Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Judicial Inquiry Board files complaint against Judge Jessica O'Brien

When the Illinois Supreme Court suspended Judge Jessica A. O'Brien's law license on April 26 it did not remove her from the bench. Instead, the Court referred the matter to the Judicial Inquiry Board.

And, today, the Judicial Inquiry Board filed a Complaint before the Illinois Courts Commission seeking Judge O'Brien's suspension from office without pay pending further order of the commission.

O'Brien's federal conviction on mortgage fraud charges is not the immediate cause of today's complaint. Rather, today's action is probably best seen as an attempt to resolve something of a constitutional crisis.

Article 6, Section 11 of the 1970 Illinois Constitution provides, in pertinent part, "No person shall be eligible to be a Judge or Associate Judge unless he is a United States citizen, a licensed attorney-at-law of this State, and a resident of the unit which selects him." That language would have been sufficient to prevent O'Brien from becoming a judge (as it in fact prevented the late Rhonda Crawford from taking judicial office) -- but O'Brien became a judge years before federal charges were brought against her. And, according to Article 6, Section 15 of the Illinois Constitution, only the Illinois Courts Commission, acting on a complaint brought by the Judicial Inquiry Board, can remove a judge from the bench.

O'Brien clearly does not want to resign, at least not while her post-trial motions remain pending.

And her post-trial motions are still pending. Just today, in fact, the government filed a motion seeking a seven day extension (to July 2) for it to respond to O'Brien's 70 page post-trial motion. Assuming that the motion will be granted (the government represents that the motion is unopposed), O'Brien's reply in support of her motion will be due on August 1.

And November is coming.

First elected in 2012, O'Brien would be up for retention this November -- and she has filed for retention. Indeed, according to today's complaint by the JIB, O'Brien filed for retention after her law license was suspended on April 26 (complaint, par. 13).

Thus, the JIB alleges, in its complaint (par. 15), that the basis for removing O'Brien from office is that:
Respondent's continued presence as a member of the Illinois judiciary, despite the Illinois Supreme Court's suspension of her license to practice law in response to a jury verdict of guilty on two federal criminal charges, is prohibited by the Illinois Constitution and undermines public confidence in the judicial system. As such, it is prejudicial to the administration of justice and has brought the judicial office into disrepute.
Specifically, the JIB complaint against O'Brien alleges that, by remaining in office after her law license has been suspended, O'Brien violates two of the Canons of Judicial Ethics (Supreme Court Rules 61 et seq.).

First, the JIB charges that O'Brien violates Rule 61 (Canon 1) by her continuation in office. Rule 61 provides:
A Judge Should Uphold the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciary

An independent and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society. A judge should participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing, and should personally observe, high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved. The provisions of this Code should be construed and applied to further that objective.
The JIB also charges that, by remaining in office, O'Brien violates Rule 62 (Canon 2) The portion of Rule 62 cited by the JIB provides:
A Judge Should Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All of the Judge's Activities

(A) A judge should respect and comply with the law and should conduct himself or herself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
O'Brien's attorneys have argued (in response to the ARDC's petition in the Supreme Court):
Respondent is currently pursuing post-trial remedies in the federal court. The process she is due is clearly set forth in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. At this time, there is no final judgment, and Respondent still has the opportunity to be found innocent under those Rules. See, Berman v. United States, 302 U.S. 211, 212 (1937) (holding, "[f]inal judgment in a criminal case means sentence. The sentence is the judgment.") This Court should allow Respondent to exhaust her due process rights before making any determinations related to her law license or judicial office.
Today's complaint would appear to be an effort to sidestep the ultimate question of O'Brien's guilt or innocence on the bank fraud charges. The issue framed for the Courts Commission is whether O'Brien's remaining in office after the jury verdict undermines public confidence in the judiciary and is consistent with the high standards of conduct that citizens are to expect from judicial officers. Significantly, the JIB complaint does not necessarily seek to remove O'Brien from the bench, only from the payroll.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr. joins the Illinois Supreme Court

Justice Anne M. Burke administering the oath of office

Before a packed Thompson Center auditorium audience that included many of his colleagues from the Illinois Appellate Court, Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr. was sworn in yesterday afternoon as the 117th justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.

The only empty seats were in the middle of the room;
many stood in the side aisles to see the ceremony

Justice Neville's sister, Professor Florise Neville-Ewell of the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, introduced Appellate Court Justice Shelvin Louise Marie Hall, who served as Mistress of Ceremonies.

A dozen speakers offered congratulations to and reminiscences about Justice Neville: State Sen. Kwame Raoul (13th); State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (25th); Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; Justice Terrence Lavin, Vice Chair of the Executive Committee of the Illinois Appellate Court, First District; Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans of the Cook County Circuit Court; Judge Andrea Buford, Chairperson of the Illinois Judicial Council; Judge James E. Snyder, President of the Illinois Judges Association; Judge Ramon Ocasio, President of the Latino Judges Association; Allen Nettles, a law school classmate of Justice Neville at Washington University; Dr. Conrad Worrill, the retired Director of the Center for Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University and a Neville family friend; Josephine Wade, the owner of Captain's Hard Times Restaurant on E. 79th Street; and Dartesia A. Pitts, the President of the Cook County Bar Association.

Some of the speakers at yesterday's ceremony.  Front row, from left to right, Justice Shelvin Louise Marie Hall, Dartesia Pitts, Judge Buford, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans, Judge Ramon Ocasio, and Justice Terrence Lavin.  Back row, left to right: Dr. Conrad Worrill (obscured), Allen Nettles, Judge James E.Snyder (obscured), and Pastor David B. Thornton

Pastor David B. Thornton, of the Sixth Grace Presbyterian Church, offered the invocation and benediction and Felicia Coleman-Evans, accompanied by Elsa Harris, provided music.

Outgoing Justice Charles E. Freeman was lauded by virtually every speaker, as were the late Appellate Court Justices Glenn T. Johnson and R. Eugene Pincham.

In his remarks, Justice Neville praised Justices Johnson (for whom he clerked) and Pincham as the mentors of his legal career and Justice Freeman as the mentor of his judicial career.

In his service on the Supreme Court, Justice Neville said repeatedly, no one will be unseen, no one will be unheard ("whether pro se or no say," he added at one point, to applause).

Neville did not announce that he will appoint a committee to screen judicial candidates, but he pledged to work with the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening (the United Nations of bar associations, he said) to vet his appointments. I have "complete confidence" in the Alliance, Neville said, because I co-founded that group.

Justice Neville proposed that every court should be a "court of record" -- that court reporters, or at least tape recorders, be present in every courtroom so that there is a record in every case and no case is ever "bounced" in a court of review for lack of a record. Justice Neville suggested that this could be financed by law firm donations, though he did not specify how this might be done.

Personal opinion, clearly labeled as such: This is a great proposal. Personally, I'd prefer live court reporters in every courtroom for every hearing and trial. While I've been impressed with the quality of transcripts I've seen transcribed from tapes in DuPage County, I think a live court reporter in the room would provide the best, and most accurate, record. But the cost would presumably be substantial -- and the funding of such a laudable venture would be problematic.

Justice Neville also proposed that the State should organize a trial bar, like that utilized by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Fully half the litigants in Cook County, Neville said, are unrepresented. They may be effectively denied access to justice on account of their inability to navigate the tricky shoals of the justice system. Lawyers from the proposed 'trial bar' could be appointed to assist these litigants, Neville suggested.

Personal opinion clearly labeled as such: This is a terrible idea. While the pro se problem is real and a true access to justice issue, the solution is not to impose yet another unfunded mandate on the bar.

The problem is an economic one: Litigation costs too much.

Note that I did not say lawyers cost too much. There are a privileged few -- a very few -- who command $1,000 or more per hour for their services. But there are a great many lawyers struggling to pay the rent, who charge far, far less -- and who can't collect the fees they do charge.

The truth is that, for too many litigants, the cost of obtaining, and paying for, a lawyer is the only litigation cost that can be "controlled." Even though judges recognize the folly of this -- like cutting off one's nose to spite one's face -- litigants too often forego the services of a lawyer (or, as litigation costs mount, stop paying their lawyer).

By reducing the cost of litigation, we will reduce the numbers of pro se litigants -- and increase employment opportunities for lawyers. (See my 2017 article, Solving the Pro Se Revolution, and putting lawyers back to work, too.) And how do we reduce litigation costs? We move from "routine" (and prohibitively expensive) discovery to a system of zero-based discovery.

Of course, serving as a fair but skeptical gatekeeper in discovery matters will take effort on the part of the judiciary, but the courts have always had the power to control discovery. And better this than to respond to one economic injustice by imposing another.

I suppose it is unwise for a mere solo practitioner to stake out a policy disagreement with a newly-installed Supreme Court justice on Day One of his tenure. But, then, I never was much of a politician.

And this is too important.

Wright takes runoff for final associate judge slot

FWIW is a little late to the party, but the AOIC has announced James A. Wright as the winner of the runoff for the 17th and final spot in this year's class of Cook County associate judges.

Presently of counsel to the firm of Chico & Nunes, P.C., and licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1989, Wright has also served as Chief of Staff for the Chicago Board of Education, as Inspector General for the Illinois Toll Highway Authority, and as the Executive Inspector General ("EIG") for the Agencies, Board and Commissions under the Illinois Governor, (the Office of the Executive Inspector General, or "OEIG"). Wright obtained a CPA in 1981 and also holds an MBA.

For more, see Jordyn Reiland's article in the June 12 issue of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (subscription required).

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Judge George N. Leighton passes away, aged 105

Photo obtained from linked Sun-Times story

George N. Leighton, the man for whom the Cook County Criminal Courthouse has been named, has died at the age of 105.

A former Cook County Circuit Court judge, and the first African-American to sit on the Illinois Appellate Court, Leighton was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 1976. He took senior status on the court in 1986 and returned to the private practice of law in 1987, retiring, finally, in 2011, at the age of 99, from the law firm now known as Neal & Leroy.

Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans has issued a statement concerning the passing of Judge Leighton:
“I join the legal community in mourning the passing of our friend and my former law professor, George N. Leighton. He served the public in many ways as a Circuit Judge, an Illinois Appellate Justice and a U.S. District Court Judge.

“Judge Leighton came to Chicago in 1946 at a time when an African-American man could neither rent an office downtown nor hail a taxi in the Loop. He made a name for himself as an attorney who fought for voting rights, integrated schools, fair housing and equal access to jury service.

“His fierce advocacy even led to a grand jury indictment against him, in which he was accused of conspiring to incite a riot after an African-American family tried to move into a white neighborhood. Thurgood Marshall represented Mr. Leighton, and the charges were dismissed.

“This is the courage we celebrated when we renamed our criminal courthouse as the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building in 2012. That day, he said, ‘I practiced law. That’s all I did.’ Well, we all know it was so much more. And we will always remember the man who made it his mission to make sure that the law was equally applied to all.”
A graduate of Howard University and Harvard Law School, Leighton was a veteran of World War II, rising to the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Nichole C. Patton appointed to 15th Subcircuit vacancy

The Illinois Supreme Court today appointed Assistant State's Attorney Nichole C. Patton to the 15th Subcircuit vacancy created by the elevation of Judge John C. Griffin to the Appellate Court.

Patton's appointment is effective June 13 and terminates December 7, 2020.

Patton has previously sought judicial office. She applied for associate judge in 2017. She sought Democratic Party slating for a 2016 judicial bid, opting not to run after being named a fourth alternate. Patton withdrew from an Appellate Court bid in the 2014 primary.

A countywide candidate in 2012, Patton also sought a 15th Subcircuit vacancy in 2010. Ironically, the winning candidate in that 2010 race was John C. Griffin.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

June 14 fundraiser set for David Studenroth

Supporters of David Studenroth's 12th Subcircuit bid are holding a fundraiser for their candidate on Thursday, June 14, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at Stormy's Tavern and Grille, 1735 Orchard Lane in Northfield.

The Northfield Bar Association is hosting this event. Food, beer, and wine will be provided. Tickets are $75 each, but sponsorships are available (Silver - $150, Gold - $250, Platinum - $500). For more information about the event, or to reserve tickets call Frank DiFranco at (847) 825-7744 or email him at difrancolaw@aol.com.

Retention judges launch website, Facebook page; September 17 fundraiser set

Most of the Cook County judges seeking retention this November have collectively launched a campaign website and campaign Facebook page. Those are links to the respective sites in the preceding sentence; the image here was obtained from the Facebook page.

The retention judges fundraiser has already been set for Monday, September 17, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., at the Preston Bradley Hall in the Chicago Cultural Center. Tickets are already on sale. Individual tickets will cost $125 each, and sponsorships are available (Silver - $1,000, Gold - $2,500, Platinum - $5,000). The Silver sponsorship comes with five admission tickets, the Gold with 10, and the Platinum with 20. Tickets may be ordered at this page of the retention judges' website.

Supreme Court fine-tunes a number of rules

Updated June 8, 2018

Most of the amended Supreme Court Rules issued by the Supreme Court at the end of May are fairly technical and uncontroversial.

But two of the changes are more interesting than the others.

On May 25, the Illinois Supreme Court issued amendments to Supreme Court Rules 341, 352, and 756. Then, on May 31, the Court issued an amendment to Rule 39.

The change to Rule 341 is one of the noncontroversial ones.

The last sentence of Rule 341(h)(7) has been changed from "Points not argued are waived..." to "Points not argued are forfeited and shall not be raised in the reply brief, in oral argument, or on petition for rehearing."

I attended a CLE seminar a few years ago at which the distinction between "waiver" and "forfeiture" was made exquisitely clear. (I've spent the last week looking for the materials from that presentation, without success.) Unfortunately, the distinction between the words can become blurred as soon as one begins reviewing the cases. This minor change may allow the distinction between the words to become more clear in case law. Essentially, however, there is an element of voluntariness in waiver. The "classic" formulation of waiver is that it is "the intentional relinquishment of a known right" -- but, in the law of insurance, for example, waiver need not be express, but may be implied from conduct (see, for example, Allstate Insurance Co. v. National Tea Co., 25 Ill.App.3d 449, 461 (1975)). Forfeiture also concerns someone failing to do something, but the reason for the failure is irrelevant: Either something (like raising a particular argument) was done or not done, and if it was not done, the right to do it thereafter is forfeited. See, Maniez v. Citibank, F.S.B., 404 Ill.App.3d 941, 947-48 (2010)("[f]orfeiture occurs when a party seeks to raise an issue on appeal it failed to raise in the lower court").

However the rule is formulated, one can only hope that it remains clear that the rule is a limitation on the parties, not on a reviewing court, which, in the interest of properly resolving a matter and doing justice to the parties, may choose to consider an issue that was otherwise "forfeited."

The amendment to Supreme Court Rule 756 also appears to be an attempt to impose a more objective standard, this time in the area of attorney discipline.

Rule 756(a)(8) concerns an attorney's right to seek permanent retirement status. The key provision of this rule is 756(a)(8)(C) which provides that disciplinary actions will be dropped against an attorney granted permission to permanently retire. Not surprisingly, Rule 756(a)(8)(A) requires the consent of the ARDC Administrator before the Supreme Court will grant permanent retirement.

The new change to Rule 756 concerns Rule 756(a)(8)(B), addressing when permanent retirement status will be not be granted. Previously, permanent retirement was to be denied when the attorney's conduct was likely to result in actual prejudice to a client or third party unless restitution is made. Now, however, Rule 756(a)(8)(B)(3) provides that permanent retirement will be denied where "the attorney's conduct resulted in an actual loss to a client or other person and the Court's rules or precedent would allow for a restitution order for that type of loss in a disciplinary case, reinstatement case, or Client Protection Program award, unless restitution has been made" (emphasis mine).

The amendment to Rule 352 is likely to be more controversial, at least with some sitting justices of the Appellate Court.

Effective July 1, the last paragraph of Rule 352(a) has been amended so as to require oral arguments in many more appeals.

This paragraph used to provide, "After the briefs have been filed, the court may dispose of any case without oral argument if no substantial question is presented. but this power should be exercised sparingly."

Now, however, this paragraph of Rule 352(a) begins (emphasis supplied), "After the briefs have been filed, the court may dispose of any case without oral argument if no substantial question is presented but this power shall be exercised sparingly and only upon the entry of a written order stating with specificity why such power is being exercised in the affected case."

But that's not all. A second sentence has been added to this paragraph by the May 25 amendment: "Notwithstanding the foregoing, oral argument shall be held in any case in which at least one member of the panel assigned to the case requests it."

From what I've been told, when an appellate justice asks his or her colleagues to conduct oral argument in a given case, that request has usually been honored.

But, obviously, these requests have not always been honored.

While there may be some grumbling on the appellate bench in the short term, this rule, in my opinion, will be a benefit to the court in the long run: Courts need to conduct their public business in public. In every case in which oral argument is conducted there can be no doubt that the elected (or assigned) justices were actually involved in the decision-making process. Increasing the frequency of oral arguments will necessarily enhance the confidence of the public generally and the bar in particular in the appellate process.

That said, I'm sure every appellate lawyer has had a case or three that they were just as happy to see decided on the briefs, and under Rule 23. I know I've had some over the years -- and, yes, like everyone else, I've dutifully requested oral argument in those cases, too -- but, presumably, these cases would not be called for argument even under this new Rule 352.

The Supreme Court also amended Rule 39, concerning the election of associate judges. There is one stylistic change as well, but the substantive change is to Rule 39(b)(5), concerning balloting for associate judge.

The first sentence of this rule formerly began, "Each circuit judge shall complete his or her ballot by voting for one candidate for each vacancy to be filled...." As amended, however, the sentence reads (emphasis mine), "Each circuit judge shall complete his or her ballot by voting for not more than one candidate for each vacancy to be filled...."

As FWIW readers well know, we did just have a controversial associate judge selection here in the County of Cook -- a ballot of 34 names, with 17 vacancies to be filled (16 have been selected; there was a tie for the 17th spot and a runoff is underway). So it is only natural to consider the change to the rule in the context of recent Cook County events.

Initially I thought the change might be a codification of the practice of some judges deliberately undervoting -- the only means available for a judge to maximize the support he or she can give to favored candidates -- and one that I believe many judges have employed in prior associate judge elections. The more I thought about it, though, the more it seemed to me that this language represented a caution against overvotes. Why would that be necessary?

Surely, no one with a vote would vote for more than half the candidates -- thereby spoiling the ballot and actually voting for no one -- right?

However, I have confirmed with court personnel that the rule was amended as a caution against overvoting. Unsurprisingly, I have not learned why this amendment was deemed necessary, and at this time, just after a controversial Cook County associate judge selection -- and I don't expect to.

But I will say this: coincidence alone does necessarily establish causation. So the timing of this amendment is merely coincidental. I hope.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

June 20 fundraiser set for Joel Chupack

Supporters of Joel Chupack's 12th Subcircuit bid are holding a fundraiser for their candidate on Wednesday, June 20, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., at the Billy Goat Tavern, 1535 W. Madison Street.

Tom Sam Sianis is the Sponsoring Host for this event. The Host Committee includes Deidre Baumann, Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer (2nd), Brian Huffman, Roy Huffman, Marcin Kania, Ronald G. Ohr, and James "Jamie" Shapiro.

Tickets for the event are $100 each, but sponsorships are available (Circuit - $250, Appellate - $500, Supreme - $1,000, Chief Justice - $2,500). For more information about the event, or to reserve tickets, email Sarah at mailto:chupackforjudge@gmail.com or call (224) 558-3888.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Chicago session sold out, but June 22 LAP volunteer training session in Carbondale still has openings

The Lawyers Assistance Program is conducting volunteer training on Friday, June 22, from 8:30 to 4:30, in Carbondale, on the campus of the SIU School of Law. The training costs $35 and participants will earn six MCLE credit hours, including credit for the mental health and substance abuse requirement of Supreme Court Rule 794(d)(1). Lunch and a continental breakfast will be provided.

Participants will learn about LAP's support services and programs, better understand the effects of mental health concerns and addiction, and learn how to help colleagues and friends. To register for the training, click here.

There is also a Chicago-area training session coming up, according to Shelly Sandoval, LAP's Legal Community Liaison, but it is already at capacity.

For more information about LAP's services, visit the LAP website at www.illinoislap.org, or contact the Chicago LAP office at 20 South Clark St, Suite 450, or by calling (312) 726-6607. LAP also accepts confidential emails at gethelp@illinoislap.org.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

List of Cook County Judges who have filed for retention

One Supreme Court Justice, Anne M. Burke, and one First District Appellate Court Justice, Margaret Stanton McBride, have filed for retention on this year's ballot.

Sixty one (by my count) Circuit Court judges have also filed for retention -- including, of course, Jessica O'Brien.

Here is a list of the Circuit Court judges seeking retention in what I believe will be the ballot order (someone will correct me if I've made a mistake).

All errors of omission or commission in this list are mine alone:
  • Kathy M. Flanagan
  • Martin B. Agran
  • Ronald F. Bartkowicz
  • Catherine Marie Haberkorn
  • Moshe Jacobius
  • Stuart F. Lubin
  • James M. Varga
  • E. Kenneth Wright, Jr.
  • Maragaret Mary Brosnahan
  • Matthew E. Coghlan
  • Peter Flynn
  • Paul A. Karkula
  • Marcia Maras
  • Joyce Marie Murphy Gorman
  • Joan Margaret O'Brien
  • Thomas David Roti
  • Colleen F. Sheehan
  • Maura Boyle Slattery
  • Daniel Patrick Brennan
  • Grace G. Dickler
  • Ellen L. Flannigan
  • Carol M. Howard
  • Jill C. Marise
  • James Michael McGing
  • Mike McHale
  • James Patrick Murphy
  • Thomas W. Murphy
  • Ramon Ocasio, III
  • Mary Colleen Roberts
  • Diane M. Shelley
  • Carl Anthony Walker
  • Thomas R. Allen
  • Larry G. Axelrood
  • Carl B. Boyd
  • Tommy Brewer
  • Michael R. Clancy
  • Daniel B. Degnan
  • John H. Ehrlich
  • Terry Gallagher
  • William G. Gamboney
  • Celia Louise Gamrath
  • Deborah Jean Gubin
  • Elizabeth Mary Hayes
  • Lionel Jean-Baptiste
  • Martin C. Kelley
  • Kimberly D. Lewis
  • Pamela M. Leeming
  • Aicha Marie MacCarthy
  • Edward M. Maloney
  • Lisa Ann Marino
  • Diann Karen Marsalek
  • Michael Tully Mullen
  • Jessica A. O'Brien
  • Karen Lynn O'Malley
  • Paul S. Pavlus
  • Lorna Ellen Propes
  • Cynthia Ramirez
  • Erica L. Reddick
  • Beatriz Santiago
  • Regina Ann Scannicchio
  • Andrea M. Schleifer

"What year did I just wake up in, 1967?"

That's the opening line in one comment in my moderation queue this morning.

And one might think so, after reading some of the toxic waste here masquerading as 'comments' on the events of the day in our little legal community. And, yes, you're not seeing everything.

But I'm going to call horse feathers on this. On all of this.

Here's how another comment in my inbox begins --
I’m a caucasion judge and the fact is not one black american judge called me to discuss their candidates... and that’s the concensus I hear from many others.
Even allowing for middle-aged fingers on a cell phone (no Baby Boomer can text like a Millennial) I'm going to say this comment is not really from a Cook County judge. It may not be from a Russian hacker---I have no delusions of grandeur--- but it's not from a judge, "caucasion" or otherwise.

Another suppressed comment, claiming to be written by a recently elected Irish female judge planning a bid for the Appellate Court, includes these lines:
Blacks will vote for me because they never unify and squabble about who is black enough, whatever that means. But we Irish, we are the epitome of Pavlov's dogs: when we see an Irish name we vote for it with no questions asked. You could be a pedophile or cop killer, but if your last name ends with an O or Mc, then you're our candidate.
Um, pedophile? Cop killer? "Last name ends with O or Mc?"

No. That comment was not written by a judge. I don't believe it. And, if you're honest, neither do you.

So it's time to stop the role-playing crap. I won't be an accessory to it any more. At least I'm not going to make it so easy.

Until further notice, Anonymous comments will no longer be permitted on FWIW. You're at least going to have to pick a name.

We'll see how this goes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sun-Times reports that Jessica O'Brien has filed for retention

Jon Seidel's article, posted this afternoon at 3:25 p.m., can be found here.

For those who came in late, the Illinois Supreme Court suspended Judge Jessica O'Brien's law license on April 26. That action would have made it impossible for O'Brien to become a judge. Article 6, Section 11 of the 1970 Illinois Constitution provides, in pertinent part,
No person shall be eligible to be a Judge or Associate Judge unless he is a United States citizen, a licensed attorney-at-law of this State, and a resident of the unit which selects him.
For example, by suspending the late Rhonda Crawford's law license, the Illinois Supreme Court effectively prevented her from assuming the office of judge.

But O'Brien, first elected in 2012, was already serving as a judge when the Illinois Supreme Court entered her suspension order.

So a constitutional question is presented: Can an already-serving judge be removed because her law license is suspended? The above language notwithstanding, the answer is not immediately clear. Why? Because, pursuant to Article 6, Section 15 of the Illinois Constitution, only the Illinois Courts Commission, acting on a complaint brought by the Judicial Inquiry Board, can remove a judge from the bench.

The Supreme Court referred the O'Brien matter to the JIB when it suspended her license. Seidel's article marvels that, "nearly one month after that referral, the JIB has taken no public action."

What Mr. Seidel does not seem to understand is that nothing the JIB does, or doesn't do, is public unless it files a complaint with the Courts Commission.

As the JIB website explains, "Like most other states, the initial investigation by the Board is conducted on a confidential basis. The matter remains confidential until a determination is made to publicly charge a judge with misconduct or incapacity." And, before that determination is made, there is a specific process that must be followed. That process is specified on the linked JIB web page. Following the process will take time.

Thus, there may well be a JIB complaint to the Courts Commission concerning Judge O'Brien -- but we'll know about it when we know about it.

Whether this will or can be resolved before November is purely a matter of speculation at this point.

Hat tip to my most prolific commenter, Anonymous, for the link to the Sun-Times story. Both your comments on the subject have been flushed, Anon (calling a comment 'civil' does not make it so), but I am grateful for the information anyway.

About those associate judge results and that plea for civility....

Before yesterday's announcement about the 16 new associate judge selections, I was working with the overflowing comments box, trying to figure out a way to get more comments in and trying to keep the conversation civil.

Unfortunately (for me), upon reflection I have to agree with this anonymous commenter:
Jack: You are partly to blame for what you perceive to be this lack of civility. Over the years you let slide plenty of snide and backhanded slights clearly targeted against candidates by opponents of other enemies. That emboldened them to continue and increase with even greater levels of toxicity. Not saying it’s right, but you set the tone of this blog. Not jerks with grudges. If you don’t like the comments, flush them. But the reality is that the comments reveal more truth about the tone and tenor of these campaigns than most people realize.
I couldn't run the entire comment... because it thereafter took a left turn into a personal slam against a particular judge.

And I also agreed with Anon 5/21 @6:35 a.m. who commented on last Friday's civility post, in pertinent part:
The bottom line is, it's your blog. If you don't moderate, that's a choice and you own the comments as part of your content. If you do moderate, there's no place to hide - you have chosen to let the comment on your site. So you really do have to protect the tone and quality.
I think this person has it right, as opposed to another commenter on that post who suggested that the 'problem would be solved' by either flushing everything... or letting everything in.

And if the tone here sometimes is 'pompous windbag,' I'm sorry for that, too.

On mornings like this, I'm also sorry I didn't convert this blog into one chronicling the White Sox rebuild.

You see, as much as I thought the comment box was full of difficulties before the AJ announcement came out, things really got challenging after.

Once again, I'm faced with the question of weighing the 'news value' of comments against their venom content.

There's news value, I believe, in a comment like this one (part of a longer comment I passed through this morning):
If you got elected in 2012, you'll be out of a job come the first Monday in December, 2018. We have already called the Sun-Times, the Tribune and the Defender to let them know what your did. You dissed a Blacke female AUSA, the former head of IPRA and the former CCBA President, in addition to two (2) sitting black judges. You messed with the wrong ones this time! Remember, the retention ballot is a countywide ballot -- and black folks are done being dissed by the Circuit Court of Cook County.
And that's pretty typical of several of the comments I put through this morning.

This was also part of a much longer comment passed through --
Why do you think that Toni sent that notice earlier this year about submitting credentials to the party for retention slating. Yep, bingo, THIS right here, is why she did it. Toni cannot reform the Cook County Courts by just electing a State's Attorney. Nope, she needs to move on with the judges -- ALL OF THEM!
So, if you scroll down to yesterday's post, you'll see some very angry comments.

But let's look at some additional facts.

Some of the African-American finalists may have encountered difficulty with some 'progressive' interests. The former head of IPRA didn't make it? Well, IPRA is now COPA because, in some circles, including among many African-Americans, IPRA was too lenient in cases of alleged police misconduct. And the candidate in question was head of OPS, not IPRA, anyway, but that distinction seems to have been lost.

And, yes, two of the four appointed judges who did not get selected are African-American. But the very progressive Injustice Watch article on yesterday's AJ results dredged up -- again -- that one of those candidates had a prior (prior, meaning in the past) problem with one bar group rating, while the other had a decade-old censure on his record -- one fully disclosed and vetted by every bar group, which found that candidate qualified or better.

Also, while only one African-American male will be included with this class (the winner of the runoff), the class includes two past presidents of the Asian American Bar Association; at least two Hispanics, one of whom was formerly president of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois; and one openly gay person.

This Tweet was posted yesterday afternoon by the Diversity Foundation:

There are a number of other comments you won't be reading, in whole or in part. Some person, or some people, really have it in for one of the new AJs. There are some particularly nasty anti-Burke and anti-Evans comments. Here's a fraction of one comment that ventures a prediction on the mayoral race, based on the outcome of the AJ balloting:
Wow, such a strong showing of black unity amongst the IJC. Now I know how Rahm is going to win again.
And, in a mark of 'success' -- I suppose that's how I have to view it -- I seem to have attracted my very own troll:
FWIW has jumped the shark folks. Jack cut a deal with the supremes to get an appointment, so no more honest comments. Time to start a new blog.
Let me know when you start it up, Troll. Meanwhile, Birmingham lost again yesterday, and Eloy Jiménez went 1 for 4, but that one was his eighth homer.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Sixteen new associate judges named in Cook County

The third time proved to be the charm for Sanju Oomen Green. A finalist for associate judge in 2014 and 2016, Green is among the 16 new Cook County associate judges announced today by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts.

The only other 2016 finalist to make this year's 'short list,' Lisette Catherine Mojica, was also selected.

Five of the nine Cook County Circuit Court judges sitting pursuant to Supreme Court appointment were also selected, Charles "Charlie" Beach, Gerald Cleary, Myron Mackoff, Stephanie Miller, and Patrick Stanton.

Joan Marie G. Kubalanza, who previously served as an associate judge, will again serve in that capacity.

Here is the complete list of the 16 new associate judges announced today:
  • Charles Stanley Beach
  • Joel David Buikema
  • Jeffery George Chrones
  • Gerald Vernon Patrick Cleary, III
  • Jean Mary Golden
  • Sanju Oommen Green
  • James Edward Hanlon, Jr.
  • Joan Marie G. Kubalanza
  • Myron Franklin Mackoff
  • Stephanie Kathryn Miller
  • Lisette Catherine Mojica
  • Margaret Mary Ogarek
  • Lori Michele Rosen
  • Patrick Thomas Stanton
  • Daniel Alexander Trevino
  • William Yu
There were no successful write-in candidacies this time -- but there was a tie.

Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 39(b)(6)(i), there will be a runoff between Levander Smith, Jr. and James Adolph Wright for the 17th and final spot in this year's associate judge class.

The press release announcing these results is available here.

Friday, May 18, 2018

A plea for civility

I put through a bunch of comments this morning on the posts about yesterday's developments with the Supreme and Appellate Courts. Comments I didn't particularly like.

Look, I get it: Politics ain't beanbag. And seats on the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts are filled, ultimately, by election. A political process. (Not that appointment isn't also be a political process -- it is -- and it would be even if were labeled 'merit' selection. But that's a story for a different day.)

But I keep bragging that I have smart readers. And I do.

I just wish some of them could be less snide. Less disrespectful. Less mean.

I let through a pension comment, too, this morning, that made an interesting point about some of the more-recently elected judges, judges in the less generous 'tier 2' pension -- but also took gratuitous swipes against several individual judges. Sometimes I wish I could edit comments before putting them through.

I know -- and I know this because people insist on telling me -- that the comments on the blog are what keep people coming back. (I had hoped that it was my crisp, personable prose, but alas).

This meanness in the comments I receive is, presumably, an unfortunate, if accurate, reflection of the mean-spirited age in which we live. But I don't have to like them, and I don't have to publish them.

And I understand it must be tempting to use the cloak of anonymity to attack and settle scores. But anonymity can also be used to educate, enlighten and inform -- e.g. the Federalist Papers -- I know no one studies history anymore, but didn't any of you see Hamilton?

There will be lots to talk about in the weeks and months to come as persons formulate and explore potential runs for the Appellate and Supreme Court vacancies. And I'd like to share as many points of view as I can. Help me do that by making your points a little less barbed, OK?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Justice Michael B. Hyman appointed to pending Neville vacancy; Judge Carl Anthony Walker appointed to the Appellate Court

The elevation of Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr. to the Illinois Supreme Court will create a vacancy on the Illinois Appellate Court.

The Supreme Court entered an order today filling that vacancy, transferring Justice Michael B. Hyman into that slot. Justice Hyman has been serving on the Appellate Court since 2013, but he has served in that post as a Circuit Court judge assigned to duty in the Appellate Court pursuant to Supreme Court appointment. (The Supreme Court appoints six Circuit Court judges to the Appellate Court, supplementing the 18 elected justices elected.) Justice Hyman was appointed to the Circuit Court in 2006; he was elected to a countywide vacancy in 2008.

Today's order stipulates, however, that Justice Hyman keeps his own pending Appellate Court caseload. Justice Neville's caseload will be assumed by Circuit Court Judge Carl Anthony Walker, who was today assigned to the Appellate Court by the Supreme Court. Judge Walker was elected to a 1st Subcircuit vacancy on the Circuit Court in 2006.

The order appointing Judge Walker is effective June 15 and continues, as is customary in these sorts of appointments, "until further order of the Court." Justice Hyman's appointment is effective June 15 as well, and terminates December 7, 2020.

Justice Charles E. Freeman announces retirement from Illinois Supreme Court

The Supreme Court's press release is here; the Order announcing the retirement -- and the appointment of Illinois Appellate Court Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr. to fill the vacancy -- is here.

Justice Freeman served as Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court from 1997-2000, thus becoming the first African-American to head a branch of Illinois government. First elected to the Supreme Court in 1990, Freeman is the fifth longest serving Illinois Supreme Court justice ever (27 years, six months).

Before his election to the Supreme Court, Freeman was a justice of the Illinois Appellate Court, winning election to that court in 1986. Before that, Freeman served as a Cook County Circuit Court judge, winning election to that court in 1976. In 1983, he was called upon to administer the oath of office to his longtime friend, and one-time office mate, Harold Washington.

Justice Freeman's successor, Justice Neville, was elected to the Appellate Court in 2012 after eight years' service on that court pursuant to Supreme Court appointment. The Illinois Supreme Court appointed Neville to the circuit bench in 1999; he was elected to that court in 2000.

Justice Freeman's retirement is effective Flag Day, June 14. Justice Neville's appointment begins June 15 and expires on December 7, 2020.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Campaign website launched, May 29 fundraiser set for Joel Chupack

A campaign website has now been launched for 12th Subcircuit Democratic nominee Joel Chupack. That's a link to the site in the preceding sentence; a link has also been added to the blog sidebar.

Chupack will face Republican nominee David Studenroth on the November ballot in that far north suburban subcircuit.

A partner in the Loop firm of Heinrich & Kramer, P.C., Chupack's campaign bio describes his practice as emphasizing real estate, probate and civil litigation matters.

Licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1982, Chupack is a former President of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers. He has also served as Chair of the Illinois State Bar Association Real Estate Law Section Council and as an ISBA Assembly member. Chupack was a finalist for associate judge in 2016.

Chupack's campaign bio notes that he has "quasi-judicial experience" as a commercial arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association. Over the past 20 years, Chupack has presided over 200 arbitrations, ranging in scope from less than $10,000 to over $20,000,000.

Chupack's supporters have organized a fundraiser for their candidate on Tuesday, May 29, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at aBetter Pour Wine Vault, 6400 W. Touhy Ave., Unit A, Niles.

The Host Committee for event includes Rep. Jonathan Carroll (57th); Hon. Ted Mason, Elk Grove Twp. Committeeman; Maine Twp. Committeeman and Sen. Laura Murphy (28th); Rep. Laura Fine (17th), candidate for State Senate, 9th Dist.; Bob Morgan, candidate for State Representative, 58th Dist., Hon. Elaine Nekritz (ret.); Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, candidate for State Representative, 17th Dist.; Sen. Julie Morrison (29th); Hon. James “Jamie” Shapiro (ret.), 8th Judicial Subcircuit Candidate; Lindsay Hugé, 8th Judicial Subcircuit Candidate; Hon. Dean T. Maragos, New Trier Twp. Committeeman; Hon. Tracy Katz Muhl, Northfield Twp. Committeeman; Hon. Mark Walker, Wheeling Twp. Committeeman and candidate for State Representative, 53rd Dist.; and Ann Gillespie, candidate for State Senate, 27th District.

Tickets for the event are $100 each, but sponsorships are available (Circuit - $250, Appellate - $500, Supreme - $1,000, Chief Justice - $2,500). For more information about the event, or to reserve tickets, email Sarah at mailto:chupackforjudge@gmail.com. Tickets may also be ordered online at this link.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Ireland's Chief Justice to speak at CBA luncheon this Friday

The Hon Mr. Justice Frank Clarke, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ireland will be the featured speaker Friday, May 18, at noon, at the CBA, at a luncheon sponsored by the CBA, the Illinois Commission on Professionalism, and the Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago.

Tickets for the event are $65 each, or $520 for a table of eight, and may be obtained online or by contacting Tamra Drees, CBA Events Coordinator, at (312) 554-2057 or by email at tdrees@chicagobar.org.

Clarke was appointed the 12th Chief Justice of Ireland in July of 2017 by Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins. Born in Walkinstown, Dublin, Justice Clarke received his B.A. from University College Dublin in Mathematics and Economics.

The Irish Supreme Court's website notes that Clarke "was called to the Bar in 1973 and to the Inner Bar in 1985. He practiced mainly in the commercial and public law fields (including constitutional law) and was twice appointed by the Supreme Court as counsel to present argument on references of Bills to the Supreme Court by the President under Article 26 of the Constitution. He also acted as counsel to the Public Accounts Committee on its inquiry into the DIRT tax issue and was external counsel to the Commission to Inquiry into Child Abuse (Laffoy and Ryan Commissions)."

Before becoming a judge, Clarke "served for many years on the Bar Council including a term of two years (1993-1995) as its Chair. He also served as Chair of the Council of King's Inns from 1999 until 2004. He was a member of the Council of the International Bar Association from 1997 to 2004, serving as co-Chair of the Forum for Barristers and Advocates (the international representative body for the independent referral bars) from 1998 to 2002." He became a "judge of the High Court" in November 2004 and was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court in March 2012.

According to a July 26, 2017 article by Mary Minihan and Ruadhán Mac Cormaic in the Irish Times, Justice Clarke "is a socially liberal judge who is seen as one of the most influential figures on the Supreme Court."

The Irish Times article (from which the accompanying photo was obtained) notes that Clarke "was the first member of his family to go to university." According to Minihan and Mac Cormaic's article, "Mr Justice Clarke joined Fine Gael in the summer after leaving Drimnagh Castle CBS and began to canvass for Jim Mitchell in Dublin South West. Later he wrote speeches for Garret FitzGerald and was election agent for the former Fine Gael TD George Birmingham, who is now a judge on the Court of Appeal. He also ran unsuccessfully for the Seanad in the 1980s.... [Clarke] was head-hunted for the High Court in 2004 by the Fianna Fáil/PD coalition."

An article in the July 26, 2017 Irish Examiner quotes Paul McGarry SC, then Chairman of the Council of The Bar of Ireland, as saying that Clarke is "one of the brightest legal minds of his generation" and "a strong advocate and defender of the importance of judicial independence."

Clarke is also a horse racing fan. According to McGarry, as quoted in the Irish Examiner, "As a trained mathematician, [Clarke] approaches rulings with a wonderfully methodical manner and relishes nothing more than a case with a numerical conundrum. It’s no secret that this has also stood him in good stead in his personal passion – horse racing." A second July 26 article in the Irish Times, by Ruadhán Mac Cormaic, notes that Clarke "is a regular at race meetings and a Leinster rugby season-ticket holder."

Monday, May 14, 2018

Campaign website launched, May 23 fundraiser set for Judge Sam Betar

A campaign website has been launched for Judge Samuel J. Betar III. That's a link to the site in the preceding sentence. A link has also been added to the blog sidebar.

Betar is the Democratic candidate for the O'Donnell vacancy in the far northwest suburban 13th Subcircuit. He will face Republican nominee Christine Svenson on the November ballot.

Licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1983, Betar had served as an associate judge since 1998. The Illinois Supreme Court appointed him to the O'Donnell vacancy in July 2017. Betar's campaign bio notes that he is currently assigned to the Third Municipal District and the Domestic Violence Division. He presides over criminal domestic violence cases and misdemeanor jury calls. Betar is active in the Northwest Suburban Bar Association (NWSBA), and has served as co-chair of its Matrimonial Law Committee. In 2017, according to his campaign bio, Betar helped develop a program for attorneys to provide pro bono services to domestic violence victims who wish to file civil petitions for orders of protection against their abusers.

Judge Betar's supporters have organized a fundraiser for their candidate on Wednesday, May 23, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., at Emmett's Brewing Company, 110 N. Brockway, Palatine.

Tickets for the event are $100 each, but sponsorships are available (Silver - $200, Gold - $500, Platinum - $1,000). For more information, or to reserve tickets, email citizenstoelectjudgesambetar@gmail.com.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

May 31 fundraiser for Scott McKenna

Supporters of Scott McKenna's 15th Subcircuit candidacy are planning a fundraiser for their candidate at Rosebud Prime, One S. Dearborn, on Thursday, May 31, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are $100 each, but a sponsorship may be had for $300, or a premium sponsorship for $1,000.

Lori Vanderlaan and Best Vanderlaan & Harrington (where McKenna is presently a partner) are hosting the event. Also helping to sponsor the event are Hurley McKenna & Mertz, Winters Salzetta O’Brien & Richardson, Joe Power, Todd Smith, Tom Power, Joe Balesteri, Tom Siracusa, Sean Houlihan, John Scanlon, Clifford Law Office, Nakos & O’Connor, Chris Hurley, Mark & Lisa McKenna, Mike Mertz, Jim Best, Tim Cavanagh, John Palumbo, Mike Keating, Salvi Schostok & Pritchard, Romanucci & Blandin, George Jasinski, Dan McCarthy (Waterville Advisors), Terrence Hegarty & Assoc., Motherway & Napleton, Parente & Norem, Strellis & Field, Mike Rathsack, Maurice Dusky, Vrdolyak Law Group, Miroballi Durkin & Rudin, Perry Browder, Mark Hawkinson (Fast Market Options), Terrence & Kathryn McKenna, Mike Urbanski, John Kyle, Brian Sass, and Steve & Catherine Yee.

For more information, or to order tickets, email mckennaforjudge@gmail.com.

Not sure about compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Not a likely FWIW reader - even if he were real.
As you might expect, because For What It's Worth is published on the Internet, it is available around the Whole Wide World (which, I have recently learned, is not what "www" stands for).

Nevertheless, much as I'd like to imagine Horace Rumpole decompressing at Pomeroy's after a hard day jousting with the Mad Bull down at the Old Bailey, sipping a generous glass of Chateau Thames Embankment, and calling up FWIW on his smart phone... it seems very unlikely that this blog would have much appeal much beyond the borders of County Cook.

However, if Rumpole or anyone else in chambers at No. 2 Equity Court were to call up FWIW, it is my understanding that they'd get the exact same page you're looking at, but with this notice superimposed:
This site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services, to personalize ads and to analyze traffic. Information about your use of this site is shared with Google. By using this site, you agree to its use of cookies.
This blog is published by the Blogger service of Google, and Blogger slapped the above and foregoing notice on foreign incarnations of this blog without any exertion on my part. I dimly understand that this notice was added in order to comply with regulations imposed by the European Union.

I only recently figured out that the cookie notice is different, somehow, than the latest thing about which I'm getting frequent emails, viz., the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The one difference I can actually explain is that the cookie notice has been around for awhile now but GPDR is only going into effect this month.

Beyond that, although I have attempted to work through the jargon-laden verbiage of the 'explanatory' articles Google provides, I have had difficulty actually determining what, if anything, Google actually wants me to do in order to remain in the good graces of Brussels-based bureaucrats who have no interest whatsoever in the judicial aspirations of Cook County residents.

I have read that "GDPR introduces significant new obligations for the ecosystem," but I have no real understanding of what that means. I thought that 'ecosystem' referred to birds and bees and dirt and trees and other living things in a given area -- but I find that Dictionary.com offers an alternative definition of ecosystem as "any system or network of interconnecting and interacting parts, as in a business: The success of Apple’s ecosystem depends on hardware/software integration...."

I guess I am a content provider -- Google/Blogger wouldn't be able to collect any information about blog readers unless folks like me provide content -- and given how many millions of content providers exist, this probably makes me analogous to a bug hiding under a fallen leaf on the forest floor of the Google/Blogger ecosystem.

As near as I can tell, the following appears to be the key passage in the various materials I've gotten from Google about GDPR:
You are not required to seek consent for a user’s activity on Google’s sites (we obtain that ourselves when users visit our sites). We are asking only that you seek consent for your uses of our ads products on your properties. We already require that certain consents are obtained from your users in the EEA, and we are updating those requirements in line with the GDPR. We encourage you to link to this user-facing page explaining how Google manages data in its ads products. Doing so will meet the requirement of our EU User Consent Policy to give your users information about Google’s uses of their personal data.
Well, now I've linked. And I hope that's sufficient to keep me from getting stepped on.

Time will tell.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

What the heck happened to the candidate list in the sidebar?

The March primary is history. So it was time to archive the list of primary candidate websites (the websites can still be found, if you're looking, and if the sites themselves are still 'live,' at this Page Two post).

But there are still some sites left in the sidebar here.

These are the candidates facing contested elections in November.

To recap, in the 12th Subcircuit, Democrat Joel Chupack will face Republican David Studenroth. Studenroth's campaign website remains in the sidebar. Chupack did not have a website for the primary (he used this Facebook page). If he gets a website, I'll add it to the list.

There are three contests in the 13th Subcircuit. Republican Gary W. Seyring will now face Democrat (and former judge) Ketki "Kay" Steffen for the Crane vacancy. Democrat Shannon P. O'Malley (once known as Philip Spiwak) will face Daniel Patrick Fitzgerald for the Lawrence vacancy. Republican Christine Svenson will face Democrat Judge Samuel Betar III for the O'Donnell vacancy.

You'll note websites for Seyring, Steffen, Fitzgerald and Svenson in the abbreiviated sidebar. I don't know of any campaign websites for O'Malley or Betar yet -- but I'll add these as well if they come online.

Finally, in the 15th Subcircuit, one of the two vacancies on the November ballot will be contested: Democrat Scott McKenna will face Republican Karla Marie Fiaoni. McKenna's website remains in the shriveled sidebar; I don't yet have any website for Fiaoni.

All the other many vacancies on the November ballot will be uncontested.

Which is why voting in the primary is so important... but, then, we've talked about this before....

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Cook County Democratic Party to screen judges seeking retention?

That was the rumor -- and I was told there was some serious discontent in the ranks as a result.

And for good reason: The retention election is expressly made non-partisan by Article 6, Section 12 (d) of the 1970 Illinois Constitution (which provides in pertinent part, emphasis mine, "The names of Judges seeking retention shall be submitted to the electors, separately and without party designation, on the sole question whether each Judge shall be retained in office for another term").

But the rumor is not entirely correct.

Yes, the Democratic Party is going to be looking at the qualifications of judges seeking retention, according to Jacob Kaplan, the Executive Director of the Cook County Democratic Party. In an email to FWIW, Kaplan acknowledged that "several committeemen" had become "concerned with the fact that the Party has historically recommended a YES vote on ALL retention judges in its mailings and literature for the November election" -- even those few judges originally elected as Republicans -- even though, sometimes, not "ALL" judges might be worthy of retention.

The result, Kaplan said, was the adoption of a new bylaw by the Cook County Central Committee at a January 11 meeting. Newly added Section 5 of Article VI of the Bylaws now provides:
The Executive Committee of the Cook County Democratic Party shall have the authority to recommend to the Central Committee whether to withhold endorsement from any judge(s) on the retention ballot, upon good cause shown by any member(s) of the Central Committee. “Good cause” may include consideration of bar association, peer and other ratings and reviews; public proceedings before, or discipline and sanctions imposed by, the Judicial Inquiry Board or the Illinois Supreme Court; a vacancy in office as defined by the Illinois Election Code; and misconduct bringing the office of judge into disrepute. The Central Committee may adopt, in whole or in part, such recommendation not to support retention.
According to Kaplan, new Party Chair Toni Preckwinkle has begun formation of a retention committee, which "will likely be tasked with determining if there is 'good cause' to recommend a non-endorsement of any judges up for retention in the November election."

While no formal process is yet in place, any negative recommendations would have to be approved by the full Central Committee (all 80 ward and township committeemen), Kaplan said.

Personal Opinion Clearly Labeled as Such: Whether this initiative will inject an unwelcome partisanship into the retention process will depend on how it is implemented.

I don't know for certain that it will happen, not in light of her recent conviction, or in light of the Illinois Supreme Court's order of April 26 suspending her from the practice of law, but Jessica O'Brien could still be on this year's retention ballot. I am quite certain that some committeemen would be squeamish about supporting "ALL" retention candidates if she is among them.

If a criminal conviction is what is meant by "good cause," then I can understand what the Democratic Party is doing here.

On the other hand, "good cause," according to the text of the new bylaw, may also include "consideration of bar association, peer and other ratings and reviews." There is concern in many quarters that some bar groups have, at least sometimes, allowed political and ideological considerations to seep into the judicial candidate evaluation process. One does not need much imagination to see how this innocent-sounding reform could further politicize the bar rating process.

Still, maybe it's a tempest in a teapot: Who cares if the Democratic Party says "no" to 10 or 20 or even 30 retention judges? The Party's endorsement is no guarantee of election -- we've seen this often enough -- so why would a negative recommendation be the 'kiss of death' for a retention candidate? Second City Cop will urge a "no" vote on all retention judges at some point; it has in every recent election cycle. The Tribune always picks out a few as deserving a "no" vote, and bar groups seldom support "ALL" retention judges. And yet, for a couple of decades now, every single retention judge -- even one found not guilty of battery by reason of insanity -- has been retained in office.

Of course, it's easy for me to suggest that a Democratic Party retention committee poses no cause for alarm: My livelihood is not dependent on getting 60% + 1 of the vote this November. And I'd be the first to agree that I'd rather have the Party's support than otherwise.

But I would assume -- and I would expect -- that the Cook County Democratic Party would be wary of expending too much political capital trying to say "no" to too many retention hopefuls. It would not make a lot of sense for the Democratic Party to take a stand against a retention candidate unless the defects in that candidate were so obvious that the Party would be cheered even if the effort to defeat a candidate failed.

I've written in every election cycle that the default vote for all retention candidates is "yes." Voting no on a particular candidate requires a good reason. If that's the approach the Party takes with its retention committee, things should be fine. But we must remain vigilant to avoid the merest taint of partisan politics in the retention election. Politics should have no place in retention elections.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Caswell Crebs is not available: A Supreme Court story?

Gather round, FWIW readers, for another installment in our occasional series, How to Read the News.

A real newspaper, an endangered species to be sure, consists of at least three things: news, ads, and opinions.

(I would add that a real newspaper must also include a robust comics section, whatever those stuffed shirts in New York may say... but I will try not to digress.)

A newspaper's opinion content typically consists of two types, the newspaper's own opinions (editorials) and the opinions of columnists, not all of whom need always agree with the newspaper's editorial board. These are often found on the page opposite the page on which the newspaper's editorials are printed; thus the designation, 'op-ed.'

Usually, a newspaper's editorials will be linked to some articles that have appeared in the paper's news columns ('columns' here used in the sense of how words on a newspaper page are divided into columns, not 'columns' in the sense of some pundit spouting his or her opinions).

I realize the Millennials in the audience may be growing restless at this point. Some may be having trouble remembering what a newspaper looks like. I can refer you to what one of my wisenheimer kids said one day, picking a newspaper up off my couch: "Wow, Dad!" he said, as mockingly as possible, "Someone's taken the Internet and put it on paper for the convenience of old people! How clever!"

But traditionally -- historically -- a newspaper would print editorials based on some news stories it had already run: News stories about the indictment of Ald. Filch on various charges of malfeasance are followed by an editorial calling on Ald. Filch to resign.

But sometimes a newspaper will offer an opinion based on mere rumor.

Thus, a couple of weeks ago, fueled by rumors that Supreme Court Justice Charles Freeman is thinking of retiring soon, the Chicago Tribune published an editorial, "Editorial: Intrigue on the Illinois Supreme Court." A few days later, the Champaign News-Gazette, picking up on the same rumor, and building on (and citing to) the Tribune editorial, followed with Editorial | End politics on state high court."

There are differences in the positions staked out by the two papers, but there is at least one area of common concern: If the Supreme Court appoints someone to Justice Freeman's seat, that person would have a 'leg up' on election to that seat in 2020. (The editorials also both question some of Justice Freeman's picks for other judicial vacancies -- the assumption being that the outgoing justice will be given the privilege of choosing his successor, as has happened before.)

Would a Freeman-designated successor have the inside track on holding the seat in 2020?

FWIW readers know that a whole lot of Supreme Court appointees don't find electoral success in races for vacancies on the Circuit or Appellate Courts. Supreme Court vacancies are as rare as hen's teeth -- so there's not a lot of sample size on which to make a meaningful projection.

But why should we expect any different? Put it this way... a prospective replacement who can not count on the active support of the Cook County Democratic Party... or of the 'establishment' (Tribune editorialists included)... will have a tough go in a crowded primary, regardless of 'incumbency.' And, no matter who might be appointed, it will likely be a crowded primary.

I don't know if Justice Freeman is stepping down soon or not. I've heard the same rumors that the Tribune and the News Gazette have heard -- but I didn't run them. Why not? Well, for one thing, I hear lots of rumors -- in the March primary, for example, there was certainly going to be one, and maybe even two, 9th Subcircuit vacancies, and a second vacancy in the 3rd Subcircuit besides... but these vacancies did not materialize. If I could figure out which rumors were true and which were false, I'd be able to predict the future. And if I could predict the future, I'd head over to the Rivers Casino. Just for one afternoon -- no sense being greedy.

But, whatever. Let's assume that Justice Freeman really is looking to step down soon so that a Supreme Court vacancy would need to be filled in 2020. I submit that this is what the newspapers want us to assume -- without their having to squander any credibility by reporting this rumor as news.

So, now that we know what the papers intend, what are we to make of the stories themselves?

The Tribune thinks a blue-ribbon committee should screen applicants for the position and that the Supreme Court should appoint a temporary replacement based on the committee's recommendation, without any tawdry political considerations.

Sometimes the Tribune can be so charmingly naive.

A committee is too often just a group of persons recruited to ratify a decision already made. While two of our three First District Supreme Court justices have screening committees for Circuit Court appointments, to judge by the comments I receive, FWIW readers are extraordinarily skeptical about them. And I'm being polite. Personally, I think that any process that brings to the attention of the appointing justices persons that might not otherwise be considered is worthwhile -- but, I admit, based on observation, there are very few true surprises that have to date emerged from existing screening committees.

So the News-Gazette's approach strikes me as more practical.

The Downstate paper suggests that the Court should appoint a temporary replacement who will not run in 2020.

Someone like Caswell Crebs.

Not actually Crebs, of course, inasmuch as he is not available on account of the fact that he died in 1988.

Now it may not be just the Millennials who are scratching their heads at this point. But let me explain.

Crebs hailed from Carmi, in White County, Illinois. He was elected a Circuit Judge in the far Downstate 2nd Circuit in 1945 and he retired in 1964.

But, in 1969, the Supreme Court called Crebs out of retirement to fill the 5th District vacancy created by the death of Justice Byron O. House. Crebs didn't run for the vacancy; the vacancy was subsequently filled by Justice Joseph H. Goldenhersh. Justice Crebs did such a good job of not running for that vacancy that, in 1975, when a Second District vacancy opened up, following the resignation of Justice Charles H. Davis, the Supreme Court invited Crebs back. He didn't run for that vacancy either (Justice Thomas H. Moran was elected to that vacancy).

Let me state the obvious: Nobody on the Supreme Court confides in me.

But I'd be shocked if every justice didn't have someone in mind for Justice Freeman's seat, should he choose to give it up. There might even be some agreement among a couple of them about who might be the best choice. And maybe that person might be acceptable to the political powers-that-be, and the unions, and the media, and the bar groups, and whoever else thinks they get to stick their oar in before the people get to choose. And if such a consensus candidate emerges, God bless him or her; that person will surely be appointed -- and then we'll see whether incumbency really does help a Supreme Court candidate.

But... if that consensus candidate does not emerge... maybe the Court might want to look at its history... and seek out a new Caswell Crebs. Someone who will not run in 2020.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Looking more at the 2018 Associate Judge finalists - part 3

Updated May 1, 2018

Concluding today, FWIW has been looking -- in alphabetical order -- at the 34 Cook County Associate Judge finalists. For Part 1, click here; for Part 2, scroll down or click here.

The immediate Past President of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers, Curtis Bennett Ross is a family law practitioner, practicing from the Loop Law Offices of Curtis Bennett Ross, LLC. Licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1980, according to ARDC, Ross's firm website also notes that he is a Certified Public Accountant.

Judge Robin D. Shoffner was unsuccessful in her bid to hold the 8th Subcircuit seat she now holds pursuant to Supreme Court appointment. She also sought a 5th Subcircuit vacancy in 2016.

Before her first judicial appointment, in 2014, Shoffner was trial attorney for the Federal Civil Rights Division of the Corporation Counsel's Office. She also worked as Senior Litigation Counsel for Aon Risk Services, and with the law firm currently known as Albert, Whitehead, P.C. Shoffner is a former President of the Black Women Lawyers' Association and as a past board member of the Cook County Bar Association. She was licensed to practice law in Illinois in 1990.

Levander Smith Jr. is an attorney with the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services. He has been licensed in Illinois since 1993. A fairly recent transfer to the Chicago area, Smith previously applied for an associate judgeship in far Downstate St. Clair County in 2013 and 2015.

Trina Smith is an Attorney Supervisor with the Public Defender's Office. She has been licensed in Illinois since 1999.

Judge Patrick Thomas Stanton was appointed to the Circuit Court in late 2016. He was unsuccessful in his bid to hold that 3rd Subcircuit seat in the March primary.

Before his elevation to the bench, Stanton was a member of Dykema Gossett, serving as managing partner of the firm's Chicago office and head of Dykema's firm-wide Business Litigation practice group. Stanton has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1993. He began his legal career with Jones Day, leaving that position to become a law clerk to U.S. District Court Judge George Marovich. After completing his clerkship, Stanton joined the firm of Schwartz Cooper, rising to partner in that firm and serving on its executive committee. He joined Dykema in 2008.

Lisa M. Taylor practices with Schwartz Gilligan Ltd. She has been licensed in Illinois since 2001. She previously worked for Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP.

Daniel Alexander Trevino is a partner with Hinshaw Culbertson. A former President of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, Trevino's current practice focuses on products liability transportation litigation. He has been with Hinshaw since 1999, the year he received his license to practice law in Illinois.

Trevino appeared before Democratic Party slatemakers last year, seeking endorsement for a countywide vacancy, but he was not a candidate in the March 2018 primary.

Lynn Karyl Weaver-Boyle is a partner in the Chicago office of Grotefeld Hoffmann Schleiter Gordon & Ochoa, LLP.

Weaver-Boyle began her career as a Cook County Assistant State's Attorney, where she tried 50 felony cases. Her practice now focuses on large loss property subrogation, construction defects and product liability matters. She has been licensed in Illinois since 1990. Weaver-Boyle also sought the Democratic Party's endorsement this past year for a countywide vacancy, but did not run when an endorsement was not forthcoming.

James Adolph Wright is Of Counsel to the firm of Chico & Nunes, P.C. Licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1989, Wright has also served as Chief of Staff for the Chicago Board of Education, as Inspector General for the Illinois Toll Highway Authority, and as the Executive Inspector General ("EIG") for the Agencies, Board and Commissions under the Illinois Governor, (the Office of the Executive Inspector General, or "OEIG"). Wright obtained a CPA in 1981 and also holds an MBA.

William Yu is counsel in the Chicago office of Ulmer & Berne LLP. He focuses his practice on class action litigation, products liability, construction, transportation, and professional liability. He was previously a Partner with Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP and Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP. Licensed in Illinois since 1996, Yu began his career in the Municipal Prosecution Division of the City of Chicago’s Corporation Counsel.

Yu is a past President of the Asian American Bar Association of Chicago. He has also served on the inaugural Executive Committee of the Alliance of Minority Bar Associations and is on the Advisory Board of the Korean American Bar Association of Chicago.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Looking more at the 2018 Associate Judge finalists - part 2

Updated April 30, 2018

Fourteen down, 20 to go. FWIW is looking---in alphabetical order---at the persons who have made the 2018 'Short List' for Cook County Associate Judge. Scroll down, or click here for part 1.

The Illinois Supreme Court appointed Judge Myron Franklin Mackoff to an 8th Subcircuit vacancy in late 2016. He could not that seat in the March primary.

Mackoff, the son of longtime Circuit Court Judge Benjamin Mackoff, has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1994. Following his graduation from Northwestern University School of Law, Mackoff worked for several years in the Illinois Attorney General's Environmental Law Division. In 2002, Mackoff left the AG's office to join Hubert, Fowler, & Quinn, later known as the Hubert Law Group. After Donald Hubert's death, in 2006, Mackoff was chosen to wind down the affairs of the firm. Mackoff and Travis Richardson, now also a Circuit Court judge, became law partners in 2007.

Celestia Laurene Mays is a former President of the Cook County Bar Association. Licensed in Illinois since 1990, Mays practices law as Celestia L. Mays, P.C., with an office in Chicago's Loop.

Mays filed for a 5th Subcircuit vacancy in the 2016 primary, but withdrew from the race.

Judge Stephanie Kathryn Miller was appointed to a 6th Subcircuit vacancy in January 2017. She did not hold the seat in the March primary.

Miller was licensed to practice law in Illinois in 1999. An Assistant State's Attorney at the time of her appointment to the bench, Miller has also worked as an Assistant Public Guardian. A member of the Board of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago and co-founder of the National LGBT Prosecutor’s Association, Miller has also served as the treasurer of the National Hispanic Prosecutor’s Association, and the LGBT committee chair for the Hispanic Lawyers’ Association of Illinois.

After 19 years as a Cook County Assistant State's Attorney, Lisette Catherine Mojica recently joined the City of Chicago Law Department, where she now serves as a deputy supervisor and the City Prosecutor. Mojica supervises over 30 attorneys in the Legal Information & Prosecutions Division, which includes traffic prosecutions at the Daley Center, City ordinance violations at five municipal branch courts, administrative notices of violation prosecutions at the Department of Administrative Hearings, and Freedom of Information Act litigation in Chancery Court. She is active in HLAI, the PRBA, and regularly participates in Women Everywhere through the WBAI.

Tisa Lynne Morris has been licensed to practice law in Illinois since 1991. A former Cook County Assistant State's Attorney, Morris was Chief Administrator of the Chicago Police Department's Office of Professional Standards from 2004 to 2007.

After leaving OPS, Morris returned to the State's Attorney's Office, rising to Chief of the Juvenile Justice Bureau at the time of her departure earlier this year. Morris now is a sole practitioner.

Margaret Mary Ogarek has been with the State's Attorney's Office since receiving her law license in 1999. She currently serves as a Wing Supervisor in the SAO's Felony Trial Division. From 2011 until earlier this year Ogarek was Deputy Supervisor in the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Division.

Ogarek has served on the boards of several groups including the Coalition to Improve Prosecution of Criminal Sexual Assault and the National Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (Legal Committee Co-Chair, FBI Working Group).

Diane Marie Pezanoski is a Deputy Corporation Counsel with the City of Chicago in the Law - Aviation, Environmental, Regulatory and Contracts Workgroup. She has been licensed in Illinois since 1985.

Leo Steven Rakowski is a partner with K & R Family Legal Services, LLP in Northbrook. Licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1990, Rakowski is a former President of the Advocates Society and serves as a director of the Polish American Association.

Rakowski has also volunteered as an attorney and director of the Amicus Poloniae Legal Clinic, receiving its 2008 Distinguished Service Award. He has also served as general counsel and volunteer with Chicagoland Golden Gloves Charity.

Judge Travis Richardson was appointed to the Circuit Court in February 2017, soon after the appointment of his one-time law partner, Myron Mackoff.

Richardson was a candidate for 2nd Subcircuit vacancies in both 2016 and 2018, garnering the endorsement of the Chicago Tribune in both races. Richardson also served as a Hearing Examiner for the Chicago Board of Elections between 2010 and 2012. He has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1997.

Lori Michele Rosen is a Cook County Assistant State's Attorney. She has been licensed in Illinois since 1996.

Part 3 of this look at the persons on the Short List will follow as soon as possible. This post will be updated as necessary.