Thursday, November 29, 2018

Congratulations to Dr. Klumpp on the publication of a new article

Frequent and generous FWIW contributor Albert J. Klumpp, Ph.D., has a lead article in the November issue of the CBA Record, "The Early Bird Gets the Term." The article addresses ballot position and its impact on Cook County judicial elections... a topic which, I believe I may say without fear of contradiction, is of considerable interest to many regular visitors here.

(NB: The October issue of the CBA Record is still up on the CBA website as of the publication of this post -- but I'm sure that will change shortly.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Bates, Forti receive new appointments

In separate orders entered yesterday, the Illinois Supreme Court reappointed two judges who were unsuccessful candidates in this year's judicial primary.

The Court appointed Judge Fredrick H. Bates to the 1st Subcircuit vacancy created by the pending retirement of Judge Rodney Hughes Brooks. The court also appointed Judge Michael A. Forti to the 8th Subcircuit vacancy created by the pending retirement of Judge Deborah J. Gubin.

Both appointments are effective Monday, December 3, and terminate December 7, 2020.

Judge Bates had been serving by appointment to a 2nd Subcircuit vacancy. He was an unsuccessful candidate for this vacancy in March.

Yesterday's order marks the third time Bates has received a judicial appointment from the Supreme Court. Bates was first appointed to a countywide vacancy in December 2015. He was an unsuccessful candidate for a different countywide vacancy in the 2016 primary.

Judge Forti was an unsuccessful candidate for an 8th Subcircuit vacancy this past March; the Supreme Court appointed him to that vacancy in September 2016. Thus, yesterday's order marks the second time Forti has received a judicial appointment.

Though slated by the Democratic Party, Forti was also an unsuccessful candidate for a countywide vacancy in 2012. He made the Associate Judge short list in 2014.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Ammendola receives new Circuit Court appointment; Mays, Brooks also appointed

Corrected November 28, 2018

In separate orders entered yesterday, the Illinois Supreme Court filled three countywide vacancies with persons who were passed over in the most recent round of associate judge selection.

Judge Marina E. Ammendola was appointed to the countywide vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Kevin M. Sheehan. Her new appointment is effective December 3, the date on which her current appointment, to a countywide vacancy, will expire. Ammendola was an unsuccessful candidate for a 14th Subcircuit vacancy in the March primary.

A former school teacher, Ammendola has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1989. Ammendola made the Chicago newspapers at the turn of the century when she represented Ald. Ed Burke and his wife, now-Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke, in the "Baby T" custody case. Before setting up her own practice in 2001, Ammendola worked for Patricia C. Bobb & Associates.

Celestia L. Mays was appointed to the countywide vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Raymond Funderburk. A former President of the Cook County Bar Association, Mays, who has been licensed in Illinois since 1990, currently practices law as Celestia L. Mays, P.C., with an office in Chicago's Loop. Her appointment is effective January 25, 2019. Mays filed for a 5th Subcircuit vacancy in the 2016 primary, but withdrew from the race.

Lloyd James Brooks was appointed to the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Jessica A. O'Brien. A founding partner of the Matteson-based Consumer Legal Group, Brooks has been licensed in Illinois since 2000.

While Brooks focused his practice mortgage foreclosure defense, having taken a number of such cases up on appeal, he also engaged in other consumer protection litigation, real estate and insurance coverage matters. Brooks is also a Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter.

Brooks's appointment is effective December 7, 2018. All three appointments expire on December 7, 2020.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Guest Post: Dr. Klumpp reviews the results of the retention election

This morning FWIW is proud to present a guest post from Albert J. Klumpp, PhD, analyzing the results of the recent retention election.

Throughout my dissertation research and in every subsequent election, I was able to study Cook County’s judicial retention voting using the same approach, with a small group of basic variables. On November 6th that all went out the window. It was the most complicated retention election the county has ever seen and added a half-dozen new variables to my analysis. Much more could be written about the results than fits in a blog post, so I’ll simply run down the basics:
  • The number of votes cast on retention judges was the highest for a midterm election since 1966, and by a large margin. The median for circuit judges was 1,204,682 (based on preliminary results), a 41% increase over the 2014 median and a 32% increase over 2010. In part this was due to more voters turning out than in past midterms, and in part to a much higher percentage of voters completing the retention section of the ballot. Typically when more voters turn out, the participation rate for retention judges decreases, but this November’s results showed the opposite. In fact the participation rate was the highest ever for retention judges in Cook County, as shown below.

  • The base approval rate for a judge with no name-cue advantages and no negative performance ratings was 75.3 percent, a figure very consistent with previous elections. Female judges got a boost of 3.3 percentage points, the highest amount ever, and an Irish name was worth 1 percentage point. Because of outliers in my initial analysis, I added a variable based on a U.S. Census list of the most common African-American surnames--which I’ve used routinely in primary election analyses--and found those names to add 2.6 points. There also was a Hispanic name boost of 1 percentage point. (All of these estimates have margins of error but are considered statistically significant.)
  • The major sources of voter information were somewhat difficult to evaluate due to overlap with other factors, but as best as I could estimate them, the Tribune, ISBA, CBA and CCL recommendations were unusually equal, each worth roughly 5 percent of the vote. The ISBA result was a major surprise since there had never been evidence of ISBA ratings influencing past Cook County elections. The results of my initial analysis compelled their inclusion, though, and the revised analysis confirmed their impact. Furthermore, two judges who received negative ratings from smaller Alliance members were outliers by roughly 2 percentage points, indicating that even those ratings were seen and used by scattered voters despite relatively little publicity. The latter results suggest the use of the Internet and smartphones by a detectable number of retention voters to seek out and apply information from a broader group of sources than in the past.
  • Social media also played a detectable role for the first time. There were several judges whose approval percentages were negative outliers in my analysis for no apparent reason—until I found the November 9 Sun-Times story about the “Girl I Guess” progressive voter guide and how it appeared to resonate with and be widely distributed through social media by young voters (who turned out in large numbers). Sure enough, the retention recommendations in that guide explained the outliers, and their inclusion in my analysis suggests that roughly 3 percent of retention voters used information from the guide or other sources that referenced it.
  • Finally, the 800-pound gorilla: the county Democratic Party’s decision to recommend against Matthew Coghlan’s retention and advocate its decision in its mass mailings. The wide distribution, ideal timing, and clear formatting of its vote-no message checked all of the boxes necessary to turn a piece of negative information about a retention candidate into a defeat. Once the above-mentioned variables are accounted for, the targeted vote against Coghlan measures out to a whopping 10.3 percent of the retention electorate. Without it Coghlan would have won retention with at least 62.7 percent of the vote and very likely more, since the mass mailings almost certainly caused at least some of the increase in retention participation.
It should be noted that there also were non-party, largely city-based efforts to target Coghlan, mainly by community groups in certain areas, and that those efforts undoubtedly influenced some voters and contributed to the 10.3 percent total. I haven’t yet dug deeply enough into the ward and township breakdowns to know exactly how much (and I will do so, but running eighty separate analyses takes time). However, simply analyzing the city and suburban results separately produces targeting estimates of 11.2 percent for the city (which includes at least fourteen party ward organizations that were particularly outspoken against Coghlan, possibly more) and 9.6 percent for the suburbs—not all that different. So at least for now the lion’s share of the targeted vote, and the margin between retention and removal, gets attributed to the party’s decision and indirectly to whichever factors influenced it.

Stepping back from the vote numbers, one other important fact about Coghlan’s removal should be mentioned. Twelve U.S. states currently use retention elections for most or all of their state-level trial court judges, and including this month's retention election, a combined total of 11,978 judges have stood for retention to trial courts in those states. Coghlan’s defeat is only the second time ever in which a judge was targeted and removed by a political party. Retention defeats are rare for any reason: including this November, only 96 of the 11,978 trial court candidates failed to win retention. But a political party targeting a trial court judge at all, much less removing one, is virtually unheard of.

Majority party organizations in most of the retention jurisdictions could remove judges routinely if they wanted to. But parties have typically stayed far away from retention elections, especially at the trial court level. In large part this is because they have higher priorities, but there also is a danger of being perceived as trying to politicize and manipulate the judicial system.

As a researcher I have no desire to pass judgment on Judge Coghlan’s worthiness for retention or anyone’s decision to support or oppose him. I simply observe that there are larger implications of this November's election and how future elections will unfold in its wake, and that it is likely that few people, even among party leaders, have yet fully considered them. There also is a wake-up call in these retention results for bar associations regarding how they deliver information and which voters they reach. We’ll see if they hear it.

Albert J. Klumpp has been a generous and frequent contributor to this blog over the years. A research analyst with a public policy PhD, Klumpp is the author of several scholarly works analyzing judicial elections including, most recently, Alaska’s Judicial Retention Elections: A Comparative Analysis, 34 Alaska Law Review 143-160 (2017). Other works include Judicial Primary Elections in Cook County, Illinois: Fear the Irish Women!, 60 DePaul L. Rev. 821 (2011); "Voter Information and Judicial Retention Elections in Illinois," 94 Ill. B.J. 538 (October 2006); and "Cook County Judicial Elections: Partisanship, Campaign Spending, & Voter Information," CBA Record, January 2007 (p. 34).

Thursday, November 08, 2018

One thousand two hundred eighty three new laborers admitted to the legal vineyard

In six ceremonies around the state today (two of them in Chicago), 1,283 new lawyers were admitted to practice in Illinois. Most of these -- 1,051, to be precise -- were admitted at morning and afternoon sessions in Chicago.

Presiding at this morning's session at the Arie Crown Theater were Supreme Court Justices Mary Jane Theis and P. Scott Neville, Jr.

A number of bar association officials were on hand to welcome the new admittees. Two had speaking roles. Shown above is Chicago Bar Association President Steven M. Elrod. Also speaking was Kalia Coleman, Vice President of the Black Women Lawyers' Association.

Appellate Court Justice Mary K. Rochford and ARDC Administrator Jerome E. Larkin moved for admission of the morning class.

Eventually, the new admittees were invited to stand and take the oath.

Many of the this morning's speakers made it a point to tell the new admittees that they had been sitting in that same auditorium once, some longer ago than others, and for the same purpose.

I can not make this claim. That's not the beginning of a stunning confession -- the fact is, in 1980, I was sworn in at a ceremony in Elgin. My parents lived in Lake County at the time. So I admit to some curiosity at seeing how these things are done in the big city.

Still, inasmuch as I have never covered one of these events before, some readers may wonder why I chose to cover today's celebration.

There is, of course, a reason.

Shown here is my daughter-in-law, Gabriella Leyhane, with her parents, Frank and Rose Obregón, and my son, John. I am very happy for, and proud of, Gabby on this special day. My congratulations to her and all the new admittees.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

What role did 'low information' voters play in this election?

Updated November 8, 2018 to correct factual error.

It's time to start poking through the ashes of the 2018 campaign.

What can we learn? What lessons may be applicable in future campaigns?

There's a lot of anecdotal evidence out there suggesting that some of this year's voters were... less than well informed about... oh, everything.

Criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield saw a lot of certitude based on attitude out there in Social Media Land.

But, OK, you say, that's Twitter. Donald Trump's playpen. Take Twitter seriously? That way lies madness, you say.

And, if you're a regular FWIW reader, you are very likely a well-informed voter. You may not even know any low information voters.

(Notice -- I'm not using any more pejorative terms here. I could. But I am sick and tired of all the sanctimonious claptrap about being civil and taking the high road -- just as soon as the worst offender on the Other Side stops first. It's coming on Christmas, as Joni Mitchell sang, and one of the songs of the season you will soon hear in heavy rotation is "Let There Be Peace on Earth." Well, as the song says, let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.)

Anyway, you are inclined to dismiss anecdotal evidence as wholly unreliable.


Let me direct your attention to Exhibit A -- the more than 56,000 in Illinois' 3rd Congressional District who voted for an actual Illinois Nazi. Not Henry Gibson from The Blues Brothers (pictured at right) but a genuine, self-proclaimed Illinois Nazi.

Are there really 56,350 Nazi sympathizers in this mostly Southwest suburban district? (There are 203 Chicago precincts in this district as well.)

Were there 56,350 pranksters out there, just funnin' at the polling place?

Or were there, perhaps, a lot of folks who voted for the Illinois Nazi without having the first clue about what they were doing?

Let me show you now what I'm calling Exhibit B, the race for the Lawrence vacancy in the far northwest suburban 13th Judicial Subcircuit.

For the first time ever -- Dr. Klumpp will correct me if I'm wrong about this -- Democrats won all three vacancies.

There is considerable overlap between the 13th Subcircuit and the northernmost chunk of the reverse comma-shaped 6th Congressional District. If there was a Blue Wave anywhere last night it was in suburban areas -- not just in the Chicago area, but around many major cities across the country. And last night, in the 6th District race, Democrat Sean Casten unseated longtime Republican Congressman Peter Roskam.

The 6th Congressional District was a district, remember, that was drawn to hem in as many Republicans as possible.

In most years, Democrats don't even bother fielding judicial candidates in the 13th.

This year, however, the Democrats had two good candidates, former Judge Ketki "Kay" Steffen and current Judge Samuel J. Betar III.

And to be fair, these two candidates did do significantly better than the Democrat running for the Lawrence vacancy in the 13th. Judge Betar won his race by 8,572 votes. Steffen won hers by 11,133.

But Democrat Shannon P. O'Malley -- a candidate who began his legal career as Philip Spiwak -- who skipped assessment by each and every bar association -- who was called out by the Illinois Civil Justice League and Injustice Watch -- also won his race for the aforementioned Lawrence vacancy. By 2,278 votes. Not a landslide, certainly, but indisputable.

This is not to say that Judge O'Malley (or Judge Spiwak, if he resumes his former handle) will not provide good and useful service to the citizens of County Cook. Six years hence, at retention time, he may well enjoy the support of each and every bar group. There was at least one candidate on this year's retention ballot who eschewed bar evaluations in 2012 -- but who was unanimously rated qualified this time around.

But... I respectfully submit that O'Malley was the fortunate beneficiary of voters who came out specifically, and only, for Casten. Many of his votes may have come from low-information voters -- that is to say, voters who did not seek out available information about judicial candidates. Maybe they were swayed by the sonorous, and androgynous, appellation. Maybe they merely hewed to the party line.

The good news here is that this same evidence can also be interpreted to show that many of these judicial voters in the 13th did study up on the ballot and did know what they were doing in judicial races. That's why Steffen and Betar won by significantly more than O'Malley. But without the surge for Casten, Republicans might have swept all these races, as they always had in the past.

So the broader lesson is clear: Judicial candidates are at the mercy of high-profile races further up the ballot. Judicial candidates can't turn out large numbers at the polling place, but they may be buoyed up -- or buried -- by turnout beyond their control. Perhaps it was ever thus. Turnout is the key. And I hope to look at turnout in some key Cook County races in another post.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Coghlan appears to be the first retention judge candidate to lose since 1990

In 1978, John S. Boyle was Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County when he was defeated for retention.

In 1986, after being targeted by columnist Mike Royko and the Fraternal Order of Police, Judge Lawrence Passarella lost his retention bid.

In 1990, Cook County voters rejected seven judges seeking retention -- although they simultaneously elected one of these to the Appellate Court.

But in every election since, from 1992 until tonight, every judge seeking retention was retained.

Tonight, however, after the Cook County Democratic Party turned against him, after the Tribune editorialized against him, and after a vigorous "Dump Matt Coghlan" campaign on social media, Judge Matthew E. Coghlan has lost his retention bid.

With 86% of the City vote counted, Coghlan has just over 50% 'yes' votes. He is polling better in the suburbs -- but with just under 80% of the votes counted, Coghlan has 54% 'yes' votes. He needed to get 60%.

Other judges who received significant negative ratings -- like Lisa Marino (the only judge who was not recommended for retention by the Chicago Bar Association) or Maura Slattery Boyle (who, like Coghlan, received negative attention from Injustice Watch) -- will apparently finish with under 70% 'yes' votes -- but significantly above the crucial 60% line.

Marino and Slattery Boyle were also targeted by the Tribune.

But they were not abandoned by the Democratic Party.

Democratic Party opposition seems to be a major factor in this result.

Democrats faring well so far in 13th Subcircuit

With 56% of the votes counted, former Judge Ketki "Kay" Steffen has a better than 4,000 vote lead over Republican Gary William Seyring. Judge Samuel J. Betar, running as a Democrat, is leading Republican Christine Svenson by roughly 3,000 votes. Republican Daniel Fitzgerald has a whisker-thin lead over Demcorat Shannon P. O'Malley. O'Malley, who did not participate in evaluations by the Chicago Bar Association or any of the Alliance bar groups, began his legal career sub nomine Philip Spiwak.

In the one contested 15th Subcircuit race, at the opposite end of the county, with over 60% of the votes counted, Democrat Scott McKenna has a comfortable lead over Republican Karla Marie Fiaoni.

In the 12th Subcircuit, with almost 58% of the returns counted, Democrat Joel Chupack has a roughly 8,400 vote margin over Republican David Studenroth.

All retention judges seem likely to survive -- except Coghlan

The numbers are starting to stack up now.

With 61% of the City vote counted, Judge Matthew E. Coghlan has 'yes' votes from only 50.44% of the voters. In the suburbs, with just over 40% of the votes counted, Coghlan is faring better -- but still running under the necessary 60% 'yes' vote required for retention.

In contrast, Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke has just over 81% 'yes' votes in the City, and nearly an 80% 'yes' vote in suburban returns so far.

OK... Clerk's website is showing results on the Suburban Summary Report

But not yet on the online results page.

Judge Matthew Coghlan has only 55% 'yes' votes -- but, again, these are early, early results, with only about 5.4% of the votes counted.

It looks like we'll have to wait a little while yet for more meaningful numbers.

Stay tuned.

Only City numbers are posted so far... but Coghlan in trouble in early returns

Judge Matthew E. Coghlan, abandoned by the Democratic Party in his retention bid, the focus of a very vocal Coalition to Dump Matt Coghlan, seems to be in serious trouble in early returns. With 28.61% of the City votes counted, Coghlan has 'yes' votes from only 51.01% of the electorate.

A judge must receive 'yes' votes from more than 60% of the voters in order to be retained in office.

By way of comparison, with the same number of votes counted, Judge Moshe Jacobius has 75.83% favorable votes.

Caveat: These are City-only results. Nothing is yet showing up on the Cook County Clerk's website, where suburban results are posted.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Updated: Resources for Cook County voters looking to make informed choices in judicial races

Cook County judges seeking retention in 2018
As we head into the last few days of early voting and look forward to Election Day on Tuesday (hallelujah! the commercials will finally stop... at least for a few days before the mayoral commercials start up on us), 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 the above and foregoing is stillnot enough for you, here are some additional FWIW posts that you may find useful as you decide which judges or judicial candidates are worthy of your vote:

Alliance issues grids with all the blanks filled in

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening has today issued updated 'grids' for the Cook County judicial retention election. What follows are the most up to date, complete grids (click to enlarge or clarify the images as necessary):

My thanks again to Alliance Administrator Joyce Williams for keeping this blog up to date.

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.

BallotReady compiles information regarding judicial candidates

The Chicago Tribune recently touted BallotReady as a resource for voters trying to make sense of the Cook County judicial ballot.

From the main screen (that's a snippet of the home page, above) a voter can enter his or her address and get information on every race that will be on the real ballot.

At least, that's the plan.

And it's very encouraging that this is the second go-round for BallotReady (I had a post about the site during the 2016 primary season). In my time covering this beat, ambitious groups tend to surface for this race or that one -- but go dark before the next election rolls around.


I spent some time with Ballot Ready noodling around the retention candidates. No, I did not go through them all.

But I did go through enough to see that, while there seems to be some information for every retention judge, every one that I reviewed was missing something. The Chicago Bar Aassociation rating. The Cook County Bar Association rating. The Black Women Lawyer's Association. The Decalogue Society. Someone. This one had 11 ratings, that one only 9. Some less than that. And when I thought I'd detected a pattern (no CBA ratings) the next several all had CBA ratings but missed one or more Alliance bar groups.

Also, the candidates are not listed in ballot order. Strangely, on my 'ballot,' the retention judges were listed first -- but there was a countywide vacancy inserted right underneath the Supreme Court and Appellate Court retention candidates.

And, unless I missed it, there were no links to the three bar groups that issue narrative ratings of candidates (the CBA, Chicago Council of Lawyers, and the ISBA). But BallotReady certainly provides a lot more information for Cook County judicial retention voters than most sources.