Monday, October 15, 2018

Injustice Watch offers useful tool for retention voters

Injustice Watch has a nifty Voters' Guide for persons looking for more information about Cook County Circuit Court judges on this year's retention ballot. Here is a link to that guide.

Injustice Watch certainly has a point of view. Some readers will applaud its advocacy, some may be far less enthusiastic. But there's no denying that, from a technical point of view, the Injustice Watch Voters' Guide is easy to navigate and chock-full of information. I'm jealous.

The Injustice Watch site uses "flags" to call attention to particular retention candidates; several candidates are flagged more than once. Here are the flags used on the Injustice Watch Voters' Guide:


I wonder about the use of "former prosecutor" or "former public defenders" as "flag" points. This is biographical information at most -- unless the judge in question has been unable to shed the role of advocate for the neutral judicial role. But, at that point, what was in the judge's past would not be the problem; it would be the judge's present behavior that would be worrisome. Injustice Watch has published a number of stories in this election cycle about a few judges who appear to 'lean' toward the State in criminal cases -- and these are all linked from the Voters' Guide -- but it has 'flagged' 16 former prosecutors (and nine former PDs). As it happens, and as these flags prove, service in the State's Attorney's Office or as a Public Defender is a frequent item in judicial résumés. Other well-worn paths to the bench go through the Attorney General's Office or the Chicago Corporation Counsel's Office. So... what's the significance of these two particular prior occupations supposed to be?

The Injustice Watch also offers 'side by side' comparisons of candidates seeking the five contested subcircuit vacancies (you'll have to scroll down a bit for these).

Here are some other posts (with links to sites) that retention voters (and voters in the contested subcircuit races) may find of interest:

Advocates Society Judges' Night this Thursday, October 18

The Advocates Society will hold its Annual Judges' Night this Thursday, October 18, from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m., at the Polish Museum of America, 984 North Milwaukee Avenue.

Each year the Advocates Society invites every current sitting Cook County judge, and all surrounding county presiding judges, for an event that has no speeches, no assigned seating, but does have dinner.

Tickets will be available at the door -- $75 for non-Advocates members, $50 for Advocates members (including guests of judges and retired judges). Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. Free parking is available behind the museum. For more information, or to reserve tickets, email Lucas Figiel at lucas@figlaw.com.

Who Sits Where -- 2018 isn't over and we're already looking at 2020

While voters are still trying to figure out who's on the November ballot, wannabe candidates, their confidants, and their consultants are already looking ahead to 2020.

So what are they looking at?

What follows is not a comprehensive list of Cook County judicial vacancies but, rather, a list of vacancies that have either been filled by Supreme Court appointment or for which an application process has been announced or that I am pretty sure exist even though no announcement has been made. Some of the "vacancies" listed below aren't yet vacant -- but the current officeholder chose not to file for retention. There are likely to be other vacancies which the Supreme Court has neither filled nor announced. And, of course, new vacancies will occur in the ordinary course. I can and will update as necessity requires and opportunity permits.

But we all have to start somewhere.

As always, all errors of omission or commission in this list are mine alone and I am grateful for additions and corrections provided.

Supreme Court Vacancy

Vacancy of the Hon. Charles E. Freeman -- P. Scott Neville, Jr.

Appellate Court Vacancies

Vacancy of the Hon. P. Scott Neville, Jr. -- Michael B. Hyman*
Vacancy of the Hon. John B. Simon -- John C. Griffin

Countywide Vacancies

Vacancy of the Hon. Carole K. Bellows -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Raymond Funderburk -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Jessica A. O'Brien -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Sebastian T. Patti -- Unfilled

Subcircuit Vacancies

1st Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Rodney Hughes Brooks -- Unfilled

2nd Subcircuit
"A" Vacancy** -- Unfilled

6th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Marya Nega -- Unfilled

8th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. John J. Fleming -- Jeanne Marie Wrenn***
Vacancy of the Hon. Deborah J. Gubin -- Unfilled

9th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Marvin F. Luckman -- Unfilled

14th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Robert Bertucci -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. William G. Lacy -- Unfilled

15th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. John C. Griffin -- Nichole C. Patton

----------------------------------------------------------------
* Justice Hyman is a Cook County Circuit Court judge sitting by appointment to the Appellate Court. The language of the Supreme Court's order appointing Justice Hyman to this vacancy suggests that, unless he runs for, and wins a seat on the Appellate Court in 2020, he will return to his original position as a Circuit Court judge. For this reason I have not included a "Hyman vacancy" among the countywide openings.

** Vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Alexander White.

*** Judge Wrenn was appointed to this vacancy, but she is unopposed on the November ballot for election to the 8th Subcircuit vacancy of the Hon. Sheryl Pethers. As of the first Monday in December, this vacancy will reopen.

Friday, October 12, 2018

ISBA releases explanations of its ratings in contested subcircuit elections

Voters in the far north-suburban 12th Subcircuit and far south-suburban 15th Subcircuit will have a say in the election of one judge each. Voters in the far northwest suburban 13th Subcircuit will have a say in the election of three judges.

The Illinois State Bar Association has issued ratings for the candidates in each of these contested races. (To access the complete ISBA reports for all judicial candidates on the November ballot, including retention candidates, visit this page of the ISBA website.)

Here are the ISBA's evaluations of candidates in the contested subcircuit contests:

12th Subcircuit

Vacancy of the Hon. William O. Maki

David Studenroth (R) – Qualified

David Studenroth has been licensed since 1987. After several years working for the State’s Attorney’s Office, in 1998 he opened his solo practice focusing on criminal defense. He has substantial trial experience and is considered knowledgeable with a good temperament and high character. He is active in his community. Mr. David Studenroth is found to be Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Joel Chupack (D) – Qualified

Joel Chupack was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1982. He is currently a partner at Henrich & Kramer, focusing on real estate litigation, after working with several other firms as well. He has also served as a commercial arbitrator. Mr. Chupack has experience with both bench and jury trials, and also with appeals. He is considered to be very intelligent, a good researcher, and a patient person with high integrity. He has lectured on legal topics and is a past president of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers. In addition, he has been active with the ISBA on the Real Estate Section Council and the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee. Mr. Joel Chupack is found to be Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

13th Subcircuit

Vacancy of the Hon. Clayton J. Crane

Gary W. Seyring (R) – Qualified

Gary W. Seyring has been licensed since 1978. He is a sole practitioner and a CPA focusing on domestic relations, real estate, estate planning, and business law. He does have litigation experience in those areas. It is reported that he has good legal knowledge and is diligent with a good demeanor. Mr. Gary W. Seyring is found to be Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Ketki “Kay” Steffen (D) – Highly Qualified

Ketki “Kay” Steffen has been licensed since 1991. In November 2015 she was appointed to the circuit court, assigned to the Third District, until December 2016. She is currently an arbitrator for the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission. She also served as a circuit court judge by appointment from 2010 – 2013 and was then appointed to be an Administrative Law Judge for the Illinois Compensation Commission from 2013 – 2015. Before her original appointment to the bench, Ms. Steffen spent nineteen years with the State’s Attorney’s Office where she obtained extensive litigation experience. She is considered knowledgeable in a variety of areas of law and is highly regarded by attorneys who have appeared before her. Ms. Ketki Steffen is found to be Highly Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Vacancy of the Hon. Jeffrey Lawrence

Daniel Patrick Fitzgerald (R) – Qualified

Daniel Patrick Fitzgerald was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1991. He is currently a litigation attorney for the Walgreen's Corporation, focusing on health care litigation from case evaluation to settlement. Prior to that position, he was on the staff of the Office of inspector General, Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services; General Counsel for the Illinois Racing Board; and an assistant attorney general. Attorneys reported that he has a thorough understanding of the entire legal process, and is very good at analyzing legal issues, with high integrity. He has been active with the Northwest Suburban Bar association and active with civic affairs in Barrington Township. Mr. Daniel Patrick Fitzgerald is found to be Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Shannon P. O’Malley (D) – Not Recommended

Shannon P. O’Malley declined to participate in the judicial evaluation process. Pursuant to ISBA guidelines, Mr. Shannon P. O’Malley is found to be Not Recommended for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Vacancy of the Hon. Ann O’Donnell

Christine Svenson (R) - Qualified

Christine Svenson was admitted in 1995. She opened her own practice in 2008 focusing on domestic, chancery, workers’ compensation, and tort matters. She is also a mediator and an arbitrator and did civil litigation with two firms. She has minimal jury trial experience and some bench trial experience. Most attorneys reported positive comments on her diligence and she is considered to have sound knowledge of workers’ compensation. She has community involvement. Ms. Christine Svenson is found to be Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Samuel J. Betar, III (D) - Qualified

Samuel J. Betar III has been licensed since 1983. He was appointed to a full circuit court judgeship in July 2017, after serving as an associate judge since 1998. Judge Betar is currently assigned to Municipal District 3 (Rolling Meadows) and to the Domestic Violence Division. Prior to his election as an associate judge, he practiced with several firms doing commercial litigation. He is considered to be fair, even-keeled and will always research when needed. He is a co-founder of the Arab-American Bar Association, and teaches new judges. Judge Samuel J. Betar III is found to be Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

15th Subcircuit

Vacancy of the Hon. Frank G. Zelezinski

Karla Marie Fiaoni (R) – Not Qualified

Karla Marie Fiaoni was admitted in1989. Since 2001 she has been a solo practitioner focusing on criminal defense, domestic relations and administrative hearings. Prior to opening her practice, she was an assistant state’s attorney for five years, both the police chief and superintendent for Chicago Heights, and the Project Director, Domestic Violence unit Chicago Heights. Reports from attorneys about her legal knowledge ranged from adequate to excellent; concerns were raised over her lack of complex cases, and also over reports that at times cases lingered too long unnecessarily. Incomplete and inadequate answers to the Alliance questionnaire also raised concerns about diligence and organization. Ms. Karla Marie Fiaoni is found to be Not Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Scott McKenna (D) – Qualified

Scott McKenna was admitted in 1996. He is currently a partner at Best, Vanderlaan & Harrington, concentrating on civil litigation. He joined that firm in 2005,
after working at several other private firms. He has substantial civil jury experience, and is considered to be well-prepared, even-keeled and punctual. He has lectured on legal issues. Mr. Scott McKenna is found to be Qualified for election to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

* * * * * * * * *
The ISBA provides an explanation of its judicial evaluation processes on this page of its website. The ISBA also evaluates judicial candidates Downstate -- which, in this usage, means everywhere outside Cook County. The Downstate evaluation process is also explained on the linked page.

ISBA narratives on retention judges now available

The Illinois State Bar Association has found all but three of the 59 Cook County Circuit Court judges seeking retention to be "qualified" for retention.

The ISBA's complete report on retention candidates can be found at this link.

The three judges singled out by the ISBA as not worthy of retention are Judges Lionel Jean-Baptiste, Andrea Schleifer, and James M. Varga.

Of Judge Jean-Baptiste, the ISBA states:
Judge Jean-Baptiste is assigned to Domestic Relations. Licensed to practice law in Illinois in 1991, he was in private practice before his election to the circuit court in 2012. He was previously assigned to First Municipal. He is a member of several bar associations and has received some community awards.

While he is generally considered to have a good temperament, attorneys raised concerns over the depth and breadth of his legal knowledge, his diligence and his courtroom management skills. They report, in general, that he needlessly continues matters ready for a hearing, does not wish to conduct trials, doesn’t always follow the law, and appears to mediate cases from the bench.

For the 2018 General Election, the Illinois State Bar Association finds the Hon. Lionel Jean-Baptiste not qualified for retention as a judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
With regard to Judge Schleifer, the ISBA reports:
Judge Schleifer is currently assigned to Domestic Relations. Admitted to the Illinois bar in 1979, she was mainly a sole practitioner until her appointment to the circuit court in 2011. She was subsequently elected in 2012. She was previously assigned to Forcible Entry and Detainer, and Traffic. She is active with many bar associations.

While acknowledging that she has been very active in efforts to foster diversity and inclusions, and her long experience, attorneys were very divided in their assessment of her current legal knowledge and ability and temperament. Some felt that she was outstanding, while others reported that she either does not know the current law or does not apply it properly. These same attorneys also reported concerns with her temperament and that, at times, she appears to be close-minded. Some of these attorneys also reported that there were times when she appeared to be unsure of, or incorrect about, the status of cases before her.

For the 2018 General Election, the Illinois State Bar Association finds the Hon. Andrea M. Schleifer not qualified for retention as a judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
As to Judge Varga, the ISBA states:
Judge Varga is assigned to the Law Division – Trial Section. Licensed to practice law in 1978, he was both an assistant state’s attorney and a private practitioner before his election to the circuit court in 1994. He has been retained three times, and was previously assigned to the Law Division. He has done some writing on legal issues.

Attorneys do speak highly of his legal knowledge, his punctuality and his fairness. Concerns about temperament, however, have been an ongoing issue, and while Judge Varga has taken some steps to ameliorate those concerns, attorneys report that those issues still exist, and that he does not, perhaps, recognize the ongoing extent of the issue.

For the 2018 General Election, The Illinois State Bar Association finds the Hon. James M. Varga not qualified for retention as a judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Tribune announces choices for retention ballot, contested subcircuit seats

I begin, as I almost always seem to do when talking about the Tribune, with a complaint.

In yesterday's editorial announcing its preferences on Cook County judges seeking retention this November, the Tribune intones:
This year, 59 Cook County Circuit Court judges are seeking retention. They’re near the end of the ballot, listed in seemingly random order. How are you supposed to cast an informed vote?
Did you pick up the objectionable phrase?

If you said "seemingly random order" give yourself a gold star for critical news-reading abilities.

As the Tribune editorialists know, or should know, judges are listed on the retention ballot grouped according to when they were first elected (for this election, 1988, 1994, 2000, 2006, and 2012) and in alphabetical order within each class. Thus, the judges first elected in 2012 are at the very bottom of the long retention ballot, in alphabetical order. Above them, also in alphabetical order, are those first elected in 2006.

Now, perhaps that's too windy an explanation for the dwindling cadre of newspaper readers. I understand.

But, if a newspaper need not always educate, it can at least try to avoid being misleading. If the Tribune had merely said that the retention judges are listed "in order of seniority," that would at least be accurate, if incomplete. And that more accurate phrase would be shorter than the Tribune's choice of "seemingly random order," if only by a couple of letters.

The Tribune urges a "yes" vote for all judges seeking retention, with three exceptions.

The exceptions are Judges Maura Slattery Boyle, Matthew Coghlan, and Lisa Ann Marino. The Tribune's comments concerning each (along with their respective 'vote no' punch numbers) were as follows:
228: Judge Maura Slattery Boyle was rated “not qualified” by the Council of Lawyers. The group says she can be insensitive to criminal defendants and “issues very harsh sentences” compared to other judges. We’re more concerned about her track record for having cases reversed on appeal. The council’s report cites two examples in which the Appellate Court found evidentiary errors so serious that it sent the cases back with instructions to assign them to a different judge. That undermines confidence in our criminal justice system.

232: Judge Matthew Coghlan also was rated “not qualified” by the Council of Lawyers, which cited a case in which the Appellate Court twice overturned his decision not to grant a rehearing for a defendant who said he’d confessed to murder after being tortured by detectives working for disgraced Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge. Remarkably, the Cook County Democratic Party — which routinely urges a “yes” vote on all Democratic judicial candidates, regardless of performance — is recommending a “no” vote on Coghlan. That’s based largely on his alleged role as a prosecutor in two wrongful convictions.

314: The Chicago Bar Association singled out Judge Lisa Ann Marino as not worthy of retention. Elected in 2012, she apparently got off to a very bad start. The group’s investigation raised “significant concerns about Judge Marino’s work ethic, punctuality, diligence and knowledge of the law.” Cook County voters should demand more from a $202,000-a-year employee.
Not mentioned in the Tribune editorial, of course, is that Judges Slattery Boyle and Coghlan were both rated "qualified" for retention by the Chicago Bar Association. Also not mentioned is that Judge Marino was rated "qualified" by the Chicago Council of Lawyers.

So the Tribune's message is really we rely on the bar groups only when they agree with the conclusions we've already reached.

This, of course, is the Tribune's prerogative -- but why does the newspaper hide behind the bar associations?

Well, historically, newspaper editorials sprang naturally from newspaper reporting: The Daily Bugle would run five or six articles about corruption charges leveled against Alderman Filch or Congressman Grab and then publish an editorial calling for their resignations, defeat at the polls, or perhaps flogging in the public square.

However, a Lexis search this morning shows that, aside from mentioning Marino's election in 2012 (and an editorial at that time in which she was not endorsed for election), the Tribune never mentioned her name until yesterday's editorial. But Judge Marino is assigned to the First Municipal District’s Housing Section and also sits in the Mortgage Foreclosure/Mechanics Lien Section of the Chancery Division. The Tribune seldom covers civil courts.

Because they serve in the Criminal Courts, Judges Slattery Boyle and Coghlan pop up fairly often in a Lexis search of Tribune stories. But the late Jon Burge is not mentioned in any Tribune news story naming Coghlan. The Antonio Nicholas case that drew the particular attention of the Chicago Council of Lawyers was never mentioned in a Tribune news article. The word "harsh" was never used in a Tribune news article in conjunction with a sentence handed down by Judge Slattery Boyle; the word "reverse" or "reversal" pops up only once in a Tribune news story, from 2007, in which Judge Slattery Boyle allowed bond in the case of an 84-year old man accused of murdering his wife (Slattery Boyle reversing another judge's decision to deny bond entirely). Not once did a Tribune news story mention Slattery Boyle being reversed by an appellate court.

In contested subcircuit elections, the Tribune today announced the following choices:
12th Subcircuit, Maki vacancy

Democrat Joel Chupack, of Northbrook, was rated “highly qualified” by the Chicago Bar Association, which praised his “knowledge of the law, legal scholarship, legal ability and excellent temperament.” His private practice focuses on real estate law, and he has worked extensively as an arbitrator. Republican David Studenroth, of Glenview, is a former prosecutor who now is a criminal defense attorney; he also is a fine candidate. In a close call, our endorsement goes to Chupack.

13th Subcircuit, Crane vacancy

There are two familiar names in this race. Our endorsement goes to Republican Gary W. Seyring, a veteran litigator who is also a certified public accountant. Seyring, of Schaumburg, is a solo practitioner with four decades of experience, with emphasis on estate and tax planning and real estate, business and domestic relations law. Democrat Ketki “Kay” Steffen, of South Barrington, is a former prosecutor who served previously by appointment to the Circuit Court bench and as an administrative law judge for the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission. Seyring is endorsed.

13th Subcircuit, Lawrence vacancy

Republican Daniel Patrick Fitzgerald, of Barrington, got mixed reviews from bar associations. He’s still the easy choice in this race. Currently senior counsel for the Walgreen Co., Fitzgerald’s resume includes work for the Illinois attorney general’s office, the Illinois Racing Board and the office of the inspector general for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. While the CBA says “his court and trial experience is limited,” the Chicago Council of Lawyers found him qualified. Democrat Shannon P. O’Malley, of Hoffman Estates, ducked the evaluations and got thumbs down across the board. That goes for us, too. Fitzgerald is endorsed.

13th Subcircuit, O’Donnell vacancy

The CBA rated Republican Christine Svenson of Palatine “not recommended” based largely on harsh criticism from the Illinois Appellate Court over an appeal she filed that didn’t follow court rules, raising doubts about her legal ability. The Council of Lawyers noted “a few client complaints concerning her diligence” but found her qualified overall. The unambiguous choice is Samuel J. Betar III, a Barrington Democrat who was appointed a circuit judge last year after several years as an associate judge. He capably manages a busy courtroom, mentors new judges and is praised by the lawyers who appear before him. Betar is endorsed.

15th Subcircuit, Zelezinski vacancy

The Council of Lawyers says Republican Karla Marie Fiaoni, a former prosecutor and police chief of Chicago Heights, is a “zealous advocate” for her clients. The CBA gave her its highest rating and praised her “integrity, excellent demeanor, knowledge of the law and legal ability.” Four others, including the Illinois State Bar Association, said she’s not ready to be a judge. Her private practice focuses on criminal defense and family law. Democrat Scott McKenna of Tinley Park is better prepared for the job. McKenna is a veteran civil litigator with experience at the trial and appellate level. He is a partner and principal trial attorney in a private firm for which he also hires and mentors new attorneys. McKenna is endorsed.

IVI-IPO says no to three retention judges

The Independent Voters of Illinois - Independent Precinct Organization has recommended a "no" vote for three Cook County judges seeking retention on the November ballot. Singled out for a "no" vote by the group are Judges Maureen Slattery Boyle, Matthew E. Coghlan, and Mike McHale.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Resources for early voters looking to make informed choices about judges on the November ballot

Cook County judges seeking retention in 2018
Limited early voting is already underway for the November election, and the opportunities and locations for early voting will expand considerably on October 22.

So some visitors here may be looking to do their due diligence and figure out how to make informed choices about the many judicial races on the November ballot.

There are two types of judicial races on the ballot. First, there are elections to fill judicial vacancies -- to replace judges who have left the bench. For most Cook County voters, there are no choices to make here. All countywide races were decided in the March Democratic Primary; so too were most of the subcircuit races.

There are five exceptions. Voters in the 12th and 15th Subcircuits have to decide one contest in each of their respective subcircuits. Voters in the 13th Subcircuit will have choices in the election of three judges.

The second type of judicial race on the ballot is the retention election. Here, voters get to decide whether judges who were elected (for the most part) six years ago (or any multiple of six) shall be retained in office.

This year, there is one Supreme Court justice and one Appellate Court justice on the retention ballot. Justices of these courts are elected to 10 year terms. But, like their colleagues on the Circuit Court bench, they must also face the voters on the question of whether they shall be retained in office.

There are 59 Circuit Court judges seeking retention this year.

Some voters find the sheer number of retention candidates to be intimidating. But the Chicago Bar Association and the 11 bar groups that together comprise the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening have reviewed all the judges seeking retention and have weighed in with their opinions. The retention judges also have their own website that you can visit for information about jurists seeking to remain in office. (The photograph that accompanies this post was taken from that website.)

What follows are links to FWIW posts regarding the bar associations' evaluations of retention candidates and candidates seeking election in the five contested subcircuit races. You will note that opinions regarding some of these candidates differ. But this information will, hopefully, be of some use to voters:
If you're not voting early -- or not voting early yet -- check back with FWIW frequently. I'll be providing additional information and resources whenever I can.

And if you are voting early, I have some bad news for you: It won't make the commercials stop. I asked.

Chicago Bar Association releases ratings for candidates in contested subcircuit races

Voters in the far north-suburban 12th Subcircuit and far south-suburban 15th Subcircuit will have a say in the election of one judge each. Voters in the far northwest suburban 13th Subcircuit will have a say in the election of three judges.

The Chicago Bar Association has issued ratings for the candidates in each of these contested races. (To access the complete CBA report for all judicial candidates on the November ballot, including retention candidates, can be accessed from this page of the CBA website.)

Here are the CBA's evaluations of candidates in the contested subcircuit contests:

12th Subcircuit

Vacancy of the Hon. William O. Maki

JOEL CHUPACK --- HIGHLY QUALIFIED

Joel Chupack is “Highly Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Chupack was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1982 and is currently practicing with a small firm concentrating in real estate, probate, and civil litigation. Mr. Chupack has extensive practice experience and is highly regarded for his knowledge of the law, legal scholarship, legal ability, and excellent temperament. Mr. Chupack, who is actively involved in the legal profession, has published numerous legal articles and is a frequent speaker at continuing legal education seminars.

DAVID STUDENROTH --- QUALIFIED

David Studenroth is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Studenroth was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1987 and is currently engaged in private practice concentrating in criminal matters. Mr. Studenroth has extensive trial experience and is well regarded for his knowledge of the law, legal ability, diligence, and excellent temperament.

13th Subcircuit

Vacancy of the Hon. Clayton J. Crane

GARY WILLIAM SEYRING --- QUALIFIED

Gary William Seyring is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Seyring was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1978 and is currently engaged in private practice concentrating in family law, real estate, business law, and wills, trusts and estates. Mr. Seyring has commercial litigation experience and is well regarded for his knowledge of probate, tax and family law. Mr. Seyring is actively involved in community service and highly regarded by the judges before whom he has appeared.

KETKI SHROFF STEFFEN --- QUALIFIED

Judge Ketki Shroff Steffen is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Judge Steffen was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1991 and was first appointed to the Circuit Court in 2010. Judge Steffen served on the bench for two years and presided over traffic, civil and criminal domestic violence cases. From 2013 to November 2015, she served as an Administrative Law Judge Arbitrator for the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. Judge Steffen was reappointed to the Circuit Court in 2015 and is currently assigned to the First Municipal District where she presides over forcible detainer cases. Judge Steffen is diligent and highly regarded her knowledge of the law, judicial ability, and integrity.

Vacancy of the Hon. Jeffrey Lawrence

DANIEL PATRICK FITZGERALD --- NOT RECOMMENDED

Daniel Patrick Fitzgerald is “Not Recommended” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Fitzgerald was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1991 and is currently senior in-house counsel for a large corporation. Mr. Fitzgerald has worked as an in-house counsel for twelve (12) years and represents the company in a variety of civil litigation matters. Mr. Fitzgerald’s prior legal experience includes: serving as a law clerk to a Cook County Chancery Court Judge (2 years); Chicago’s Office of Inspector General (3 years); General Counsel, Illinois Racing Board (3 years); and Assistant Illinois Attorney General (6 years). While Mr. Fitzgerald has had a broad range of experience, his court and trial experience is limited. He does not possess the depth and breadth of legal knowledge and practice to effectively serve as a Circuit Court Judge.

SHANNON P. O’MALLEY --- NOT RECOMMENDED

Shannon P. O’Malley declined to participate in the Judicial Evaluation Committee (JEC) screening process and, therefore, according to The Chicago Bar Association’s governing resolution for the JEC, is automatically found NOT RECOMMENDED.

Vacancy of the Hon. Ann O’Donnell

SAMUEL J. BETAR, III --- HIGHLY QUALIFIED

Judge Samuel J. Betar, III is “Highly Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Judge Betar was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1983 and has served as a judge since 1998. Judge Betar has mentored new judges and has spoken at the state judicial conference. Judge Betar is actively involved in community service and is highly regarded for his knowledge of the law, effective management of his courtroom, and outstanding temperament.

CHRISTINE SVENSON --- NOT RECOMMENDED

Christine Svenson is “Not Recommended” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Svenson was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1995 and is currently a solo practitioner concentrating in family law, employment law, election law, and workers’ compensation matters. Concerns about Ms. Svenson’s knowledge of the law, legal ability, and practice experience were raised in the wake of harsh criticism that she received from the Illinois Appellate Court for not following the Appellate Court Rules in a recent appeal that she was handling. Ms. Svenson does not possess the requisite depth and breadth of legal knowledge and practice experience to effectively serve as a Circuit Court Judge.

15th Subcircuit

Vacancy of the Hon. Frank G. Zelezinski

KARLA MARIE FIAONI --- HIGHLY QUALIFIED

Karla Marie Fiaoni is “Highly Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Fiaoni was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1989 and is currently in private practice concentrating in criminal defense and domestic relations matters. Ms. Fiaoni has extensive trial and practice experience and is highly regarded for her integrity, excellent demeanor, knowledge of the law, and legal ability.

SCOTT MCKENNA --- QUALIFIED

Scott McKenna is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. McKenna was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1996 and is a partner in a small law firm concentrating in civil litigation and insurance defense. Mr. McKenna has extensive practice experience and is well regarded by his peers for his knowledge of the law and legal ability.

* * * * * * * * *
A complete explanation of the process followed by the Chicago Bar Association in evaluating judicial candidates is found in the "Judge Smart" Guide that can be accessed from the web page linked in the second paragraph of this post. Some excepts from that explanation follow:
The Investigative Process

The Committee's work begins when the candidate submits his or her completed questionnaire. The 16-page questionnaire for sitting judges, require the candidate to list personal, professional and judicial references and to provide the names of lawyers who have recently appeared before him or her. Candidates with fewer than four years on the bench are also asked to identify adversaries with whom they worked before taking the bench. Lawyer candidates are asked to provide detailed information about their jury and non-jury trial experiences, the names of five judges before whom they have appeared and a list of at least 20 lawyers who have represented adverse positions in matters handled by them.

All candidates are also asked to relate any present or recent health problems and to submit written authorizations signed by their doctors. Complaints against a candidate to the Attorney's Registration and Disciplinary Commission and the Judicial Inquiry Board are to be described, and relevant reports and correspondence submitted with the questionnaire. Criticism of professional misconduct, in any formal civil or criminal proceeding or in the media, must also be reported by the candidate.

The JEC obtained written materials dealing with the candidates' judicial performance from the major newspapers. In several cases, transcripts and other relevant, publicly available documents relating to official investigations of judges and court personnel were obtained from official sources.

The complete file was then assigned to a two-person investigation team. The investigators conducted personal interviews with the listed legal references. A specially assigned team of investigators reviewed the files of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and submitted to the investigators and the hearing panel a report on the information disclosed in those files. On completion of the interviews and a review of the file materials, the investigations team completed a comprehensive report regarding the qualifications of the candidate.

The Hearing Process

Hearings were conducted on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and on Saturday mornings. Hearing division members were randomly assigned, in accordance with the JEC resolution, to either of two hearing rooms by a blind drawing for room assignment. Typically, 12 to 15 JEC members were assigned to each room. Only at that time did they learn which candidates they would be evaluating and who the other members of the panel were. Each member of the hearing panel was provided with a copy of the investigator's report, a copy of the completed questionnaire with all material submitted by the candidate, and copies of any other relevant documents including, in some cases, newspaper clippings and transcripts of court proceedings.

Each member and the candidate execute a written oath to keep the nature and content of the report, questioning, and hearing confidential.

The JEC included in its investigation all possible sources of information available to it. However, because the Committee cannot compel the production of evidence or the attendance of witnesses before it nor, understandably, expect disclosure by the authorities of evidence discovered in pending investigations, the JEC cannot be assured that it has uncovered all the evidence which, in the future, may lead to formal charges. Within its authority, the JEC develops the most complete record available and gives careful and thoughtful consideration to the available evidence.

A member of the Executive Committee chaired each hearing. The candidate was advised of the procedures to be employed at the hearing and then questioned at length by the chair in regard to abilities, experiences, perceived strengths and weaknesses and, where appropriate, specific problems disclosed in the investigation. The chair then invited questions from members of the hearing panel. The candidate was then given an opportunity to make any statement he or she chose in his or her own behalf. On excusing the candidate from the hearing room, the chair then opened the floor to discussion of the candidate's qualifications among the panel members. Only after the members had been given the opportunity to openly voice their opinions was the issue of the finding of the JEC put to a vote.

The Vote

The hearing panel members voted by secret ballot and were asked to rate the candidate as “Highly Qualified,” "Qualified" or "Not Recommended.” The JEC’s governing resolution provides that to be found “Highly Qualified,” the candidate must receive that rating on 80% of the ballots. To be found “Qualified” the candidate must receive a favorable rating on 60% of the ballots. The failure of a candidate to receive 60 percent affirmative vote results in a finding of "Not Recommended." Each hearing panel member was also asked for written comments on the candidate’s qualifications, areas worthy of commendation and areas of needed improvement. Following a tabulation of the vote, the chair reviewed and capsulized the written comments in preparing the statement of reasons given in support of the Committee's finding.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Chicago Council of Lawyers evaluations in contested subcircuit elections

Voters in the far north-suburban 12th Subcircuit and far south-suburban 15th Subcircuit will have a say in the election of one judge each. Voters in the far northwest suburban 13th Subcircuit will have a say in the election of three judges.

The Chicago Council of Lawyers has issued ratings for the candidates in each of these contested races. (To access the complete Council report for all judicial candidates on the November ballot, including retention candidates, click here.)

Here are the Council's evaluations of candidates in the contested subcircuit contests:

12th Subcircuit

Vacancy of the Hon. William O. Maki

David Lawrence Studenroth -- Qualified

David Lawrence Studenroth was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1987. In 1987 he became an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney. In 1998 he began a solo practice focusing on criminal defense matters.

Mr. Studenroth is considered to have good legal ability and temperament. He has litigation experience and is reported to be a solid practitioner. The Council finds him Qualified for the Circuit Court.

Joel Chupack -- Qualified

Joel Chupack was admitted to practice in 1982. He is a partner in the private practice firm of Heinrich & Kramer P.C, with an emphasis in real estate related litigation, including foreclosure, tax deed, eviction, building court, mechanics’ liens, chancery actions, and probate. He has presided over 200 arbitrations as a member of the Commercial Panel of the American Arbitration Association. He reports having an active litigation practice. From 1986 to 1990 he was a litigation associate with McBride Baker & Coles. Mr. Chupak is active in Bar Association activities and has worked on real estate related legislation as a member of the ISBA Real Estate Section Council. He is considered to have good legal ability and is reported to be very knowledgeable about his areas of practice. He has a good temperament and is hard-working. He is praised for his work as an arbitrator. He has litigation experience. In general, Mr. Chupack is considered to be a good lawyer. The Council finds him Qualified for the Circuit Court.

13th Subcircuit

Vacancy of the Hon. Clayton J. Crane

Gary W. Seyring -- Qualified

Gary W. Seyring was admitted to practice in 1978. He is also a Certified Public Accountant. He is a solo practitioner focusing on domestic relations, real estate, estate planning, tax planning, and business law. A substantial percentage of Mr. Seyring’s practice involves litigation. He is considered to have good legal ability and temperament. The Council finds him Qualified for the Circuit Court.

Ketki Shroff Steffen -- Qualified

Ketki Shroff Steffen was admitted to practice in 1991. She was appointed to the bench by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2015 and served until December 2016. She was a career Assistant State’s Attorney for Cook County. She reports being lead counsel in 30 trials that have gone to a jury verdict and over 500 that have gone to a bench verdict. She has litigated 13 cases on appeal. Ms. Steffen is reported to have good legal ability and temperament. She enjoys a reputation as a trusted and experienced criminal law litigator. The Council finds her Qualified for the Circuit Court.

Vacancy of the Hon. Jeffrey Lawrence

Daniel P. Fitzgerald – Qualified

Daniel P. Fitzgerald was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1991. Since 2005, he has worked as a litigation attorney for the Walgreen Company, where he currently serves as Senior Counsel. He focuses on health care litigation but has also handled employment law and environmental law cases. Previously, he was Chief Legal Counsel and Chief of the Bureau of Administrative Litigation of the Office of the Inspector General, Illinois Department of Health Care and Family Services (2002-2005); General Counsel to the Illinois Racing Board (1999-2002); Assistant State’s Attorney in the Illinois Attorney General’s Office (1993-1999); and Judicial Law Clerk in the Cook County Circuit Court, Chancery Division (1991-1993).

Mr. Fitzgerald is considered to have good legal ability with a wide range of litigation and other legal experience. He has handled complex litigation on his own and as a supervisor of outside counsel. His is reported to possess a good temperament. The Council finds him Qualified for the Circuit Court.

Shannon P. O’Malley – Not Recommended

Shannon P. O’Malley did not participate in the evaluation process. The Council finds him Not Recommended for the Circuit Court.

Vacancy of the Hon. Ann O’Donnell

Alice Christine Svenson – Qualified

Alice Christine Svenson was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1995. She is the Principal at Svenson Law Offices, where she focuses on family law, federal and state election law, and employment law. Previously, she handled workers compensation cases at Stone and Johnson (Associate and Partner, 1998-2008) and at Ridge and Downes (Associate, 1995-1998). She has participated in serval bar associations including the Republican National Lawyers Association, where she served on the Board of Governors and as the Finance Chair and the Illinois State Chapter Chair. She has provided pro bono legal services to divorced fathers through the organization Fathers Helping Fathers.

Ms. Svenson has a variety of legal experiences, including litigation experience in workers compensation cases and domestic relations matters. She has relatively little recent trial experience, although she maintains a motion practice. Respondents say she has demonstrative good litigation skills and she is reported to have a good temperament. There have been a few client complaints concerning her diligence, but on balance, she appears to be a good practitioner. The Council finds her Qualified for the Circuit Court.

Hon. Samuel J. Betar III – Qualified

Hon. Samuel J. Betar, III was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1983. Since 2012, he has served as an Associate Judge assigned to the Third Municipal District, where he handles traffic, criminal, domestic violence, housing, civil and parentage matters. He was appointed as a Circuit Judge by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2017. His previous assignments include Domestic Relations, Third Municipal District (2003-2012), Post Judgment Collections, First Municipal District (1999-2003), and First Municipal District, Housing Court (1999). He was also an Associate at Arnold and Kadjan, where he handled labor law and litigation (1991-1998); an Associate at Kamensky and Rubinstein, where he handled commercial litigation (1986-1991), and an Associate at the Botti Law Firm (1983-1986). He is a member of several bar associations, including the Northwest Suburban bar association, where he has Co-Chaired the Matrimonial Law Committee.

Lawyers appearing before Judge Betar consider him to have good legal ability and to have good temperament. He is praised for his ability to manage a large call and for his patience and communication skills with litigants and lawyers. The Council finds him Qualified for the Circuit Court.

15th Subcircuit

Vacancy of the Hon. Frank G. Zelezinski

Karla Marie Fiaoni—Qualified

Karla Marie Fiaoni was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1989. Since 2001, she has been the Sole Practitioner and Owner of the Law Office of Karla Marie Fiaoni in Homewood, IL. Her legal practice is focused on criminal defense, family law, and Secretary of State Administration hearings. She has previously served as an Assistant State’s Attorney in the Cook County State’s Attorney Office (1989-1994), the Chief of Police of the City of Chicago Heights, IL (1994-1996), and Project Director of the Domestic Violence Unit of the City of Chicago Heights. She is a Member and Past President of two bar associations: the Women’s Criminal Defense Bar Association and the South Suburban Bar Association.

Ms. Fiaoni is considered to have good legal ability and temperament. She has a variety of legal experiences. She is respected as a solid lawyer who cares about her clients and who is a zealous advocate for them. Ms. Fiaoni has a range of experience which translates well into what is needed for her to be a good judge. The Council finds her Qualified for the Circuit Court.

Scott Darrell McKenna -- Qualified

Scott Darrell McKenna was admitted to practice in 1996. Mr. McKenna is currently a partner at Best, Vanderlaan & Harrington. He is the principal trial attorney for a caseload of approximately 175 civil cases. He also is responsible for interviewing and hiring attorneys, mentoring attorneys, reviewing client bills and management of the firm. From 1997 to 2000, Mr. McKenna was an associate at Richard B. Bogich & Associates (now known as Winters Salzetta O’Brien & Richardson). He handled plaintiff personal injury matters at both the trial and appellate levels. Mr. McKenna is considered to have good legal ability and temperament. His career includes law firm management and extensive experience as a litigator in civil matters. The Council finds him Qualified for the Circuit Court.

* * * * * * * * *

From the Council's explanation of its candidate ratings:
The Council rates candidates as “highly qualified,” “well qualified,” “qualified,” or “not qualified.” If a candidate refuses to submit his or her credentials to the Council, that candidate is rated “not recommended” unless the Council is aware of credible information that would justify a “not qualified” rating. Because we believe a willingness to participate in bar association and other public evaluations is a key indicator of fitness for public office, no candidate who refuses to be screened can be found “qualified.”

* * * *

The Council does not evaluate candidates based on their substantive views of political or social issues. Nor do we take into account the particular race in which a candidate is running or the candidates against whom a candidate is running. We apply a uniform standard for all countywide and subcircuit elections because judges elected through either method can be assigned to any judicial position in the Circuit Court.

Alliance grids in the five contested subcircuit races

* Stepping up on soapbox *

Many voters who did not participate in the March primaries will be surprised to find that, when they go to the polls on November 6 (or sooner, if voting early), nearly all of the Cook County judicial races are already decided.

No Republicans filed for any countywide Circuit Court vacancy. No Republicans filed for most Subcircuit vacancies.

For that matter, no Greens, no Conservatives, and no Libertarians filed for any countywide or subcircuit Circuit Court vacancy. There are candidates running under the banner of each of these parties on the November ballot -- but not in judicial races.

Accordingly, in all countywide and most Cook County subcircuit judicial races, the winners of the Democratic primaries -- back last March -- will take office on the first Monday in December.

Fortunately for all of us, all, or nearly all, of these presumptive winners are both good, qualified persons, and well-regarded by most of the evaluating bar groups besides. But this is not the way you learned how things are supposed to work back when you took civics.

Do schoolkids still take civics?

Anyway, some people will inevitably grouse that they had no choices in most Cook County judicial elections; some will use this as an argument that we should do away with the election of judges altogether. What these people should do instead is remember to vote in primaries in future... or, better still, work for the abolition of partisan judicial primaries... because electing judges in a partisan primary process could lead to the election of, you know, partisan judges -- which some people -- just looking at my news feeds recently -- seem to view as a bad idea.

* Stepping down from soapbox *

Voters in the far north-suburban 12th Subcircuit and far south-suburban 15th Subcircuit will have a say in the election of one judge each. Voters in the far northwest suburban 13th Subcircuit will have a say in the election of three judges.

The members of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening have issued ratings for the candidates in each of these contested races. The "grids" issued by the Alliance in these races follow (click on any image to enlarge or clarify):


Here is a "key" to the abbreviations used in the Alliance grids.


Raings provided by Alliance members are advisory only and do not constitute an endorsement of any candidacy.

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening is comprised of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area (AABA), the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago (BWLA), the Chicago Council of Lawyers (CCL), the Cook County Bar Association (CCBA), the Decalogue Society of Lawyers (DSL), the Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois (HBA), the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI), the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago (LAGBAC), the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois (PRBA), and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI), all working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Araujo and Schwind assigned to "administrative duties," referals made to JIB

Pursuant to action taken Wednesday by the Executive Committee of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Circuit Judge Mauricio Araujo and Associate Judge Richard D. Schwind have been reassigned to administrative duties. The assignments are effective until further notice.

The Executive Committee’s decision on the reassignments followed a meeting of the Circuit Court of Cook County Executive Committee convened by Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans.

Judge Araujo's reassignment came about because of conduct referred to in this prior FWIW post. The matter that got Judge Schwind reassigned is discussed in further detail in this post.

According to the press release issued by Chief Judge Evans's office last evening, the Executive Committee referred Judge Araujo to sexual harassment training and counseling and Judge Schwind to sensitivity training. Both matters have also been referred to the Judicial Inquiry Board.

Pursuant to Article VI, Section 15(c) of the 1970 Illinois Constitution, as amended, the Judicial Inquiry Board is authorized to receive, initiate, and investigate complaints concerning active Illinois state court judges. When warranted, it is the responsibility of the Judicial Inquiry Board to file a public complaint against a judge with another constitutional creation, the Illinois Courts Commission. In that instance the JIB serves as prosecutor and the Courts Commission decides what sanction, if any, will be entered against the judge.

The process followed by the JIB in responding to complaints is detailed at this page of the JIB website.

Essentially, though, when presented with a complaint, the JIB may close the complaint because it does not sufficiently allege misconduct or incapacity under the law, investigate the complaint to determine whether the allegations may be well-founded, or require the judge to appear before the board to answer questions regarding the alleged incapacity or misconduct.

Only if the JIB takes the next step, that of filing a complaint with the Courts Commission, will the JIB's evaluation of the charges become public. Quoting now from the JIB website, "Should someone other than a Board or staff member make public the existence of a Board inquiry or investigation, such disclosure is not within the authority of the Board to address. This constitutional requirement of confidentiality protects the judiciary from unjust criticism and protects those who furnish information to the Board."

So the Board can not and will not discuss its investigation into these matters and will not respond to inquiries why it does or does not charge a judge in any particular case.

Therefore, unless a complaint to the Courts Commission results in either case, this figures to be the last we hear about these matters.

The assignments of these two judges to administrative duties are effective until further notice.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

A young attorney taken far too soon

Brian Murray, an associate with Angelini, Ori & Abate, LLC, died early this morning, succumbing after a long and valiant struggle with cancer.

This is a recent photo.

It's not how I remember him at all.

I best remember Brian Murray (Immaculate Conception School Class of 1999) sitting next to my son, John (ditto), on the far end of the bench at IC basketball and volleyball games. They were good enough to make the team, but not quite good enough to see a lot of playing time. In those days, before cell phones were routinely placed in the hands of junior high students, they could only joke about ordering a pizza for delivery to the bench during a game. No pizza was ever actually ordered, but it was a great running gag.

Years passed. So I didn't immediately make the connection between the kid who used to ride the lonesome pines with my son and the young man who greeted me as "Mr. Leyhane" one day on a Daley Center elevator.

Isn't this true for most people? We accept, however grudgingly, that our kids grow up, finish school, get jobs -- but, because we don't see them regularly, we think of our kids' friends as unchanged and unchanging. That day in the elevator, young Mr. Murray gave me the thumbnail sketch of his life's journey after Notre Dame High School (now Notre Dame College Prep) where he and my son John had been football teammates. Brian Murray, ND Class of '03, was now a brother attorney. And did I feel old.

I feel much, much older today.

Joe Ori, of Angelini, Ori & Abate, LLC, said that Murray "was a true trial lawyer, unfazed and fearless in his pursuit of justice." In an email statement this morning, Ori noted how Murray had been recognized four times by Illinois Super Lawyers Magazine as a "Rising Star" under the age of 40. Murray worked "tenaciously," Ori said, "but with integrity and honor, achieving significant results for victims of catastrophic injury and wrongful death."

Ori added,"'Mur' was equally unfazed while he courageously fought his disease for over two years, working in the office and litigating in court almost every day until his final days. He was highly respected by his opponents, and beloved by his colleagues."

Murray was also serving as Notre Dame College Prep's Alumni Board at the time of his passing. Ralph Elwart, Notre Dame College Prep President, said Murray's service on the board "came naturally to him. It was a perfect marriage of his love for Notre Dame and his innate ability to lead and inspire others. Brian exemplified what it means to be a Don, both in his personal and professional life. He was the kind of person who could just say the word and a bandwagon of life-long friends would show up in support. During his more than five years on our board in various roles, Brian was generous with his time and energy, even through difficult health struggles that would have, and very understandably so, sidelined most anyone else."

Ori said Murray was "irreplaceable -- and he will be missed forever." Elwart added, "We are all better people for having known Brian Murray. His death leaves us saddened, but also encouraged and strengthened by the example of his life, by his commitment to family, friends and Notre Dame, and by his faith."

Elwart noted that, before Murray's illness took its final, fatal turn, Murray had been selected as one of six honorees for induction into ND's Hall of Honor. The ceremony will take place next month; Murray had been notified of the pending honor. "We are grateful," Elwart said, "that we were able to reach out to Brian in recent weeks to let him know of this honor and to share with him how highly regarded and appreciated he was in the ND community."

Alliance releases retention grids -- so far

Not all the Alliance bar groups have yet spoken (as you will see) but some early votes are already being cast in the November election so the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening has released its 'grids' showing the retention recommendations received so far.

Herewith the grids as of this morning (click on the images to clarify or enlarge):


Updated grids will be released as additional recommendations are received.

Recommendations and ratings provided by Alliance members are advisory only and do not constitute an endorsement of any candidacy.

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening is comprised of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area (AABA), the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago (BWLA), the Chicago Council of Lawyers (CCL), the Cook County Bar Association (CCBA), the Decalogue Society of Lawyers (DSL), the Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois (HBA), the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI), the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago (LAGBAC), the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois (PRBA), and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI), all working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois.

Lawyers' Assistance Program expands services in collar counties

The Illinois Lawyers' Assistance Program has announced an affiliation with Dr. Diana Uchiyama, a licensed psychologist and lawyer in Kane County. With this new resource, LAP is expanding its reach in the collar counties, particularly DuPage and Kane Counties.

The LAP office in Chicago, at 20 S. Clark St., Suite 450, is open daily from 9:00 to 4:30 (it will be closed on Columbus Day). The telephone number for the Chicago office is (312) 726-6607; it can also be contacted by email at gethelp@illinoislap.org. LAP can also be reached toll free at 800-LAP-1233.

To make an appointment with a LAP clinician at any LAP location, call the Chicago number (312) 726-6607. In addition to the Chicago and new DuPage/Kane County offices, appointments can be scheduled for Park Ridge, Bloomington, Carbondale, Edwardsville, and Rock Island.

And concerned individuals can contact LAP about a friend or colleague who may need help. From the LAP website: "Let us know over the telephone or in person who you are concerned about and why. We may ask you questions regarding the individual’s habits, whereabouts, and contact information. Any contact you have with LAP, including the fact that you contacted us out of concern for someone else, will remain confidential unless you state otherwise. Your colleague never needs to know that you called us."

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Chicago Council of Lawyers finds 58 of 61 retention candidates "Qualified" or better

The Chicago Council of Lawyers has released its evaluations of Cook County jurists seeking retention. (The Council's complete evaluation can be accessed at this link.)

The Council rates retention candidates as "Highly Qualified", "Well Qualified", "Qualified" or "Not Qualified."

For the November retention election, the Council has rated one judge, Grace G. Dickler, the Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Division, as "Highly Qualified." Both Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke and Appellate Court Justice Margaret Stanton McBride were rated "Well Qualified."

The Council also rated 12 Circuit Court Judges as "Well Qualified" for retention. These judges are:
  • Martin S. Agran,
  • Larry G. Axelrood,
  • Peter Flynn,
  • Moshe Jacobius,
  • Stuart F. Lubin,
  • Marcia Maras,
  • James Michael McGing,
  • James Patrick Murphy,
  • Lorna Ellen Propes,
  • Mary Colleen Roberts,
  • Colleen F. Sheehan, and
  • E. Kenneth Wright, Jr.
The three judges rated "Not Qualified" by the Council are Maura Slattery Boyle, Matthew E. Coghlan, and Kathy M. Flanagan.

Of Judge Slattery Boyle, the Council stated:
Judge Maura Slattery Boyle was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1993. Prior to becoming a judge, Maura Slattery Boyle spent six years as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney and also worked at the City of Chicago’s Department of Law. Judge Slattery Boyle was elected to the Circuit Court in 2000. Since 2009, she has been assigned to the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court. She conducts bench trials, jury trials and motions for felony cases and also presides over pleas and post-convictions matter. Her previous judicial assignments were at the First Municipal District (2005-2009), Branch 38 (2003-2005), and Traffic Court (2000-2003).

Judge Slattery Boyle is considered by most lawyers interviewed to have good knowledge of the law, and many lawyers praise her temperament. However, the Council is concerned by multiple reports that she can be insensitive to defendants in her courtroom. In addition, sentencing information the Council has reviewed suggests that she issues very harsh sentences compared to other criminal division judges.

The Council is also concerned about what the Illinois Appellate Court has said about Judge Slattery Boyle. In People v. Serrano, the Appellate Court reversed her with orders that the case be reassigned to a different judge on remand. According to the Appellate Court, Judge Slattery Boyle did not consider certain evidence, and also refused to admit probative, admissible evidence that, when evaluated under the proper standard, is damning.

“Petitioner would be prejudiced were we not to assign the case to a new judge on remand. Therefore, pursuant to the discretion conferred on this court by the supreme court rules, we find that the interests of justice would be best and most efficiently served by the case being assigned to a different judge on remand.”

Similarly, in People v. Rosado, 2017 IL App (1st) 143741, ¶ 42-47, the Appellate Court reversed Judge Slattery Boyle for a number of evidentiary errors, and ordered the case (on remand) to the chief judge for reassignment to a different judge. In its original opinion, the Appellate Court did not explain the reassignment, and the State filed a petition for rehearing arguing the court did not have the power to order the case reassigned to a different judge. In a second order, Justice Hyman, speaking for the Appellate Court, stated:
“The State has now petitioned for rehearing, arguing that we do not have that power under Rule 366 and that we failed to explain our reasoning for those instructions. Indeed, we did not explain—out of a desire to spare the trial court some embarrassment. But since the State asks for an explanation, we will provide one… In ruling on the other-crimes issue, the trial court made specific comments regarding the jury's verdict in acquitting Rosado on the March 29 transaction. The judge stated that the evidence against Rosado was “quite clear.” It attributed the acquittal to the prosecutors not asking the right questions and leaving issues “up in the air,” which allowed Rosado's attorneys to argue reasonable doubt… [* * *]

“Here, the trial court reversed its own evidentiary rulings between cases (for no discernible reason) and then made a lengthy statement indicating its belief in Rosado's guilt. We have not ordered the case reassigned due to trial court error in its evidentiary rulings... Outward appearances would suggest that the trial court changed its evidentiary rulings in the second case to ensure that Rosado was not acquitted again.”
The Council must balance concerns over these issues with positive reports from some lawyers. On balance, the Council finds her Not Qualified for retention to the Circuit Court.
Of Judge Coghlan, the Council stated:
Judge Matthew E. Coghlan was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1987. Prior to becoming a judge, Matthew Coghlan was an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney. Judge Coghlan was elected in 2000. Since 2007, he has been assigned to the Criminal Court of the Circuit Court of Cook County in Chicago, Illinois. He is currently assigned to a felony trial courtroom, where his duties involve the management of felony criminal cases from arraignment to disposition. His previous judicial assignments were in the First Municipal District, in Central Bond Court/Preliminary Hearings (2003-2007), Domestic Violence Court (2001-2003), and Traffic Court (2000-2001).

Judge Coghlan presents a difficult case. He is generally said to have good legal knowledge and ability. Some lawyers have given us examples of how Judge Coghlan is respectful toward all the parties. Other lawyers, particularly those who are non-white, believe that he can be condescending and otherwise disrespectful toward non-white lawyers and defendants in his courtroom. There is also a mix of opinions as to whether Judge Coghlan demonstrates a bias in favor of the prosecution.

The Council is concerned about Judge Coghlan’s performance as a prosecutor before he took the bench. He has been mentioned in several recent news articles and is currently a defendant in federal court civil rights actions involving wrongful convictions. We note, however, that these actions involve allegations not yet proven.

Judge Coghlan’s performance as a judge was called into question in the case of People v. Nicholas, 2017 IL App (1st) 160229-U (November 20, 2017).

Antonio Nicholas has claimed since 1991 that police detectives working under Cmdr. Jon Burge tortured him into wrongly confessing to murder and attempted murder. The issue in his case was whether Nicholas deserved a belated hearing on his claims that he had been forced to wrongly confess.

Nicholas’ post-conviction petition case was assigned to Judge Coghlan, who ruled in 2010 that there wasn’t enough credible evidence to merit a hearing — and that Nicholas had failed to timely raise the matter.

A three-judge panel of the Illinois Appellate Court reversed Judge Coghlan in March 2013, finding Nicholas had shown sufficient evidence to merit a hearing into whether his confession was coerced and he was wrongly convicted. On remand, Judge Coghlan appeared to have disregarded the evidence and reasoning identified and articulated by the Illinois Appellate Court in reversing his decision, and again refused to grant Nicholas a hearing, The decision was again appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court, and this new panel of judges aggressively questioned the basis used by Judge Coghlan to deny Nicholas a hearing. The Appellate Court reversed and remanded Judge Coghlan’s decision a second time, but this time assigned the case to a different judge. This action by an Illinois Appellate Court is rare.

The Council must balance these negative issues relating to Judge Coghlan with the positive reports we have received from some lawyers. On balance, the Council finds him Not Qualified for retention to the Circuit Court.
Of Judge Flanagan, the Council stated:
Judge Kathy M. Flanagan was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1979. Prior to becoming a judge, Kathy Flanagan was in private practice. Judge Flanagan was elected to the Circuit Court in 1988, Since 2010, she has been Supervising Judge of the Law Division, Motion Section of the Circuit Court of Cook County in Chicago, Illinois. Her previous judicial assignments were in the Domestic Relations Division (Preliminary Motion Judge, 1992-1994; Trial Judge, 1988-1990).

Judge Flanagan is considered to be very informed on the law as it applies to the Law Division. She applies the law and rules rigorously, and cases move through her courtroom quickly and on a tight schedule. She is praised for the quality of her decisions. However, practitioners have strong opinions about her temperament. Well respected practitioners describe her as tough, fair, and efficient. Other equally well-respected practitioners believe she is unduly harsh, overbearing, and someimes disrespectfully aggressive with litgants, with deadlines too often set without any input from litigants. She is reported to threaten sanctions, including daily fines for non-compliance with discovery deadlines. On balance, the Council finds her Not Qualified for retention to the Circuit Court.
Judges Slattery Boyle, Coghlan, and Flanagan were all found "Qualified" for retention by the Chicago Bar Association.

The one judge found "Not Recommended" for retention by the CBA, Judge Lisa Ann Marino, was found "Qualified" by the Council. Of Judge Marino, the Council stated:
Judge Lisa Ann Marino was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1988. Prior to becoming a judge, she was a sole practitioner focusing on real estate and zoning issues. From 1993 to 1997, she was an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney in the civil division, real estate tax unit. From 1988 to 1993 she was an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney where she conducted more than 200 misdemeanor bench trials and traffic offenses, and handled felony financial crime cases. She was elected to the bench in 2012. Since 2016, she has been assigned to the Circuit Court of Cook County’s Housing Section of the First Municipal Court as well as the Mortgage Foreclosure Section of the Chancery Court. She had also served in the Mortgage Foreclosure Section from 2013 to 2014 and in the Juvenile Justice Division from 2014 to 2016.

Judge Marino is reported to have good court management skills. She runs an efficient court call and is reported to be respectful and fair to all parties. She is expecially praised for her dealings with litigants unrepresented by counsel. She is knowledgeable about her area of law and is described often as being throrough and well prepared. The Council finds her Qualified for retention to the Circuit Court.

Chicago Bar Association finds all retention judges "qualified" -- with one exception

The Chicago Bar Association completed its evaluation of jurists seeking retention on the November ballot on September 21; its findings were released today. (I'm having trouble linking to the complete CBA "Judge Smart" Guide; it can be accessed from this page on the CBA website).

The CBA found Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke and Appellate Court Justice Margaret Stanton McBride "Qualified" for retention.

The CBA also found 58 of the 59 Circuit Court Judges seeking retention to be "Qualified," including each of the judges whose fitness for retention has been called into question by some advocacy groups and the Injustice Watch website.

To be specific, Judge Matthew E. Coghlan (who, in a virtually unprecedented move, was also not recommended for retention by the Cook County Democratic Party) was found "Qualified" by the CBA, the CBA Judicial Evaluation Committee (JEC) finding:
Judge Matthew E. Coghlan is “Qualified” for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge Coghlan was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1987 and was elected to serve as a Circuit Court Judge in 2000. Judge Coghlan is currently assigned to the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building. He is recognized to know the law and to be diligent, hardworking, and fair.
Also found "Qualified" by the CBA despite negative attention on Injustice Watch (and in the Chicago Sun-Times which publishes many Injustice Watch articles) were Judges Maura Slattery Boyle, Michael McHale, and Michael R. Clancy.

The one judge found "Not Recommended" the CBA was Judge Lisa Ann Marino. Of Judge Marino, the CBA JEC stated:
Judge Lisa Ann Marino is “Not Recommended” for retention as a Circuit Court Judge. Judge Marino was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1988 and was elected to serve as a Circuit Court Judge in 2012. Judge Marino is assigned to the First Municipal District’s Housing Section and also sits in the Mortgage Foreclosure/Mechanics Lien Section of the Chancery Division. Significant concerns about Judge Marino’s work ethic, punctuality, diligence, and knowledge of the law resulted in a “Not Recommended” finding.
Judge Marino had been found "Qualified" by the CBA when she ran for an 11th Subcircuit vacancy in 2012. At that time the CBA JEC said Marino was "highly regarded for her knowledge of real estate tax law and has general litigation experience."