Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Chicago Council of Lawyers bestows "Highly Qualified" rating on Judge Esrig, "Well Qualified" ratings on eight other candidates

Several members of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening offer binary rating for candidates seeking evaluation: A candidate is deemed "Qualified" or "Not Qualified" or "Recommended" or "Not Recommended," and that is it.

The Chicago Council of Lawyers, although a member of the Alliance, does things differently. It rates candidates as "Qualified" or "Not Qualified" (or "Not Recommended" if the candidate chooses not to participate in the screening), but the Council allows for two higher ratings as well. The Council says it evaluates candidates according to 12 criteria (you can read the specifics here). In explaining its ratings (in the linked Report), the Council states, "If a candidate has demonstrated the ability to perform the work required of a judge in all of these areas, the Council assigns a rating of 'qualified.' If a candidate has demonstrated excellence in most of these areas, the Council assigns a rating of 'well qualified.' If a candidate has demonstrated excellence in all of these areas, the Council assigns a rating of 'highly qualified.'" The Council says that it applies even "higher standards" to candidates for the Appellate or Supreme Courts.

For the upcoming Primary, the Council has given only one judicial candidate, Judge Jerry A. Esrig (9th Subcircuit - Berman vacancy), its "Highly Qualified" rating.

Justice Bertina Lampkin, who is running unopposed for the Quinn vacancy on the Appellate Court (she currently holds that seat pursuant to Supreme Court assignment), was awarded a rating of "Well Qualified" by the Council.

Seven Circuit Court candidates also received "Well Qualified" ratings from the Council. These are:
  • Thomas Maloney Cushing - Countywide Howlett, Jr. vacancy
  • Devlin J. Schoop - Countywide Karnezis vacancy
  • Brendan A. O'Brien - Countywide Love vacancy
  • Pat Heneghan - Countywide Palmer vacancy
  • Travis Richardson - 2nd Subcircuit, Savage vacancy
  • Patricia "Pat" S. Spratt - 7th Subcircuit, Rivkin-Carothers vacancy
  • Marguerite Anne Quinn - 12th Subcircuit, Kazmierski, Jr. vacancy
Lampkin, Schoop, O'Brien, and Heneghan have all been slated by the Cook County Democratic Party; Esrig has been slated by the Democratic Committeemen in the 9th Subcircuit. But Cushing, Spratt, and Quinn are all running against party-backed candidates. (I don't know who, if anyone, has been slated in the 2nd Subcircuit; judging from the host committee for his most recent fundraiser, Mr. Richardson evidently enjoys considerable party support, if he has not in fact been slated, in his contest.)

I would like to devote some future posts to analyzing these various ratings, from all the different bar ratings groups but, for now, I would simply like to report the Council's explanations of its ratings, starting in this post with its analysis of the two Appellate Court candidates and continuing, in subsequent posts, with the Council's ratings in countywide and subcircuit races.

Appellate Court – 1st District - Epstein vacancy

Hon. Eileen O’Neill Burke – Qualified

Hon. Eileen O’Neill Burke became a judge in 2008 and currently sits in the Law Division presiding over commercial calendar cases. Judge Burke’s previous judicial assignments included motion calls and tax and miscellaneous remedies cases. Prior to becoming a judge, Eileen O’Neill Burke served as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney for about ten years and then went into private practice as a sole practitioner. Judge Burke is widely respected as a jurist. Lawyers report that she understands the issues, and praise her for her courtroom management skills. She grasps complex issues quickly and her opinions are considered well-reasoned. The Council finds her Qualified for the Appellate Court.

Appellate Court – 1st District - Quinn vacancy

Hon. Bertina Lampkin – Well Qualified

Hon. Bertina Lampkin was admitted to practice in 1974 and was elected to the Circuit Court in 1992. As a lawyer, she had extensive litigation experience in both complex trial and appellate court matters as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney. She also has experience trying civil cases as an attorney with the Chicago Department of Law. Justice Lampkin was appointed to the Illinois Appellate Court in 2009.

As a trial judge, she heard criminal law matters at the Courthouse at 26th and California, and at that time was reported to be a very good, hardworking jurist who was praised for her writing skills. When the Council found her qualified for the Appellate Court in 2009, her written evaluation materials included approximately 100 opinions from cases she heard at 26th street, including findings on post-conviction petitions and motions to quash and suppress. She has served as the chair of the Supreme Court criminal pattern jury instructions committee. In that position, she was responsible for writing the new death penalty instructions and the instructions for specific specialized jury verdict required by the Apprendi case. She has taught in the area of death penalty litigation.

As an Appellate Court judge, Justice Lampkin has demonstrated that she meets – and exceeds the higher standards that the Council uses in evaluating candidates for the Appellate Court. In the 2013 judicial evaluation, lawyers report that Justice Lampkin has exceptional command of substantive law, as well as procedural rules. She is praised for being hardworking and her written opinions are considered to be well-reasoned. She is an active participant in oral arguments and is reported to have good temperament. The Council finds Judge Lampkin Well Qualified for the Appellate Court.

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