Friday, August 16, 2019

Appellate Court candidates present credentials to Cook County Democratic Party slatemakers

The competitive race for the Illinois Supreme Court vacancy has taken a whole lot of attention away from the two First District Appellate Court vacancies to be filled in 2020.

That's a shame.

Because as important as the Illinois Supreme Court is, and as rare as openings on that court are, the Appellate Court is far more important, light years more important, as a practical matter, in any given case, civil or criminal.

Every case can be reviewed in the Appellate Court. Every final judgment in a civil case is reviewable as of right pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 301. But in civil cases, in any given term, the Supreme Court will consider perhaps one in a hundred cases where review is sought from decisions of the Appellate Court. I don't know the precise figures for criminal cases, but I understand them to be similar.

There are a few cases that can be appealed directly to the Supreme Court, and there are a few actions that can be initiated in the Supreme Court, but these are as rare as hen's teeth -- or openings on the Supreme Court.

So the Appellate Court is important. In the overwhelming majority of cases, it is the practical court of last resort.

But, consistent with the way this election season is shaping up, the Supreme Court hopefuls' presentations to the Cook County Democratic Party Committeemen yesterday at the IBEW consumed all the scheduled time for the Appellate Court candidates to present their credentials and then some.

Scheduled to start at 11:00, the Appellate Court hopefuls did not begin their presentations until 12:30.

Associate Judge William S. Boyd was first up. Currently sitting in Domestic Relations, Boyd was a candidate for the Appellate Court once before, in the 2012 primary, garnering strong ratings and endorsements from the Tribune and the Chicago Federation of Labor in that effort. But he was not endorsed by the Party in that race.

Boyd's presentation to the committee focused on his many civic and charitable activities, and several Committeemen promptly rose to provide confirmation and affirmation of these endeavors for their peers.

None of the Appellate Court candidates have ratings from the Alliance yet; most indicated their interviews are set for September. However, the Chicago Bar Association has completed its ratings of Appellate Court candidates. As far as I know, the CBA has not released these publicly. This is consistent with the practice of all bar groups -- both CBA and Alliance members alike -- of holding the public release of their ratings until shortly before the primary when all ratings for all candidates are complete. The bar groups believe that this maximizes the impact of their ratings.

However, candidates are free to disclose their ratings publicly once they are received. So all the candidates could and did tell the Committeemen how the CBA had rated them. Judge Boyd told the group that the CBA had found him Qualified.

He also told the Committee that he would not run against the party if he were slated as an alternate. Boyd was the Party's fourth alternate for an Appellate Court vacancy in 2014.

Judge Carolyn Gallagher was next up. First elected to the Cook County Circuit Court in 2016, with support from the CFL but without Democratic Party slating, Judge Gallagher now sits in Probate. Gallagher reported that she has received a Highly Qualified rating from the CBA. In her 2016 race, Gallagher's extensive appellate practice experience was noted by the bar groups that issued written findings.

One committeeman challenged Judge Gallagher for sending a three-page letter via email to every committeeman detailing what he characterized as a dispute between Gallagher and a political consultant. Neither this committeeman nor Judge Gallagher named the consultant, but the committeman questioned whether this letter reflected well on Judge Gallagher's judicial temperament.

Gallagher had two responses. First, she said she was advised to send this letter by committeemen with whom she had consulted (and this was confirmed by one or more committeemen). Second, she characterized the matter not as a 'dispute' but as an attack on her integrity and reputation, suggesting that she could not let these allegations go unrebutted.

I am reluctant to report this uncomfortable exchange because I know nothing of the particulars. I've not seen the letter in question and I don't know who the consultant is or what charges he or she has leveled. However (and this is why I am mentioning it), I can confirm that Judge Gallagher is a frequent target of venomous comments left on this blog. A lot of negative comments are received here, and disposed of without seeing the light of day, about a great many judges. Judges (whose job it is to make decisions) will necessarily disappoint some people. But the comments about Judge Gallagher, launched from the safety of anonymity, are more frequent and often more vicious than the norm. Somebody out there really does not like Judge Gallagher.

Justice John C. Griffin was next. Appointed to the Appellate Court 15 months ago by the Illinois Supreme Court, Griffin was quick to advise the Committee that he was the only candidate for the Appellate Court who would be out of a job if he does not win his seat. He reported to the Committee that he has been found Highly Qualified for this race by the CBA.

Committeemen responding to Griffin's presentation noted the strong support that he has received from labor groups and south suburban committeemen in particular also noted Griffin's community involvement and visibility.

Former Circuit Court Judge Russell Hartigan followed Griffin. FWIW reported Hartigan's interest in returning to the bench earlier this year, but his website, at the time, did not specify that he was looking to run for the Appellate Court (as you can see, it does now).

Hartigan was appointed to the Circuit Court in 2010 and elected in 2012, with Party support. He stressed his Party credentials before the Committeemen yesterday, including prior service as Berwyn Township Committeeman and President of Lyons Township Democratic Organization. He reminded committeemen that he had previously sought elevation to the Appellate Court, in the 2014 primary cycle, but stepped aside at the Party's request in favor of now-Jusitice David Ellis. He explained that he left the bench because of family health issues.

Hartigan told the Committee that he was rated Highly Qualified for this race by the CBA and that he would be willing to seek slating as an alternate.

Appellate Court Justice Michael B. Hyman was the next to present his credentials. He explained to the Committee that he is a Circuit Court judge who had been assigned to the Appellate Court. (Six of the First District Appellate Court's sitting justices are Circuit Court judges serving by assignment.) However, when Justice Neville was appointed to the Supreme Court, Justice Hyman, as the most senior of the assigned judges, was moved into the Neville vacancy. To remain on the Appellate Court he must be elected in his own right; otherwise, his assignment will terminate and he will be returned to the Circuit Court.

Appointed to the Circuit Court on the recommendation of the late Supreme Court Justice Mary Ann G. McMorrow, Hyman was elected to the Circuit bench in 2008 (with Party support) and retained in 2014. He reminded the Committeemen that he had been nominated for the Party's 2008 endorsement by the late Appellate Court R. Eugene Pincham. He holds a Highly Qualified rating from the CBA.

A number of committeemen from across the county were quick to speak on Justice Hyman's behalf. Ald. and Committeeman David Moore (17th) said he could not remember getting so many phone calls, from so many different persons, in every community, lobbying on Hyman's behalf.

Circuit Court Judge Sandra Ramos spoke next. First elected to the Circuit Court bench in 2010, as the Democratic Party's endorsed candidate, Ramos was, until recently, a candidate for the Supreme Court. Presently assigned to the Law Division, Judge Ramos had to present out of order because she was needed back at the Daley Center to preside over a trial.

FWIW recently had a chance to speak with someone senior in Ramos's campaign about why Ramos made the decision to switch her focus from the Supreme Court vacancy to the Appellate Court. According to the campaign official, both public and private factors figured in the decision. By getting out of the Supreme Court race, she avoided causing a split among Hispanic elected officials and community leaders over whether to support her or Justice Jesse Reyes. But, besides that, Judge Ramos's father passed away earlier this year (her mother has been gone a couple of years) and Ramos has additional responsibilities wrapping up her father's affairs.

Before the Committee, Ramos added still one more factor: The paucity of Hispanics elected to the appellate bench. As a number of committeemen said, in response to her presentation, a Party that embraces diversity needs to find ways to bring more Hispanics into reviewing court positions.

Ramos has been rated Qualified by the CBA.

The last to present was Circuit Court Judge Sharon Johnson. Currently sitting as a Domestic Relations judge in Markham, Judge Johnson was first elected to the court in 2010. She ran for election to the Appellate Court in 2014 -- and some of the committeemen questioned her about that race, in which she ran against the Party's candidate.

She received some bad advice back then, Johnson said, but she learned from that experience. She was asking for support now and was willing to accept slating as an alternate.

Johnson's presentation to the group stressed her leadership credentials since joining the judiciary. A former Chair of the Illinois Judicial Council, Johnson has also served as a mentor to other judges. A number of committeemen praised her community involvement as well.

Bloggers and other non-essential personnel were ejected from the room at this point so the committeemen could discuss their choices in executive session.

In the end, Justices Hyman and Griffin were recommended for slating. Judge Boyd was recommended as the first alternate. Sandra Ramos was chosen as a second alternate and Sharon Johnson as a third.

The Party's Appellate Court Committee was chaired by New Trier Township Committeeman Dean Maragos. Ald. and Committeeman Pat Dowell (3rd) was Vice-Chair.

It is my understanding that these recommendations must be accepted by the Cook County Central Committee (all 50 ward and township committeemen) and that this vote will occur later today.

Readers may wonder what slating as an alternate may mean.

It means that -- if the candidate does not file against a slated candidate in the meantime -- should an additional vacancy open up, the first alternate will automatically become the Party's endorsed candidate. If a second vacancy opens up, the second alternate will become the Party's candidate -- and so forth. Late vacancies do sometimes occur, even on the Appellate Court.

But there are no guarantees.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for confirming my suspicions about "flushed" comments. I have noticed a substantial decrease in the number of printed comments. Kudos to you. I promise that I have not hidden any snarky slights or hidden codes in this message, which I would respectfully request be posted. The bar ratings of any candidate can -- and most often are -- confirmed by the bar association itself and Judge Gallagher's ratings (and those of others) will be confirmed by the associations once they are published. If, by chance, there is a conflict between what a candidate and bar association say about a rating, well, the voting public can decide who to believe. But I would be hard-pressed to believe that a sitting judge -- regardless of their identity -- could possibly misunderstand or mistake a bar rating. Again, the ratings will tell us what's what.

A candidate's "experience" can also be objectively measured and confirmed. Candidates who claim to have tried 50 trials can produce evidence; jury verdict reports, actual verdicts, docket entries and so forth. If somebody really argued or handled a substantial amount of appeals, we can pull the records and see for ourselves. The amusing moments come when we (candidates and their opponents) engage in the semantics. When Candidate A claims to have "substantial" or "significant" experience, but we later find out that their definition translates into 3-4 trials or appeals, while most lawyers could/would reasonably disagree with describing such experience as "substantial" unless you work at one of those BIG LAW FIRMS that keep you chained in the library for your first 8 years of practice.

What's my point? Candidates fib, exaggerate and sometimes flat out lie. I am not saying or suggesting that a particular judge or candidate in this cycle or cycles past have done so. What I am suggesting (and warning) is that many of us are hip to the game. And if anyone wants to claim victim status of what Clarence Thomas once described as a "high tech lynching," then they better be able to prove it and, equally important, have clean hands.

Nobody has sympathy for the condemned killer convicted of murdering his or her parents as they plead for mercy because they are now orphans.

And for all you would-be warriors of 2020, remember, we know who most of you are and we are watching. We are watching when you go to the churches, barbecues, social events, etc. Please behave or take some medication.


"Choose Kind" Cook County

Anonymous said...

Amen ANON 8/16/19 @ 3:12! In fact, Jack, I have a suggestion for a new type of post for the FWIW blog. When candidates, regardless of identity, start making unequivocal FACTUAL statements about their candidacy (e.g., "my bar rating is 'Highly Qualified' from the Beatniks and Freakniks Bar Association") and it is later to be found to be untrue, well, there needs to be consequences. Voters don't know. But we do. Those non-mistakes should be publicized here. Sort of like when the Sun-Times does its truth-o-meter for the other politicians. Because let's face it, these Cook County Judges are nothing but politicians. Some are better than others; some are more honest than others. But in the end, the majority of them are just politicians. Let's keep em honest! Who didn't tell the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth at slating? Who is not being entirely candid in their campaign websites or their mailers -- because the mailers are a coming. I am not saying that people have committed such sins this cycle, but we know it has happened in election cycles past.


I Want to Be Kind Too . . . But I'm Watching You!

Anonymous said...

Jack also seems to be “flushing” positive comments about candidates, at least in this thread. Not sure what the rationale for that is.

Jack Leyhane said...

@Anon 8/19/19 5:32 p.m. - You are correct. I received a couple of very nice comments about a particular candidate -- along with a predictable spate of not-nice comments. It occurred to me that passing through the paeans but suppressing nasty comments would be seen as taking sides. I'm not taking sides. I don't know the pertinent facts. The Dr. Pangloss that still resides somewhere within me aches to say only the best of all possible things about everybody -- but I will suppress the urge, for now, and try and remain carefully neutral. Unless and until I have something factual to report.

Jack Leyhane said...

I Want to Be Kind Too said, "When candidates, regardless of identity, start making unequivocal FACTUAL statements about their candidacy (e.g., 'my bar rating is "Highly Qualified" from the Beatniks and Freakniks Bar Association') and it is later to be found to be untrue, well, there needs to be consequences."

I agree. But is this a big problem? I haven't heard complaints about candidates misrepresenting their bar ratings.

I have heard snarky things like how did that candidate get a Highly Qualified rating? He's home every day by lunchtime -- or she couldn't find the Daley Center with Google Maps -- or none of his 200 'trials' lasted more than 15 minutes... people can be cruel.

Jealousy is a factor. But it is also true that not all hearing rooms are equally tough, or equally lenient. This much is certain.

It is also rumored that, depending on the number of evaluators, one or two determined cranks, or persons with a specific agenda, or bias, or unrealistic expectations, can hold down a candidate's positive rating or submarine it altogether. I can't prove that this happens or it doesn't happen. And neither can you.

Conversely, one hears stories about some candidates having the opportunity to 'pack' a hearing room with friendly faces and thereby garnering inflated ratings. I can't prove or disprove that this happens either.

But if there can be some manipulation in the acquisition of one's ratings, there really is no latitude for misrepresenting the ratings received. Granted, the bar associations cling to the notion that no candidate ratings should be released until all are complete and, in any event, close to the primary date. But they do this because they believe that most people -- real people -- voters -- don't pay attention to judicial races until the very last minute.

The surge in page views I get just before election days supports this notion.

So somebody could fudge on a rating for months, potentially -- though, again, I've not heard that this is an issue -- but, in the end, he or she would be exposed.

In my experience, it's worked the other way. A candidate tells me the grid is wrong -- and I check it out, and it is fixed. There are a lot of data points. Transcription errors can occur. Or the candidate tells me I've copied correct information down incorrectly. I hate to admit that it happens -- but it does. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

My favorite story on this is still -- early on in this blog -- when a candidate emailed me in high dudgeon because I'd mis-reported his opponent's rating by the XYZ Bar Association. I'd reported that she'd been rated "Qualified." In fact, he wrote, demanding that I correct my error, his opponent had been rated "Highly Qualified."

I hope there's still room for such civility in this election cycle, too. And kindness.

Anonymous said...

Bar ratings are purely subjective and determined primarilly upon political influences with that Bar. I applaud the Supremes who set up their own committees in addition to what they know first hand about the candidate.