Tuesday, February 24, 2015

City: Early voting results are not counted until the polls close tonight, despite any 'results' you may have seen already

I had an email from a northwest side aldermanic candidate Saturday morning: "Early vote returns through Friday show that we have 49.2 percent of the vote," the email read, "just short of the 50 percent plus one we need to avoid Round 2 in March and April." Then, in bold type, "We need just 53 more votes from voters like you by 5:00 today to win the early vote." Saturday, of course, was the last day for early voting ahead of today's Chicago primary.

I'm wary of early voting. I've always thought that the best chance for my vote to be counted was to cast my ballot in my home precinct on Election Day. Why take chances?

But Saturday's email really rocked me. Could someone really be looking at early returns and feeding them to some candidates? That struck me as highly objectionable -- but (as I have stated here on numerous occasions) I am not an election law specialist.

I asked election attorney James P. Nally about the candidate's claims to be winning the early vote in the most general of terms (not identifying the candidate in any way). Nally responded, "Early votes are not counted until after the polls close at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday," he advised, adding, "Early votes are logged into the touchscreens as they are voted. Early voting does provide a record of which voters have cast an early vote, and the information on what voters voted an absentee paper ballot is also compiled. However none of these votes, either early votes on the touch screen or the paper absentee ballots, are actually tabulated until after 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday. These totals are then rolled into the numbers coming out of the in precinct voting that begin reporting after 7:00 p.m. via modem to the central office of the Chicago Board of Elections."

Although that was comforting, and entirely consistent with press reports about greater turnout for early voting this year that do not hint who might be benefiting from these votes, I double-checked with the City of Chicago Board of Elections. I forwarded the email to Jim Allen, the Board's press contact, and he was quick to respond: "We do not process or count any ballots until election day. We know which voters have cast ballots, as that’s public information, but not how anyone has voted. We have no idea what the email that you supplied is referencing."

Therefore, I have to assume that the candidate in question made it up. But why bother?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

But would we feel the same way if we lived in Oregon or Minnesota?

When a person is appointed to a judicial post, is it acceptable or appropriate for that person to thank the Supreme Court, any nominating committee involved, and the elected officials who may have lobbied the Court or a justice's nominating committee on the appointee's behalf?

This allegedly happened recently -- not in a published news story (I checked the Law Bulletin to be sure) -- but on social media (Facebook, according to the account I heard).

I've published some angry comments complaining about political influence in filling judicial vacancies (I've flushed several more because they were fueled by that special mix of outrage and character assassination so popular online these days). But, nestled in the angry comments, published or not, is a question worth asking: If we value judicial independence, and if we support the idea of bipartisan, blue-ribbon nominating committees to assist the justices of the Supreme Court in filling vacancies, shouldn't we be just a tad miffed at the perception that this process is subject to political input and maybe political manipulation? I mean, if even the appointee believes that the process is susceptible to political influence, how can we ever expect the public to see it as legitimate?

I admit to not being particularly shocked that a successful appointee would include politicians in a list of persons to be thanked. After all, that new appointee is going to need the continued help of those politicians in order to hold that seat come primary time. I don't know for a fact that politicians try to secure appointments for their favorites, or whether some do more than others, although I suppose it to be so. I certainly don't know how Politician A lobbies Justice B (or a member of Justice B's committee) on behalf of Candidate C. But I am not so naive to think it never happens. And if I am sometimes envious of those who seem to have multiple committeemen advancing their judicial ambitions, I find it difficult to get upset about it. Isn't that just the way things work? Then again, I've lived in or near Chicago my entire life.

And maybe that's the trouble.

Illinois has a reputation as one of the more corrupt states in the nation. Cook County generally, and Chicago in particular, have contributed substantially (though by no means exclusively) to Illinois' historic reputation. Oregon and Minnesota, however, are perceived as far less corrupt (here's a recent survey, just for example's sake). What would a life-long Oregonian or Minnesotan think about the propriety of a committeeman -- any committeeman -- attempting to influence the appointment of judges by the Supreme Court? Imagine a transplanted Minnesotan on a justice's nominating committee in Illinois fielding a phone call from a committeeman. Would the person favored by that politician be helped or hurt, in the committee member's opinion, by such a call?

We grow up and grow old in a culture of corruption; no matter how upright and scrupulous we may be in our personal dealings, how can our perceptions of how things work -- how things should work -- not be influenced by our environment?

On the other hand -- and this is a sticking point for me -- according to the ARDC, as of October 31, 2013, there were 91,083 lawyers on the Master Roll of Illinois Attorneys. Nearly half of these -- 45,306 -- were in Cook County. There are more than that here now. In a rural county, perhaps, it may be possible to say that Mr. Smith is the best lawyer or that Mrs. Jones would make the best judge. But among so vast a population as we have in Cook County, can we ever really say that this person or that person is the one and only best person for a judicial appointment? I think the truth is that, even in Oregon and Minnesota, no committee, no matter how broadly-based, can take large numbers of applicants and honestly winnow them down to say that this one -- or even these 20 -- are the "best." There have to be other factors besides a good work record and strong peer reviews that a blue ribbon vacancy-filling committee, or a Circuit Court Nominating Committee for that matter, can take into account in anointing persons from an ocean of well-qualified applicants. These days, nominating committees acknowledge that they also consider race, gender, and ethnicity in distinguishing among well-qualified candidates; the goal is to increase public confidence in the judiciary by making the bench more reflective of the community as a whole.

But although a judge may look like some of the people that come before the bench, that judge must still have the skills to communicate effectively and understandably with the non-lawyers in the room in order to be effective. Isn't the ability to attract political support at least an indicator of well-developed public communication skills? Or would I feel differently if I'd grown up in Oregon or Minnesota?

I look forward to polite and professional discussion on this subject -- but I will flush comments that simply attack individuals or besmirch generally the integrity of the judiciary or of those involved in the judicial selection process.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New group of Associate Judge applicants includes many familiar names

By my entirely unofficial count, 15 current Cook County judges are among the 283 applicants for Cook County associate judge vacancies. Six, Jean M. Cocozza, Alison C. Conlon, Daniel P. Duffy, Rossana P. Fernandez, Aleksandra Nikolich Gillespie, and James L. Kaplan were appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to countywide vacancies. Eight others hold subcircuit appointments, Maryam Ahmad (1st), Jerry A. Esrig (9th), Edward John King (4th), Anna M. Loftus (6th), Marc William Martin (11th), Eve M. Reilly (10th), Robin D. Shoffner (5th), and Anthony E. Simpkins (1st). The 15th, Joan M. Kubalanza, is serving as an associate judge pursuant to a recall assignment; she became an associate judge in 1998, but left the bench in 1999. She has been serving pursuant to recall orders since 2008.

There are also at least six former judges in this group of applicants, including Diana L. Embil, Allan W. Masters, Daniel Lawrence Peters, Joan Ellen Smuda, Ketki Shroff Steffen, and Alfred M. Swanson, Jr.

A number of candidates who have made previous "short lists" are among this group of applicants as well. Judge Aleksandra Nikolich Gillespie was a 2014 finalist, as were Geraldine Ann D'Souza, Tiffany Mary Ferguson, Myron F. Mackoff, Edward N. Robles, and Devin Joseph Schoop. Finalists from other associate judge classes include Thomas F. Biesty (2012), Theresa Christine Ceko (2009), Lester W. Finkle (2012), and Denise Y. Staniec (2012).

Readers will also note familiar names on the list from prior election cycles. For example, Brian Alexander, Thomas M. Cushing, and Michael A. Strom have all submitted applications for this class. These three were among the five candidates who sought the 9th Subcircuit Preston vacancy in the 2014 Democratic Primary (a noteworthy contest because every one of the five candidates in that race was rated recommended or qualified or better by each and every evaluating bar group, with Cushing and Strom garnering the highest ratings of all).

The Circuit Court's Nominating Committee will eventually cut this list down to two for each vacancy. The precise number of vacancies that will be available when this process is complete can not be determined at this time, but it's a safe bet that somewhere between 240 and 260 of these 283 applicants will not make the eventual short list. Anyone with relevant information regarding any associate judge candidate is invited to communicate by letter to the Circuit Court of Cook County Nominating Committee, c/o Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans, 50 West Washington Street, Room 2600, Richard J. Daley Center, Chicago, Illinois 60602.

Here, then, is the complete list:
1. Ahmad, Keith Najib
2. Ahmad, Maryam
3. Aimen, Julie Bess
4. Airaudi, Joy Christine
5. Albukerk, John Nicolas
6. Alexander, Brian Edward
7. Andreou, Frank John
8. Apostol, Louis George
9. Atcherson, Sophia Jane
10. Bae, Jennifer Eun
11. Bass, Anthony Bernard
12. Baum, Gideon Abraham
13. Baumann, Deidre
14. Beach, Charles Stanley
15. Benjamin, Lawrence Mitchell
16. Benz, Mary Patricia
17. Biesty, Thomas Francis
18. Blake, Sandra Mary
19. Blinick, Robert K.
20. Blonder, Steven Paul
21. Blumenthal, Jeffrey S.
22. Bolger, Kevin Patrick
23. Bracey, Charles Scott
24. Brooks, Thomas David
25. Buikema, Joel David
26. Buntinas, Arunas R.
27. Butler, Krista Denita
28. Byrne, James L.
29. Cage, Patrick B.
30. Calabrese, Camille Ellen
31. Canellis, George Louis, Jr.
32. Caputo, Christina Venditti
33. Carroll, John P., Jr.
34. Casey, Carol Anne
35. Castanes, Theodore John
36. Ceko, Theresa Christine
37. Cenar, Richard G.
38. Chaudhuri, Sean Sohag
39. Chico, Joseph
40. Chimera, Vincenzo
41. Chupack, Joel Louis
42. Cisco, Raymond Peter
43. Clark, Urie Richard
44. Cleary, Gerald Vernon Patrick
45. Coakley, Kellyn Doyle
46. Cocozza, Jean Margaret
47. Coleman, David Joseph
48. Coleman, H. Yvonne
49. Conlon, Alison C.
50. Connolly, Michael Vincent
51. Cooke, Richard Charles
52. Copp, Gary Thomas
53. Cosgrove, Audrey Victoria
54. Coyne, Daniel Thomas
55. Crawley, James Patrick
56. Cunningham, Kevin P.
57. Currin, Margaret Elizabeth
58. Cushing, Thomas Maloney
59. Daly, Colleen Reardon
60. Dauphin, Yolaine Marie
61. De Matteo, Gabriel Joseph
62. Demos, Elena Shea
63. Derico, James Thomas, Jr.
64. Dimond, Karen Jane
65. Dolan, Alice Elizabeth
66. Doss, Rivanda
67. D’Souza, Geraldine Ann
68. Duffy, Daniel Patrick
69. Dunneback, James Francis
70. Dwyer, Robert Andrew, Jr.
71. Elward, William Xavier
72. Embil, Diana Lenore
73. Ertler, Mark Andrew
74. Esrig, Jerry A.
75. Evans, Carl Lauras, Jr.
76. Fanucchi, Charles A.
77. Farmakis, Athena Aphrodite
78. Feldman, Stephen Jason
79. Ferguson, Sharon Elaine
80. Ferguson, Tiffany Mary
81. Fernandez, Rossana P.
82. Ferrante, Mark Vincent
83. Fiaoni, Karla Marie
84. Finkle, Lester Wolfe
85. Fiorentino, Stephen
86. Fitzgerald, Charles Francis
87. Fleming, Dennis Michael
88. Forti, Michael Angelo
89. Fotopoulos, John S.
90. Gallagher, Carolyn Joan
91. George Stewart, AvaM.
92. Gerlach, Bradley C.
93. Gertler, Steven D.
94. Ghezzi, Sheryl Rae
95. Ghouse, Mohammed Mujahid
96. Gillespie, Aleksandra Nikolich
97. Glorioso, Mauro
98. Gonzalez, Peter Michael
99. Goodrum, Cassandra Bernice
100. Gordon, Lisa Copland
101. Green, Jonathan Clark
102. Green, Sanju Oommen
103. Grossman, Edward Ian
104. Gudino, Ruth Isabel
105. Gustafson, Richard Kerr, II
106. Hall, William Henry, IV
107. Hamilton, Carrie Elizabeth
108. Hanlon, James Edward, Jr.
109. Hannon, Maureen O'Donoghue
110. Harvey, Toya Tinette
111. Heilmann, David Michael
112. Helfgot, Ira Neil
113. Heneghan, Patrick Joseph
114. Hernandez, Steven
115. Herrera, David Christopher
116. Hogan, Michael James, Jr.
117. Horan, Kevin William
118. Hovey, Robert Jerome
119. Howlett, Melissa Marie
120. Huge, Lindsay Christopher
121. Hughes, Kevin Christopher
122. Jackson, Doretha Renee
123. John, Patrick Dankwa
124. Johnson, Robert Wade
125. Jones, Preston, Jr.
126. Kaplan, James Lewis
127. Karahalios, Peter George
128. Kardas, Kim Richard
129. Kare, Demetris A.
130. Karkula, Elizabeth Anne
131. Kessler, Sheri C.
132. King, Edward John
133. Kirk, Daniel Andrew
134. Koch, James B.
135. Kopriva, James Warren
136. Kosman, Joseph John
137. Kougias, Thomas Peter
138. Kozicki, Scott Michael
139. Krueger, Steven Philip
140. Kubalanza, Joan Marie G.
141. Kuczwara, Michael Anthony, Jr.
142. Lecompte, Marcelle Marie
143. Levin, Ellis Bernard
144. Levin, Lawrence Wolf
145. Levinson, Joseph P.
146. Leyhane, Francis John, III
147. Loftus, Anna Marie
148. Lubelfeld, Andrea Michelle
149. Luby, William Joseph
150. Luque-Rosales, Mercedes
151. Lyke, John Fitzgerald
152. MacCarthy, Sean Patrick
153. Mackoff, Myron Franklin
154. Malatesta, Michael John
155. Maloney, Daniel Edward
156. Maloney, Edward James
157. Marconi, Jerome Frank
158. Marovich, Michael Jay
159. Marsh, Jordan Eric
160. Martin, Marc William
161. Marubio, Mary Catherine
162. Masters, Allan W.
163. McConville, Terrence James
164. McGinty, Kathleen A.
165. McKenna, Scott D.
166. McNulty, John Wesley
167. Meczyk, Ralph Eugene
168. Melchor, Mary Alice
169. Miller, Stephanie Kathryn
170. Milleville, Annette Lynn
171. Mojica, Lisette Catherine
172. Moltz, Ira Alexander
173. Montes, II, Paul Joseph
174. Moore, Marcellus Harrison, Jr.
175. Mulay, Megan Kathleen
176. Murphy, Arthur Joseph
177. Murphy, James Vincent, III
178. Navarro, David Ricardo
179. Nicolau, Mary Terese
180. Niro, William Luciano
181. Norris, Scott
182. O'Brien, Brendan Alan
183. Ochalla, Kevin John
184. O'Dell, Katherine Angela
185. Orlowski, Jay Roman
186. Ostojic, Radusa
187. Otis, Donna Lynn
188. Outlaw, Jesse
189. Patterson, Monique Lenee
190. Payne, Jennifer Joyce
191. Perkins, Marian Emily
192. Perkins, Robbin Eunise
193. Peters, Daniel Lawrence
194. Pezanoski, Diane Marie
195. Plesha, Gregory Gerard
196. Plotnick, Paul Wil
197. Porada, Robert James
198. Porter, Brian Randall
199. Powell, Tiffanie Brandy
200. Power, Stephen Walter
201. Proctor, Edward George, Jr.
202. Quinn, Jill Rose
203. Rakowski, Leo Steven
204. Raleigh, William J.
205. Rascia, Ronald Anthony
206. Redmond, Darlene
207. Reggi, Martin Douglas
208. Reilly, Eve Marie
209. Reilly, James Michael
210. Repella, Joy Carol
211. Reyes, Marcos David
212. Rice, Ashonta Cherron
213. Richardson, Travis
214. Riley, Shelia Cordelia
215. Rizzi, Steven J.
216. Robles, Edward Nicolas
217. Rodriguez, Federico Martin
218. Rohrer, Gerald Thomas, Jr.
219. Rosado, Joanne F.
220. Rosales, Melinda Marie
221. Ross, Curtis Bennett
222. Saindon, Pamela Lngersol
223. Saltouros, Stephanie D.
224. Sanders, Catherine Dorothy
225. Santana, Jaime Rafael
226. Scanlon, Brian Patrick
227. Schneider, Catherine Ann
228. Schneider, Margaret Elizabeth
229. Schoop, Devlin Joseph
230. Schultz, Bryan David
231. Seaton, Debra Ann
232. Sebastian, Julie Ann Doherty
233. Seeder, Myron Marshall
234. Shapiro, James Anthony
235. Shoffner, Robin Denise
236. Silva, Rosa Maria
237. Simberg, Joel Barry
238. Simpkins, Anthony E.
239. Smith, Judie Lyn
240. Smith, Mary
241. Smith, Trina
242. Smoler, Emma L.
243. Smolka, Julia Jensen
244. Smuda, Joan Ellen
245. Snyder, Martin Dockery
246. Solomon, Donald Scott
247. Spratt, Patricia Susan
248. Springer, Barry A.
249. Spunar-Sheats, Letitia
250. Stacey, Christ Stanley
251. Stahl, Marc B.
252. Staniec, Denise Y.
253. Steadman, Gregory Joseph
254. Steffen, Ketki Shroff
255. Stein, Alon
256. Stephenson, Brian Joseph
257. Stewart, Rodney Walter
258. Strom, Michael Alan
259. Studenroth, David L.
260. Sullivan, Marita Clare
261. Sullivan, William Bernard
262. Sumner, Nyshana Kali
263. Swanson, Alfred M., Jr.
264. Swartz, Mark Francis
265. Thakkar, Shital Hasmukhbhai
266. Thibault, Renee Therese
267. Townsend, Luke Thomas
268. Trevino, Daniel Alexander
269. Tristan, Gerardo, Jr.
270. Trowbridge, Bradley R.
271. Underhill, Edward Joseph
272. Velcich, George Mario
273. Vroustouris, Alexander
274. Wade, Audrey Marie
275. Walsh, Michael D.
276. Ward, Torrick Alan
277. Whiting, Oran Fresno
278. Wilk, John F.
279. Willis, Arthur Wesley
280. Wilson, John Wellington
281. Wrenn, Jeanne Marie
282. Wright, James Adolph
283. Zamparo, Roger, Jr.

Monday, February 09, 2015

All judges in Illinois are elected -- but not all judges are elected by the people

Applications closed last week for the next class of Cook County associate judges. If history is any guide, it's safe to say that somewhere between 250 and 300 lawyers (including some former judges and perhaps even some currently-sitting judges) applied. The Circuit Court will shortly announce all of the persons who applied this time around (the Circuit Court solicits public comment about those applying) and I'll put the list up here on FWIW when it is released.

I was one of those filing an application last week and, when I turned in the application, I mentioned it on my Facebook page.

I received a number of encouraging comments in response (not all of them from immediate family!), but the comments, nice as they were, exposed a degree of confusion about how associate judges are selected. I thought it might be useful to explain that in a post here.

All judges in Illinois are elected -- but not all judges are elected by the people. (As FWIW readers know, the Supreme Court can fill circuit vacancies by appointment, but the appointed judge must seek election or vacate the seat in favor of the person elected to the spot at the next election.)

"Full" circuit judges (which includes subcircuit judges and, Downstate, resident county judges) are elected to vacancies, when they occur, by the people in a partisan primary process. In Cook County, the winners of the Democratic Primary are usually assured of victory in November. (There are a few exceptions. Cook County's 13th Judicial Subcircuit is heavily Republican. Some subcircuits have elected both Democrats and Republicans -- but, mostly, the winners of the Democratic Primary are also the winners in November. The Republican Party seldom bothers to field candidates for most countywide vacancies in Cook County. In many counties Downstate, the Republicans are dominant and the Democrats don't field candidates.)

But these are not the only judges elected in Illinois.

The other judges -- associate judges -- are elected by the circuit judges in their circuit, all as spelled out in Illinois Supreme Court Rule 39.

The process is fairly automatic and all provided for in the rule. Rule 39(b)(1) provides, in pertinent part, "Upon approval of the Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, the chief judge of the circuit shall, after forwarding a copy of the notice to the Director, cause notice to be given to the bar of the circuit, in the same manner as notice of matters of general interest to the bar is customarily given in the circuit, that the vacancy exists and will be filled by the judges of the circuit. The notice of vacancy shall be given as soon as practicable, but no later than 30 days after the accumulation of five consecutive vacancies for which notice has not been given."

In Cook County, "notice is given to the bar of the circuit" via publication of an announcement in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. Rule 39(b)(3) provides, again in pertinent part, "In judicial circuits having a population of more than 500,000, the chief judge of each circuit and at least two but not more than 10 additional circuit judges selected by their fellow circuit judges shall serve as a nominating committee for candidates for appointment to the office of associate judge of their circuit." The committee's task, per Rule 39(b)(3), is to winnow the field of applicants to a finalists' list containing "twice as many names of qualified candidates as there are vacancies to be filled."

We could -- theoretically -- fill each Cook County associate vacancy as soon as one occurs. That's how they do things in DuPage County, for example, where Anne T. Hayes, a DuPage County Assistant State's Attorney, was recently selected to become an associate judge. But we have more judges in Cook County than in other Illinois counties -- a lot more. Back in 2011, the Tribune reported that we have 418 judges in Cook County -- 275 elected circuit and subcircuit judges and 143 associate judges. A Cook County nominating committee trying to fill each associate judge vacancy as it occurred would be in almost constant session. Therefore, here in Cook County, we don't start the process until the five vacancy mark is reached -- the maximum amount that can be reached before a selection process must be started.

Now that it has begun the process, the Circuit Court of Cook County will move just as fast as personnel and budgetary requirements dictate, and no faster. It would take time to go through the roughly 300 applications in any event, and to have these candidates screened by the various bar groups that rate judicial candidates, and the nominating committee will eventually take the time to hear from each and every applicant. So the eventual number of associate judges selected from this current class of applicants will surely exceed five. In early 2002, 31 associate judges were named, the 62 finalists having been culled from a group of applications that closed in the Summer of 2000. Last time out, in April 2014, 13 new associate judges were named -- from applications submitted early in 2013. In 2012, nine new associate judges were named -- from a pool of applicants that closed on November 1, 2010.

Other than the manner of their selection, there is not much difference between circuit judges and associate judges. There is a small salary difference (full circuit judges make a little more). 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 here, 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. Early in my career, associate judges were pretty much barred from serving in the Law or Chancery Divisions. These were generally considered more 'prestigious' assignments and only popularly-elected judges were permitted to serve in Law or Chancery courtrooms -- but that distinction, too, has eroded, and many associate judges now have assignments in both divisions.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Judicial Inquiry Board files complaint against Judge Beatriz Santiago

John Flynn Rooney reports in Friday's Chicago Daily Law Bulletin that the Judicial Inquiry Board has filed a Complaint with the Illinois Courts Commission alleging that Judge Beatriz Santiago "made misrepresentations on a mortgage application regarding a residence" she owned outside the 6th Judicial Subcircuit. Judge Santiago was elected from the 6th Subcircuit in 2012.

WGN News suggests that its 2013 investigation helped spur the JIB's action. Certainly WGN and its partner in the investigation, the Medill Watchdog Group, did raise questions about whether Judge Santiago (and several other judges) were really living where they claimed to live. I haven't yet seen the actual JIB Complaint, although I've requested it. But, judging from Rooney's article, the JIB complaint does not dispute that Judge Santiago told the truth about moving back into the 6th Subcircuit before filing for judge (something that was contested at the time, but resolved in Santiago's favor); rather, it charges her with misrepresenting to a bank, in the course of applying for a new mortgage, after she was elected, about her intention to move back outside the 6th Subcircuit.

In the Law Bulletin account, Rooney writes:
The JIB complaint asserts that between June 2013 and March 2014, in connection to the refinancing of the Spaulding mortgage, Santiago “attempted to and did deceive her mortgage lender by making several misrepresentations in her mortgage application documents that caused her lender to believe she intended to occupy the Spaulding property as her primary residence within 60 days of executing a mortgage agreement, when in fact she resided at another property and had no intention of establishing residency at the Spaulding property.”
The mortgage application was mentioned in the December 4, 2013 Medill Watchdog report:
In August [2013], the investigation by Medill Watchdog and WGN Investigates found, Santiago took out a new mortgage on her property outside the subcircuit for $184,500. One of the conditions of the mortgage: That the house would be her primary residence, absent an agreement in writing to the contrary by the lender. No such agreement was filed in the public record.
The Illinois Courts Commission will have to decide whether the JIB's charges against Judge Santiago are well-founded and in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. If so, the judge could be subject to a range of sanctions from an unpaid suspension for a period of time up to and including removal from office.