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


Anonymous said...

With all due civility, no thanks. Has been making Associate Judge money since 1998 (20 years!) now gets the Circuit Judge bug. Reach into your own pocket, Judge, and fund your own effort to bump your pension. Granted, the difference in the monthly tier one pension between Associate and Circuit mat seem moderate; however, over the average life of the pension the total amount is substantial. Judge Marianne Jackson made this same move in the 7th subcircuit several years ago, who like Betar, was first appointed to a vacancy by the Illinois Supreme Court. Our State is broke and State pensions are not fully funded and yet this is allowed?

Jack Leyhane said...

Anon 5/14 @2:27 p.m. -- Ordinarily, I'd flush your mean-spirited comment ('all due civility' indeed) but I let it through because I wanted to address the pension comment.

After 20 years as an AJ, I believe Judge Betar had a full judicial pension. An AJ who accepts a Circuit Court appointment risks loss of a job that he or she presumably enjoyed by being thrust into the electoral arena. And for what? The distinctions between assignments available to AJs and full circuit judges has eroded significantly over the years. AJs have sat in the Chancery and Law Divisions both -- something that would have been unheard of just a few decades back. Exactly what motivates a candidate probably varies from person to person, but it is my understanding that a person in Judge Betar's position -- with 20 years service -- would not have to run in order to get whatever pension increase is involved. The appointment alone would have been sufficient.

Also, suppose Judge Betar turned down the appointment. Would the person appointed instead of Judge Betar forego the pension? Probably not, right? So where is the extra burden on the pension system?

Judge Betar's acceptance of the appointment also creates a vacancy for a new AJ, a new opportunity for someone else to enter judicial service.

We do have enormous pension problems in this state. But there are multiple pension funds and judges are in a separate fund -- a fund which, if I understand correctly, is in the best shape of any of them mainly because judges make greater contributions to their pensions from their own paychecks, more than participants in other, less fully funded, pension funds. I trust that someone smarter than me will correct me if I am mistaken on this -- but I think I am on fairly solid ground here.

Anonymous said...

Since he has 20 years of Judicial service and is currently a Circuit Judge, if he lost he would already be vested for a judicial pension at the Circuit Judge salary base because he is in Tier 1 with basis of last salary. So whether he wins or loses will have no effect on his pension. Using $200,000 as a round number for Circuit salary, then (assuming he is over 60), he could not run and get 85% - $170,000 a year in pension.

Therefore he is running to get paid about $30,000 more than he could for doing nothing (or practicing law & making even more). Sounds like a good deal to the taxpayers for a competent judge.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Leyhane, this comment is absolutely NOT in regard to Judge Betar, as I have never met him and have no reason to question his motives. I have, however, been approached through the years by more than a few Associate Judges who wanted to discuss the viability of running for Circuit Judgeships if they accepted Supreme Court appointments to vacancies. All of these Associate Judges were fully vested in their judicial pensions, and were cognizant of the reality that if they lost their elections they would be retiring from the Bench. The general mindset of these Judges was that the actual risk was minimal as they felt they already crossed the finish line and were done. By accepting an appointment they would, in fact, "bump" their pensions, which was a good thing. I do not necessarily agree with Comment One but I also do not agree with your response. I believe the truth for most judges may be somewhere in between, but have no doubt that money and pensions are certainly considerations. Finally, I do believe it is taking advantage of the system for a Judge to serve for ten or fifteen or twenty years at the Associate salary level and then retire at the Circuit salary level after serving a short time at that level through Supreme Court appointment. A little too greedy in my estimation.

Jack Leyhane said...

Anon 5/15 @ 9:37 p.m. -- I had to read your comment a couple of times to try and figure out where you and I disagree.

I guess what makes you, and no doubt others, uncomfortable is the fact that, with public pensions, the last paycheck (if larger) increases the pension to some extent. The income differential between the salary of a full circuit judge and an AJ is pretty minimal, so the 'bump' is not that large. I don't know the exact mechanics -- I never had the opportunity to participate in the plan -- I hope someone can help us out here.

But there have been documented instances of school superintendents who were given ginormous pay 'increases' on the eve of their retirement -- one or two big paychecks for the school district, but a huge uptick in the retiree's pension -- even if the pension amount is calculated on some average as opposed to the final paycheck alone. School superintendents are in a different pension plan, of course, but we in the unpensioned public have a tendency to view all public pensions as the same, and, in cases like these, under the most charitable construction, the huge pre-retirement 'raise' must be seen as unseemly -- and straight out larcenous isn't an unreasonable characterization either. The splashy exposés of these taxpayer-fleecing arrangements have no doubt colored your perception here. They certainly have impacted mine -- but, as lawyers, we can make reasoned distinctions.

I'm also impressed by the argument advanced by Anon 5/15 @ 10:39 a.m. -- I admit it's one I've heard before -- that a judge who is fully vested but continues to work is actually saving money for the taxpayers. If the fully vested judge retired and pulled a pension, we the people would be paying $170,000 or so to that person -- and paying another $190,000 or $200,000 to his or her replacement. Every year we can keep such a person 'in harness' -- assuming he or she is continuing to do the job effectively -- amounts to a boon for the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

When Alderman Tom Allen took the bench, his brother-in-law Tim Cullerton became 38th Ward Alderman. At the time he was a retired Chicago Inspector whose pension was about $105,000 a year, which was suspended when he returned to city employment as an Alderman, which pays about $115,000. Therefore, he was putting up with all the hassle of being an Alderman for essentially $10,000 a year, which he stated as a major reason why he chose not to run for re-election after one term.

Anonymous said...

The waters are getting muddied. The issue is simply the appropriateness or ethics of Associate Judges who are fully vested in their pensions pursuing Circuit Judgeships. The issue has nothing to do with whether or not a fully vested judge works beyond the time period they fully vest. Judge Betar, or any Associate Judge, may continue to work past vesting and remain in their current Associate positions. That is what makes it a good deal for taxpayers, not moving from Associate to Circuit positions. The idea of fully vested Associates pursuing Circuit position does make me feel (as Mr. Leyhane describes) uncomfortable. The additional pension benefit Circuit Judges enjoy over Associates does add up over the years of a long retirement. But what makes me most uncomfortable are individuals (and I am not referring to Judge Betar as this is just a general observation) who continue working after vesting in a decent pension. Go home and spend time with your family. Go fishing for God's sake. Enjoy your life and the people you love - time and good health are too precious to be wasted in later years toiling at work. I know this all too well.

Anonymous said...

2020 will be the year of the Associate Judge revolt where several will seek "promotion" because their tier 2 pension sucks and they want to sweeten their nest egg. And all you government lawyer clock-watchers who yearn for a cushier job better start circulating your petitions because after 2022, there will be fewer and fewer vacancies to fill. The tier 2's won't be able to retire and will stay longer and longer and longer . . . until they make Judge Alexander White look youthful. By the way, when is he retiring so we can convert that vacancy into a subcircuit? And when will Hall and Solganick and Toomin finally leave. Leave already!

Anonymous said...

Finally, I appreciate the fact that an observer has noted that some judges have already served their full 20 years service and are eligible for full pensions upon retirement, but instead, continue to serve instead of retirement.The number of judges statewide in this category is staggering. Yes, they are saving the taxpayers from pension payouts and probably diminishing their pension payout because they still enjoy their service. Is the judicial pension program underfunded? Absolutely thanks to the legislative branch that paid their pet projects instead of their responsibility to fund the state's obligations. And before you further criticize the judiciary for their underfunded pension, ask what other state or local government employee deducts 11 % of their annual salary, (off the top) to contribute to this pension fund? Year in and year out, the judges contributed their 11% while the lawmakers shirked their responsibility. Yes, Judge Betar may certainly benefit his pension by this appointment, but if all the judges that continue serving yet have fully vested pensions decided to retire tomorrow, the pension fund would be exhausted and the state would have to bail out this underfunded investment.