Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Benchmark PAC issues recommendations in Cook County judicial races

The Benchmark PAC for Cook County Judges LLC was established last May. Benchmark's stated purpose, according to the materials filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections, is to promote the election of qualified, experienced judicial candidates.

Benchmark PAC now has a website and a voting guide noting all candidates that it recommends for the forthcoming primary (for .pdf list, click here.

Benchmark's stated criteria for recommending candidates is as follows:
  • at least RECOMMENDED or QUALIFIED by ALL Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening groups and the Chicago Bar Association;
  • at least 15 years in law practice; and
  • analysis of public write-ups from the Chicago Council of Lawyers, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Chicago Bar Association
However, Benchmark has 'recommended' no more than one candidate in each race even though, in at least some races, more than one candidate may meet these criteria.

I asked Benchmark's founder, Susana Darwin, whether, under these circumstances, it might be appropriate to consider these recommendations as Benchmark's endorsements. In an email response, Darwin responded, "The definition of 'endorsement' you offer is consistent with my understanding."

However, she added, "More than 20 years of evaluating judicial candidates with the Alliance – which has long taken a stern view of characterizing a rating as an endorsement – has probably prejudiced me against the term."

Darwin served in different leadership roles with the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago and its Judicial Evaluation Committee for 25 years. After LAGBAC joined the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening, Darwin served for another decade on the Alliance's executive committee, including two years as co-chair. Full disclosure: In 2008, when I first attempted some systematic coverage of Cook County judicial elections, Darwin was one of my very first regular readers and commenters, for which I remain grateful.

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