Saturday, December 30, 2017

Preston Jones, Jr.: In his own words

Preston Jones, Jr. is a candidate for the countywide Flanagan vacancy. His punch number is 136.


I was appointed to the bench by the Illinois Supreme Court on September 25, 2017, which has been the greatest honor of my career. I am currently assigned to the First Municipal Division hearing traffic cases. I have been found Highly Qualified by the Chicago Bar Association: “Mr. Jones has extensive trial experience and is well regarded for his knowledge of the law, legal ability, work ethic, and outstanding temperament.” I have been found qualified or recommended by all bar associations in the Alliance of Bar Associations. I am endorsed by the Cook County Democratic Party for the countywide Flanagan Vacancy.

I was an assistant public defender in Cook County for 23 years, and spent the last 13 as a member of our office’s most elite unit: homicide task force. I have tried dozens of jury trials and countless bench trials involving the most complex aspects of criminal law. I have litigated everything from misdemeanors to death penalty cases. My experience as a public defender has given me the legal skills needed to excel on the bench, and the wisdom to know that there are two sides to every story and that each case is as unique as each litigant. I have always treated my clients, coworkers, and colleagues with respect. My career as an assistant public defender has taught me patience and honed my empathy so that I am fair, just, and kind regardless of the circumstances.

I received my BA in History and JD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I am a proud father and coach my kids’ various sports teams including AYSO VIP soccer for physically and developmentally disabled boys and girls.

I hope to earn your trust and your vote on March 20, 2018.

For more information, please visit my website or Facebook page:
www.prestonjonesforjudge.com
@PrestonJonesforJudge

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Click here to return to Organizing the Data: Countywide Flanagan Vacancy

More candidate withdrawals

Park Ridge attorney Amee Alonso filed for the countywide Rooney vacancy, but has withdrawn her judicial candidacy, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections website. A challenge to her nominating petitions was pending at the time of her withdrawal.

Nyshana Kali Sumner has withdrawn her bid for the John D. Turner, Jr. vacancy in the 2nd Subcircuit -- opting to file instead for the Valarie E. Turner vacancy in the 2nd Subcircuit. That's the vacancy for which Ubi O'Neal also recently filed, although he has not yet withdrawn his candidacy for the 2nd Subcircuit Willis vacancy.

And, while we're on the subject of the Valarie E. Turner vacancy, 21st Ward Ald. and Committeeman Howard B. Brookins, Jr. has withdrawn his candidacy for Congress and for 1st State Central District Committeeman -- deferring to Cong. Bobby Rush in both races -- only to file instead for the Valarie E. Turner vacancy. More later about this race.

Interestingly, according to the records of the ISBE, Cong. Luis V. Gutierrez, has not yet withdrawn his reelection bid in the 4th Congressional District. This doesn't have any direct impact on any Cook County Judicial race that I can think of... but in the 6th Subcircuit, who knows?

January 21 fundraiser set for Rhonda Sallee

Rhonda Sallee's supporters are planning a "Post Holiday Mingle" for their candidate on Sunday, January 21, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m., at the Polo Inn, 3322 S. Morgan Street. There will be a cash bar; music will be provided by Beautiful Sol.

Tickets for the event are $50 apiece, but sponsorships are available (Friends - $75, Sponsors - $100).

Sallee is a candidate for the Banks vacancy in the 5th Subcircuit. Judge H. Yvonne Coleman presently holds this seat pursuant to Supreme Court appointment. Gino Betts and Gwendolyn D. Anderson have also filed for this vacancy.

January 11 fundraiser for Judge Patrick Thomas Stanton


Supporters of Judge Patrick Thomas Stanton's bid to hold onto his 3rd Subcircuit seat have scheduled a fundraiser for their candidate on Thursday, January 11, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., at City Social, 120 North LaSalle Street.

The Host Committee for this event includes Bob Clifford, Thomas Hill, Shawn S. Kasserman, and Frank Morrissey.

Tickets for the fundraiser are $100 each, but sponsorships are available (Supporter - $250, Host - $500). For more information, or to reserve tickets, email ElectJudgeStanton@gmail.com.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Tom Sam Sianis: In his own words

Tom Sam Sianis is a candidate for the countywide Dooling vacancy. His punch number is 130.


I strongly believe in our legal system and have been a proud member of the legal profession for over thirteen years. A seat at the bench would be a great honor and opportunity to apply the extensive knowledge of laws and court procedures I have gained during my career in public service at the Illinois Securities Department, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. In addition, my life experience as a business co-owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, husband, and father, add depth to my ability to understand people and a variety of different life situations and circumstances.

As the current Enforcement Division Chief of the Illinois Securities Department, I supervise twelve attorneys, five special agents, and six investigators. I devise investigative plans and strategies to determine what action to take on violations of the Illinois Securities Law of 1953. I investigate financial fraud and work hand in hand with prosecutors to develop successful convictions in securities fraud cases. Furthermore, I oversee the registrations of Investment Advisors and Broker Dealers in our state. With my experience in the Securities Department, I am an expert in regulatory matters dealing with the State.

Recently, I was appointed as a Special Assistant Attorney General with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. My experience as a former prosecutor and my knowledge in securities law has proven very valuable to the Attorney General’s office and its prosecution of financial crimes.

As a Cook County Assistant State's Attorney for over seven and a half years, I tried numerous jury trials and hundreds of bench trials. The trial experience I gained is very valuable to a sitting judge. As a prosecutor, I tried cases including Domestic Violence, Child Support Enforcement, DUIs, and Felony cases, along with indictments of Murders and Criminal Sexual Assault cases. I have hands-on courtroom litigation experience before State and Federal Courts. The combination of my experience in trial court and with administrative legal proceedings has given me a deep knowledge of the law and improved my communication and writing skills. I have come across and worked with outstanding judges and lawyers. I believe my professional background has given me the aptitude to effectively serve the public as a judge.

My life experience and temperament are also why I believe I am qualified to be a judge. My personal qualities of patience, humility, and the willingness to consider opposing viewpoints are necessary to decide disputes in a fair and judicial manner. Both in my legal practice and my personal life, I have come across a wide variety of people with unique situations. I have always and continue to work at closely listening to what each person has to say in order to understand different viewpoints and circumstances.

As a husband and father, I continue my record of public service with my family in mind, and the example I wish to set for my two sons and all of our young citizens. It is part of my life’s goals to teach young people the importance of giving back to our community and living in a united society. My parents instilled in me a deep devotion to my family and dedication to hard work. I am the second of six siblings, all raised in the Chicago land area by our immigrant parents. After many years of hard work, my father, the owner of the original Billy Goat Tavern, has expanded to several more locations. My parents demanded the same determination to succeed in life from their six children. Today, I am also a business co-owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, and know firsthand the personal and legal challenges and concerns of running a successful and growing business including, branding, licensing and expanding the business to retail.

The combination of my experience as a securities regulator, trial attorney, business co-owner, husband, and father, has made me a skilled lawyer with unique talents and knowledge that enable me to see issues from many perspectives and come to rational, unbiased decisions. I have always taken my professional and private life seriously and would uphold a seat at the bench with the utmost respect and professionalism.

Sincerely,

Tom Sam Sianis

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Click here to return to Organizing the Data: Countywide Dooling Vacancy

Daniel Berry withdraws from 4th Subcircuit race

The Illinois State Board of Elections is reporting this afternoon that Daniel Berry has withdrawn from the race for the Davy vacancy in the 4th Subcircuit.

Berry, who has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1993, and who maintains a law office in Chicago's Mount Greenwood neighborhood, faced a residency challenge before the Cook County Elections Board.

Berry's withdrawal leaves only Judge David Navarro (who holds this seat pursuant to Supreme Court assignment) and Caroline Jamieson Golden as candidates for this vacancy. Golden's nominating petitions also face an objection.

Judicial candidate challenges begin December 20

In a short meeting this morning, the Cook County Electoral board ratified the assignment of all 56 judicial candidate objections to 19 different hearing officers, with hearings on these cases to begin Wednesday morning, December 20. The complete schedule can be found at this link on the County Clerk's website. No one hearing officer has more than four judicial candidate objections to resolve; several have only two or three.

Hearing officers are the fact-finders for the Cook County Electoral Board; they serve as the Board's duly authorized 'eyes and ears.' Nevertheless, although the electoral board will typically adopt the findings and recommendations of its hearing officers, the recommendation of the hearing officer in any given case is not binding on the electoral board, which must vote to accept or reject the hearing officer's recommendations.

The big news emerging from the Electoral Board this morning, however, was the Motion to Disqualify Cook County Clerk David Orr and his designee, attorney Daniel P. Madden, from the board in the matter of Claudia Cardona & Raul Perez v. Frederick "Fritz" Kaegi, 2017-COEB-CC-06. Kaegi has filed to run for Cook County Assessor, a position currently held by Joseph C. Berrios, who also serves as 31st Ward Committeeman and Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. Mr. Orr, who is not running for reelection as Cook County Clerk, has not been shy about his prefrence for Kaegi over Berrios. And the objectors to Kaegi's nominating petitions, Cardona and Perez, contend in the motion filed today that Orr and his designee have a bias and prejudice in Kaegi's favor and are therefore incapable of fairly addressing their challenge to Kaegi's petitions.

Representing Cardona and Perez are election law powerhouses Burton S. Odelson (of Odelson & Sterk, Ltd.), Thomas A. Jaconetty, James P. Nally, and Scott B. Erdman.

The Electoral Board voted to assign this motion for hearing to the hearing officer assigned to the challenge to Kaegi's petitions. The motion, then, will be re-presented tomorrow morning before Hearing Officer Barbara Goodman. Even though this motion does not directly impact any of the judicial candidate challenges, I hope to provide more on this story tomorrow and as necessary thereafter.

Two filings so far for Valarie Turner vacany in 2nd Subcircuit

Both Ubi O'Neal and former Judge Devlin Schoop were in line when the Illinois State Board of Elections opened its doors this morning for the start of the special judicial filing period.

The 2nd Subcircuit vacancy of the Hon. Valarie E. Turner came into existence on December 1 when the Illinois Courts Commission ordered Judge Valarie E. Turner retired from office.

O'Neal and Schoop are both eligible, therefore, for a lottery to determine who will be first on the ballot in that race.

However, O'Neal is already a candidate for the Willis vacancy in the 2nd Subcircuit. As of this writing, his withdrawal from that race has not been posted on the ISBE website. I don't presume to know the intricacies of the timing required here, but I do know that O'Neal cannot be a candidate for both vacancies.

O'Neal has sought judicial office previously; he was a countywide candidate in the 2010 primary. The Illinois Supreme Court appointed Schoop to a countywide vacancy in 2015 but he thereafter lost his 2016 primary race.

Aside to the writer of a cdertain flushed comment

Gentle readers, I beg your indulgence for a moment while I address a post to a single reader, Anon.

Yes, I know, nearly all of the persons who leave comments here are all named Anonymous -- a remarkable coincidence -- but I write here to the particular Anon who says I'm moving too slow on stories about candidate objections -- "intentionally withholding a major story," Anon writes, breathlessly, "because it affects two people [you] want to protect, as you have in past cycles," to wit, a "perennial shill" and another "perennial flimflam man."

I naively thought I haven't updated the blog as frequently as I might have liked because I had some legal work to to do -- still do, actually, because I had to get some personal matters attended to first -- and then because my wife and I spent most of the weekend babysitting one set of grandchildren or another so that their parents -- our children -- could get their Christmas shopping done. And we still had to get our weekly errands done besides. And finish our own Christmas preparations -- I've gotten our Christmas card insert done, I just haven't had a moment to get it printed. Maybe today. Although I can't shake this persistent cold....

At least that's what I thought I was doing. Anon, you clearly know lots more about me than I do, including the identity of the shill and/or flimflam man I'm so carefully protecting. You should tell me more. Don't be so coy. Your comment will no doubt still be flushed, but you will have contributed to my awakening and you will have that private satisfaction.

I find myself in a position analogous to that of poet Sara Holbrook, who found that she couldn't answer questions about her own poems on standardized tests given in Texas. She thought one thing about her poems while the much-smarter test makers knew better. As you, dear Anon, know better than I about how I spend my time and my deep-seated motivations for so doing.

And, so, Anon, let me say thank you for trying to rouse me to my duty. I might have used another two-word phrase, but most of my readers have already figured out what that phrase would have been. So there's no need.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Circuit Court Clerk asks for more time to implement mandatory efiling

The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin is reporting that Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown is asking for a one-year extension of time to implement mandatory efiling.

The Law Bulletin provides a link to the petition, which is signed by both Clerk Brown and Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans, but this is on the Law Bulletin site and may be behind the paywall.

The petition describes the efforts that the Circuit Court has made to implement efilng in accordance with the Supreme Court's mandate.

These seem to be the most pertinent provisions:

From Paragraph 2:
In April 2017, the Clerk was informed by the Administrative Office of Illinois ("AOIC") that, although the Clerk could continue to use OLIS for mandatory e-Filing, starting January 1, 2018, OLIS could not charge the convenience fee to users. Due to the complexity of the Clerk's mainframe computer system, the Clerk expressed to the AOIC and Tyler Technologies ("Tyler"), the e-Filing vendor in charge of eFileIL, the Clerk's preference to continue using OLIS as the Clerk's e-Filing vendor until the Clerk's new case management system was implemented.
From Paragraph 3:
The Clerk also informed the AOIC and Tyler, that, due to budgetary constraints, the Clerk could not pay OLIS to provide the Clerk's e-Filing system without charging a user fee. The Clerk requested that a portion of the $9.00 e-Filing fee to be collected for the Illinois e-Filing program be used to compensate OLIS, beginning January 1, 2018 The AOIC informed the Clerk that the $9 .00 e-Filing fee was not available to pay OLIS.
From Paragraph 11 (emphasis added):
The Circuit Court of Cook County, therefore, requests that the date for implementation of mandatory e-Filing be extended for one year. A one-year extension to January 1, 2019, would allow the necessary time for Tyler and the Clerk to complete critical programming requirements, allow proper testing of the customized programming, and permit both users and the Clerk's staff to be properly trained. This extension would ensure a smooth transition to eFileIL in Cook County. In addition, the Clerk is requesting that its vendor OLIS be allowed to continue charging a transaction fee during the extension period, pursuant to a contract between the Clerk and OLIS.
Under paragraph 1 of this Supreme Court order, free filing was supposed to become truly free -- that is, "free" filing would no longer cost $3.95 in Cook County -- after January 1.

If I were a cynic -- which of course I am not -- I would say that someone does not want that revenue stream to dry up just yet.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Lottery results -- winners and losers

Five of the eight candidates slated by the Cook County Democratic Party in contested countywide won the lottery conducted yesterday afternoon by the Illinois State Board of Elections for the coveted top ballot position.

The outcome of ballot challenges may change things, of course, but for the moment at least, slated candidate Jonathan Clark Green will be third on the ballot in a field of five candidates for the countywide Clay vacancy. Mary A. Lopez won the top spot in the lottery for this race, but she faces a ballot challenge. Still, even if Lopez is knocked off the ballot, Kathaleen Theresa Lanahan would succeed to the top spot in this race; she finished second in yesterday's drawing.

Newly installed Judge Peter Michael Gonzalez, the Democratic Party's slated candidate, will stand second on the ballot for the countywide McGinnis vacancy, pending the outcome of the challenge to the candidacy of lottery winner Brian Terrance Sexton.

There was a four-way drawing for the countywide Flanagan vacancy; every candidate filing in this race was eligible for the ballot lottery. Amanda Moira Pillsbury won the drawing. Judge Preston Jones, Jr. finished second. Pillsbury, however, also faces a petition challenge.

In the subcircuits, in races which so far involve three or more candidates, several appointed judges emerged victorious in the ballot lottery: Judges Debra A. Seaton (2nd Subcircuit - Willis vacancy), Patrick Thomas Stanton (3rd Subcircuit - Delehanty vacancy), David R. Navarro (4th Subcircuit - Davy vacancy), John Andrew O'Meara (4th Subcircuit - Riley vacancy), Marian E. Perkins (5th Subcircuit - Jones vacancy), Robert Harris (5th Subcircuit - Washington II vacancy), and Stephanie Saltouros (10th Subcircuit - O'Neill Burke vacancy).

Judge Travis Richardson (2nd Subcircuit - Turner vacancy) will have the top spot in his three-way race, but neither of the candidates filing to oppose him were eligible for the ballot lottery.

On the other hand, there were several appointed judges who did not snag the top spot in yesterday's ballot lottery. Among these were Judge H. Yvonne Coleman (5th Subcircuit - Banks vacancy), Kent Delgado (6th Subcircuit - Chevere vacancy), Charles "Charlie" Beach (6th Subcircuit - Cooke vacancy), Michael A. Forti (8th Subcircuit - Liu vacancy), and Myron "Mike" Mackoff (8th Subcircuit - Pethers vacancy).

Judge Gerald V. Cleary finished third in the four-way drawing for the top spot in the race for the Suriano vacancy in the 10th Subcircuit. The Democratic Party's slated candidate in that race, Colleen Reardon Daly, finished first. There are five candidates presently in that race.

Four candidates were also eligible for the ballot lottery in the race for the Fabri vacancy in the 8th Subcircuit. This is presently the most crowded judicial race; there are six candidates in all. Judge Robin Denise Shoffner finished fourth in the lottery for the top spot. Former Judge James "Jamie" Shapiro won that lottery; current Judge Elizabeth Anne Karkula came in second.

Judge Stephanie Miller drew the second position in her two-person race for the Lopez-Cepero vacancy in the 6th Subcircuit.

Martin D. Reggi won the lottery for the last spot on the ballot in the 4th Subcircuit Riley vacancy. Bonnie McGrath won the lottery for the last spot on the ballot in the crowded field for the Fabri vacancy in the 8th Subcircuit. Many candidates and their advisers believe the last ballot position to be almost as advantageous as the top spot, but election expert Albert J. Klumpp, Ph.D., has left comments on this blog saying the data he's examined refutes that notion.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A challenge that any candidate may welcome: In Their Own Words

I truly miss Avy Meyers.

At this point in the election cycle, Avy would generally invite me on his program where I could practice my punditry and try and crack wise about who filed where, and who got challenged, and who didn't. Avy would already be scheduling, if not yet running, candidate interviews, giving me fresh content to post here even on days when I really needed to work at the practice of law.

The opportunity to appear on Avy's program is lost to those in this election cycle.

I can't fill the void. But I can offer an alternative that I've been offering in every election cycle since the 2008 primary season, an opportunity for candidates to have their own post right here -- a chance to get every candidate's 'front porch pitch' out to any voter who happens across this little corner of the Intertubes.

I'm averaging nearly 1,500 page views a day at this point; last month, according to the statistics Blogger keeps, I had over 47,000 page views here. Many of these page views, of course, come from candidates, their family members, their consultants, or from judges and courthouse personnel... occasional Russian spammers... but they can't account for all of that traffic. There are apparently actual voters looking at this site from time to time. More will be coming by when the primary gets closer.

And candidates: Your message can be here waiting for the voters when they come.

Getting one’s message out to voters in a county as large as this one is a herculean challenge. Subcircuits may look a lot smaller on the map, but each covers a lot of ground, as candidates who were walking door-to-door, collecting signatures, will attest.

Let me speak directly to the candidates now: The enormity of the task before you has become clear, whatever support you are already privileged to have. Each of you has a day job to keep up with – and, in your spare time, you’re still seeking endorsements, filling out questionnaires, and showing up at any event that will have you. You’ve undoubtedly noticed, at these events, that judicial candidates spend a lot of time seeing... each other. You may be getting around, but you’re not always around likely potential voters, at least you're not always around likely voters you haven’t already met.

I will give each of you an opportunity to get your message directly to potential voters.

I will print any statement that any Cook County judicial candidate cares to make right here on For What It’s Worth. This is the sixth election cycle in which I’ve extended this invitation. In 2008, more than two dozen candidates took me up on this. In 2010 and 2012, only a few candidates did. In 2014 I had statements from eight candidates; in 2016 I had statements from seven candidates.

I hope many more of you will take advantage of this opportunity in this election cycle, but (subject to a few provisos, stipulations and rules that I will presently address) I will print what I get, whether I get five statements or 55. When I put up the Organizing the Data posts shortly before the primary, I will link back to any statements I’ve received, providing voters an additional chance to receive your message directly.

Candidates need only send me an email (that's a link to my email address; there's also a link you can find in the sidebar of this blog) with their essays.

You may be wondering what you should say. I don’t know that there is any “right” answer. You can provide a statement of personal philosophy, the stump speech you’ve always wanted to make, your ‘closing argument’ to the electorate, or whatever else you think appropriate.

I’m not going to tell anyone what to say or how to say it. However, I would suggest, as my mother used to say, that you don’t make your own candle shine brighter by trying to blow out someone else’s. Tell voters why you should be elected, not why your opponent should not be.

Put your statement in the first person (be personal, use “I” and “me”) because I will run your statement as your statement, under your byline, by Sally Smith, by John Jones. I know some of you are paying consultants to help you craft your message and there may be a temptation to simply delegate this task. Resist that temptation: Get feedback from your advisers before you send me anything (especially if you're paying for it anyway), but let your voice come through in your essay. I know writing such an essay won’t be an easy task: As lawyers, we’re used to advocating for a client -- for someone else. It’s not as easy to talk about ourselves. But this is an opportunity for you to define yourself, rather than be defined by questionnaire responses.

If I don’t already have your picture, send me a head shot. I’ll run your picture with the post. I will not edit candidate statements. I’ll print what you send. (That’s why I need an email, to verify what was sent, and by whom.) To see what other candidate statements have looked like, click on the “In Their Own Words” tag at the bottom of this post and start scrolling down.

I will only put up one statement per candidate.

I realize some of you already have personal statements posted on your own campaign websites. If you ask me to run a substantially similar statement here, or even the same statement, I will do so. However, I will not pull statements from your site on my own. If you want me to put your statement here, you have to send me the statement.

I will begin accepting, and posting, candidate essays immediately. Because I will link to them from the Organizing the Data posts, there’s no advantage to delay. And if you do try and wait until the last minute, when I am working on those roundup posts, I may be unable to get your essay posted. I have a day job, too.

I do not intend to impose any limit on the statement’s length; presumably you won’t want to compose anything overwhelmingly long. For illustration purposes, my word processor advises me that this post is about 1,075 words long.

Challenging times ahead for some judicial candidates

There are 117 active judicial candidates as of this writing, including the handful of Republicans running in the 12th and 13th Subcircuits. By my count, 49 of these candidates will face challenges to their nominating petitions, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

The filing of an objection to a candidate's nominating petitions does not mean that there is anything really wrong with said nominating petitions, although it may.

Nearly every candidate's petitions were scrutinized in Cook County judicial races, looking for potential flaws -- but, just as one should not assume that an objection automatically leads to disqualification, neither should one assume that, because a candidate has not drawn an objection, his or her papers were truly 'bulletproof.'

To illustrate, I cite this item from the bottom of this post on Rich Miller's Capital Fax Blog yesterday:

(In the interest of accuracy, unfortunately, I have to include Mr. Mullen's reply to the IL Election Data tweet that Mr. Miller picked up yesterday.... The point, though, remains: A defective set of petitions, unless so obviously defective that the election authority has no choice but to toss it, will, if not challenged, get a candidate on the ballot.)

In any event, the decision to challenge -- or not -- may be based on factors other than the quality or quantity of signatures or the completeness of the other required forms. Candidate A may think that there is a valid basis upon which to challenge Candidate C. But if Candidate A thinks Candidate C will only hurt Candidate B, he not bother to challenge Candidate C. Candidate B may think the same thing -- but if she doesn't have the ready funds to mount a challenge, she may have to let Candidate C slide by.

Some challenges will be sustained; others will be dismissed. But any challenge will tie up resources that the challenged candidate might otherwise have put into advertising or mailers or other GOTV activities. There is an undeniably Machiavellian element involved in mounting a challenge... on the other hand, a certain recently retired POTUS got his start in Chicago politics by challenging his opponent off the ballot.

The Cook County Clerk's excellent website has been redesigned for this election cycle; readers will need to click on this link to track the progress of judicial candidate challenges through the Cook County Electoral Board (as of this writing none of the judicial challenges are yet posted). In past election cycles, the complaints filed in those challenges have been made available via the Clerk's website. I hope that this will again be the case, but it is not my place to promise it.

In any event, some patterns can already be seen in the who has been challenged, and who has not.

Every single countywide judicial candidate slated by the Democratic Party has, once again, escaped any ballot challenge. Many of their opponents, however, are being challenged.

A bench appointment is no guarantee against a ballot challenge. However, in the subcircuits, Judges Litricia Payne, Fredrick H. Bates, Toya T. Harvey, Travis Richardson, Debra A. Seaton, Patrick Thomas Stanton, David R. Navarro, John Andrew O'Meara, Robert Harris, Kent Delgado, Charles "Charlie" Beach, Stephanie K. Miller, Robin Denise Shoffner, Myron "Mike" Mackoff, Stephanie Saltouros, Gerald Cleary, Joanne F. Rosado, Michael Perry Gerber, Samuel J. Betar III, Marina E. Ammendola, and Anthony C. Swanagan did not draw challenges. Appointed judges who did draw challenges were Adrienne Elaine Davis, H. Yvonne Coleman, Marian Emily Perkins, Elizabeth Anne Karkula, and Michael A. Forti.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Reception tomorrow for Mary Alice Melchor

Supporters of Mary Alice Melchor's 5th Subcircuit bid are planning a fundraiser for their candidate tomorrow night, Tuesday, December 12, from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m., at the Wabash Street Loft, 2635 South Wabash, Suite 305.

Tickets are $100 each and sponsorships are available ($200 - Supporter, $500 - Leader, $1,000 - Champion). For more information, or to reserve tickets, email marymelchorforjudge@gmail.com.

And the first objection of the 2018 primary season to a judicial candidate's nominating petitions goes to....

Assistant State's Attorney Amanda Moira Pillsbury, a candidate for the countywide Flanagan vacancy, has drawn an objection to her nominating petitions, according to the ISBE's website.

There will be others -- probably lots of others -- before today's 5:00 p.m. deadline.

Four file for Liu vacancy in 8th Subcircuit

Judge Michael A. Forti was appointed to the Liu vacancy by the Illinois Supreme Court, and has filed to hold this seat.

Three other candidates have also filed for this vacancy. FWIW readers already know about Lindsay Hugé. The links in these first two paragraphs are to the candidates' web sites.

The other two candidates filing for these vacancies do not yet have campaign websites, but both have Facebook campaign pages.

Assistant State's Attorney Athena Farmakis, pictured at left, has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1993, according to ARDC. A press release announcing her candidacy states that Farmakis "is currently a supervisor in the Preliminary Hearings Unit of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau." According to the press release, Farmakis Athena has also held supervisory positions in the Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Divisions at the Juvenile Justice Bureau. According to the campaign, Farmakis has over 65 jury trials, "involving homicide, narcotics and other violent crimes." Here is a link to her Facebook campaign page.

Farmakis did appear before county judicial slatemakers this past August and also at the June pre-slating. Farmakis has previously applied for associate judge.

The fourth candidate in this race is Cyrus Hosseini, who practices in Evanston as the Cyrus Law Group, P.C.. Hosseini has been licensed to practice law in Illinois since 2012, according to ARDC. His campaign Facebook page may be found by clicking here.

Thomas J. Gabryszewski files for Suriano vacancy in the 10th Subcircuit

I mentioned, back in October, that I'd met first-time judicial candidate Thomas J. Gabryszewski while he was soliciting signatures at the Harlem (O'Hare) Blue Line stop.

Gabryszewski's supporters have now set up a campaign website. That's a link to the site in the preceding sentence. A link has also been added to the blog Sidebar. The website notes Gabryszewski's service in the Marine Corps and that he is a graduate of Chicago's Whitney Young High School. He has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1990, according to ARDC, and maintains a law office on North Michigan Avenue.

Gabryszewski did not file his petitions until the close of the filing period, on December 4, so I did not mention his candidacy when I profiled the other four candidates for the Suriano vacancy in the 10th Subcircuit in this linked November 28 post. But, as Paul Harvey would say, now you know... the rest of the story.

January 9 fundraiser for Judge Oran F. Whiting

Supporters of Judge Oran F. Whiting's countywide election bid are planning a Tuesday, January 9, 2018 fundraising reception for their candidate, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Billy Goat Tavern, 1535 W. Madison St.

Tickets are $100 each and sponsors promise "plenty of food, drinks, & parking." For more information about the event, or to reserve tickets, email staff@JudgeWhiting.com or call (312) 533-5294.

January 9 fundraiser for James A. "Jamie" Shapiro

Supporters of James A. "Jamie" Shapiro's 8th Subcircuit candidacy are planning a fundraiser for their candidate on Tuesday, January 9, 2018, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., at the Hubbard Inn, 100 W. Hubbard Street.

Tickets for the fundraiser are $100 each, but sponsorships are available ($150 - Supporter, $250 - Bronze Sponsor, $500 - Silver Sponsor, $1,000 - Gold Sponsor). For more information about the event, or to reserve tickets, email james@lasallestrategies.com.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Cook County once again named a "judicial hellhole" -- but why?


The American Tort Reform Foundation is out with its annual Judicial Hellholes report and, once again, Cook County fares poorly in the ATRF's estimation. The good news, I suppose, is that we dropped a notch this year: Last year, we were number 6. This year, we're no. 7.

This year, Cook County is lumped in with Madison County for the dubious 'hellhole' honor.

I have nothing to say about the ATRF's critique of Madison County as "the national epicenter for asbestos litigation." I'll leave that to some blogger in Edwardsville. However, one can't help but notice the prominent place asbestos litigation has in the ATRF's complaints about most of the jurisdictions on its hellhole list.

At least the ATRF doesn't mention asbestos in connection with County Cook. Instead, the report charges (p. 40):
Cook County continues to host a disproportionate amount of the state’s litigation and is known for large verdicts. Recent studies have shown a “litigation explosion” in the county, accounting for roughly two-thirds of Illinois’ major civil litigation, even though a significantly smaller fraction of the state’s population lives there.
The charge is repeated from last year's report; the linked report (to a Illinois Civil Justice League report from April 2015 titled "Litigation Imbalance III" and subtitled "Revealing Trends in Court Dockets Demonstrate Lawsuit Abuse in Select Counties") is the same as it was last year, too.

The basic concern is that more "major civil litigation" is filed in Cook County than in adjacent counties -- and the disparity is more than can be accounted for by population alone.

"Major civil litigation" appears to be the report's name for Law Division cases -- in other words, not just tort cases, but contract cases and collection cases, too. However, some "major civil litigation" cases can not be filed other than here in Chicago. For example, there is no commodity litigation outside County Cook; Downstate farmers who try and hedge their risks in futures trading are required to litigate their disputes in Chicago. That fact has to do with contract language and nothing to do with the local PI bar. Because many huge corporations have national or international headquarters in Cook County, all sorts of disputes arising from national and international trade can be heard in Chicago; these are not likely to be properly venued in courts Downstate. But even with these built-in factors to boost Cook County case filing totals, there simply aren't as many cases filed in the Law Division as there were in days of yore. Not even close.

I've heard Cook County insurance defense lawyers complain that tort filings here are in free fall. One of these, who works for a 'captive' law firm (meaning he is an employee of the insurance company whose insureds he defends), suggested that the many case management conferences in Law Division cases nowadays are scheduled to make up for the dwindling number of cases -- it gives the judges something to do, that lawyer told me. (I'm not endorsing this view, mind you; I'm merely reporting that it exists.)

At one time, in comparable cases, it was pretty well agreed that Cook County juries were more generous than their neighbors in the surrounding counties.

The ICJL report linked to the ATRF hellhole report contends that this is still the case and offers this table in support:


But did you notice? According to this table, juries in the four collar counties (McHenry was left off for some reason) found for plaintiffs more often, on a percentage basis, than juries in Cook County.

Even if we could look at injury cases alone, it wouldn't take that many cases involving malpractice at a teaching hospital to swell the average verdict totals here. There are some great hospitals in the farthest reaches of the six county metro area. But the best hospitals, handling the most difficult cases, are in Chicago or nearby suburbs. The largest potential malpractice exposures, therefore, are also right here in Cook County. Also, in catastrophic injury cases, the necessary treatments may be available only here. A catastrophic injury case might arise Downstate, but between medical treatment and the residence of corporate defendants, the case may be properly venued here. And we can't just look at injury cases alone: Millions of dollars can be at stake in commercial cases that can't be filed except in Chicago. All of these might inflate our 'average' verdicts without proving that our juries are still more generous than those elsewhere. Granted, if I had a good auto liability case, with reasonable medical bills, and the choice of proceeding in Cook County or one of the collar counties, I'd probably still want the case filed in Chicago. But if a gap in comparable cases really remains, it is narrowing -- and it's nowhere as big as this chart suggests. I don't think the ATRF is comparing apples with apples here.

The ATRF also condemns Cook County judges generally (p.41):
Judges consistently display a pro-plaintiff bias and a disregard for truth and fairness. The Cook County court has been plagued by unqualified and unethical judges, yet somehow most continue to be reelected.
Offered in support of this grave charge are the cases of Judge Jessica A. O'Brien and former Judge Richard C. Cooke.

I do not pretend to know whether the pending mortgage fraud charges against Judge O'Brien are well-founded. I do know, however, that Judge O'Brien's alleged misdeeds are alleged to have occurred before her election. I won't say that I'm outraged by the ATRF's gratuitous insult to the character of the hundreds of other Cook County judges on account of what O'Brien may have done before getting on the bench; "outrage" and "outrageous" are words that are so overused in the world today that these need to be retired from the vocabulary of serious persons. But I will say that trying to tar the Cook County bench as a whole on account of the charges against Judge O'Brien is anything but persuasive.

Nor is the ATRF's charge made more persuasive by throwing former Judge Cooke into the mix. Yes, Cooke refused orders to report to Traffic Court following his election. Again, I don't pretend to know all the details of, or motivations leading to, the standoff and Cooke's eventual resignation. But I am very, very sure that the ATRF is way off base when it speculates (p. 41) that, because Cooke "had contributed nearly $70,000 to the campaigns of other judges, perhaps [he] thought he would draw a more desirable civil court assignment."

As the hellhole report charges, and as FWIW already know, Cooke had a lot of money at his disposal when he ran for the bench -- but it was his own money. He didn't need money from "personal injury lawyers," an appellation that is somehow always rendered with a sneer in the ATRF hellhole report. The report complains (p. 41) that personal injury lawyers spend millions to encourage "Illinoisans to sue over anything and everything, clogging the county courthouse with litigation that invariably delays justice for those with legitimate claims" and then reinvest some of their fees to "contribute millions to Cook County judges’ election campaigns, hoping to cultivate a plaintiff-friendly bench." You'd think, given this stated concern, the ATRF would be rooting for more men and women like Judge Cooke to come forward for judicial service, people who don't need to take the money that the ATRF thinks the PI bar throws around.

I wish the ATRF would read this blog more often: Even the fundraising posts might calm the ATRF's fears. Yes, prominent personal injury lawyers (no sneer) sponsor some fundraisers -- frequently in conjunction with prominent insurance defense attorneys (likewise no sneer) -- and many times for candidates who are working, or who have worked, for insurance defense firms. I personally have serious problems with lawyer advertising -- which I will address in a future post when time permits -- but not because it 'cultivates' a 'plaintiff-friendly bench.'

Readers may have noticed that only Cook and Madison Counties are singled out in this year's hellhole report while, last year, the ATRF also included St. Clair County in its crosshairs. The ATRF hellhole report does not explain why St. Clair County got a pass in the current report.

Now, I'm not one of those persons who argues that everything is fine here just because things are worse some place else... but it's been a rough few years for the judiciary in the 20th Judicial Circuit and St. Clair County in particular.

I wrote earlier this year about Judge Ronald Duebbert, elected in 2016 and banished almost immediately to administrative duties because his sometime roommate, a convicted felon, paroled after serving time for the battery of a pregnant woman, was arrested on a new charge of first degree murder, that crime occurring not even four weeks after Duebbert was sworn in.

There wouldn't have been a vacancy for Duebbert to be elected to in the first place, but for the fact that the Chief Judge of the 20th Circuit, John Baricevic, was one of three 20th Circuit judges to bypass retention by resigning from the bench and seeking to remain in judicial service via the contested election process. (Duebbert defeated Baricevic in the 2016 election.) You might not figure out why Baricevic et al. chose this path from Cook v. Illinois State Board of Elections, 2016 IL App (4th) 160160, the case that allowed them to try, but a major part of the motivation was the judges' belief that, as general election candidates, they could more freely defend themselves and their records after a newly appointed associate judge, a former St. Clair County Assistant State's Attorney, was found dead, from a cocaine overdose, at the hunting lodge of a fellow judge (the judge who presided over the circuit's drug court cases) -- and who was himself arrested soon thereafter for heroin possession. See, Death of a Downstate judge, downfall of another.

Anyway, Judge Duebbert was back in the news recently when, according to Beth Hundsdorfer, in the December 1 edition of the Belleville News-Democrat, he waived a preliminary hearing on "felony charges of criminal sexual abuse and intimidation, along with misdemeanor charges of battery and solicitation of a sex act." These, by the way, have nothing to do with the judge's roommate, or the judge's texts to said roommate the day before the murder, or to the judge's lengthy visits to said roommate in prison but, rather, to charges that Duebbert, in November 2016, after his election to the bench, but before he was sworn in, grabbed "a male client's genitals and [offered] to reduce a legal fee by $100 if the man would perform oral sex on him." (See also, "Marion County judge picked to preside over Duebbert criminal case," by Beth Hundsdorfer, in the November 18, 2017 Belleville News-Democrat.) According to Hundsdorfer's reporting, obstruction of justice charges against Duebbert that are related to his alleged contacts with the sometime roommate also remain possible.

The Cook County court system is not perfect. Far from it. Some judges are better than others, just as some lawyers are better than others and some plumbers are better than others and some chefs are better than others. Pick any trade or profession you wish: Some will be better than others. Some judges come to our bench with less than stellar qualifications. Some of these will turn out to be great judges. Some lawyers with seemingly great qualifications will turn out to be poor judges. As with investments, so too with judges: Past results do not guarantee future performance.

But ATRF does not make a convincing case for Cook County as a "judicial hellhole." I suggest that persons or groups looking to "reform" our court systems, such as ATRF, would better serve their stated objective by working to make the decisions issued by our judges more predictable, certain, cost-effective and fair rather than by unfairly damning whole court systems.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

One, and only one, new Cook County judicial vacancy during the 'special filing period'

The December 1 decision of the Illinois Courts Commission to retire Judge Valarie Turner creates a sixth vacancy in the 2nd Subcircuit.

The many and various rumors notwithstanding, this was the only #CookCountyJudicial vacancy to open up during the special judicial filing period.

Petitions for this new vacancy can be filed between Monday, December 18 and close of business on Tuesday, December 26.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Associate judge candidates? The Alliance of Illinois Judges would like to hear from you

All Cook County judges are elected.

Many -- most -- are elected by the people, either countywide or from one of the 15 Cook County subcircuits. These are the "full" Circuit Court judges.

But some Cook County judges are elected by the "full" Circuit Court judges. These are the Associate Judges.

There's an election going on for Associate Judges right now, also. It's been going on since February 8 of this year; that was the deadline for interested lawyers to send in their applications (click here to see the list of those who applied). It will most likely be going on throughout the primary season, too. Eventually a nominating committee, composed primarily, if not exclusively, of presiding judges, will interview every one of the 272 applicants (at least every one of those who does not drop out along the way).

The nominating committee's function is to promulgate a "short list" of finalists -- winnowing down that long list of applicants into a list containing twice as many vacancies as there are vacancies. This may not happen until April or May of next year. (We don't know how many vacancies there are in the associate judge ranks at the present time. There have to be at least five before the process begins in Cook County. The number of vacancies is likely to increase while the process drags on. The largest number of vacancies filled at one time that I can remember was 31. This was in 2007.)

In any event, when the short list comes out, the rest of the judges have a brief time -- a few weeks at most -- to evaluate the finalists and decide from among them. Mostly, they do. However, in both of the last two associate judge classes, at least one associate judge was elected who was not on the short list.

Presumably, all the current associate judge candidates already know this. But there may be some FWIW readers who don't know how the AJ process works. Without some context, this announcement from the Alliance of Illinois Judges might be confusing.

But enough context. The AIJ is asking associate judge candidates to provide their ratings and résumés and to respond to a questionnaire. The first link in the paragraph above will take you to it (and associate judge candidates will find directions there about how to return completed questionnaires and other requested materials). These are the questions that the AIJ is asking associate judge candidates to answer:
  1. List your community service including civic, bar association and legal community activities.
  2. List your activities that directly impacted the LGBTQ community.
  3. Provide a personal statement that includes the reasons for your interest in the judiciary.
The AIJ has set a January 8, 2018 deadline for responding.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Two countywide judicial races will be uncontested

There may be more uncontested races when challenges are heard. But, for now, it seems that two of the three alternates -- pre-slated for late-opening countywide vacancies -- drew no challengers.

Congratulations are in order for Rosa Maria Silva, the now-presumptive winner of the Egan vacancy, and Thomas F. McGuire, pictured at right, who has a clear path now to the Dunford vacancy. (Tom Sam Sianis, who was 'pre-slated' for what turned out to be the Dooling vacancy drew two challengers.)

In the 13th Subcircuit, none of the Democratic candidates, namely, former Judge Ketki "Kay" Steffen (Crane vacancy), Shannon P. O'Malley (Lawrence vacancy), and current Judge Samuel J. Betar III (O'Donnell vacancy) will face primary opposition. Judge Michael Perry Gerber, who was appointed to the Lawrence vacancy by the Illinois Supreme Court, filed this morning to run as a Republican for the vacancy. He would face Daniel Patrick Fitzgerald in a contested Republican primary. Christine Svenson, who filed as a Republican for the O'Donnell vacancy, is also unopposed, setting up a potential general election match against Judge Betar.

Karla Marie Fiaoni, pictured at left, who filed for a 15th Subcircuit vacancy as a Republican in the 2014 primary cycle, but withdrew from that race, is the only Republican to file this morning for the Zelezinski vacancy. A former Chicago Heights Police Chief, Fiaoni also sought a 15th Subcircuit vacancy in 2010. Two Democratic candidates, Judge Anthony C. Swanagan and Scott McKenna, have filed for this vacancy.

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A contest in the 14th Subcircuit?

The clock is ticking fast now... the doors will soon close at the Illinois State Board of Elections and for the regular judicial filing period and there are, as expected, lots of new filings today, some from candidates you've read about on FWIW, some from candidates not previously mentioned here.

Perhaps the single most newsworthy development is that Beatriz Frausto-Sandoval (pictured at left) has filed to run against Judge Marina E. Ammendola for the Garcia vacancy in the 14th Subcircuit. This sets up a possible primary contest -- in a subcircuit where primary contests are rare as hens' teeth.

There was one vacancy in the 14th Subcircuit in 2016. It was uncontested. There was one vacancy in the 14th Subcircuit in 2012 as well. It, too, was uncontested.

There was one vacancy in the 14th Subcircuit in 2010. Uncontested. There was a 14th Subcircuit vacancy in 2008. Also uncontested. There were two 14th Subcircuit vacancies in 2002... and one candidate apiece for each.

You get the picture.

Of course, there are a number of places where a candidacy might falter between the filing of nominating petitions and the certification of the primary ballot. So we can't promise a contested primary. But there is a possibility, at least.

According to ARDC, Frausto-Sandoval has been licensed in Illinois since 2006. She has an office in the Temple Building, across from the Daley Center, according to Sullivan's, where she practices immigration law. Her LinkedIn profile, from which the accompanying picture is lifted, gives a Bridgeport office address.

Attention #CookCountyJudicial candidates: LinkedIn says you're doing it all wrong

This was in my mail this morning. I felt duty-bound to pass it along....


And, always remember, free advice is worth exactly what you pay for it.

Republican primary contest shaping up in 12th Subcircuit?

Thursday afternoon, after I put up a post saying that only one #CookCountyJudicial candidate had filed since Monday, Republican David Studenroth filed his nominating petitions for the Maki vacancy in the north suburban 12th Subcircuit.

Friday morning, Studenroth got an opponent: Alan M. Jacob filed as a Republican for the same vacancy. According to ARDC, Jacob has been licensed in Illinois since 2007. He is a principal of AMJ Legal Services in Skokie. An Avvo biography, from which the accompanying picture was lifted, emphasizes Jacob's handling of DUI cases. According to that same biography, Jacob became a lawyer after working as a police officer or deputy sheriff in California and Illinois. A Marine Corps veteran, Jacob began his legal career in the Cook County Public Defender’s Office.

The only Democrat to have filed for the Maki vacancy is Joel Chupack.

This sets up a potential general election contest in November 2018.

There are two potential general election contests in the northwest suburban 13th Subcircuit, too.

Former Judge Ketki "Kay" Steffen, pictured at right, filed as a Democrat for the Crane vacancy last Monday. Gary William Seyring and Susanne Groebner filed as Republicans. (The links in this paragraph are to the Steffen and Groebner campaign websites, newly added to the blog Sidebar.)

In the race to fill the O'Donnell vacancy, Christine Svenson filed as a Republican last Monday. Judge Samuel J. Betar III, who was appointed to this vacancy by the Illinois Supreme Court, filed as a Democrat.

Some other potential general election contests may be yet be set up; candidates have until close of business today to file nominating petitions.

However, no Republicans have filed for any countywide judicial race. No Republicans have filed in any subcircuits other than 12 or 13 either. No matter who files today, it is unlikely that this will change.

Therefore, in most #CookCountyJudicial races -- in the overwhelming majority -- barring some totally bizarre happenstance (which we now all know can happen, the winners of the March 2018 Democratic primary contests will be unopposed in November.