Saturday, October 01, 2016

CBA suggests "yes" vote for every retention judge; CCL agrees, with three dissents

Both the Chicago Bar Association and the Chicago Council of Lawyers agree that Appellate Justice Joy V. Cunningham should be retained for another 10-year term on the Appellate Court.

The CBA has also rated all 57 Circuit Court candidates still on the retention ballot as "Qualified" for new six-year terms. The CCL largely agrees, rating 54 of 57 retention candidates as "Qualified" or better.

Although in contested judicial elections the CBA occasionally confers a "Highly Qualified" rating, in retention elections the CBA offers only binary ratings---"Qualified" or not "Recommended." The Council, on the other hand, distinguishes among retention candidates, conferring a "Well Qualified" rating on some and, occasionally, a "Highly Qualified" rating. The CCL finds Justice Cunningham "Well Qualified" for retention to the Appellate Court, for example (more on this, below).

For this year's Circuit Court retention ballot, the CCL rates Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans and Judge Mary L. Mikva as "Highly Qualfieid." Of Judge Evans, the Council states:
Judge Evans was elected to the bench in 1992. He is the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County and has served as the Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Division. He was first elected to the position of Chief Judge in 2001. Before taking the bench, he was a sole practitioner. Judge Evans was also an assistant corporation counsel for the City of Chicago and had served as a floor leader for Mayor Harold Washington and as an Alderman for the 4th Ward.

As Chief Judge, he does not hear cases, but sees to the administration of the courts. Chief Judge Evans created a domestic violence division for the Cook County Circuit Court, re-instituted a pre-trial services program and changed procedure so that bond hearings are conducted in person, rather than via teleconferencing. He is responsive to public concerns about the judiciary and works to institute diversion and deferral treatment programs in the criminal courts to reduce cost and waste and better serve the interests of the community.

In 2009, he received the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, presented by the National Center for State Courts. The award recognizes a state judge who “exemplifies the highest level of judicial excellence, integrity, fairness, and professional ethics.” He pushed for the establishment of the Domestic Violence Courthouse that opened in 2005. He is also credited for pushing forward the Court’s mortgage foreclosure program. He has been praised for increasing the diversity of the Presiding Judges among the numerous divisions of the Circuit Court. In 2013, he issued a general administrative order outlawing the practice of some preliminary hearing judges of denying a Public Defender to defendants without conducting an indigence hearing. He is currently promoting the development of a community court in the North Lawndale area of Chicago.

Chief Judge Evans has his critics. Some respondents say he is too often slow to respond to the need for major systemic changes. But he has his strong supporters, as well, and the Council notes his many accomplishments. We know that the Circuit Court needs consistent, enlightened leadership, and the Court must collaborate with all of the major stakeholder governmental agencies to bring about necessary systemic reform. We encourage Chief Judge Evans to meet this challenge. The Council finds him Highly Qualified for retention.
The Council reports this about Judge Mikva:
Judge Mary Mikva was elected to the Cook County Circuit Court in 2004. She was appointed to the Illinois Appellate Court in June 2016. She had been assigned to the Chancery Division and to the Child Protection Division. Judge Mikva was admitted to practice in 1980 and prior to her election, she was law clerk to Judge Prentice H. Marshall and later to U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. Judge Mikva also served as an appellate attorney for the City of Chicago Law Department, as well as in private practice. As a trial judge, Judge Mikva is widely praised for her legal ability and courtroom management skills. She has mentored new judges and is considered to be exceptionally knowledgeable. She is described as having good interaction with all parties in the courtroom, and she is reported to be scrupulously fair to all lawyers and litigants. She enjoys an excellent reputation for her diligence, punctuality, and for always being well prepared. The Council finds her Highly Qualified for retention.
In addition to Justice Cunningham, the CCL bestowed a "Well Qualified" rating on 10 Circuit Court judges seeking retention. These are Judges Paula Marie Daleo, Vincent Michael Gaughan, John C. Griffin, John Patrick Kirby, Geary Wayne Kull, Bertina Lampkin, Thomas V. Lyons, Raymond William Mitchell, Kathleen Mary Pantle, and Edward Washington II. (See this post for more on this.)

In three instances, the Council is urging a "no" vote. The three Circuit Court judges singled out by the CCL as "Not Qualified" for retention are Judges Bonita Coleman, Nicholas R. Ford, and Daniel Joseph Lynch. (See this post for more about this.)

The complete CBA "Green Guide," explaining the CBA's ratings and its methodology, for both judges seeking retention and candidates seeking judicial vacancies, can be found online at this link. The Council's November 2016 candidate evaluation report, which also explains its methodology, is available online here.

Related: Alliance ratings of retention judges released; Three judges rated "Not Qualified" by Chicago Council of Lawyers; other bar groups find differently; and Chicago Council of Lawyers rates 11 jurists "Well Qualified" for retention

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