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.

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