Saturday, January 09, 2016

Law Bulletin: AJ "Short List" won't come out until after primary

In other "news," the Sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning and set in the west tomorrow evening.

Here's the link to the Law Bulletin story (subscription required), if you haven't already seen it.

OK, there is one piece of news in the article: The number of associate judge vacancies at any given time usually ranks right up there with the Colonel's Secret Recipe or the formula for Coca-Cola as a closely guarded secret. Edward Snowden couldn't hack that number out of the court -- so the revelation that there are currently 13 vacancies does qualify as news.

But even that could change between now and the announcement. You never know when someone will hand in their papers.

I have, however, already been made aware that my evaluation of Thursday's Law Bulletin article is not the only one. A commenter to the post below said the associate judge non-announcement was the "biggest judicial news story of the week," and not only was it a big story, it was a sad one: "[I]t truly is a low point in recent Cook County court history," the commenter writes.

I just don't see that at all.

If I was running the Circuit Court, I'd wait until after the primary, too. Remember when the applicant list was first released, early last February? As reported here in FWIW, "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."

Most of these are also running in the primary (Judge King, however, is the only one unopposed).

And, of the several former judges applying, one has since been returned to the bench by Supreme Court appointment.

Moreover, one prior AJ finalist has been since been appointed to the bench by the Illinois Supreme Court. Judge Patricia "Pat" S. Spratt was among the applicants last year who was not a former judge or finalist; but she, too, has since been appointed to the bench.

Anyone running a business -- any business -- wants to get qualified employees into all open positions. Every one of these applicants now has a track record as a judge -- and his or her supervisors have been able to form opinions about the merits of these individuals based on actual judicial performance and not on projections of what we think a person may be like if he or she becomes a judge.

So -- if I were running the Circuit Court -- I would have some fixed and definite opinions about which of these judges I would really want to keep. I also know that there a great many really good applicants who haven't had the opportunity to show themselves in judicial harness. So I'd wait until after the primary, too, and see who survives that process, to see who I need to put on AJ list or how deep into the prospect list I can dip.

There may be ways to 'blame' this delay on Mike Madigan, Rahm Emanuel, Toni Preckwinkle, Donald Trump, or fluoridated water, too, but I see this as just a rational management plan to maximize the chances of obtaining the best possible personnel for the workplace.

Go ahead, readers, tell me why I'm naive and foolish. Persuade me different. But that's my opinion now.

Full Disclosure: I withdrew from the current AJ process some time back. I no longer enjoy the unanimous confidence of the screening bar associations. I got most of 'em -- but most of 'em is not all of them. Under those circumstances, I bowed out.


Anonymous said...

You bowed out because you had one negative review, yet the Party has for many years not given a damn about ratings. You let one bar group dictate your career goals because you answered some diversity question without using the right buzz words? There are candidates with horrific anti-Union track records, who gleefully went before CFL like they were Norma Ray because the CFL, like most of those bar ratings, can be controlled with calls from the right people.

All I have to say to that bar association is "you don't know Jack" -- literally and figuratively. You deserve the bench just as much as the others.

Don't sell yourself short, Jack, and above all never make me read the words "fluoridated water" and Toni Preckwinkle in the same sentence right before bed ever again. Now that image is burned in my brain!

Anonymous said...

Anyone familiar with the bar associations' evaluation process knows the daunting workload involved in investigating, interviewing, processing evaluations and handling appeals of the ratings for (1) the judges up for retention, (2) the primary candidates and (3) the associate judge candidates. There were concerted pressures to complete the AJ ratings last summer, but even with the shared process resources of the Alliance, some orgs cannot go any faster. That's where the bottleneck is, not the cast of usual suspects for political machinations. Many of the Alliance orgs would scream if the politicians tried to control or influence the ratings - some would complain to ARDC, JIB or the Feds. The Chgo Council of Lawyers would certainly mention it in their narratives and to the press.

The elections are on fixed schedules, and will always take precedence in evaluations. The process is so subjective as it is, no one would be well served by reducing the number of orgs involved. Under the current regime, they insist on waiting for the Alliance evaluations before proceeding with the "short list." So when it gets close to the primaries, it really makes no sense to install AJs who will win their primaries anyway. Essentially, those spots become instant vacancies by December.

In some primaries, an appointed judge is a cinch to win. In others, there may be multiple judges, one of whom will probably win. Might as well find out who survived, and avoid wasting a slot on someone who will not need it. Personally, I'd give one of those slots to Jack Leyhane, but that's my opinion FWIW.

Anonymous said...

Discouraging. Disheartening. Depressing. Disappointing. Sad. And this is not my response to the post regarding the A.J. Short List being delayed until after the Primary. It is my response to Jack’s “Full Disclosure” at the end of the post. Dear Readers, the ARDC website reflects that our Mr. Leyhane has been licensed in Illinois since 1980. We can presume he has been active and practicing for most if not all of those years. And during that time I am sure he has drafted his fair share of pleadings and argued his fair share of motions as well. I would further guess that he has practiced in most divisions and even conducted a few trials. So let me guess – a bar association or two found that you “lacked experience in complex litigation”. Am I right? I love that hollow bar association terminology.

Well let me tell you Jack (and anyone else thinking of running for judge) something: None of the Judicial Evaluation Committees (JEC’s) have a clue as to who will make a good judge or not. During my A.J. interview I looked around the table at the Presiding Judges and realized that most of them at one point or another received less than perfect bar evaluations, and not only did that not stop them from becoming Judges; but they actually moved up to becoming Presiding Judges. Obviously, when the Chief Judge made Judge X a Presiding Judge he was not swayed in the least that the Chicago Council of Lawyers found Judge X “not qualified” earlier in his/her career. And there are a lot of Judge X’s. Do the research.

Jack, do you get the same emails from the bar associations that I get? Do you get the emails whereby the bar associations are seeking applicants to apply to their JEC? Have you noted that a prerequisite is two or three years of practice? I have one in my inbox where the bar association required one year of practice. One year !!! How many years have you practiced Jack? Thirty six years? Does any bar association formally train their JEC members prior to service? The answer is no. Each bar association in the Alliance has a list of “objective criteria” (experience, community, service, diligence…..) which they state will be the basis of an evaluation; yet the “Alliance Judicial Evaluation Agreement” that we all sign states that “this is a subjective evaluation”. Think about that. It is subjective. Does the public know that? What a joke.

So, Jack, in this round of judicial evaluations a few untrained attorneys who probably combined do not equal your thirty six years of practice found you “not qualified” or “not recommended” and you pull your A.J. Application? Bad move on your part. Instead of hanging your hat on your positive evaluations; you determined that the negative evaluations were actually more dispositive? I guess all the bar associations that found you qualified were then mistaken? Why would you think that way? I am so disappointed you pulled your Application for the reason you stated. Open your eyes and see the process for what it really is.

Anonymous said...

You pulled yourself out of the Associate Judge process because you got zinged by one or two of the Bar Associations? I always fancied you as a man who enjoyed a good scotch or whiskey from time to time. Now I am shattered. Bring Mr. Leyhane a tall Kool-Aid on the rocks. He has been guzzling it down of late. Now Jack, have a sip and let’s talk about the Justice Theis bipartisan judicial selection committee.

Anonymous said...

Jack, I have to agree with Anon 10:28, you have consumed the kool-aide. The decision to delay the short list is entirely political. And the reader comment that bar ratings are not influenced by outside forces doesn't know, with all due respect, the tactics employed by some to manipulate, change, delay, or boost ratings.


Anonymous said...

On The JEC evaluation process, the CBA does conduct a training session that is required for all new members joining the committee. In addition, as a new committee member you are assigned investigations only. While you are allowed to participate in the hearing session for the candidate where you conducted the investigation, you are evaluated through a cycle of investigations (over a year's worth of committee work at a minimum) before you are elevated into the role of regularly attending hearings.

I think the various JEC committees largely get it right, and all of them are staffed by folks who have demanding practices yet choose to volunteer their time to try and ensure those who make it to the bench are properly qualified.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Leyhane, I would never call you naive or foolish. There is nothing wrong with looking at the AJ process as the glass being half full rather than half empty. Personally, I look at the glass as being filthy dirty. It is my belief that the AJ selection process was placed on hold to keep it timed as a safety-net to catch the candidates that fail to win in March, but are blessed to have the support of top of the political food chain. It has happened in the past and it will happen in the future. Let's be honest: the short list could be announced and voted on and forgotten about long before the Primary. No S.C.R. violation in sight.

More troubling to me is your "disclosure" at the end of the post. It is more of a "revelation" as to the ineptness of the bar associations and those who conduct judicial evaluations. From your disclosure I understand that you once had unanimously positive ratings. So what some bar associations are now saying is that by getting a bit older and wiser with even more legal experience under your belt makes you less qualified? Or, maybe their standards have been raised? In either case - absolute rubbish.

In my opinion, the Alliance of Bar Associations hit an all time low in the 2014 election cycle with their ratings. I could point to several individual examples of candidates (now judges) that received positive rating with very questionable credentials; but I doubt you would then post my comments. Without mentioning names, the CBA (correctly) negatively rated one candidate because although she was licensed for more than 12 years she infrequently practiced law and had very little actual legal experience. The Chicago Council of Lawyers rated her positively but in doing so had to completely disregard their own objective rating standards. The CCL clearly demonstrated that they hold candidates to different standards which is grossly unfair to all of the candidates and the voting public. The CCL brags on their website that their bar evaluations are "second to none". I have to agree with that !!!

It takes time and effort to complete an AJ application and then go for the interview. In my opinion, you not only did yourself a disservice by withdrawing your application; but worse, you allowed some dim-witted attorneys who control an unfair process dictate (even if only in small measure) the path of your legal career. I would like you and your readers to note that one of the co-chairs of the Alliance of Bar Associations is not even authorized to practice law in Illinois or any state. That really sums it all up does it not?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It is very true that the CBA has some rudimentary procedures in place concerning what duties new JEC members are tasked with as opposed to more senior committee members but this should hardly be confused with actual training. That being said, I believe the CBA is the class of the bar associations when it comes to judicial evaluations. It strikes me that the Alliance is nothing more than the ISBA and a hodgepodge of special interest and ethnic bar associations with limited resources and small memberships who are given far more voice in judicial evaluations than prudence would suggest. I further agree with previous comments that the CCL is the worst of the hodgepodge associations. Their evaluations simply do not hold up well to objective scrutiny. Also one must always be suspect of individuals and organizations that toot their own horn as the CCL (and the closely related Appleseed Fund) seem to do.

It is regrettable that a veteran attorney of over 30 years of experience (with a keen interest in the judiciary) such as Mr. Leyhane finds himself in a position of having his ratings downgraded. It is symptomatic of a problem with the process: namely, who conducts judicial evaluations, how they are conducted, and how objective criteria is prioritized. For example, there is no proof that community involvement equates to competency on the bench. Yet, in the absence of such proof JEC’s evaluate it. There is no proof that a candidate with a strong background in complex litigation, in a large firm setting no doubt, is more suitable for the bench than a sole practitioner (such as Mr. Leyhane) who handles a wide variety of different, but less complex matters. Surly the sole practitioner might be a hundred times sharper than the large firm attorney. The existing process is a muddle and needs an overhaul.

The ISBA would be well advised to discontinue their association with the Alliance and stand alone as the CBA does. Let the CCL and the jumble of others issue their absurd, untested, meaningless, and at times politically motivated ratings. In the meantime – all who are interested in pursuing the bench should conduct themselves in the same fashion as the voting public: simply disregard the opinions of the bar associations. I wholeheartedly agree with the others who believe that withdrawing one’s Associate Judge Application in response to a negative bar rating was a mistake. Give the Chief Judge and Presiding Judges a little more credit.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the ISBA should leave the Allaince and go it's own way. The Tribune still publishes the ratings of all the Bar groups even though some of those Bar Associations have only a few members and are really just social groups. Yet to the uninformed reader they carry the same weight or even more if there is some type of connection to the group. While the CBA may have has many as 15-20 lawyers voting on an applicant before them, I doubt the smaller groups have more than 1 or 2 making this important decision. And when asked to explain their decision , they remain silent.

Anonymous said...

May I suggest that in quiet and peaceful opposition to the unsubstantiated lowering of Mr. Leyhane's bar ratings by the self-proclaimed experts at the Alliance of Cretins; that the name of this beloved blog be renamed from FWIW to WTF. Said name change shall remain in place until Mr. Leyhane's bar ratings be revised back to their previously unanimously perfect state or until such time as Toni Preckwinkle visits West 51st Street and daces the Jig with Burke at the weekly 14th Ward night.

Anonymous said...

This is my opinion regarding 'untrained' attorneys. They have to start somewhere. They usually sit with their more seasoned colleagues and listen to learn. They communicate and discuss intelligently with their respective bar members the process they just witnessed. There is absolutely nothing wrong with each bar association having their own perspectives and interests. If they did not the whole process would enable a continuation of previous bias and control of the bench by a few. In addition, the bars do train their members individually as well as through the Alliance at the ISBA office. On another note. Yes, there are attorneys not authorized to practice law. So what. Many have practiced for years and are now retired from the practice. Yet they still give service to the evaluation process. Others do not practice because their particular job does not require them to hold a current license--yet at one time they did practice. They too give their time and service. So let's not throw stones at them.

Anonymous said...

To the above above comment. The last place an untrained attorney should be is on a committee charged with doing judicial evaluations. Further, an attorney who is not authorized to practice law or an attorney who does not need a license because their job is not in the legal profession should not serve on a judicial evaluation committee.

Do not confuse "not authorized to practice law" with "retired".

I agree with the majority of the above comments that the Alliance of Bar Associations does not work well. The CBA and the ISBA should each stand alone. The CCL and the other small bar should not even be held in the same category.

What happened to Mr. Leyhane is unfortunate but not the least surprising given how subjective the process has become. Mr. Leyhane, however, overreacted to it.

I know Joyce Williams reads this blog. I would hope she forwards the this post and the related comments to the powers that be in the ISBA.
The ISBA needs to get out of the Alliance.

Anonymous said...

Jack, do you remember Judge Tom Chiola? Very well qualified but not found so by majority of bar groups because he was openly gay. This was not that long ago. 1993, I believe. The bar groups did not see the value of diversity on their own but had to be enlightened by a shift in public opinion. Worse, they were openly punitive. At this point, I believe the CBA does the best job as far as the evaluations go. I agree with the others that the ISBA needs to stand alone. It is a "real" association with a general widespread membership of all types. The CCL and others are not transparent. How many dues paying members does the CCL have anyway? Their website says absolutely nothing about the organization, unlike the websites of the CBA and ISBA.

Jack Leyhane said...

I guess I have to jump in here: To address the speculation about why I withdrew, particularly as to not giving the PJ's credit to see through the odd negative review, or my 'overreacting,' or imbibing Kook-Aid, etc.. let me say that I've followed the AJ process as closely as an outsider can through a number of selection processes and I believe I can assert, on the basis of informed observation, that no person has made any recent short list without unanimous bar association approval. Certainly no white male of Irish descent has. If I'm wrong, that's too bad for me -- but that was certainly my impression and I felt there was no point in burdening the screening committee with a pointless interview. So I backed out.

I'd like all of you to believe that I withstood my disappointment with stoic forbearance - but I can see from several of the comments that some of you assume I collapsed into a whimpering blob of jelly at the first negative evaluation. The truth probably lies somewhere in between: After all, 22 years of dreaming and scheming (mostly dreaming, obviously, given my lack of progress over the years) vanished like a soap bubble when the first rejection letter hit my email. The ones that followed didn't exactly bolster my self-esteem, but did make my decision easier -- for me, at least.

It's remarkable to see the speculation about why I am no longer deemed to measure up; some of the commenters may have received form letters similar to those that I received. I have my suspicions, of course, but no way to verify them. But I don't think I'm breaching any confidences when I say some commenters are incorrect when they speculate about specific associations from whose good graces I have fallen.

A number of commenters have pointed out -- correctly -- that none of the Alliance bar groups have the resources for candidate investigation and evaluation as the CBA has. But even the CBA has had declining numbers on its JEC in recent years. I've published a number of requests, over the years, soliciting JEC volunteers for both the CBA and the Alliance. When the numbers of evaluators is too small, individual agendas, personal or political, can carry undue weight in the evaluation process for specific groups. There have been times when one person has been the only representative of several Alliance groups at a candidate interview. Obviously there is potential for mischief there -- especially where a negative Alliance rating lingers for three years.

There has also been criticism leveled about the youth and inexperience of some investigators and evaluators, particularly in the Alliance process -- and also a concern raised that not everyone involved in the evaluation process is actively involved in the practice of law.

But the remedy for these "failings," if that's what you wish to call them, lies not in the dissolution of the Alliance -- or in the secession of the ISBA from the Alliance -- but in the members of the profession -- the readers of this blog, for instance -- stepping up and refreshing the ranks of the investigators and evaluators. Broaden the base. Provide the "missing" experience.

I always like to ask critics of the present process what alternatives would work better. I think that's a discussion worth having. If you agree, feel free to add your comment.

Anonymous said...

To 11:07--: We will hardly agree but that's okay. I still disagree with you on calling out young attorneys. I have faith in the smaller Alliance bar members and although there may be some young attorneys, I believe they are trained and supervised by their colleagues. Do not discriminate. And please folks do not demean minority bar associations. This is why the Alliance was formed--to have a voice.

Anonymous said...

Jack the best way to provide the missing experience is to encourage young lawyers to participate in the process. They are not chairing the interviews. There is nothing wrong with them participating by observing, listening, taking notes, conferring with their bar members, and others. Nothing wrong with that and in fact it does not diminish the process, it only enhances it. Brings forth new ideas. There is nothing wrong with each individual bar training their own members. Contrary to what a few think, the minority bar associations are not social clubs but professional organizations like any of the so called mainstream bars such as the CBA and ISBA and only give lip service to diversity. Based on what I know, a new lawyer, depending on the definition, or a lawyer that's been practicing many years but just now getting involved in the interview and investigation process is paired with an experienced investigator. Also there are those 'actively' involved in the practice of law that are the very ones coming for interviews and quite frankly some of them should not show up.