Friday, July 31, 2020

It is time for the disruptions to stop

I had been trying to articulate my objection to the never ending slew of demonstrations on the nightly newscasts when I came across this graphic on Facebook. (No, I don't know why the extinction symbol is on it either.)

Whoever came up with this graphic was clearly trying to suggest that the today's seemingly endless protests can be likened to the struggle for women's suffrage: Look at how the tactics that some now deplore were employed by our great-great-grandmothers, and successfully, too!

But the cause espoused by the Suffragettes was clear and precise: They wanted votes for women. And the tactics they employed were in pursuit of that specific goal.

This week the nation has been mourning the passing of Rep. John Lewis (well, most of it, anyway). On March 7, 1965, Lewis, the Rev. Hosea Williams, and about 600 others planned to march the 50 or so miles from Selma, Alabama, to the State Capital at Montgomery. At the end of the Edmund Pettus Bridge their path was blocked by 150 Alabama state troopers, sheriff's deputies, and possemen, and ordered to disperse. As the Eyewitness educational materials from the National Archive explain,
One minute and five seconds after a two-minute warning was announced, the troops advanced, wielding clubs, bullwhips, and tear gas. John Lewis, who suffered a skull fracture, was one of fifty-eight people treated for injuries at the local hospital. The day is remembered in history as “Bloody Sunday.”
Lewis et al. were marching for a specific, clearly defined goal: The right of Blacks to vote, a right guaranteed since 1870 by the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution -- a right systematically denied, in Alabama and elsewhere in the former Confederate States, once federal troops were withdrawn at the end of Reconstruction. The murder of a local deacon, shot in the course of a February protest demanding voting rights, was the specific cause of the Bloody Sunday march -- but the overriding goal was clear: Black Americans were demanding the opportunity to exercise a right the Constitution already said they had.

Now, to the present.

What is the clear goal of today's endless protests in Chicago? What is so important that public health orders in the midst of a world-wide pandemic must be flouted?

In a Monday, July 27, Chicago Tribune column, "Today’s social justice movement was born out of anger, not hope. There’s nothing peaceful about it," Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton wrote,
Right now, the demands are all over the place, including defunding the police, stopping police brutality, taking down Confederate monuments and removing statues of Christopher Columbus.
Glanton's list is both lengthy and incomplete.

To Glanton's list of protester demands I would add "Decolonize Zhigaagoong," which is apparently a demand that Chicago be abandoned to the descendants of people living here before Europeans arrived.

I would add this to Glanton's list because this was one of the stated goals of the organizers of several protests, including last Friday's Homan Square protest (where the above photograph -- a still from a participant's video -- was obtained). Nor am I inventing or exaggerating the demand. Quoting now from The Triibe website, "Decolonize Zhigaagoong [is] a movement to restore native lands to the Indigenous people who lived in Chicago before they were forcibly removed by the U.S. military in 1833. The word 'Zhigaagoong' derives from the Native Anishnaabemowin language and refers to the unceded Niswi-mishokdewinan territory east of Michigan avenue (sic)."

Anishnaabemowin, also spelled Anishinaabemowin, can refer to the language group shared by the Ojibwe (Chippewa), Odawa (Ottawa), and Potawatomi peoples. And Niswi-mishokdewinan refers to the peoples who together comprised the Council of Three Fires, the United Nation of the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi peoples, that entered into the 1833 Treaty of Chicago with the United States, the last of five treaties that gave the United States (and Chicago developers) clear title to what is now Chicago, including all the land west of Lake Michigan.

Finis Farr, in his "personal history" of Chicago (Chicago, 1973, Arlington House), was critical of the 1833 treaty and the negotiations attendant thereto. Farr refers to the eyewitness testimony of an English traveler, Charles J. Latrobe, in this regard.

Latrobe's observations are extensively excerpted in A.T. Andreas's monumental History of Cook County Illinois (1884) (see pp. 123-124). The 1833 Treaty, too, and its appendices, are largely set out in that work (pp. 124-128). Andreas concluded that the result of the Black Hawk War, and the treaty that concluded that conflict, showed the leaders of the indigenous peoples that (p. 123) "they had no alternative. They must sell their lands for such sum and on such terms as the Government agents might deem it politic or just or generous to grant. The result of the treaty was what might have been expected."

The 1833 Treaty of Chicago was a sharp real estate deal, an early example of many thousands that would take place in Chicago from that time forward. But there was no forcible removal of indigenous peoples from Chicago by the military.

Glanton's summary of protester demands also skims over the widely varying demands made regarding the police and justice system. "Defund the police" is a vague demand, subject to various interpretations, but "abolish the police" is pretty plain. Some protestors are demanding that. Others want to abolish prisons. Here's a screen grab of a July 22, 2020 tweet from GoodKids MadCity, one of the organizers of the July 23 Logan Square Lockdown, which moved, in the course of the evening, to the immediate vicinity of Mayor Lightfoot's home:

This photograph from last Friday's Homan Square protest shows one protester's concise summary of many of the aforestated demands -- abolish the entire "carceral system."

There may be many who would be receptive to meaningful police reform, including many police officers, depending on what the proposed reforms are, but (I hope) there can't be many who want to throw out police, prisons, and the courts.

And the combination of absolutism and certitude on these two signs can not be persuasive for most of the public, or useful in the recruitment of allies.

The Suffragettes and the Civil Rights marchers of the 1960s used the streets, not to obtain justice there, but to awaken the public at large to the justice of their respective causes.

The Suffragettes and the Civil Rights marchers of the 1960s counted on the public at large, once provoked and prompted, and then educated and enlightened, by their protests, to join them in demanding action through and from the institutions that serve us all. In the case of the Suffragettes, the demand was for a constitutional amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote. In the case of the Civil Rights marchers, the demand was for federal legislation to make viable the right to vote, a right already enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. Marching was not an end; it was a beginning. Too many protesters today seem to think marching alone can bring about the unspecified "change" they profess to desire. And at least some of today's protesters appear bent on the destruction of our common institutions.

I've been a lawyer now for 40 years. I will be the first to admit that one does not always find justice in the courts. And I've been a voter for longer than 40 years. I can not dispute that sometimes our elected officials fail us, that sometimes they are more interested in their own perpetuation in office and personal enrichment than they are in improving the lot of their fellow humans. There is no human institution without flaws. But one -- anyone -- is more likely to find justice in our flawed institutions than in the street. And that is far more true today than it was in 1920 or 1965 because the people who protested then also contributed to, and improved, our flawed institutions.

Slogans alone do not make policy. Ideas are not legislation. Inspiration may ultimately produce a beautiful painting, but not by itself alone, not without a lot of hard and thoughtful and careful brushwork. So it is also with demands for "reform."

As Dahleen Glanton's Monday Tribune column said,
The goals of the 1960s social-justice protests were concise. Voting rights, desegregation and jobs were the focus and it never changed. [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s] most powerful contribution was keeping everyone’s eyes on the prize.
Today's protests are out of focus, all over the board. There is really no focus at all.

But Glanton follows up the above statement with this non-sequitur: "When the stakes are this high, the idea of peaceful protests simply isn’t real. People on both sides have too much to lose and no one wants to walk away empty-handed."

What stakes? What is the "prize" here? What do the protesters really have to lose, except perhaps their health, and ours, because of their congregating unsafely in this never-ending Year of Pandemic? And, for heaven's sake, why is the idea of peaceful protest not "real"?

I don't deny anyone's right to their opinions, or to freely express their opinions. That is part of our common, shared birthright as Americans. But it is time to stop marching. It is time to go home. COVID-19 positivity rates are going up in Chicago and Cook County, heading toward levels that will trigger new, and potentially even more ruinous, business shutdowns. Bars and restaurants may have contributed to these increases -- but the protests are contributing as well.

It seems appropriate to give Rep. Lewis the last word:
There are still forces in America that want to divide us along racial lines, religious lines, sex, class. But we've come too far; we've made too much progress to stop or to pull back. We must go forward. And I believe we will get there.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

And today's numbers go up... again

Today's Statewide new case total is a tick over 1,600 (1,624 to be exact), a small increase over yesterday , when just under 1,600 cases were reported (1,598).

According to the IDPH website, we haven't reached the increases in positivity that will force more draconian measures, but hospitalizations are up, and suburban Cook County (IDPH Region 10) is doing worse than the City of Chicago (Region 11).

But all trend lines are going upwards.

Is this really the time for marching?

Website may explain why there are so many protests these days

Every day brings with it another story about another protest in the City of Chicago.

Most are reportedly peaceful, though not all. Almost all, however, are "Prohibited Gatherings" within the meaning of the current (June 26) Order (No. 2020-9).

Still, the protests go on.

And many seem to be covered faithfully on the day's newscasts.

Why are these events drawing such large numbers?

The Observer Paradox plays a role, surely. The Observer Paradox states that any phenomenon being observed is unwittingly influenced by the presence of the observer. In other words, a TV camera will attract people who want to get on TV just as surely as a bug zapper in the backyard will attract mosquitoes.

And some will say it's the result of boredom (beaches and movie theaters closed, bars closed, hardly any sports on TV), or pandemic-related layoffs or unemployment.

These probably play a role.

But I recently stumbled across another possible explanation: A webiste, called Protest Chicago. The mission statement of the site reads as follows:
The rise of activism has made it difficult for action-minded people to find out where and when people are gathering to raise their voices. The volume of protest events is large and increasing, and it’s hard to find a comprehensive list of events in one place. is an online guide to Chicago-area protest events, striving to consolidate all area protests into one easy-to-use website. accepts any protest and rally event notifications from progressive organizations and lists them in a simple, clean format. Events are displayed in chronological order, and include all the relevant details – including links to organizers’ own promotional media – with no analysis, opinion, or comment.

Please note that ProtestChicago does not organize events. All information is posted in good faith, from public sources, and may not reflect any last minute changes orchestrated by event organizers. If you wish to contact event organizers, please use the links provided to reach out to them.

Content is limited to progressive public rallies and protests.
Notice that only "progressive" protests may apply for inclusion on the Protest Chicago site. A pro-police rally, or a pro-life prayer vigil, will not receive any mention.

Anyway, thanks to Protest Chicago, when the woke awake each morning, or afternoon, they can merely reach for their phones to find where they can next parade their virtue.

Some days, like today, are doubleheader days.

It's already begun, so unless you're already downtown, you'll probably miss the No Cops No Feds No Secret Police rally now ongoing at the Federal Plaza. Listed sponsors of the event are Black Lives Matter Chicago, Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, the #LetUsBreathe Collective, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, BYP 100 Organized Communities Against Deportations, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Northside Action For Justice, Chi-Nations Youth Council, SOUL - Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, and United Working Families.

Later, everyone can head over to Logan Square Park, starting tonight at 7:00 p.m., for the Logan Square Lockdown:

Sponsors of the event are GoodKids MadCity & Blck Rising.

And tomorrow night the big event is the Freedom Square Anniversary Rally to #DefundCPD, starting at 4:00 p.m., in time for the early evening newscasts, at Homan & Filmore. Sponsoring organizations are listed on Protest Chicago as The Let Us Breath Collective, Chi-Nations, Black Abolitionist Network (BAN), Chi Resists, Black Youth Project 100, and Black Lives Matter Chicago.

The event summary describes what organizers envision for the event... and the future:
DEFUND CPD • DECOLONIZE ZHIGAAGOONG • DEMAND THE CLOSING OF HOMAN SQUARE | Four years ago, we liberated the vacant lot across from CPD black site Homan Square and held a protest encampment for 41 days. We made art, met survivors, fed hundreds of neighbors daily, and declared it an autonomous zone where we imagined our liberated future without police.

Join us this Friday as the campaign to #DefundCPD celebrates the 4 year anniversary of Freedom Square. Our city and our mayor spend $1.8 billion on police each year, and in return they terrorize our youth and brutalize people to protect property. Meet us at Homan & Fillmore on Friday to imagine a world where we divest from torture, genocide, and slavery and invest in our beautiful future....
I'm afraid I did not know what was meant by "DECOLONIZE ZHIGAAGOONG." Perhaps I have sheltered in place for too long.

But, once I knew this was a matter of concern to some people, I was able to obtain a translation. From the Triibe website:
In Chicago, Black, Brown and Indigenous organizers have been fighting for the city to recognize and honor a variety of truths. On July 17, at a Black and Indigenous solidarity rally in Grant Park, they called for the city to defund the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and decolonize Zhigaagoong, a movement to restore native lands to the Indigenous people who lived in Chicago before they were forcibly removed by the U.S. military in 1833. The word “Zhigaagoong” derives from the Native Anishnaabemowin language and refers to the unceded Niswi-mishokdewinan territory east of Michigan avenue.
I mean to express no opinion about the seriousness or sincerity or practicality of the issues put forward by the organizers of these events.

But it occurs to me that we are in the fifth month now of what was supposed to be a two-week shutdown caused by a public health emergency. A public health emergency exacerbated, and extended, by persons gathering in large groups.

The City of Chicago faces any number of serious issues, including an alarming rate in the increase of murders and shootings in several areas, even downtown. Many businesses that closed their doors at the outset of this emergency will never reopen. The jobs and tax revenues produced by those enterprises are gone forever. How long will courts be able to function half-open, half-closed? Traffic court reopened... and closed again. Other businesses reopened but, like bars and restaurants in the City of Chicago, they, too, may close again. Schools, though promising to reopen, may or may not.

If one faithfully follows all the links in this post, one will see that organizers all encourage the use of masks. And that's great. Really. But until we get our world back -- if we can get our world back -- are these gatherings really helpful? Or do they prolong our collective shutdown?

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Confirmation: There are no independent Cook County Judicial candidates

The Illinois State Board of Elections confirmed this morning that its website is back up to date -- and that no independents filed to challenge the many, now confirmed as, uncontested Cook County judicial candidates.

I admit to a certain amount of relief on this.

I'd been sitting on a number of comments claiming that a horde of independent filings were in the offing.

A couple of non-specific examples:
Who cares. Too busy circulating petitions in light of the court decision Jack hasn't discussed that is material to the topic of this blog. Wonder why?

Censorship, Jack? The Independents are coming And when we win, we won't be giving you any scoops.

I think that all of this is wonderful. My slate and I now have until the end of August 2020 to get our petition signatures to run as independents due to federal judge Pallmeyer's ruling that we only need to get 2,500 signatures. With all of the Democrats and Republicans failing us and tanking our economy, plenty of people will be looking to retaliate and vote for some independents. And remember, if you lost in one slot during the primary you can run again in another slot....
I don't know what the purpose of these comments may have been -- perhaps to scare up some money from skittish judicial nominees. Judicial candidates can be among the most nervous people ever put on this Earth, not that I blame them.

But I hadn't seen any evidence that any of this was real. So I didn't run the comments.

Of course, in this Year of Never Ending Pandemic, I'm out and about even less than usual. Still, I was pretty sure.

And it looks like my instincts were right, at least on this occasion.

(Although, before anyone takes the trouble to say so, I am all too aware that even a stopped clock is right twice a day.)

When does Phase IV apply and when does it not?

In the news today is an announcement that the City of Chicago is re-tightening restrictions on some businesses because of an increase in COVID-19 cases here. Effective Friday, at 12:01 a.m., these new restrictions will be put in place:
  • Bars, taverns, breweries and other establishments that serve alcohol for on-site consumption without a Retail Food license will no longer be able to serve customers indoors.
    • Restaurants that serve alcohol will be allowed to continue to operate as long as they abide by ongoing COVID-19 guidance and existing regulations.
    • Establishments without food may still provide outdoor service as they did under phase three.
  • Maximum party size and table occupancy at restaurants, bars, taverns and breweries will be reduced to six people.
  • Indoor fitness class size will be reduced to a maximum of 10 people.
  • Personal services requiring the removal of face coverings will no longer be permitted (shaves, facials, etc.).
  • Residential property managers will be asked to limit guest entry to five per unit to avoid indoor gatherings and parties.
While the City's Public Health Commissioner, Dr. Allison Arwady, expressed regret that this step back must be taken, she said it was the right thing to do. Why? According to the City's press release, we are back "a high-incidence state under Centers for Disease Control guidelines after topping 200 cases per day on a 7-day rolling average. As of Sunday, July 19, that number was 233. That increase has been driven in part by rising cases among young people 18-29 years old as the city has seen more social activity and interactions in bars, restaurants, parks and the lakefront."

There was quite a bit of social activity and interaction in Grant Park on Friday, July 17.

The above two images are taken from video footage released by the Chicago Police Department concerning this incident. To watch the entire six-minute video, click here.

These two images are taken from footage taken by WGN-TV:

The good news, I suppose, is that many of those shown in the above photograph are wearing masks.

Still, this seems quite a lot of social activity and interaction, without a bar or restaurant in sight.

Despite the crackdown on bars and restaurants, the City of Chicago says that we are in Phase IV of its reopening plan. Whereas in Phase III of the City plan, social gatherings were to be limited to 10 or fewer persons, no numeric restriction is specified on the linked page for Phase IV.

But a numeric restriction is specified by the City in Order No. 2020-9 issued by the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health. Attachment A specifically provides:

Any Gathering of more than 50 people, any two or more of whom are within six feet of each other, convening for more than ten minutes, is a Prohibited Gathering. To the extent possible, individuals in gatherings of 50 or fewer are still encouraged to maintain six feet of social distancing with individuals who are not members of the same household.
But there are a few exceptions to this definition, and the potentially relevant one for our purposes is paragraph (c). The following is not a Prohibited Gathering:
A grouping of people: (1) located outdoors; (2) for a meeting at which participants will be sitting, standing, or otherwise remaining stationary for ten minutes or more; (3) the total of all people at the meeting is limited to 100; and (4) each person or household is separated from each other person or household by a minimum of six feet.
Clearly there were more than 100 people at Grant Park last Friday. There have been numerous protests since of one kind or another -- watch the news any night -- which would likewise appear to fall within the City's definition of Prohibited Gatherings.

Reimposing restrictions on bars and restaurants is all well and good, but if we are ever to emerge from this Never Ending Year of Pandemic, won't these Prohibited Gatherings also have to stop?

Or does Phase IV not apply to gatherings deemed righteous?

Is the COVID-19 virus really that woke?

Please note that I am expressing no opinions whatsoever. I am merely asking questions.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Independent filing period now closed, and nothing at all seems to have happened

No one appears to have filed for any Cook County judicial vacancy in the special filing period that ended today, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections website.

Dr. Willie Wilson did file, as expected, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate. A handful of Greens and Libertarians filed for a handful of legislative or congressional seats. Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker are the Green Party candidates for President and Vice President.

Candidates from the American Solidarity Party and the Party for Socialism and Liberation also filed for President and Vice President.

Someone did file for a judicial vacancy in the Downstate 6th Circuit, but all unopposed Cook County judicial candidates apparently remain unopposed.

Caveat: In preparing this post, I came across a Tweet, and eventually this news article on the State Journal-Register website, by Bernie Schoenburg, reporting that Kanye West filed for President minutes before the State Board of Elections closed this evening. That's not (yet) showing up on the ISBE website.

If Kanye's filing is not yet showing up on the website, perhaps there are others.

In prior election cycles, the ISBE website has been updated almost immediately (after the initial filing crunch) -- but, in this Never Ending Year of Pandemic, perhaps the Board's ability to promptly update the website is different, like the filing rules themselves. I'll check again in the morning.

Friday, July 17, 2020

But was there sufficient insulation?

The news story is that Commonwealth Edison has agreed to pay $200,000,000 in exchange for a three-year deferred prosecution agreement, avoiding a public trial on charges that ComEd "corruptly gave, offered, and agreed to give things of value, namely, jobs, vendor subcontracts, and monetary payments associated with those jobs and subcontracts, for the benefit of Public Official A and Public Official A's associates, with intent to influence and reward Public Official A."

Though it is sometimes difficult for the uninitiated to figure out who the G is talking about when it gives people in pleadings single letter names like A, B, or C, it is easy to brush aside the disguise for one of the persons named in the papers today: "Public Official A is the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and the longest serving member of the House of Representatives. ComEd understood that, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Public Official A was able to exercise control over what measures were called for a vote in the House of Representatives and had substantial influence and control over fellow lawmakers concerning legislation, including legislation that affected ComEd."

As a result of today's filing, a whole bunch of folks are going to have sleepless nights (and many probably have been having them for some time, given the length of time it undoubtedly took to advance negotiations to the point where these filings could be made). But the facts stipulated by ComEd concern requests allegedly made in Public Official A's name, for friends and associates of Public Official A, but not necessarily by Public Official A:
From in or around 2011 through in or around 2019, in an effort to influence and reward Public Official A's efforts, as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, to assist ComEd with respect to legislation concerning ComEd and its business, ComEd arranged for various associates of Public Official A, including Public Official A's political allies and individuals who performed political work for Public Official A, to obtain jobs, vendor subcontracts, and monetary payments associated with those jobs and subcontracts from ComEd, even in instances where certain political allies and workers performed little or no work that they were purportedly hired to perform for ComEd.
This language does not preclude the possibility that some people in Public Official A's orbit did not accurately relay Public Official A's wishes and requests. Some may have taken advantage of their association with the Speaker to corruptly obtain benefits for themselves and their friends without the Speaker's knowing. This is likely to be sorted out in future filings, plea agreements, and, possibly, trials.

What it will come to, in the end, is how well insulated Public Official A may have been from the acts referred to. When working with electricity, it is vital to be well insulated.

Meanwhile... the agreement provides that "ComEd agrees that no tax deduction may be sought in connection with the payment of any part of the tine, and ComEd may not seek to recover any portion of the fine through surcharges, fees or any other charges to customers. ComEd shall not seek or accept directly or indirectly reimbursement or indemnification from any source other than Exelon with regard to the fine amount or any other amount it pays pursuant to any other agreement entered into with an enforcement authority or regulator concerning the facts set forth in the Statement of Facts." But how will the Government really prevent ComEd from recovering the $200,000,000 fine from the pockets of its customers? Just asking....

We are a nation of hyperpartisan, skeptical scofflaws -- and it's killing us

Americans have a problem with authority. And, conversely, and a little perversely, we also have an obsession with the law.

In simplest terms, we love laws -- for other people -- but we too often can't be bothered to follow the laws we claim to support. The first thing we do, in response to a law, is look for a way around it.

Cellphones are a great example.

Driving while holding a cellphone is illegal just about everywhere in America now, and these laws passed relatively easily, with apparent broad support, not that you could tell standing at any random street corner, watching the cars go by with drivers clutching their cellphones.

Watching the cars go by not stopping at posted stop signs.

A man told me recently that his son told him that stop signs with white borders were merely advisory. It was meant as a joke, and we both laughed (if every stop sign does not have a white border, 99% do) -- but look around as you take your daily walk. You will be astonished.

Anyway, the first thing people did once laws were passed against holding cellphones was to build cars that answered the phone, and read text messages, so that the more prosperous among us could keep their hands firmly at the 10 and 2 positions on the wheel and still yack away incessantly while driving. Putting the phone on speaker and wedging it in the cupholder works almost was well.

Those who wanted to found their way around the law, but not around the problem of distracted driving. Which of course the handheld cellphone ban doesn't really address either: The person who sneaks a peek at a text while stopped at a light is not distracted in a way that does harm to those around her, not like the person who screams at a subordinate or a contractor who failed to show up, or who breaks up with a lover, while weaving around the expressway.

And enforcement of such laws can never be uniform; they can only be arbitrary (enforcement "sweeps" are by definition arbitrary, because they can't be conducted everywhere at once, and for that reason are often damned as pretextual).

There's widespread agreement that that crazy guy in front of us weaving across the center line shouldn't be looking at his phone, but no consensus that we should all turn our phones off when we get behind the wheel. Those laws are for other folks.

Chicago was supposed to become this great, welcoming city for bicycle riders. Elston, Milwaukee, Clybourn and virtually every other arterial street was cut in half to accommodate bicycle lanes. In Germany and the Netherlands, these lanes work wonderfully (we are told) but, if they do, it is because the bicycle riders there are German or Dutch. Here, though, the bicycle riders are Americans -- and, if some bicycle riders use the marked bicycle lanes, a great many also do not, or do so only sporadically. Did you know that traffic laws apply also to bicyclists? A great many bicyclists do not. Those laws, too, are for other folks.

So we don't follow laws, at least we don't if it's inconvenient or troublesome, or takes us out of our way.

Which brings us to facial masks and facial mask mandates.

Too many of us are naturally inclined to ignore or evade face mask mandates, or think them proper only for other folks.

But it's not just our American inclination to evade or ignore laws that hurts us here. It is our once-healthy American skepticism.

Americans take pride in their refusal to accept almost anything uncritically. Missouri is not the only "show me" state.

Our innate American skepticism has always extended to the media, and with good reason: Even when they're trying to report it straight, reporters often garble the facts, perhaps from haste, perhaps from ignorance. The news is only supposed to be the first draft of history -- and, as anybody who ever got through high school can attest, first drafts often miss important stuff.

Any lawyer who has ever been involved in a case that got reported in the news will have a story about what the press missed -- or got wrong altogether. But in this era of Fox News and MSNBC, we can't always be certain that reporters are even trying to get the story straight. Often it seems that the facts of any newsworthy event are pulled or stretched or cut out, like the unwary guest in the Procrustean bed, to fit a preferred narrative. And with the never-ending spin of the modern news cycle, there's no going back to pick up what was left out or reported incorrectly.

People who spend their entire existence inside their chosen bubbles don't necessarily suffer from this problem, but those who try and seek information from multiple sources will be first appalled, and then discouraged, and finally numbed by the inconsistencies in the reporting of the day's events. It becomes harder and harder to believe anything one can not independently verify. The Doubting Thomas of the Gospel of John has a great many descendants in today's society.

So when the news is full of a world-wide pandemic, one which can be pretty well stopped in its tracks by the simple expedient of wearing a face mask in public, a great many people are inclined to disbelieve.

And, of course, some media outlets have been openly skeptical themselves about the existence of the pandemic, or its severity. That doesn't help -- but it's an entirely foreseeable consequence of a new, and horrifying American characteristic: We make everything a political issue.

Americans used to make fun of the old Soviet Union for making every aspect of even everyday life political. Now we do it ourselves.

The truth is that the COVID-19 pandemic was not immediately recognized as a serious threat by anyone in authority. I remember Mayor Lightfoot encouraging folks to patronize Chinatown restaurants during the Lunar New Year. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio was encouraging people to go to restaurants and shows as late as March 11. Sixty people showed up for a March 6 choir practice in Washington State, in an area where the virus was not then established, using hand sanitizer and otherwise observing all the safety protocols as then understood. By March 29, when the L.A. Times reported the story, 45 of the 60 had come down with COVID-19 symptoms, three were hospitalized, and two were dead.

Part of the problem was this was a wholly new disease; there were, by definition, no "experts" concerning this particular disease, only persons with expertise in dealing with other viruses or with infectious diseases generally. The experts did not know, initially, that the COVID-19 virus was transmitted through the air from people who were not then showing symptoms.

We the People politicized a public health emergency: The President was accused of being unprepared and moving too slowly; Gov. Pritzker was accused of moving too fast in destroying the economy by shutting everything down -- everything, that is, except the March 17 primary, of course. People died while our leaders were busy pointing fingers and trying to score political points off each other.

Dr. Fauci has to be about the only employee of the Federal government whose reputation has been enhanced by service in the Trump Administration -- but only because the President has so often tried to downplay, dismiss, or undermine Dr. Fauci.

The "experts" had us wiping down our groceries -- probably unnecessarily, as it turns out. They kept us sheltering in place, not because they knew so much about the coronavirus, but because they knew so little. What they did know was that, if people did not interact, they could not spread any disease, COVID-19 included.

But we know more now -- the scientists have been hard at work -- and we know we have a disease that can be transmitted through the air. Not just by sneezing, but simply by talking. Talking loudly, or singing, spreads the virus further. And progress is apparently being made on a vaccine. Or maybe several vaccines.

And wearing a face mask keeps the virus from spreading.

Maybe not completely -- masks have to be worn properly for one thing -- covering the mouth but not the nose will not do -- and some masks may work better than others. But if everyone wears even a cloth mask in public the virus will be knocked down.

Not cured.

Not eradicated.

But the spread will stop. And our "new normal" will start looking increasingly like our old normal, with the addition of a single fashion accessory.

Face masks are not political.

The virus is not political.

Don't wear a mask because the Governor, or the Mayor, says you should. Don't wear a mask because the President doesn't. Just wear a mask because you should. Because it will help.

We are, and are likely to remain for some time, a nation of hyperpartisan, skeptical scofflaws. But we don't have to die on account of it: Wear a mask in public.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Cara Lefevour Smith receives countywide judicial appointment

Judge Cara Lefevour Smith, who had been serving by appointment in a 7th Subcircuit vacancy (a vacancy she did not pursue in the March primary), has been appointed to a countywide vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Kathleen M. McGury.

The new appointment was effective July 1. It will terminate December 5, 2022.

Licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1992, Smith served as a spokesperson for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart prior to her initial 2019 appointment. She previously served as an Illinois Assistant Attorney General. Her late father, Raymond F. LeFevour, was the President of Wright Jr. College.

Pamela Reaves-Harris is the Democratic Party's nominee for the vacancy that Smith has now vacated. No Republican filed for that vacancy.

Two First District Appellate Court Justices file for retention, as do 64 Cook County Circuit Court judges

Updated August 28, 2020 to correct omission and reflect current information.

First District Appellate Court Justices Aurelia Marie Pucinski and Mary Katherine Rochford have filed for retention this November, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Sixty four Cook County Circuit Court judges have also filed for retention. Those filing are
  1. Margaret Ann Brennan,
  2. Andrea M. Buford,
  3. Thomas J. Byrne,
  4. Diane Gordon Cannon,
  5. Thomas J. Carroll,
  6. Cynthia Y. Cobbs,
  7. Mary Ellen Coghlan,
  8. James Patrick Flannery, Jr.,
  9. Michael B. Hyman,
  10. Kerry M. Kennedy,
  11. Daniel J. Kubasiak,
  12. Maritza Martinez,
  13. Bridget Anne Mitchell,
  14. Caroline Kate Moreland,
  15. Lewis Nixon,
  16. Joan E. Powell,
  17. William B. Raines,
  18. Kristal Rivers,
  19. Diana Rosario,
  20. Kristyna Colleen Ryan,
  21. Patricia O'Brien Sheahan,
  22. Laura Marie Sullivan,
  23. Shelley Lynn Sutker-Dermer,
  24. Debra B. Walker,
  25. Maureen Ward Kirby,
  26. Michael P. Toomin,
  27. Donna L. Cooper,
  28. Steven G. Watkins,
  29. Janet Adams Brosnahan,
  30. Terrence J. McGuire,
  31. Patrick J. Sherlock,
  32. Kenneth J. Wadas,
  33. John Michael Allegretti,
  34. Peter A. Felice,
  35. John J. Mahoney,
  36. Pat Rogers,
  37. Cassandra Lewis,
  38. Jackie Marie Portman-Brown,
  39. Dominique G. Ross,
  40. Mauricio Araujo,
  41. Raul Vega,
  42. Robert D. Kuzas,
  43. Patricia Manila Martin,
  44. Judith Rice,
  45. Ann Collins-Dole,
  46. Robert E. Gordon,
  47. Megan Elizabeth Goldish,
  48. Anjana Hansen,
  49. Abbey Fishman Romanek,
  50. Diana L. Kenworthy,
  51. Anthony C. "Tony" Kyriakopoulos,
  52. Ursuala Walowski,
  53. Gregory J. Wojkowski,
  54. Dennis Michael McGuire,
  55. Pamela McLean Meyerson,
  56. Pamela Elizabeth Loza,
  57. James Paul Pieczonka,
  58. John Curry,
  59. Edward A. Acre,
  60. James Brown,
  61. James N. O'Hara,
  62. Patrick Kevin Coughlin,
  63. Anna Helen Demacopoulos, and
  64. Chris Lawler.
Appellate Court justices are elected to 10-year terms and must be retained in office to win additional 10-year terms.

Circuit Court judges have a six year term of office and must be retained every six years thereafter.

Four of the 64 Circuit Court judges seeking retention are presently serving on the Illinois Appellate Court. These are Mary Ellen Coghlan, Cynthia Y. Cobbs, Michael B. Hyman, and Robert E. Gordon. Hyman is also a candidate for the Neville, Jr. vacancy on the Appellate Court and faces no opposition in November. So he will remain at his post. Coghlan, Cobbs, and Gordon must be retained as Circuit Court judges in order to serve on any court.

On the retention ballot voters are asked to vote yes or no on the question of whether Judge Joan Smith shall be retained in office. A judge must receive a "yes" vote of 60% (+1) in order to be retained.

Judges listed above are not in ballot order.

Based on past experience, it is safe to predict that there will probably be at least a few judges who withdraw from the retention ballot prior to November.

Independent filing period now open, nothing much yet happening

I kind of expected Dr. Willie Wilson to have his nomination petitions for U.S. Senator Dick Durbin's seat ready to go yesterday morning when this year's special, COVID-19 impacted filing period for independent candidates began.

So far, nothing.

The only independent filing that has so far shown up on the State Board of Elections website is that of Kody Czerwonka, of Mattoon, who has filed in the 110th Legislative District to challenge Republican Rep. Chris Miller, of Robinson.

But let me back up.

As FWIW readers know, or should know, getting on the ballot is not easy. And that's getting on the ballot as a Democrat or Republican. Trying to mount an independent campaign is, ordinarily, well-nigh impossible.

But, in this Year of Never-Ending Pandemic, the rules have changed.

On June 21 the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Illinois State Board of Election's motion to stay enforcement of the District Court's preliminary injunction in the case of Libertarian Party of Illinois v. Pritzker, 20-cv-2112. See, Libertarian Party of Illinois v. Cadigan, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 20161. I do not mean to oversimplify or trivialize the court's reasoning here, but I think it's safe to say that the ISBE's motion was denied in large part because the Board had basically agreed to all the terms in the injunction it was appealing.

So here are the one-time-only rules for this very strange year (2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 20161, *4-5):
(1) Plaintiff political parties [the Libertarians and the Greens] are permitted to nominate candidates without petitions in any race in which they had nominated a candidate in either 2016 or 2018, and the three individual candidates are permitted to appear on the ballot for any office they qualified for in 2016 or 2018 without a petition [none of these involving judicial offices];

(2) New political party and independent candidates not subject to item (1) are required to file nomination petitions signed by not less than 10% of the statutory minimum number required;

(3) Petition signers are permitted to affix their signatures to a petition electronically, by using a computer mouse, a stylus, or their finger; and

(4) The statutory petition filing deadline is moved from June 22, 2020, to [July 20, 2020]
I believe that this order would apply to wannabe independent Cook County judicial candidates. The above language strongly supports that conclusion.

However, an independent candidate seeking election to the Freeman vacancy on the Illinois Supreme Court, or either of the two 1st District Appellate Court vacancies, or any of the countywide Cook County Circuit Court vacancies, would have to come up with "only" 2,500 to 14,362 signatures. Lesser amounts would be needed to qualify for subcircuit vacancies, less even than the 1,000 required for the March primary -- but getting any signatures at all would be difficult in these unusual times. And, of course, if any candidates do file for any vacancies that now have only one, unopposed candidate on the November ballot, those candidates would find their petitions subject to extraordinary scrutiny.

Challenges to any nominating petitions that are filed will be due on July 27.