Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Court closings announced in anticipation of killer cold snap

Updated with additional information from Illinois Courts website

The Circuit Court of Cook County will be closed tomorrow, Wednesday, January 30, and Thursday, January 31, according to an announcement made today by Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans.

The United States District Court announced last night that it, too, will be closed tomorrow, Wednesday, January 30. The District Court's website advises, "Each judicial officer will reschedule their in-court matters as they determine best for their cases."

The Cook County Circuit Court's announcement is more nuanced.

There will be bail hearings and certain pretrial matters for in-custody defendants at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago and juvenile detention hearings at the Juvenile Center in Chicago -- but, other than these, all Cook County Circuit Courts will be closed as we all hunker down for the Polar Vortex.

Jurors who are currently assigned to a trial do not need to come to court on Wednesday and Thursday, but must return to court on the next date scheduled by the trial judge. Those who were called for jury duty on Wednesday or Thursday do not have to come to court on Wednesday or Thursday, and they will receive a new summons for duty on a future date.

Cook County lawyers looking for specific information about the continuance of matters previously set for tomorrow or Thursday can click here to access the complete text of General Administrative Order 2019-02.

The Illinois Courts website has announced that these courts will be closed tomorrow:
  • 1st District Appellate Court Courthouse
  • 2nd District Appellate Court Courthouse (Elgin)
  • Champaign County
  • Cook County
  • DeKalb County
  • DuPage County all divisions, including Field Courts
  • Henderson County
  • Iroquois County
  • Kane County
  • Kankakee County
  • Kendall County
  • Knox County
  • Lake County courts and all divisions
  • McHenry County
  • Ogle County
  • Peoria County
  • Warren County
Several of these courts will remain closed on Thursday as well. This is the list of Thursday closings, as of 1:25 p.m., from the Illinois Courts website:
  • 1st District Appellate Court Courthouse
  • 2nd District Appellate Court Courthouse – closed until Noon
  • Cook County
  • Kendall County – closed until Noon
  • Lake County courts and all divisions - exception of Bond Court
  • Lake County Bond Court, hearings will be conducted at 1:30 p.m.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Advocates Society Annual Installation Dinner set for February 20

The Advocates Society will host its annual Installation Dinner on Wednesday, February 20, at the Hotel Allegro, 171 West Randolph Street.

The Advocates will confer its 2019 Award of Merit on Judge Diann Marsalek at the dinner. Incoming Advocates President Lucas Figiel and the new slate of executive officers will also be recognized.

A cocktail reception begins at 5:00 p.m. The dinner and program follow at 6:00 p.m.

Advance tickets are $150 per person; tables of 10 are available for $1,350 if purchased by February 12. Tickets may be purchased on the evening of the event, if available, for $175 per person.

Checks for tickets should be made payable to the Advocates Society and may be sent to the Advocates Society c/o Lucas Figiel, 7111 West Higgins Avenue, Chicago 60656. For more information, email lucas@figlaw.com.

Judges and "juror-evaluators" wanted for March trial competition

The National Criminal Justice Trial Competition, held in Chicago, is co-sponsored by the Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association and The John Marshall Law School.

Twenty teams from the best law school trial advocacy programs in the country will participate in this year's contest, which runs from Thursday, March 14 to Saturday, March 16, and JMLS is looking to recruit judges and "juror evaluators" from the local legal community to judge the competition.

Jurists and practicing attorneys are asked to volunteer for approximately three hours to observe and evaluate student performances in a simulated trial. This year, teams will prosecute and defend the case of People v. Shane Waters, a delivery of a controlled substance causing death case. Judging or evaluating this competition has been approved for CLE.

Kelly Navarro, the Associate Director of the JMLS Center for Advocacy & Dispute Resolution, says first-time volunteers will find this a "gratifying experience." Persons who have previously served as a judge or evaluator before can attest to "the rewards of watching these well-prepared student-advocates," she added.

Judge and juror/evaluators are needed for sessions on Thursday night, Friday morning, Friday afternoon, and Saturday morning. Interested persons can sign up for more than one time.

For more information, or to volunteer, email Navarro at knavarro@jmls.edu.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Michael A. Strom installed as Circuit Court Judge

As my kids used to say, it's Facebook official.

Michael A. Strom was sworn in yesterday to the Luckman vacancy in the 9th Subcircuit, as this picture, lifted from Facebook, attests.

Somewhere Avy Meyers is smiling.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Two judges reinstated

The Tribune scooped me on this one -- 2 Cook County judges — one cleared of gun charge, one reassigned for anger management — to return to bench at criminal court -- and congratulations to Mother Tribune for that, I say.

The order apparently returns Judges Joseph Claps and William Hooks to their regular duties, although Megan Crepeau's linked article advises that there are some conditions imposed on the jurists' return.

What this reinstatement means, if it is not entirely clear from the article, is that the Judicial Inquiry Board has decided not to bring charges against either judge before the Illinois Courts Commission.

The Tribune article refers to the confidentiality of the judicial disciplinary process but members of the public may not fully understand why the process is confidential.

And in our sad corner of the world, confidentiality is often seen as an easy excuse for protecting the corrupt.

But not, I submit, in the case of judicial discipline.

Here, confidentiality is not merely a matter of choice or convenience. Confidentiality in the matter of judicial discipline is actually required by the Illinois constitution.

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.

And -- if you think about it -- this makes sense. In any case that is resolved by a judge, there is a winner and loser. Although they may not always do so with stoic resolve, most disappointed litigants eventually accept their result. But some -- some disappointed litigants are convinced that the judge must have been bought off -- or stupid -- or acting under orders -- and they are not shy about proclaiming their beliefs to all and sundry. I've seen a lot of accusations in my inbox about just about every Cook County judge that's ever made a decision. And I'm just an obscure blogger.

But let's make an extreme, ridiculous assumption. Suppose that half of these complaints are well-founded. (Our legal system would collapse in chaos were this even remotely plausible -- but let's put on our tin-foil beanies and play the game.)

Even under this crazy assumption, fully half of those accused would be wholly innocent of wrongdoing. Needlessly besmirched.

That would not be fair to the individuals falsely accused. And it would likewise not be fair to our judicial system as a whole. As Justice Michael Hyman said, in his concurring opinion in Talamine v. Apartment Finders, Inc., 2013 IL App (1st) 121201, ¶17-18, "Every ad hominem smear, insult, and innuendo, every speculative accusation, every potshot leveled at members of the judiciary has the capacity of weakening confidence in the judiciary as a whole, confidence which is essential to the vitality of our legal system. * * * [E]very personal attack on the impartiality and integrity of judges diminishes the client's (and the public's) already limited trust in the fairness of the legal system."

Now, I know that there will be some -- perhaps even some lawyers -- who will say that confidentiality in regards to charges of judicial misconduct is just another code of silence. But confidentiality may, and in this instance does, serve a useful, legitimate purpose.

In the cases of Judges Claps and Hooks the public found out a lot more about the judicial discipline process than the framers of the Illinois Constitution may have intended.

In fact, the only reason we knew that a complaint had been made to the JIB in the case of Judge Hooks is that the Circuit Court of Cook County announced that it had done so. I didn't report the reassignment of Judge Claps at the time, but there was an announcement about that as well -- though the Claps announcement did not expressly state that the court had made a referral to JIB. Apparently, however, someone did (hardly a surprise given the publicity surrounding the charges).

We only know that the JIB has closed their investigations on Claps and Hooks because (1) these two judges reported the news to the Circuit Court, (2) the Circuit Court took action restoring these judges to more regular duties, and (3) someone told the Tribune about it.

Looking at the linked article, it is clear that the Tribune got hold of the actual order issued by the Executive Committee of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Pat Milheizer, Director of Communications for Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans, and a former Law Bulletin editor, often circulates these orders and issues press releases when the Executive Committee takes action on matters that may be newsworthy. I am frequently included on these releases -- from which I often shamelessly crib, albeit with (I hope) proper attribution. The absence of an email on this occasion -- though of course the court is under no obligation to send me beans -- at least suggests that the disclosure in this case was not from the court itself. As of the time this post was published, there was no press release on the Circuit Court's website concerning this matter.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Who Sits Where -- National Bubble Bath Day edition

Updated February 9, 2019
Updated February 7, 2019

Granted, I can't think of any possible links between bubble baths and judicial elections -- but today, January 8, is National Bubble Bath Day. You could look it up.

I was originally going to tie this post to another event -- a sporting event -- one played with a prolate spheroid -- but the way things worked out -- well, I'm just not ready to go there yet. Even typing "post" just now was painful. It reminds me of a certain compound word of which post is the second part.

So, to distract us from our shared pain, I offer this list.

This 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 may not yet be vacant -- and several of the persons identified as filling these vacancies have not yet actually taken office -- but an official announcement has been made. There are likely to be other vacancies, beyond those reported here, 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 this is the best information I have now.

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. Hyman1
Vacancy of the Hon. John B. Simon -- John C. Griffin

Countywide Vacancies

Vacancy of the Hon. Carole K. Bellows -- Kerrie Maloney Laytin
Vacancy of the Hon. Matthew E. Coghlan -- James T. Derico, Jr.
Vacancy of the Hon. Raymond Funderburk -- Celestia L. Mays
Vacancy of the Hon. Diane J. Larsen -- Levander Smith, Jr.
Vacancy of the Hon. Jessica A. O'Brien -- Lloyd James Brooks
Vacancy of the Hon. Sebastian T. Patti -- Lynn Weaver-Boyle
Vacancy of the Hon. Kevin M. Sheehan -- Marina E. Ammendola

Subcircuit Vacancies

1st Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Rodney Hughes Brooks -- Fredrick H. Bates
Vacancy of the Hon. Vanessa A. Hopkins2 -- Unfilled

2nd Subcircuit
"A" Vacancy3 -- Sondra Nicole Denmark

3rd Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Denise K. Filan -- Daniel E. Maloney

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

7th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Marianne Jackson -- Unfilled

8th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. John J. Fleming -- Unfilled4
Vacancy of the Hon. Deborah J. Gubin -- Michael A. Forti

9th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Marvin F. Luckman -- Michael A. Strom

13th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Margarita Kulys Hoffman -- Unfilled

14th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Robert Bertucci -- Gerardo Tristan, Jr.
Vacancy of the Hon. William G. Lacy -- Daniel O. Tiernan

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

1 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.

2 The late Rhonda Crawford won the Democratic Party's nomination for this vacancy in the 2016 primary but never took office.

3 Vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Alexander White.

4 Jeanne Marie Wrenn was appointed to this vacancy, but, last November, Judge Wrenn was elected to fill the 8th Subcircuit vacancy of the Hon. Sheryl Pethers. Accordingly, I believe this vacancy to be open once again.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Daniel E. Maloney appointed to 3rd Subcircuit vacancy

The Illinois Supreme Court entered an order yesterday appointing Daniel E. Maloney to a 3rd Subcircuit vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Denise K. Filan.

The appointment is effective February 8, 2019 and terminates December 7.

After 16 years as an Assistant Cook County State's Attorney, Maloney became Division Counsel for the United States Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration in 2017.

A graduate of the Valparaiso University School of Law, Maloney holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame. He has been licensed to practice law in Illinois since 2001.