Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Office of the Chief Judge mandates COVID-19 vaccines for all employees

In announcing the employee mandate, the Office of Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans issued the following statement:

In recent weeks, the nation has seen a surge in coronavirus cases due, in large part, to the emergence of the highly contagious omicron variant. Because of this surge, and following discussions with public health experts and union representatives throughout the pandemic, the Office of the Chief Judge has determined that vaccination against COVID-19 will be mandated for all of its approximately 2,600 employees, with limited exceptions for those who receive accommodations for medical conditions or sincerely held religious beliefs.

“Public health experts have determined that unvaccinated individuals are more likely to contract and transmit the virus and to experience more serious symptoms of COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated,” said Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans. “This step is being taken to ensure the safest possible workplace for our employees, and to protect employees of our justice partners, court services patrons, residents of the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, and the general public.”

Chief Judge Evans said he expects to distribute the full policy by the end of this week to all employees and judges, as well as to the unions representing the office’s employees, and anticipates discussions with those unions will commence shortly thereafter. Highlights of the policy include:

  • Unvaccinated employees must comply with the mandate within 21 days, meaning they must receive the first shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine must be received as soon as practicable after receiving the first.

  • Employees may request exemptions from the requirement for medical or religious reasons. Anyone requesting an exemption must submit a medical or religious accommodation request form to Human Resources by January 17, 2022, to allow for evaluation and determination.

  • Failure to follow this policy may subject an employee to discipline, up to and including termination of employment.

Since I reported the Christmas Eve update on Covid cases among the judiciary and OCJ employees (only yesterday), the OCJ has announced that four more judges and 53 more OCJ employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19 (for a total, now, of 36 judges and 581 OCJ employees). That represents a significant increase in only five days, but it appears consistent with surging numbers reported among the general population locally and nationally.

Some OCJ employees have been diagnosed with Covid more than once, but are only counted once in the 581 total, according to statements issued by that office. Given that there are roughly 2,600 employees in the OCJ, that means that over 22% of the employees in that office have tested positive for Covid at some point since March 2020.

Another judge sent to 'judges' jail' -- but not for long

Yesterday the Office of the Chief Judge issued the following statement:

The Executive Committee of the Circuit Court of Cook County has determined that, on or about December 6, 2021, the Hon. Raúl Vega allegedly made a statement to another judge, which, if made, would likely be a violation of the Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct.

At the Committee’s request, Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans, who convened the committee, has ordered that this matter be referred to the Judicial Inquiry Board.

Judge Evans also has ordered that, until further order of the court, Judge Vega is assigned to restricted duties or duties other than judicial duties in the office of the Presiding Judge of the First Municipal District.

Judge Vega previously had announced his upcoming retirement, effective next month. He is the former presiding judge of the Domestic Violence Division. Chief Judge Evans named the Hon. Judith C. Rice as the acting presiding judge of the Domestic Violence Division on December 23.

According to the Illinois Supreme Court website, Judge Vega's retirement is effective January 28.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Who Sits Where: An authoritative list

Updated January 11, 2022 to reflect the addition of the Jacobius vacancy in the 9th Subcircuit
Updated January 5, 2022 to reflect the addition of the countywide Ingram vacancy

Herewith, an updated Who Sits Where. And -- for the first time ever -- this list starts with a vacancy list posted on the new Illinois Supreme Court website. (Thank you, Christopher Bonjean.)

Where a vacancy has been filled by an interim Supreme Court appointment, I have provided the identity of the appointee. If history is any guide, there will still be several more vacancies opening up in the months to come. One of the nine persons recently slated for supposedly existing countywide vacancies sure hopes so -- because, right now, just as I've been reporting, the Supreme Court's list of countywide vacancies stands at eight.

As always, all errors of omission or commission in this list are mine alone and I am grateful for additions and corrections provided.

Appellate Court Vacancy

Vacancy of the Hon. Shelvin Louise Marie Hall -- Robert E. Gordon

Countywide Circuit Court Vacancies

Vacancy of the Hon. Margaret A. Brennan -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Diane Gordon Cannon -- Sanjay T. Tailor
Vacancy of the Hon. Michael B. Hyman -- Tracie R. Porter
Vacancy of the Hon. Cheryl D. Ingram -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Pamela M. Leeming -- Rena Marie Van Tine
Vacancy of the Hon. Daniel Lynch -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Kathleen M. McGury -- Ruth I. Gudino
Vacancy of the Hon. Joan M. O'Brien -- Araceli R. De La Cruz
Vacancy of the Hon. Sharon M. Sullivan -- Thomas M. Donnelly

Subcircuit Vacancies

1st Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Sharon O. Johnson -- John Wellington Wilson

4th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. James Gavin -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Patrick T. Rogers -- Unfilled

5th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Jackie Marie Portman-Brown -- David L. Kelly
Vacancy of the Hon. Diane Shelly -- Unfilled

6th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Mauricio Araujo -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Raul Vega -- Unfilled

7th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Patricia Martin -- Unfilled

8th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Robert E. Gordon -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Thomas J. Lipscomb -- Unfilled

9th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Jeanne Cleveland Bernstein -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Moshe Jacobius -- Unfilled

11th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Dennis M. McGuire -- Unfilled

14th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. James R. Brown -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Raymond L. Jagielski -- Unfilled

15th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Chris Lawler -- Unfilled

Judith C. Rice named Acting Presiding Judge of Domestic Violence Division

In a press release issued just before Christmas, the Office of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans announced that Judge Judith C. Rice has been appointed Acting Presiding Judge of the Domestic Violence Division.

Rice is is the first African-American to hold this position, according to the court's statement.

"Judge Rice is an excellent judge and has spent many years as a dedicated public servant," said Judge Evans. "I am confident that she will succeed in this new leadership role as we continue to expand services and access in the Domestic Violence Division."

Rice was elected to a 7th Subcircuit vacancy in 2014. She faced no opposition in the general election. After winning the Democratic Party nomination for that seat in the primary, Rice was appointed to fill the vacancy she was seeking. She faced no opposition in the general election.

Before being elected to the judiciary, Rice served in executive positions at BMO Harris Bank, rising to the position of senior vice president and head of community affairs and economic development. Earlier in her career, Rice served as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney and as an assistant corporation counsel for the City of Chicago. She was director of the Department of Revenue between 1993 and 1995. Rice was elected Chicago City Treasurer after serving as the first female commissioner of two key city agencies -- the Department of Water from 1996 until 1999 and the Department of Transportation from 1999-2000.

Rice replaces Judge Raul Vega, who is retiring after almost 20 years on the bench. Vega was appointed head of the Domestic Violence Division in 2018.

Vega's retirement will create a second vacancy in the 6th Subcircuit. Maybe.

Another COVID Christmas in the books

That makes two now, if you're counting.

A remarkable number, inasmuch as we were supposed to need just a two-week shutdown to "flatten the curve." (The law firm of Husch Blackwell has maintained a state-by-state, day-by-day archive of COVID-19 related orders -- the link is to the 2020 orders -- and you will note that the original Illinois "Shelter in Place" order had to wait until after the March primary. Political priorities had to be maintained.) The original shutdown of the Cook County court system was only supposed to be for 30 days.

I haven't done a 'Rona post for some time now (the link will take you to all posts so labeled).

Back on August 5, when I last reported a COVID-19 update from the Chief Judge's Office, there were 337 employees of that office (out of a total of about 2,600) who'd been diagnosed with the virus.

The latest update I've seen from the Office of the Chief Judge (dated Christmas Eve) announced that another judge and 21 more employees have tested positive for COVID-19. A total of 528 employees of the Office of the Chief Judge have now come down with the virus, as have 32 judges. As is probably unsurprising, given the length of this never-ending plague, some of these 528 employees have caught the Covid more than once -- but are only counted once in these cumulative totals, according to the Chief Judge's Office.

There's been definite growth in the number of reported Covid cases generally.

Here is the most recent Covid Dashboard from the City of Chicago, released last evening:

Compare the above to the City Dashboard last issued before the Christmas holiday:

Looks like Santa brought quite a few Covid cases with his other gifts.

But these figures are only snapshots. To try and place these figures into some perspective, I suggest comparison of these numbers with those the City put out last August 21, around the time the mask mandate was reimposed (it was briefly withdrawn over the Summer, lest you forget). There were hundreds of cases reported then; there are thousands now.

And those August numbers were up substantially from those just the month before:

Depending on your "tribe" or "silo," you may interpret these numbers as "proof" of the devastating effects of the Delta or Omicron variants... or that mask-wearing is useless and may even be harmful.

As the old saying goes, figures lie, and liars figure.

Ugh.

Lawyers love to argue. Good lawyers ground their arguments in fact. However, when it comes to vaccinations, the facts are all over the board.

According to the Mayo Clinic vaccine tracker, 64.2% of all Illinois residents are fully vaccinated. (Numbers recently released by IDPH are consistent.)

If you look at the City's Covid Dashboard for December 27, we here in the Deep Blue City are only slightly behind the rest of the State. (And, if you look at the City's Covid Dashboard for December 27 and December 23, our fully vaccinated rate went up from 64% to 64.1% over the Christmas weekend, meaning that Santa brought Covid cases to some and shots to others.)

And Illinois is not faring much better the national average in terms of vaccine compliance: Per the Mayo Clinic site, only 61.8% of Americans are fully vaccinated.

Broken down by age group, in Illinois, only 19.3% of children aged 5-11 are fully vaccinated, and 57.2% of children aged 12-17. Among adults aged 18-64, 70.2% are fully vaxxed, while 91.5% of Illinois residents aged 65 and up have received all their shots. And, no, I can't tell from these charts if the "fully vaccinated" category includes boosters or not. I rather doubt it. Perhaps I am overly pessimistic.

The numbers for Illinois residents receiving at least one dose of vaccine are better, according to the Mayo Clinic (28.8% for ages 5-11, 63.6% for ages 12-17, 78.5% for the 18-64 group, and 99.9% of those aged 65 and up).

But the numbers are still awfully low for the very young.

This number supports at least a hypothesis that the virus is spreading fastest among kids -- just as the public health authorities are claiming -- which, in turn, supports the notion that it is spreading in our schools.

Except... schools that stayed open during the 2020-21 school year were among the safest public places to be. And that was without any vaccine for the students at all. So a number of things may be operating here, probably in combination: First, more schools are open this academic year than last. Personnel in newly opened schools may not be as vigilant as those that were working in schools open last year. Also, the availability of vaccines for kids may have caused some teachers and school administrators to relax more than the actual vaccination rates would suggest is prudent. Moreover, the new variants may well be more contagious than their predecessors.

Contrary to what you may hear on cable news, or in some other corners of the Intertubes, there is not always only one simple answer to every question.

The numbers are only going to go up, in the short term anyway, thanks to the unvaccinated and vaccinated alike getting together for Christmas cheer.

COVID-19 may never actually go away, the promises of our leaders notwithstanding. The latest scientific consensus, according to this recent NBC News article, is that the COVID-19 pandemic will subside into endemic Covid -- always with us, but kept largely at bay by vaccination and preventative measures.

Sort of like the flu.

But not exactly.

And even the flu manages to kill a whole bunch of people every year: over 20,000 Americans in 2019-20, and nearly 28,000 in 2018-19, according to the CDC.

COVID-19 was never the bubonic plague. But neither was it 'just a flu': Covid causes more and longer hospitalizations than does the flu, and in particular taxes the resources of intensive care units, and people who did not succumb to the virus often experienced long-lasting complications.

The Covid virus continues to mutate. Perhpas, as some are already speculating about the current Omicron variant, it will become more contagious but less serious.

The smart money should be put on this, our second Covid Christas, not being our last.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Judge Diane Shelley appointed HUD Regional Administrator, Region 5

The White House announced earlier this month that Cook County Circuit Court Judge Diane M. Shelley has been appointed Regional Administrator of Region 5 of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Judge Shelley was elected to the bench in 2006 and was serving in the Commercial Calendar Section of the Law Division at the time of her appointment.

A Commissioner of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, Shelley has also served as President of the Illinois Judges Association and as Chair of the Illinois Judicial Council. Shelley is also a member of the Special Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Justice and Mental Health Planning. She received the Chicago Bar Association's Dickerson Award in 2020.

Judge Shelley's appointment as HUD Regional Administrator creates a new 5th Subcircuit vacancy to be filled in the 2022 election... at least it might create a 5th Subcircuit vacancy... depending on whether or not the Legislature rams through a new Subcircuit map for 2022 (and depending on whether any such last minute renewal is upheld in the courts).

Thursday, December 16, 2021

House and Senate Redistricting Committees differ over whether there may be a new Cook County subcircuit map for in time for the 2022 primary

That's probably the biggest news to emerge from this afternoon's joint meeting of the House and Senate Redistricting Committees: State Sen. Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-17), the Vice Chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, who was presiding today over the Senate Committee, said he understood that the new map, whenever adopted, will not be effective until 2024. House Redistricting Chair Elizabeth Hernandez (D-24) said the "goal" is to pass a Cook County subcircuit map when the General Assembly reconvenes on January 4.

Could the new map possibly be implemented for the 2022 election cycle? Rep. Hernandez appeared to hold open the possibility that it might. If a new map could be agreed upon in time.

Two of the witnesses tesitifying today, Allen Manuel, on behalf of Judge David Kelly's judicial campaign, and former 8th Subcircuit candidate Brad Trowbridge, appeared to take this possibility quite seriously.

Kelly was appointed to a 5th Subcircuit vacancy by the Illinois Supreme Court this past summer. But, his spokesman pointed out, the proposed 20-subcircuit map would take Kelly out of the 5th Subcircuit and put him in the 1st Subcircuit. Where could he run? Could he run at all?

Trowbridge pointed out that there are two vacancies currently up for election in the 8th Subcircuit. That subcircuit has a significant LGBTQ population and has frequently elected judges who identify as LGBTQ. But the heart of that community would be in the new 20th Subcircuit, Trowbridge told committee members. Would the existing vacancies move to the new 8th? Would they stay with the new 20th? How would that be accomplished?

There is a proposed map. It is linked in the preceding sentence and picutred above. There is, however, as yet, no enacting legislation.

And petitions for the 2022 primary may be circulated as of January 13.

Adding five new subcircuits to the 15 existing ones may solve some political problems -- giving different communities more or better shots at electing members of those communities to the bench -- but the incredibly short timeline is not the only pracitcal problem that arises from increasing the number of subcircuits.

There are 165 currently authorized subcircuit judges in Cook County. That works out to 11 per each existing subcircuit. But even with the newest math, 165 slots can't be evenly divided across 20 subcircuits.

So... the Legislature would have to either decrease the authorized number, to 160 perhaps, or increase it to 180 (or more). FWIW readers may recall that there was a proposal to increase the number of subcircuit seats to 270 just this past May -- although 270 isn't even divisible by 20 eiather.

Moreover, new subcircuit vacancies would have to be divvied up among the 20 subcircuits in some order. When the 15 subcircuits were established, the Supreme Court drew lots to determine the order, 1 through 15, in which vacancies would be assigned to the subcircuits. Something like that would have to happen here. So when Judge Smith in the 10th Subcircuit retires, the vacancy would become Additional Judgeship A in the 19th Subcircuit, perhaps at the other end of the county.

FWIW has written the House Redistricting Committee about these questions; if any response is received, I will advise.

Meanwhile, just because it seems crazy and impossible to put a new map in place for 2022 doesn't mean it won't happen. Depending on who is pushing the proposal.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Twenty persons receive Democratic Party's endorsement for countywide judicial vacancies

Nine of the 20 persons referred to in the headline above were endorsed for current vacancies (I was aware of only eight, but the Cook County Democratic Party has access to more authoritative sources than I do).

That means 11 persons were asked to wait in line, just in case additional vacancies open up in time for the 2022 primary. These are the alternates -- slated automatically, in order, from first to eleventh, but only IF new vacancies crop up AND IF the designated alternate has not chosen to run against a slated candidate in the meantime.

There were no late-breaking vacancies in 2020, but there were three in 2018. While anything is technically possible, it is extremely unlikely that 11 more countywide vacancies are going to open up before the primary. So many -- probably most -- of the 11 alternates will wind up being endorsed... for nothing.

The Illinois Supreme Court has appointed persons to six of the existing eight (or nine) countywide vacancies.

Four of these six were slated by the Democratic Party yesterday: Judges Araceli De La Cruz, Tom Donnelly, Ruth Gudino, and Rena Van Tine. Judge Tracie Porter was passed over by the slatemakers for any existing vacancy... but she was designated as the Party's 1st Alternate. She is first in line if another vacancy opens.

The other judge currently sitting in a countywide vacancy pursuant to Supreme Court appointment, Sanjay Tailor, is not on the list at all... but is reportedly planning a run for a subcircuit vacancy in order to hold his place on the bench.

The Cook County Democratic Party does not endorse candidates for subcircuit vacancies. Subcircuit endorsements are made by the committeepersons whose wards or townships, or some parts thereof, are within the subcircuit.

The headline in the MSM about the judicial slating -- if there were one -- would be that 21st Ward Ald. Howard Brookins was chosen by the Party for a countywide vacancy. Perhaps of greater interest to FWIW readers is the fact that Tom Nowinski and Yolanda Sayre, the first and fifth of the alternates designated in 2020, have been actually slated and endorsed by the Cook County Democratic Party.

The 10th alternate designated in 2020, Ashonta Rice, has moved up to 4th alternate on the 2022 standby list.

Diana López, who just became an associate judge this year, also secured an endorsement for a countywide vacancy.

Here is the complete list of slated countywide candidates, in alphabetical order:

  • Howard Brookins,
  • Araceli De La Cruz,
  • Thomas M. Donnelly,
  • Ruth Gudino,
  • Diana López,
  • Tom Nowinski,
  • Yolanda Sayre,
  • Rena Van Tine, and
  • Michael Weaver.

The 11 designated alternates are, in order:

  1. Tracie Porter,
  2. Marcia O'Brien Conway,
  3. Jennifer Callahan,
  4. Ashonta Rice,
  5. Pam Saindon,
  6. James Murphy Aguliu,
  7. Steven McKenzie,
  8. James Gleffe,
  9. Debjani Desai,
  10. Joanne Fehn, and
  11. Tiffany Brooks.

For the sole Appellate Court vacancy, the Cook County Democratic Party slated Judge Dominique Ross. Judge John Ehrlich was designated as an alternate.

Appellate Court vacancies are rare, and late-opening Appellate Court vacancies rarer still. But I can recall one current Appellate Court justice who, after being designated by the Party as an alternate, was in position when a vacancy became available.

Clearly, with the alternate designation, the Party is hoping to encourage Ehrlich, who would be a well-funded candidate, not to challenge Ross. But it takes no gift of prophecy to predict that Judge Ross will face a number of challengers regardless of whether Ehrlich sits out or not: There are a great many Appellate Court hopefuls out there, announced or otherwise, and the opportunities for these persons are few.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

And then there were 20? A new subcircuit map may be taking shape

This map was posted less than 24 hours ago on the House Redistricting website. It would increase the number of Cook County judicial subcircuits from 15 to 20. (Inflation is impacting everything these days....)

Capitol Fax reported on this yesterday. If you follow that link, you will see that there's a hearing on the proposed map coming up this Thursday afternoon.

I previously reported there would be no new subcircuit map in time for the 2022 primary.

But that may have changed....

Stay tuned.

Democratic Party of the 49th Ward elaborates on opposition to County Party "loyalty pledge"

This would be more newsworthy if the 49th Ward Committeeperson, St. Rep. Kelly Cassidy, were not already a signatory on this letter denouncing the attempt, by Executive Committee of the Cook County Democratic Party, to require a "loyalty pledge" of all candidates seeking slating.

But I saw that the Democratic Party of the 49th Ward had posted a link to this statement on Facebook and I thought it might be of interest to some readers.

An excerpt:

The 49th Ward, and our ward party organization, has a long history of independence. Unlike at the county party level, we have never told candidates seeking our endorsement that if they run in spite of not being endorsed, they’ll forfeit potential future endorsements. We make clear to candidates that if they choose to run anyway, we will still consider them for endorsement because we feel strongly about the importance of fielding the strongest candidates regardless of who sent them or to whom they’re related. As an organization, and as individuals associated with it, we can not abide by the use of retrograde loyalty oaths in the endorsement process. Running for office and voting are among the most sacred forms of free speech protected by our constitution and we categorically condemn the use of intimidation and unenforceable “oaths” to exert control over candidates.

As a result, our Ward Organization feels it important to convey to all candidates seeking our endorsement that they need not feel compelled to sign this oath or any other to seek our support and we urge the leadership of our county party to rethink this misguided and ham-handed attempt to move us back to the days of the old school machine politics we’ve worked so hard to relegate to the history books.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Evaluation narratives from Chicago Bar Association for candidates seeking slating from Cook County Democratic Party

Candidates who had not previously been screened by the Chicago Bar Association but who did not submit a questionnaire will have another opportunity to do so should they actually file for judicial office next year.

However, pursuant to §27.4 of the JEC Resolutions and Procedures, candidates who received an unfavorable rating within the past three years retain that "NOT RECOMMENDED" rating without any further hearing. Favorable ratings also retain in force for some time. This is why some of the narratives you will read below, favorable or unfavorable alike, refer to individuals seeking the office of Associate Judge.

APPELLATE COURT CANDIDATES

JOHN H. EHRLICH – HIGHLY QUALIFIED

Judge John H. Ehrlich is “Highly Qualified” for the office of Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court. Judge Ehrlich was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1988. Judge Ehrlich was elected to the Circuit Court in November 2012. Since 2014, he has been assigned to the Law Division, Motion Section. He previously served in the Chancery Division and Traffic Division. Before being elected, Judge Ehrlich was with the City of Chicago’s Corporation Counsel. Judge Ehrlich is highly regarded by his judicial colleagues and attorneys that have appeared before him for his excellent writing skills, work ethic, fine demeanor, and the breadth and depth of his legal knowledge.

CASANDRA LEWIS – NOT RECOMMENDED

Judge Casandra Lewis is “Not Recommended” for the office of Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court. Judge Lewis was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1991 and elected a Circuit Court Judge in 2002. Judge Lewis presides over major jury trials in the Law Division. Significant concerns about Judge Lewis’s punctuality, diligence, and tardiness in issuing rulings resulted in a “Not Recommended” finding.

DOMINIQUE ROSS – QUALIFIED

Judge Dominque Ross is “Qualified” for the office of Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court. Judge Ross was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1995 and has served as a judge since 2008. Since 2009, she has presided over a trial call in the Domestic Relations Division of Cook County managing complicated domestic relations matters. Judge Ross is well regarded for her legal experience, knowledge of the law, excellent demeanor, and temperament.

DEBRA B. WALKER – HIGHLY QUALIFIED

Judge Debra B. Walker is “Highly Qualified” for the office of Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court. Judge Walker was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1987. She worked in private practice on complex litigation matters prior to becoming a Circuit Court Judge in 2008. She is currently assigned to the Domestic Relations Division, where she presides over financially complex cases. Judge Walker has written extensively for legal publications and spoken widely on legal topics. She is well regarded for her knowledge of the law, legal ability, demeanor, work ethic, and integrity.

CIRCUIT COURT CANDIDATES

DAN BALANOFF – NOT RECOMMENDED

Dan Balanoff declined to participate in the Judicial Evaluation Committee (JEC) screening process and, therefore, according to The Chicago Bar Association’s governing resolution for the JEC, his prior finding of NOT RECOMMENDED is carried over and remains in effect.

DEIDRE BAUMANN – NOT RECOMMENDED

Deidre Baumann is “Not Recommended” for the office of Associate Judge. Ms. Baumann was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1992 and handles a variety of appellate and civil court matters. Significant concerns were raised about Ms. Baumann’s professionalism, diligence, and organizational skills in managing client matters. Additional concerns about Ms. Baumann’s knowledge of the law and knowledge and adherence to court rules and procedures resulted in her “Not Recommended” finding.

HOWARD BROOKINS – PROVIDED QUESTIONNAIRE BUT DIDN’T RESPOND TO MULTIPLE REQUESTS TO SCHEDULE HIS HEARING.

TIFFANY BROOKS – DID NOT SUBMIT A QUESTIONNAIRE

JENNIFER CALLAHAN – QUALIFIED

Jennifer Patricia Callahan is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Callahan was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2006 and is currently engaged in private practice concentrating in insurance defense, criminal law, and administrative law matters. Ms. Callahan also serves as an Administrative Law Judge for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. Prior to entering private practice Ms. Callahan served as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney for 11 years. Ms. Callahan has an excellent temperament and demeanor and is well regarded for her knowledge of the law and legal ability.

MARCIA O’BRIEN CONWAY – QUALIFIED

Marcia O’Brien Conway is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Conway was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1984 and served from 1993-2018 as a Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney in the Real Estate Tax Litigation Unit. Ms. Conway has significant trial experience and is well regarded for her diligence and work ethic.

AUDREY VICTORIA COSGROVE – QUALIFIEID

Audrey Victoria Cosgrove is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Cosgrove was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1990 and has served as a Cook County Assistant Public Defender and in private practice. Ms. Cosgrove is currently serving as Deputy Chief Legal Counsel for the Illinois Department of Labor. Ms. Cosgrove is well regarded for her knowledge of the law, diverse practice experience, and fine demeanor.

ROCELL CYRUS – QUALIFIED

Rocell Cyrus is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Cyrus was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1997. Ms. Cyrus worked for the Cook County State’s Attorney, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Illinois Department of Child ren and Family Services and is currently with the Illinois Commerce Commission. Ms. Cyrus is well regarded by judges and lawyers for her knowledge of the law, litigation and trial skills, and fine demeanor.

ARECELI DE LA CRUZ – QUALIFIED

Araceli De La Cruz is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. De La Cruz was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2001 and served as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney from 2001-2009. From 2009-2014, Ms. De La Cruz served as Deputy Chief of Staff, Chicago Transit Authority, Chief Safety and Security Officer with Executive oversight for compliance. From 2014-2016, Ms. De La Cruz served as Chief of General Prosecutions for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Since 2016, Ms. De La Cruz has served as General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer for Acero Charter Schools. Ms. De La Cruz is hardworking and well regarded for her knowledge of the law, legal ability, trial and managerial skills, and excellent temperament.

DEBJANI DESAI – QUALIFIED

Debjani Desai is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Desai was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2008. She is currently the General Counsel for the Illinois Office of the Controller. Prior to that she was an administrative law judge at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. She began her career as an Assistant State’s Attorney, first in the Child Protection and Enforcement Unit and then prosecuting cases in the Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Unit. Ms. Desai is well regarded for her knowledge of the law, diverse legal experience, and excellent demeanor.

THOMAS MORE DONNELLY – QUALIFIED

Judge Thomas More Donnelly is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Judge Donnelly was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1986. He has been an Associate Judge since 2003. Judge Donnelly has served in a number of divisions of the Circuit Court over his judicial career and is currently assigned to Law Division Jury Trials, a role in which he presides over major jury trials. He also teaches as an adjunct instructor at Loyola University’s law school and is involved in other law-related public service activities. Judge Donnelly is very well regarded for his knowledge of the law, legal ability, work ethic, diligence and excellent temperament.

KATHLEEN DUHIG – DID NOT SUBMIT A QUESTIONNAIRE

JOANNE FEHN - QUALIFIED

Joanne Fehn is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Fehn was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1993. She has experience in both the private sector and government. Ms. Fehn is well regarded for her diverse legal background, knowledge of the law, legal experience, work ethic, and exceptional temperament.

JAMES GLEFFE – NOT RECOMMENDED

James Gleffe is “Not Recommended” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Gleffe was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2007 and has worked for public agencies throughout his career. Mr. Gleffe is currently serving as Deputy Chief of Staff and Labor Counsel for the Cook County Clerk’s Office. Mr. Gleffe has very limited trial and litigation experience. At this point in his career, Mr. Gleffe lacks the depth and breadth of practice experience to effectively serve as a Circuit Court Judge.

DAWN GONZALEZ – QUALIFIED

Dawn M. Gonzalez is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Gonzalez was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1994 and has focused her practice on insurance coverage and insurance defense litigation. She is also active in bar associations and community organizations. Ms. Gonzalez is well regarded for her knowledge of the law, legal experience, integrity, diligence, and excellent demeanor.

COLLEEN GORMAN – DID NOT SUBMIT A QUESTIONNAIRE

RUTH GUDINO – QUALIFIED

Judge Ruth I. Gudino is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Judge Gudino was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1995. After short tenures in the Public Guardian’s Office and UAW-GM Legal Services Plan, she joined the Office of the State’s Attorney in 1998. She tried over 300 cases, including more than 50 jury trials, to verdict. She served as Supervisor of the Juvenile Justice Bureau and of Criminal Prosecutions at the Maywood Courthouse. Judge Gudino was appointed to Cook County Circuit Court Judge in October 2021. Judge Gudino is well regarded for her legal knowledge, extensive trial experience, and excellent demeanor and temperament.

MERIDTH HAMMER – NOT RECOMMENDED

Meridth Hammer is “Not Recommended” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Hammer was admitted to practice law in Indiana in 2001. She was a sole practitioner with a focus on probate, trust, estate planning and real estate. Ms. Hammer became licensed to practice law in Illinois in March 2020. She recently served as Associate General Counsel at the Office of Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Ms. Hammer’s failure to disclose personal litigation along with concerns about her limited litigation experience resulted in the “Not Recommended” finding.

RUSSELL W. HARTIGAN – HIGHLY QUALIFIED

Russell W. Hartigan is “Highly Qualified” for the office of the Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Hartigan was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1976 and practiced law from 1977-2010 concentrating in civil trial, workers’ compensation, municipal and appellate practice matters. Mr. Hartigan has handled a number of appeals in both the State and Federal Courts and authored many articles in the ISBA Journal. Mr. Hartigan was appointed to the Circuit Court of Cook County in 2010 and served as a judge until 2017. Mr. Hartigan is currently practicing law with a suburban firm. Mr. Hartigan has extensive experience as a lawyer and as a judge and possesses all the requisite qualifications to serve as Circuit Court Judge.

JOHN N. HOURIHANE, JR. – QUALIFIED

John N. Hourihane, Jr. is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Hourihane was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1998 and is currently engaged in private practice concentrating in commercial litigation, app ellate practice, probate and real estate matters. Mr. Hourihane has extensive experience in commercial litigation and appellate practice and has handled a number of complex legal matters. Mr. Hourihane is well regarded for his knowledge of the law, legal experience, fine demeanor and temperament.

NATALIE HOWSE – DID NOT SUBMIT A QUESTIONNAIRE

NICHOLAS KANTAS – QUALIFIED

Nicholas Kantas is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Kantas was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2004. He works in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office as a supervisor in the Juvenile Delinquency Unit. He previously served in the Office’s Abuse and Neglect Division, Preliminary Hearings Unit, Child Support Division, Civil Division, and the Felony Review Unit, where tried numerous jury trials. Mr. Kantas is well regarded by judges whom he has appeared before and opposing counsel for his calm demeanor, knowledge of the law, legal experience, and fine temperament.

DIANA LOPEZ – QUALIFIED

Judge Diana Lopez is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Judge Lopez was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2001. Prior to being appointed an Associate Judge in October 2021, she was in private practice representing clients in domestic relations and adoption cases. She also acted frequently as a Guardian ad Litem representing children. She is well respected for her legal knowledge, experience, work ethic, integrity, and temperament.

JENETIA MARSHALL – QUALIFIED

Jenetia Marshall is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Marshall was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2004. She practiced at the Office of the Public Guardian in Cook County prior to joining the Department of Children and Family Services in 2019 where she currently serves as Statewide Compliance Administrator. Ms. Marshall is highly regarded by colleagues and judges she has appeared before for her work ethic, diligence, and fine demeanor.

STEVEN MC KENZIE – QUALIFIED

Steven McKenzie is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. McKenzie was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1997. Since 2006, he has been a Supervising Assistant Corporation Counsel, primarily dealing with Housing and Building Code issues. Mr. McKenzie is well regarded for his trial experience, legal knowledgeable and commitment to public service.

PETER McNAMARA – QUALIFIED

Peter McNamara is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. McNamara was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2009. He has had an extensive and varied career as a labor and employment lawyer in the public sector and is currently the Chief Attorney for Labor and Employment at the Chicago Transit Authority. He is well respected for his commitment to public service, his work ethic, his diligence, and his excellent temperament.

JAMES MURPHY-AGUILU – QUALIFIED

James Murphy-Aguilu is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Murphy-Aguilu was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2006. He has experience in both civil and cr iminal litigation from his time in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and in private practice. He is currently the Inspector General for the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Mr. Murphy-Aguilu is well-regarded for his legal experience, diligence and calm demeanor.

MELANIE PATRICK NEELY – QUALIFIED

Melanie Neely is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Neely was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1996 and is currently a Supervisor and Senior Counsel in the Employment Litigation Division of the City of Chicago Law Department. Ms. Neely has considerable litigation experience and is well regarded for knowledge of the law, legal experience, and fine demeanor.

THOMAS NOWINSKI – QUALIFIED

Thomas Nowinski is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Nowinski was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2004 and is currently serving as Supervisor of the Litigation Unit of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Mr. Nowinski has substantial court and trial experience and is well regarded for his integrity, knowledge of the law, and legal experience.

KEVIN OCHALLA – QUALIFIED

Kevin Ochalla is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge . Mr. Ochalla was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2001. He has served as a Public Defender for the past 18 years in Cook County. Mr. Ochalla has extensive jury and non-jury trial experience and is well regarded for his knowledge of the law, legal ability, diligence, and fine temperament.

TRACIE PORTER – QUALIFIED

Judge Tracie R. Porter is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Judge Porter was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1994. Prior to her appointment to the bench in October 2021, Judge Porter worked in private practice i n the areas of real estate, probate, and general litigation. She also worked as a law professor teaching courses in legal writing, real estate, estate planning, and business organizations. Judge Porter is well regarded for her knowledge of the law, legal experience, integrity, diligence, and excellent demeanor.

ASHONTA RICE - QUALIFIED

Ashonta C. Rice is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Rice was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2005 and is currently in private practice concentrating in family law, juvenile Law, and social security. Ms. Rice has an excellent temperament and demeanor and possesses the requisite qualifications to serve as a Circuit Court Judge.

LORI ROPER – NOT REOMMENDED

Lori Ann Roper is “Not Recommended” for the office of Associate Judge. Ms. Roper was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1994 and has served as an Assistant Public Defender in the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender for 26 years. Ms. Roper is currently a supervisor in the Felony Trial Division. Concerns about the candidate’s candor and judgement regarding personal financial challenges resulted in a “Not Recommended” finding.

ELIZABETH RYAN – QUALIFIED

Elizabeth “Beth” Ryan is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Ryan was admitted to practice law in 2004 and is currently a solo practitioner concentrating in personal injury, corporate litigation, and social security disability law. Ms. Ryan is well regarded by her peers and by the judges before whom she has appeared for her knowledge of the law and legal ability.

PAMELA SAINDON – QUALIFIED

Pamela Saindon is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Saindon was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1995. Ms. Saindon spent her first years in practice as a law clerk for an Illinois Appellate Court Judge and then an Illinois Supreme Court Judge. She has since worked for a government agency and currently works for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in the User Charge and Enforcement Division. Ms. Saindon is well -regarded for her legal experience, knowledge of the law and fine temperament.

YOLANDA SAYRE – QUALIFIED

Yolanda Sayre is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Sayre was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1995. Since 1997, Ms. Sayre has served as an Attorney for the Education and Training Division for the Chicago Police Department. In that role, Ms. Sayre is responsible for drafting materials for training police personnel on criminal, civil, and juvenile procedure. Ms. Sayre is also a hearing officer for the Cook County Board of Elections and has conducted over 50 hearings for the Board of Elections. Since 1996, Ms. Sayre has also maintained a general practice and has handled a wide variety of legal matters. Ms. Sayre possesses the legal knowledge, experience, and ability to serve as a Circuit Court Judge.

MONICA SOMERVILLE – QUALIFIED

Monica G. Somerville is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Somerville was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1990. She has varied practice experience and service in the public sector. Ms. Somerville is well regarded for her legal knowledge, temperament, and diligence. She has the requisite experience to serve as a Circuit Court Judge.

SANJAY TAILOR – HIGHLY QUALIFIED

Judge Sanjay T. Tailor is “Highly Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Judge Tailor was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1991 and was engaged in private practice prior to his appointment to the bench as an Associate Judge in 2003. Judge Tailor served in the Chancery Division, Municipal Division, Domestic Relations, and Law Division prior to his current position as Acting Presiding Judge of the County Division. Judge Tailor was appointed as a Cook County Circuit Judge in January 2021. Judge Tailor is highly respected by his fellow judges and the lawyers who appear before him in court. Judge Tailor is an experienced jurist highly regarded for his knowledge of the law, integrity, diligence, work ethic, and excellent demeanor and temperament.

LISA TAYLOR – QUALIFIED

Lisa Taylor is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Taylor was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2001. She has over 20 years of experience, primarily in private practice for several law firms working in insurance, tort, and other civil litigation areas. She is well regarded by judges and adversaries for her legal knowledge, temperament, and integrity.

BRADLEY TROWBRIDGE – QUALIFIED

Bradley Trowbridge is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Trowbridge was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2000 and is engaged in private practice concentrating in family law matters. Mr. Trowbridge has a fine demeanor and temperament and possesses the requisite legal knowledge and experience to serve as a Circuit Court Judge.

RENA VAN TINE – HIGHLY QUALIFIED

Judge Rena Van Tine is “Highly Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Judge Van Tine was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1986, became an Associate Judge in 2001 and was appointed a Circuit Court Judge in February 2021. Prior to becoming a judge, she had extensive litigation experience. Judge Van Tine was assigned to the Child Protection Division for 17 years. She currently sits in the Law Division. Judge Van Tine is an experienced jurist well regarded for her work ethic, integrity, and temperament.

TORRICK WARD – QUALIFIED

Torrick Alan Ward is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Ward was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1998. He has significant litigation experience in several substantive legal areas. He presently oversees labor matters for Cook County. He is well regarded for his legal knowledge, work ethic, temperament, and integrity.

MICHAEL WEAVER – QUALIFIED

Michael Weaver is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Weaver was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2006 and is engaged in private practice at a major Chicago law firm concentrating his practice in civil and commercial litigation. Mr. Weaver handles a variety of complex legal matters and is well regarded for his knowledge of the law, extensive experience, and fine demeanor.

ANTOINETTE WESTON – DID NOT SUBMIT A QUESTIONNAIRE

TIMOTHY WRIGHT, III - QUALIFIED

Timothy Wright III is “Qualified” for the office of Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Wright was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1984. Mr. Wright has served in several roles in government and private practice. He has practiced in variety of areas of substantive law. His current practice includes commercial litigation and public finance. Mr. Wright is well-regarded for his legal knowledge and experience, his strong work ethic, and his calm demeanor.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Chicago Bar Association reveals ratings for candidates expected to seek slating next week from the Cook County Democratic Party

Spotted on Facebook today.

This is something I've lobbied for for years now.

I only wish I had something to do with this.

*Sigh*

Anyway, the Chicago Bar Association has released ratings for those judicial candidates expected to present credentials next week at the Cook County Democratic Party's slating meeting. Here is the list (click to enlarge or clarify):

The Chicago Bar Association has released narratives for these candidates. These will be addressed in the next post.

39th Ward Democratic Organization makes recommendations for next week's slating meeting

From an email yesterday signed by State Sen. Ram Villivalam, the 39th Ward Democratic Party Committeeman:

After our thorough Questionnaire and Interview process, the 39th Ward Democratic Organization will recommend the following candidates for slating at the Cook County Democratic Party next week. The 39th Ward Democratic Organization is recommending Federal, Statewide, Countywide, and Judicial candidates at this time. District-specific positions (State Representative, State Senator, Cook County Commissioner, and so forth) will also go through a formal endorsement process at a later date and time.

A note at the end of the email addresses the recent "loyalty pledge" controversy: "The 39th Ward Democratic Organization will not factor whether or not a countywide candidate has signed the endorsed candidate pledge into its decision making process at slating."

In the list that follows, the abbreviation CDS means "Committeeman Discretion at Slating."

Herewith, then, the 39th Ward Democratic Organization's list of preferred candidates:

Federal:
Senator Tammy Duckworth (IL)
Congressman Mike Quigley (IL-5)

Statewide: Governor- JB Pritzker
Lt. Governor- Juliana Stratton
Attorney General- Kwame Raoul
Secretary of State- Alexi Giannoulias
Treasurer- Michael Frerichs
Comptroller Susana Mendoza

Countywide:
Cook County President- Toni Preckwinkle
Cook County Clerk- Karen Yarbrough
Cook County Treasurer- Maria Pappas
Cook County Sheriff- CDS
Cook County Assessor- CDS
Cook County Board of Review (District 2)- Michael Cabonargi

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District:
1. Mariyana Spyropoulos
2. Patricia Theresa Flynn
3. Yumeka Brown
4. Daniel Pogorzelski

Appellate Judge: CDS

Circuit Court Judges:
Rena Marie Van Tine
Araceli De La Cruz
Beth Ryan
Jennifer Callahan
Ruth Gudino
Pam Saindon
Yolanda Sayre
Diana López
Thomas Nowinski
Michael Weaver
Steven Q. McKenzie
Jim Gleffe
John Hourihane
Debjani Desai
Howard Brookins, Jr.
Thomas Donnelly
Ashonta Rice
Lisa Taylor

9th Subcircuit Judge: Sanjay Tailor

There are 18 names on that Circuit Court list. I know of eight countywide vacancies at this point. I may be off by one or two (and would be neither suprised nor embarrassed if I am) but I'm not off by 10.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Five ward committeemen write letter protesting loyalty pledge to Chairman Preckwinkle

FWIW received this copy of this letter, dated December 9, and addressed to Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Toni Preckwinkle and Party Executive Director Jacob Kaplan. The letter is signed by 33rd Ward Committeeperson Iris Y. Martinez, 49th Ward Committeeperson Kelly Cassidy, 26th Ward Committeeperson Angee Gonzalez, 30th Ward Committeeperson Ariel Reboyras, and Raymond Lopez 15th Ward Committeeperson. I have reason to believe that this letter is genuine.

I don't know how many committeepeople object to the loyalty pledge, but this letter certainly suggests that the loyalty pledge has not exactly brought about the enhanced party unity that was intended. At least not so far.

Herewith, the letter in its entirety:

Dear Chairman Preckwincle & Executive Director Kaplan:

We, the duly elected committeepersons indicated below, object to the recent action taken by the Cook County Democratic Party’s Executive Committee.

To wit:

This past Monday, December 6, 2021, the Cook County Democratic Party sent an email to candidates wishing to file nominating papers to run in the Democratic primary election to be held on June 28 of 2022.

First and foremost it should be noted that the document titled “Potential Candidate Agreement, Promise and Pledge (herein after simply referred to as “pledge”) was conceived without the party engaging in due process or transparency in that, except for those members of the party’s executive committee, none of the other 80 Ward and Township Committeepersons were made aware that these meetings and/or deliberations were being held and that they were for the sole purpose of stifling open discourse and competition in the electoral process.

Further, it is ironic that in paragraph 1, sub-section “c”, the party talks about a “coordinated and unified effort including all 80 wards and townships and promulgating a cohesive slate of candidates rich in the diversity within Cook County without regard to race color creed, etc.” And yet, it is interesting to note that based on information and belief, this so-called pledge is designed to do completely the opposite. If, for example, women of color choose not to sign this pledge and submit it to the party bosses no later than 10:00 AM on Friday, it is implied that they will not be able to present their credentials to the Committeepersons for possible slating by the party for the offices they are seeking.

It is one thing for a slated candidate to sign the pledge once he or she has secured the party’s endorsement. It is quite another to not even be able to present their credentials because they did not sign the pledge in advance. This will have a chilling effect on those candidates that do not want to be bound by party rules in the event they are not chosen for slating. Our party does not stand for the stifling of competition. It stands for quite the opposite. An open and fair process to give every candidate the chance to be supported by the party.

Most troubling are the restrictions placed upon them pursuant to paragraph 3, sub-sections (a) and (b) as indicated in the pledge. Without a doubt this will place severe restrictions on their rights to freedom of association and assembly which is guaranteed to them under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. In fact, this kind of speech (political speech) is at the very top of the different types of speech protected under the First Amendment because it is the fundamental to the principles of a Democratic Republic.

Those restrictions in and of themselves are very disturbing to us as Democratic Ward Committeepersons. Our party has always stood as a fierce defender of our first amendment rights and to restrict an individuals rights to associate themselves with any other candidate or campaign is abhorrent to our very sense of democracy.

Therefore, we respectfully ask that the party reverse the decision made by the party’s executive committee and that this unjust and unconstitutional edict be declared null and void.

Sincerely,

Iris Y. Martinez
33rd Ward Committeeperson

Kelly Cassidy
49th Ward Committeeperson

Angee Gonzalez
26th Ward Committeeperson

Ariel Reboyras
30th Ward Committeeperson

Raymond Lopez
15th Ward Committeeperson

The problem of the faithless alternates?

After posting yesterday's story on the Cook County Democratic Party's demand for a loyalty pledge from all prospective countywide candidates, I heard from a Cook County Democratic Party committeeperson who suggested that a motivation for this new demand was that three persons who were slated as alternates for the 2020 election cycle ran against the Party -- and that at least one of these participated in "detailed and sensitive strategy sessions with other members of the slate" (as might be expected of an alternate) before making a run.

I can't speak to whether someone sat in on 'strategy sessions' before making a run, but I can look at my archives and see which slated alternates did or did not run against the Party.

For the 2020 primary, the Cook County Democratic Party selected 10 alternates for potential countywide vacancies.

That's a huge number. In a typical election cycle one or two late vacancies may occur -- and there were none in 2020 -- but never, ever 10.

In theory, being selected as an alternate is good because if a vacancy does occur, the next alternate in line is, if you will, pre-slated. Where there is a realistic chance at winding up being an actual, slated candidate, it may make abundant sense to wait. The first in line would have a good chance of getting on the ballot. Case in point: Vacancies opened up for the first three of the eight alternates selected in the 2018 election cycle and all three ultimately won (two were unopposed).

But being the 10th alternate? That may be the political equivalent of a participation trophy.

With that background in mind, let's take a look at the 10 alternates selected for the 2020 election cycle and what happened to them since:

  1. Thomas Nowinski. Did not run against the Party. The fifth alternate in 2018, Nowinski jumped to the head of the line in 2020 because the 2018 alternate ahead of him -- an appointed judge who had to seek election to stay on the bench -- chose to run in a subcircuit. Nowinski appeared for the Party's pre-slating meeting.

  2. Travis Richardson. Did not run against the Party. A former appointed judge, Richardson did not appear for the Party's pre-slating meeting.

  3. Cristin McDonald Duffy. Ran against the Party for a countywide vacancy. She didn't win, but neither did the slated candidate.

  4. Eric Sauceda. Did not run against the Party. Selected as an associate judge this past September.

  5. Yolanda Sayre. Did not run against the Party. She did do a little fundraising to give her a leg up on 2022. And she did appear for pre-slating.

  6. Frank Andreou. Did not run against the Party. Selected as an associate judge in December 2019.

  7. Joseph Chico. Ran against the party for a countywide vacancy. And lost. The Party's slated candidate won.

  8. Diane Marie Pezanoski. Did not run against the Party. Selected an associate judge in December 2019.

  9. Amanda Pillsbury. Ran against the Party for a countywide vacancy. And lost. To the Party's slated candidate.

  10. Ashonta Rice. Did not run against the Party. Did appear for pre-slating in October.

So as my committeeperson source reported, three of the 10 alternates from 2020 did run against the Party. But all three lost.

Which doesn't say much for the value of those "detailed and sensitive strategy sessions with other members of the slate."

And the Party won two of the three races in which an alternate made a challenge -- a .667 batting average -- which was exactly how the Party fared as a whole in all contested countywide judicial races in 2020.

No harm, no foul?

Of the 10 alternates, three have likely forfeited consideration from the slatemakers, at least for the immediate future, on account of their failed 2020 bids for the bench. One may not be running this time. Three more have since become associate judges and may be considered 'off the market.'

That leaves three or possibly four (attendance at the Pre-Slating meeting is not required in order for someone to seek slating) looking to have their loyalty rewarded by receiving a spot next week.

But how many spots are actually open?

Therein lies the pitfall of patience. While the alternates are biding their time, new candidates continue to emerge. The Supreme Court fills many countywide vacancies before slating (at this point, I know of two unfilled countywide vacancies) and the Court's appointees (though not automatically slated) often wind up slated.

There may be more vacancies than I know about. There often are. But can there ever be enough?

And, if there aren't, what is the value of "loyalty" here?

But let's step back a bit: If the problem motivating the loyalty pledge is faithless alternates, why is only one subparagraph (¶3(c)) of the two-page document) devoted to this alleged problem? A "problem" which involves alternates running and losing.

With all due respect to my committeeman source -- who has, of course, asked not to be named -- there must be something more behind this written loyalty pledge than alternates who refuse to stay sidelined.

In his Sun-Times column yesterday, Mark Brown says he was told "the loyalty pledge requirement was enacted because of frustration by party leaders with the large number of judicial candidates especially who seek the party’s backing and then run without it, often successfully."

But nothing in the pledge prohibits a candidate neither endorsed nor named as an alternate from running against the Party. Nor could it.

Brown also quotes candidates and consultants who denouce the pledge as 'bullying' and something "out of the Communist Party playbook."

Brief aside here: Brown actually gets to quote people. By actual name. By contrast, almost anyone who communicates with me starts out with "this is off the record" or "keep my name out of this" or "you didn't hear this from me." Of course, none of the people Brown actually quotes are lawyers. Even if they are involved with judicial campaigns.

There is still the question of whether the pledge potentially puts a judicial candidate on the wrong side of the Code of Judicial Conduct. As I reported yesterday, the Party insists that it does not. Others say differently. But I am still endeavoring to find someone who will speak for the record.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Cook County Democratic Party demands written "Agreement, Promise and Pledge" from prospective candidates

The Cook County Democratic Party will hold its slating meeting next week.

At past slating meetings the Cook County Democratic Party has always asked prospective candidates if they will be willing to pay some sort of assessment for common campaign costs ($40,000 or thereabouts), whether they will support the entire ticket if slated, and whether (if rejected by the Party) they will run against the Party.

There's nothing new or especially controversial in that.

What is new -- this year -- and very controversial, at least in some quarters, is that the Cook County Democratic Party is asking all candidates who appear before the slatemakers next week to sign and return a two-page document entitled "Potential Candidate Agreement, Promise and Pledge" by Friday, December 10. The document is set out in full in this post on Page Two. Feel free to read it and come back.

To begin with, the Party says this pledge is not intended as a loyalty oath or litmus test, according to communications FWIW has had with the Party's executive director and its counsel. But some committeemen and political consultants disagree. One committeeperson told FWIW, "If history has taught us anything we should recognize the danger in making people sign oaths or pledges."

A number of committeepersons have charged that the decision to draft and send this pledge document was taken by the Party's Executive Committee without consultation of the "rank and file" committeepersons.

As far as FWIW can ascertain, this allegation is well-founded. But, Party sources insist, the pledge agreement is a natural outgrowth of discussions within the Executive Committee over the course of several years. Issues of internal support and discipline have been of increasing concern for the Party; my sources see this new pledge as a natural consequence of an incremental standardization and formalization process.

Refusal to sign the pledge is not an automatic bar to slating. Candidates who have failed or refused to sign the pledge may still be slated, according to the Party, if they win sufficient numbers of the weighted votes of the 50 ward and 30 township committeemen that ultimately choose the slate. The Party executive director and counsel characterize the pledge as just another data point included in the binders of information given to each committeeman concerning each candidate, along with information regarding the candidate's credentials, financial backing, and so forth.

As with everything political, therefore, it comes down to votes: If enough committeepeople are offended by the demand for a pledge, candidates who refuse to sign may actually have an advantage. We may be able to determine whether there is serious discontent about the pledge request, or how widespread that discontent may be, next week, when the slate is revealed.

But probabaly not.

The 80 committeepeople in the Cook County Democratic Party Central Committee are drawn from diverse backgrounds with widely varying experiences. In other words, most days they probably would disagree on the color of the sky. They may claim unanimity next week -- they will claim unanimity publicly -- but, if history is any guide, some committeemen will be as loyal to the entire slate as Brian Kelly was to Notre Dame. And we won't necessarily know about all of those who break ranks (or for whom) until the votes are counted next summer. And, by then, it won't really matter.

I've said before that the purpose of slating is for the Party to identify and support likely winners. The paramount objective of a political party is to win elections. That is likewise the paramount objective of any political candidate. And, to win, any candidate needs to build a successful, if temporary, coalition of support. Party loyalists are but one component.

I asked whether, pursuant to this new pledge, a slated candidate would jeopardize his or her standing by attending an event where candidates running against the slate are featured. The Chicago Federation of Labor will no doubt endorse most of the same candidates as the Cook County Democratic Party. But probably not all of them. Would, for example, a slated countywide judicial candidate risk forfeiture of her Party support by appearing at a labor event along with non-slated candidates?

Party sources told me that this is not the intent of the pledge. The purpose is not to prevent a candidate from using a consultant or election attorney or pollster who may be working against the ticket in a different race -- my sources said the Party recognizes that there is a limited pool of qualified political professionals from which to choose -- but, rather to prevent the chosen candidates from actively working against a slated candidate in another race.

Events will show.

However, even if the intention is benign, there is a real question of whether this pledge will have a chilling effect on some candidates.

I know of candidates, in past elections, who were afraid to appear at events with non-slated candidates, even if they were permitted to speak glowingly at these events about all their brothers and sisters on the slate, for fear of losing Party Support. That was long before any written pledge. And, you know what? These candidates lost. The successful candidate has to go anywhere and everywhere where support may be found, and seek support for him- or herself from both those who are inclined to support others on the slate as well as those who are not so inclined.

Then, for judicial candidates in particular, there is the question of whether this explicit, detailed pledge contravenes the Code of Judicial Ethics. Does the pledge potentially compromise judicial independence (Canon 1)? Does it potentially constitute a comment on matters that may come before the judge in the course of his or her duties (Canon 3A(7))? Do the requirements to supervise and monitor and control the activities of subordinates or volunteers, particularly in the expenditure of funds, potentially put a candidate on the wrong side of Canon 7?

Party sources claim that the pledge does not put a judicial candidate on the wrong side of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The pledge requires the candidate to conduct what amounts to a political conflicts check, not allowing him or her to embrace candidates who are in conflict with the slate. Appearing beside a candidate running against the slate at a given event may not constitute active support of the non-slated candidate -- but sending joint mailers would.

(This is a developing story and may be updated as new information is received.)

Monday, December 06, 2021

Illinois LAP announces officers for its Board of Directors

The Illinois Lawyers' Assistance Program has announced Board of Directors Officer positions for the 2021-22 year.

Edward McCarthy will serve as President of LAP's Board of Directors.

McCarthy is the managing partner of McCarthy and Allen in Downstate Glen Carbon. A former President of the Edwardsville-Glen Carbon Chamber of Commerce, McCarthy has also served on the Edwardsville Police Pension Fund Board of Trustees, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield School Board. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1967-70, rising to the rank of Captain. Licensed to practice law in Illinois since 1973, according to ARDC, McCarthy also became a Certified Public Accountant in Illinois in 1974.

Cook County Associate Judge Stanley Hill has been named Vice President of the LAP Board.

The Illinois Supreme Court appointed Hill to the Circuit Court bench in 2010. Although he did not succeed in his 2012 run to hold the seat to which he was appointed, his colleagues retained him in the 2012 associate judge selection process.

An ordained Christian minister, Hill is a former president of the Board of Directors of Ada S. McKinley Community Services, Inc. Before joining the judiciary, Hill practiced in state and federal courts throughout the United States, and operated his own firm, Stanley L. Hill & Associates, P.C. He has been licensed to practice law in Illinois since 1974, according to ARDC.

A complete list of all LAP's Officers and Directors can be found at this page of the LAP website.

LAP’s mission is to help, protect, and educate the legal community about addiction, mental health and wellness. If you or someone you know needs support with mental health or wellbeing, contact LAP at gethelp@illinoislap.org or call (312) 726-6607. LAP's services are 100% confidential with immunity.

Sunday, December 05, 2021

Where to recycle broken holiday lights

It happens nearly every year: The lights are brought up from the basement, or in from the garage, or down from the attic. No matter how carefully they were stored, they emerge a tangled mess. And when they are finally untangled... and plugged in just to check... one or more of the strings turns out to be kaput.

If the Elf on the Shelf heard what you said when that happened (or, rather, didn't happen), you'd wind up on Santa's naughty list for sure.

But, other than cursing them, what can you do with the no-longer-functioning strings of lights?

Charlie Meyerson's December 2 Chicago Public Square carried a link to this WTTW post touting efforts by a group of North Side alderpersons and community organizations to recycle non-working holiday lights.

As the linked WTTW article notes, Christmas lights are not permitted in regular recycling bins.

Here is the list, lifted from the WTTW site, where those dead holiday lights will be accepted for recycling:

Used extension cords will also be accepted at these locations.

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Well, that didn't take long: De La Cruz and Donnelly appointed to countywide vacancies

In separate orders entered yesterday, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed Araceli R. De La Cruz to the countywide vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Joan Margaret O'Brien and also appointed Cook County Associate Judge Thomas M. Donnelly to the countywide vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Sharon Sullivan.

The De La Cruz appointment is effective January 6. Donnelly's appointment is effective December 8. Both appointments expire on December 5, 2022, when the persons elected to these vacancies in the 2022 election will be sworn in.

Both appointments were made by the Supreme Court on the recommendation of Justice Mary Jane Theis. According to the press release issued by the Supreme Court yesterday, Justice Theis recommended these appointments following a review of applicants by a 14-person screening committee consisting of judges, lawyers, and Cook County community members. The Hon. Wayne Andersen (Ret.) and the Hon. Patricia Holmes (Ret.) served as Co-Chairs for the screening committee. The additional members were James Botana, the Hon. David Coar (Ret.), Mary Dempsey, Leynee Cruz Flores, John Gallo, Denise Kane, Beth Kaveny, Mike Monico, Michael Rothstein, Sister Cathy Ryan, Richard Waris, and Mark Wojcik.

Justice Theis's newly reconstituted screening committee was announced by the Court on Thursday. (Click here for FWIW's coverage of that announcement.)

"I am greatly honored and humbled by this opportunity to serve," De La Cruz said, according to yesterday's statement from the Supreme Court. "It is an incredible privilege to do so on behalf of the people of Cook County and I am profoundly grateful to Justice Theis and the Illinois Supreme Court for their confidence in me."

According to the Supreme Court's press release, De La Cruz has over 20 years of experience in law in a variety of important roles. She most recently has spent 5 years as General Counsel/Chief Administrative Officer at Acero Schools of Chicago. Before joining Acero, she served for two years as the Chief of General Prosecutions for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s Division of Professional Regulation.

De La Cruz was slated by the Cook County Democratic Party for a countywide vacancy in 2018, but fell short of the Democratic nomination in a three person race. She was one of the 39 Circuit Court hopefuls who presented credentials at the Democratic Party's pre-slating meeting this past October.

From 2009 to 2014, according to the Supreme Court's press release, De La Cruz served in three different roles for the Chicago Transit Authority, first as Chief of Safety and Security Compliance, then as Deputy Chief of Staff, and finally as Chief Safety and Security Officer, Senior Vice President, where she managed a department of over 45 safety, security and compliance professionals who were charged with the oversight of bus and rail transit system safety. And from 2001 to 2009 she served as an Assistant State’s Attorney in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, prosecuting hundreds of criminal matters via case review, indictment, motion practice, jury trials, bench trials and settlement conferences.

De La Cruz earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her Juris Doctor from the John Marshall Law School, where she was a recipient of the Elmer Kissane Award. Her professional associations include the Chicago Bar Association, the Hispanic Lawyer’s Association of Illinois, the Puerto Rican Bar Association, and the Woman’s Bar Association.

In the Supreme Court's press release announcing his appointment, Judge Thomas M. Donnelly is quoted as saying, "I am honored that the Illinois Supreme Court has appointed me to serve the citizens of Cook County as a Circuit Judge. As always, I will perform my duties to the best of my abilities and attempt to live up to this honor. This appointment by the Illinois Supreme Court affirms my work and dedication as an Associate Judge for the past 19 years and I appreciate the Court’s confidence in my judicial service."

According to the Supreme Court's announcement, Donnelly has served as an Associate Judge of Cook County since 2000 and is currently assigned to the Law Division where he hears civil jury trials. He has tried over 300 jury trials and over 1,000 bench trials in his time on the bench. Prior to joining the bench, Donnelly clerked for Justice Mary Ann G. McMorrow and served as an assistant public defender for 13 years.

Donnelly served on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices from its inception until its final report and was an appointed judicial representative on the Statutory Court Fee Task Force. He currently sits on the Illinois Judicial College Board of Trustees with a term expiring in 2023 and serves as liaison to the Committee on Judicial Education. From 2016 to 2019, he served as the inaugural chair of the Illinois Judicial College Board, and currently serves on the Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee. He has chaired both the Chicago Bar Association Professional Responsibility Committee and the Illinois State Bar Association Standing Committee on Professional Conduct.

Donnelly also appeared before the Cook County Democratic Party's October pre-slating meeting. Rumors about his probabe appointment, now verified by events, have circulated since that time. Those rumors were mentioned, but only obliquely, on FWIW.

Donnelly earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from St. John’s College and his Juris Doctor from the Loyola University School of Law. He has taught at Loyola since 1987 where he currently teaches Illinois Civil Litigation Practice and additionally serves on the faculty of the National Judicial College where he teaches hundreds of judges around the country.

Judge Donnelly’s awards include the Hon. Mary Ann G. McMorrow Distinguished Service Award from the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, the Impact Award from the Center for Disability and Elder Law, and the Harold Sullivan Award (named for Judge Sharon Sullivan's father) from the Illinois Judges Association.