Judge to a Circuit Judgeship on its face makes no sense whatsoever. This appointment at very best is an "apology" by the Supreme Court for the fact that Robert Kuzas, a white man, was elected in the 7th subcircuit; but it was an apology that the Court did not need to make.

Anonymous said...

Very good explanation of the difference between the two classes of Judges in Cook County. In other words the only difference is money: Salary, for judges who are active, and pension for judges who are retired. Cook County is famous (or should I say infamous) for pension scandals. You state that Judge Jackson was made an Associate in 1997 so she is only three years away from 20 years of service on the bench. We can draw our own conclusions that her appointment or the reasons she was seeking appointment were to increase her pension. Not a very good reason in my humble opinion for her to seek appointment or for the Supreme Court to grant her request. Also not great for the taxpayers that are going to fund her golden years. Shame, shame, shame on all of them.

Anonymous said...

The stated differences between "FULL CIRCUIT" and "ASSOCIATE" Judges is spot on. Well done. This appointment by the High Court is an absolute waste. As a sitting Associate Judge both attorneys and litigants already reap the benefit of Judge Jackson's skills and experience. An appointment is the perfect opportunity for the Court to employe a pure merit selection process and bring new talent to the bench thereby eliminating the randomness that an election result (a rich, or lucky, or politically connected person but possibly not qualified) might otherwise bring. I am very disturbed by this appointment. She may be an excellent Judge but the Appointment showed very poor judgment on behalf of our highest court. I am sure there must have been many other excellent candidates the Court may have appointed. Just look at the size of the last Associate List. (I believe I recall seeing the name of one Jack Leyhane on said list) I thought the Supreme Court learned a lesson when Justice Freeman appointed his senior law clerk, Jean Cocozza, to the bench last year. What an embarrassment this latest appointment is.

Anonymous said...

A very personal comment. I am an African American female attorney who one day would like to be a judge. I find this Appointment absolutely disgusting for several reasons. Judge Jackson should have promoted or mentored a qualified younger African American attorney to this Appointment. Then the net gain of African American Judges would have been "plus one". As Judge Jackson has to give up her seat as an Associate, the African American Community does not gain another black judge. Judge Jackson used the subcircuit system to her own selfish advancement and not that of the African American Community, which is why subcircuits were first created.

I would also like to respond to the above comment that claims the Supreme Court, or more specifically, Justice Theis, appointed an African American woman as an "apology". I do not think this is true. I think Justice Theis did it out of fear. What would the Sun-Times have said if another white man such as Mr. Kuzas was appointed? But the reality is that Justice Theis gave the African American Community nothing !!! Nothing at all !!! Marianne Jackson was already a Judge !!! This Appointment is nothing more than a beautifully wrapped Christmas present that when opened is really nothing more than an empty box. An Appointment that would have mattered would have been that of a qualified African American attorney being elevated to judge. That would have been something to celebrate. So thank you Judge Jackson for taking that opportunity away from an attorney in your own community, while you are in the twilight of your own career as a judge. Also, thank you to Justice Theis for appearing to give the African American Community an Appointment but really giving us nothing at all. Disgusting.

Jack Leyhane said...

The Supreme Court has issued a press release concerning Judge Jackson's elevation. You can read it by following this link. I did not mention in the body of the post that this appointment was made with the assistance of Justice Theis's screening committee, but some commenters have pointed this out -- and, of course, the press release confirms this.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Leyhane,

I would like to weigh-in on this topic. Being an Associate Judge serving the People of Cook County is an unequaled privilege and honor. The terminology that Judge Jackson was "elevated" to a Circuit Judgeship is not correct. Both Judges Greg Ahern and Perter Vilkelis were appointed to Circuit Judgeships, but when not slated by the Democratic Party, became Associate Judges through the Associate Judge process. You can bet your bottom dollar that each of these excellent Judges did not consider themselves in any way "de-elevated" (for lack of a better word). They were over joyed being able to continue their service. The Associate Judgeship process is an excellent path for those that are "less political" and unwilling or unable to run in primary and general elections, for whatever reason. I would also like to add that, as you corectly stated, very little if any difference exists between Associate and Circuit Judgeships with regard to service to the People of Cook County, and that is what the job should be about, agreed? Associate Judges also do not run for retention like Circuit Judges (the process is more secure) which is advantage in my mind.

With regard to this appointment, I must also question the judgment of Justice Theis. I often say that although something may be allowed, it does not make it right or smart. Justice Theis had a Constitutional duty to appoint a qualified individual to this vacancy. (It should be noted that the Supreme Court has a history of appointing individuals to subcircuit vacancies that do not live in the subcircuit in which the vacancy occurs. Subcircuit residency is not a requirement as it is in elections. That being said, Justice Theis has a large pool of qualified attorneys to draw from.) Did Justice Theis discharge her duty? I would say that she did, as Justice Jackson is qualified. This begs the next question - Did Justice Theis make a smart choice? This question has different answers depending on your perspective. For the People of Cook County, which in my opinion is the ONLY perspective that matters, the answer is NO. In fact, Justice Theis could not have made a worse choice. There is no logical reason to appoint an Associate Judge to a Circuit Judgeship. The only real difference is the pay scale or level of retirement benefits. Judge Jackson is at the end of her career on the bench. She just received a classic "Cook County Pay Bump" as she heads out the door. It is unfathomable to me why Justice Theis would have been a party to this. She of all people knows that even the appearance of impropriety must be avoided. This certainly looks inappropriate to me.

I agree that a qualified attorney should have been appointed to this vacancy. I do not agree with some of your readers, however, that this person needed to be from any particular ethnic group, as the 7th subcircuit covers a large area of different ethnic pockets. It is my opinion that Justice Theis exercised questionable judgement in her appointment of Judge Jackson.

Mr. Leyhane, thank you providing this wonder forum to allow concerned attorneys, judges, and voters the ability to discuss, share, and express our thoughts and opinions.

Anonymous said...

In Cadogan Estates, Ltd. v Morris, the Court coined the elephant test: It is difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it. This appointment is smells foully of political patronage at its worse.

It is a slap in the face by Judge Theis to the entire bar - is she is saying not one single attorney that applied (or could be found) with the requisite qualifications (very doubtful) to fill the appointment; so she was forced pick a sitting Associate Judge? We know this is not the case as Judge Jackson was a candidate for full circuit judgeship by her own choice several months earlier. Judge Jackson wanted this appointment.

This is also a slap in the face to the citizens of that subcircuit. The citizens of that subcircuit already voted on this issue. Judge Jackson lost to a less qualified but younger candidate. The people have spoken.

I agree with prior comments that Judge Jackson's desire to jump ranks from Associate to Circuit are very selfish. I believe also in terms of actual service there is no difference. The difference then is monetary. I believe that Justice Theis made a very questionable choice by appointing Judge Jackson. This just smells of political patronage. I always like to hope that our judges and justices do not bend or sway to political influences. I am not so sure after this appointment. There is no other explanation as to why this appointment was made. It is a sad day.

Anonymous said...

Is certainly is a "water-cooler rant" about Judge Jackson and Justice Theis. The Supreme Court has a long history of making questionable appointments. It appears this trend will continue. Justice Theis and all of the Supreme Court Justices do not operate in a vacuum. They are elected officials, and Justice Theis specifically, is a member of the Cook County Democratic Party, bring with her all of the good and all of the bad that this means. It would upset me to think that pressure from the Cook County Democratic Party had an impact on this appointment. Worse yet, it upsets me more to think that Justice Theis made this appointment all on her own. Very poor judgment indeed to appoint a sitting judge that is close to retirement age. I agree this appointment should have gone to an attorney and not someone already inside the system.

Anonymous said...

For many years I have walked from my office to the Daley Center one to two times a day. Everyday for years, Monday through Friday. More often than not, I take special notice of all the attorneys, young and old, male and female, all filing through the same revolving doors and going through the security check posts like ants going in and out of an anthill. The one thing that we all have in common is that we all secretly, or not so secretly yearn to be judges. Vacancies do not occur very often. It is completely vulgar that Justice Theis appointed a senior associate judge to this vacancy. Really give it some thought. Justice Theis appoints a judge to be a judge. I am sure there was no shortage of qualified attorneys that could have been appointed.

Jack Leyhane said...

I have to admit to a degree of confusion about those who are upset that an associate judge is appointed to a full circuit judgeship.

The commenter who took me to task for my use of the word 'elevate' in describing the appointment seems to have a better grasp on this, I think -- the pay "bump" that's involved is nothing like those that have figured in controversial pre-retirement raises given to certain school superintendents and other such persons. Nor -- to my knowledge -- has Judge Jackson announced whether she plans to seek election to this spot or retire when the appointment expires. Some commenters, however, have assumed the latter.

Also, several have commented that this appointment was a lost opportunity to appoint a newcomer to the bench -- but the appointment of an associate judge to a full circuit judgeship creates a new associate judge vacancy that will most likely be filled with a 'new face.' Granted, we did lose a few (five?) associate judge slots as a result of the most recent census, but the next such census, even assuming continued population decline, is six years in the future. So this seat is in no immediate danger of being 'lost.'

Anonymous said...

I guess what I find completely disheartening is that I applied for this vacancy, and I was never contacted. I think I am qualified to serve and was looking forward to being evaluated by both the Alliance Groups and the Thies special committee. That never happened. I applied then received a curt "no thank you" letter from the Justice. No one evaluated me. No one.

It took over three weeks to craft my application, tracking down old case numbers and contacts of opposing counsel. It was a huge amount of time and energy.

And the Supremes couldn't have cared less. What an insult. This was a pretend opening. The die was cast before the applications went out. I'd like to know how many candidates were screened. My guess is one in each subcircuit.

Anonymous said...

Rarely have I seen a post on this blog generated so many comments. Sadly, for those in the know, it was well known in political circles that Judge Jackson was a favorite to get this appointment long before the application process was announced and long before Judge Theis' "bi-partisan independent committee" rubberstamped the anointing. During the application process, those who voiced interest in applying where told by persons more knowledgeable not to bother, that it was Judge Jackson's to lose. The questionable timing of the Kuzas story only sealed the deal.

While I agree that the intent of the subcircuits was to promote diversity on the bench, what does one do when a subcircuit, like the 7th, has both a large percentage of African American and Caucasian residents. The 7th is odd in that it accounts for both the poorest and wealthiest parts of the county. Let's forget about Kuzas and what he did. Such shameless stunts ruin it for everyone else who truly lives in the subcircuit. For example, what about the poor taxpaying fool who has lived in River Forest or Oak Park all her life, and therefore has every right to run in the 7th? Should he or she be disqualified from appointment simply because they are not of the majority race that makes up the subcircuit?

There is a double standard. No one would criticize the high court if they appointment an African American in the 8th subcircuit, even though it is majority Caucasian, yet because the 7th is majority African American, it seems to be a given that the appointment must go to an African American.

Regardless of anyone's race, it would be nice for once to see someone appointed who is not a political insider. One wonders how Theis' "bi-partisan independent committee" keeps choosing only those with clout? With all due respect, the creation of this committee and its reference in every press release any time there is a vacancy or appointment only reiterates that it is nothing by smoke and mirrors.