Friday, January 29, 2021

Advocates Society to have virtual installation on February 18

The 2021 Annual Installation of the Advocates’ Society of Polish American Attorneys will be held virtually via Zoom on Thursday, Feb. 18, beginning with a Virtual Cocktail at 6:30 p.m. The program will follow at 7:00 p.m. This year, the Advocates Society will be honoring their officers for the 2021-2022 year who have all agreed, due to the disruptions of the pandemic, to serve an additional term:

  • President - Hon. Jonathan Clark Green
  • First Vice President - Audrey Cosgrove
  • Second Vice President - Allison R. Pawlicki
  • Third Vice President - Christina Malecki
  • Secretary - Joanna Pawlowska
  • Treasurer - Ann Melichar
  • Historian - Eryk Wachnik

In recognition of its 90th Anniversary, the Advocates Society will also be honoring acclaimed historian Dominic A. Pacyga, author of American Warsaw, as the recipient of the Society’s Annual Award of Merit. Past President and Board of Governors’ member Dawn Bode will also be awarded a Presidential Award.

Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans will administer the oaths of office to the returning officers. There is no charge to attend this event, but a voluntary contribution of $20 or more to the Advocates Society through its website at www.advocatesociety.com to help defray costs of the Amicus Poloniae Legal Clinic during these difficult times would be greatly appreciated. To register for the Zoom invite to the event please email the Advocates Society at advocatessociety@gmail.com. Registrations must be received by February 17.

To make a donation to the Clinic, click the general donation icon toward the bottom of the homepage on the Advocates website. One can put in a description for the contribution but, description or not, the Advocates will be able to match a registrant to his or her contribution automatically by email address.

Two levels of sponsorship are available for this event. A General Sponsorship, for $100, includes oral recognition at the event, the display of the sponsor's name or logo on a shared screen at times during the program, and a general listing in the virtual ad book. A Gold Sponsorship, for $250, includes all the benefits of a General Sponsorship, as well as a full-page ad in the virtual program book that will be distributed to all attendees along with the Zoom invites when they go out. For questions about the event, or about sponsorship, email the Advocates Society at advocatessociety@gmail.com.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Problems with applied Kremlinology

It was a staple of intelligence gathering during the Cold War Era: Look at the pictures of the officials standing atop Lenin's Tomb at this year's May Day Parade. Compare with those pictured last year. Since the Communists seldom issued press releases on these subjects, the photos were one way to gauge who had moved closer to the center of power and who had been moved further away, perhaps to Siberia.

Don't worry: This is not one of those Capital-P Politics posts that some of my anonymous readers get so upset about.

(Although... as we move inexorably closer to the one-year anniversary of our two-week shutdown, my law practice has dwindled to nothing. I'm more than open to reinventing myself as a Capital-P Political Pundit or Talking Head. I could be just as wrong as any of them -- and just as often -- and for half the money, too!)

But to return to the subject... since neither the AOIC nor the Circuit Court of Cook County sends me a note when a judge decides to hang up his or her robe, I've used the Illinois Circuit Judges by Circuit page of the Illinois Courts website as one way to try to figure out what vacancies might have opened. From your comments recently, it is obvious that many of you do, also.

I learned the hard way, a few years back, that the online list is not always right. Like the Cold War intelligence analysts comparing photos, I compared an old list (which I'd downloaded and saved) to a then-current list. As a result of that exercise, I noticed that a particular judge on the old, saved list was not on the new list. I added this judge to the list of vacancies I was preparing -- and the judge in question, who was very much not retired, thank you, list or no list, was a tad miffed. And I heard about it. And I apolgized for it.

Since that experience, I have learned not to place undue reliance on the Illinois Courts' list of Circuit Judges. But I still look. As I looked this week while trying to prepare my first Who Sits Where of the 2022 season.

I have never seen it so wildly, and obviously, inaccurate. I don't know why. But I can report that the Supreme Court's "website people are taking a look Cook County judges list to update any incorrect entries." In the meantime, for those of you hunting out new vacancies, take the list with a large grain of salt. At least for now.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Who Sits Where -- A Way Too Early Look at 2022

Updated January 27, 2021
Updated February 2, 2021 to reflect a 14th vacancy (5th countywide)

The latest information that I have is that there are currently 13 circuit judge vacancies. The following list, now updated, identifies 13 vacancies.

After this post first appeared, many readers left comments about one of the vacancies that I did not initially include.

Actually, the reason that I refrained from including the Robert E. Gordon vacancy in the 8th Subcircuit was that I was unsure whether Justice Gordon would be able to return to the Circuit Court, under the terms of the order appointing him to the Appellate Court vacancy of Justice Shelvin Louise Marie Hall, if his election bid should prove unsuccessful. Some prior appointees have had that 'fallback position.' Yesterday, however, a Supreme Court spokesperson confirmed to FWIW that Justice Gordon's new appointment to the Appellate Court removes him from the Circuit Court roster.

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 be several more vacancies opening up in the months to come. I can and will update as additional information becomes available.

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. Diane Gordon Cannon -- Sanjay T. Tailor
Vacancy of the Hon. Michael B. Hyman -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Pamela M. Leeming -- Rena Marie Van Tine
Vacancy of the Hon. Kathleen M. McGury -- Cara Lefevour Smith
Vacancy of the Hon. Sharon M. Sullivan -- Unfilled

Subcircuit Vacancies

1st Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Sharon O. Johnson -- Unfilled

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

5th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Jackie Marie Portman-Brown -- Unfilled

6th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Mauricio Araujo -- 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

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

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Three more judges, several more employees of the Chief Judge's Office test positive for COVID-19

A judge who works at the Criminal Courthouse, another who works in the Domestic Violence Courthouse, and a third, assigned to the Daley Center, have all tested positive for COVID-19, according to recent announcements made by the Chief Judge's Office.

The judge assigned to work at the Daley Center had not been "in the workplace since September," according to the Chief Judge's Office press release this morning.

A total of 21 judges (out of about 400) have now tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Chief Judge's Office. In addition, 259 employees of the Chief Judge's Office have also reported contracting COVID-19.

Most recently, according to the Chief Judge's Office, positive tests have been reported by an employee in the Office of Interpreter Services at the Criminal Courthouse Administration Building, and two employees in the Adult Probation Department, one in Bridgview and the other at the Criminal Courthouse Administration Building. Two Adult Probation Officers working at the Skokie Courthouse, an employee at the Bridgeview Courthouse, and an employee working at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, have also tested positive for COVID-19, according to recent announcements from the Chief Judge's Office.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Illinois adopts prejudgment interest in tort cases: Part 2 -- a look at the statutory language

For Part 1 of this article, scroll down or click here.

A Google search Friday revealed that, according to the FDIC, as of August 27, 2020, the national average for interest paid on savings accounts is 0.05% -- higher for online banks, perhaps, but lower at traditional brick and mortar banks. So 9% would be better -- 180 times better than the national average.

The interest rates on most judgments in Illinois has long been 9% per annum (6% on judgments against governmental entities). Judgments, when and if collectible, are a great investment. The key words here, however, as so many of us have learned to our great sorrow, are "when and if collectible."

The high post-judgment interest rate is the reason why appeal bonds are typically set at 150% of the judgment amount. (Illinois Supreme Court Rule 305(a) provides, in pertinent part, "The bond or other form of security ordinarily shall be in an amount sufficient to cover the amount of the judgment and costs plus interest reasonably anticipated to accrue during the pendency of the appeal.")

HB3360 was actually the second change made by the 101st General Assembly to §2-1303 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The first came in P.A. 101-168, effective January 1, 2020, which added a subsection (b) to §2-1303. Widely touted as a pro-consumer enactment, P.A. 101-168 lowered the interest rate, to 5%, for judgments on "consumer debt," such as credit card defaults. And it passed just in time for the destruction of the economy, too. But so many judgments of this kind fall into the not collectible category that the lowered interest rate (still, as you presumably noticed, 100 times the national average for savings acounts) was largely symbolic.

The changes made to §2-1303 this week add new sections (c) through (f). Here is the new language:

 (c)  In all actions brought to recover damages for personal injury or wrongful death resulting from or occasioned by the conduct of any other person or entity, whether by negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, intentional conduct, or strict liability of the other person or entity, the plaintiff shall recover prejudgment interest on all damages set forth in the judgment. Prejudgment interest shall begin to accrue on the date the defendant has notice of the injury from the incident itself or a written notice. In entering judgment for the plaintiff in the action, the court shall add to the amount of the judgment interest on the amount calculated at the rate of 9% per annum.

 (d)  Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a local public entity is not liable to pay prejudgment interest in an action brought directly or vicariously against it by the injured party.

 (e)  For any personal injury or wrongful death occurring before the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 101st General Assembly, the prejudgment interest shall begin to accrue on the later of the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 101st General Assembly or the date the alleged tortfeasor has notice of the injury.

 (f)  The trial court may, in its discretion, apportion any amount of prejudgment interest between the plaintiff and any agency or department of the State. In apportioning prejudgment interest as provided in this Section, the court shall consider, among other factors it deems relevant, the plaintiff's hardship from the time of injury to the date of judgment and the effort required to obtain the judgment.

Note that local governments are exempt from prejudgment interest under new §2-1303(d).

And while prejudment interest will start accruing in all pending Illinois tort cases just as soon as the Governor signs the bill (and the objections of the Illinois Insurance Association notwithstanding, I think the Governor's approval will be swiftly forthcoming) prejudgment interest is not retroactice. It begins to accrue from and after the date that this bill becomes law. A paragraph or two about the amount of prejudgment interest owed will be added to every demand letter written from here on out.

But will prejudgment interest make a real difference in the actual amounts paid by insurers in tort cases? For Illinois PI attorneys, the fact that damages in their cases will soon begin 'earning' interest may ameliorate, at least to some extent, their frustration at being unable to get meaningful jury trial dates so long as this Never Ending Pandemic persists. It's not because plaintiffs' lawyers are all necessarily panting to try cases. Non-lawyers may be surprised to learn that most civil cases are settled or otherwise disposed of without trial.

In fact, I was taught that a lawyer who tries a case has already lost, even if he or she wins a verdict. Trials may be fun (I have usually found this to be true, at least once a trial finally gets underway, after all the last-minute motions and posturing) but they are all-consuming. The lawyer in a trial is not settling other cases, or signing up new ones. And I know it is an article of faith among the plaintiffs' bar that insurers generally try to stall every case until prospective jurors are herded into the courtroom, but that's not been my experience: While there are well-known and infamous exceptions, in 40+ years at the bar, many of them representing persons and business entities on behalf of insurance companies, I have found that most insurance companies take a dim view of settling cases at the 11th hour. Defense costs soar during the last few weeks before trial. And I have heard more than one adjuster berate defense counsel for advocating a last-minute settlement, accusing counsel of milking every last tenth-of-an-hour out of a file before recommending settlement. Plaintiffs' lawyers are not wrong when they assert that insurers try and maximize profits -- insurance companies are not charitable institutions -- but most insurers do this by trying to identify which cases should be settled at the earliest possible date. Otherwise they pay defense costs and the cost of settlement.

Admittedly, the suspension of trials changes has changed the normal calculus -- open-ended delay is a fact of life at present and, until now, there has been no adverse consequence to defendants and their insurers arising from same. Moreover, the setting of a case on a date certain for trial is necessary for some insurers to more seriously evaluate their exposure... and reach for their checkbooks (remember that defense costs soar in the weeks and months before trial). So, in the short term, probably, prejudgment interest will be a boon to the plaintiffs' bar.

But long-term? Though prejudgment interest in tort cases has long been an objective of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, I am not certain that the prospect of prejudgment interest will cause most carriers to actually put more dollars on their files.

I can think of two categories of tort cases in which the new amendments to §2-1303 would potentially increase settlements or judgments, and they are typically viewed as being at the opposite ends of the litigation food chain: medical malpractice cases and soft tissue auto accident cases where a substandard carrier insures the defendant. These are not coinicidentally the two most common types of tort cases to go to trial. In soft tissue cases with substandad carriers, the prospect of prejudment interest may prompt some behavior modification -- the low-ball final settlement offer may come sooner, or be made in a few more cases. But substandard carriers and med mal carriers take their very different types of cases to trial for the same reason: They generally do pretty well. There's no interest to pay on a defense trial verdict.

There will be some contention that this enactment, which at least potentially increases costs to Illinois insurers, will actually increase costs to Illinois insureds. There is an argument to be made that almost any action taken by our General Assembly leads to an increase in insurance rates.

But other events, including in particular large claim payouts after the "unrest" of this past summer, and the unprecedented surge in carjackings, will drive insurance costs up much farther and faster than the adoption of prejudgment interest.

Many other states have adopted prejudgment interest and insurers have somehow managed to do business in them. A 2015 survey done by Cozen O'Connor, linked here, may be a bit dated, but it suffices to show that Illinois is hardly alone in adopting some sort of prejudgment interest regime in tort cases. That probably won't stop the Judicial Hellhole folks from castigating our legislature on this issue, but I think the General Assembly will not crumble under criticism from that quarter.

On balance, at least in my opinion, the most alarming thing about prejudgment interest is not the concept itself, but the way in which it was adopted. Of course, I think the General Assembly will not crumble under this criticism either.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Illinois adopts prejudgment interest in tort cases: Part 1 -- A look at the process

There's an old saying that goes something like this: "Laws are like sausages. It's best not to see either being made." This quotation is usually attributed to Otto Von Bismarck; he probably never said it. Whoever came up with it, the quote refers to the often unsavory and frequently disturbing process by which legislative proposals find their way into law.

In the case of HB3360, Bismarck's sausages seem a less appropriate analogy than Dr. Who's Weeping Angels.

Follow along with me -- and don't blink!

On February 15, 2019, very early in the life cycle of the 101st General Assembly now concluded, Rep. Arthur Turner introduced a bill to amend two sections of the Mortgage Foreclosure Article of the Code of Civil Procedure, namely, §§15-1504.1 and 15-1507.1, extending or, as necessary, reenacting, until 2023, certain special, temporary fees to be added to the filing fees for initiating mortgage foreclosure actions. The bill was designated HB3360

HB3360 was referred to the Rules Committee on February 15, 2019. It was assigned to the Judiciary - Civil Committee on March 5, 2019. On March 6, 2019 HB3360 was further referred to the Commercial Law Subcommittee.

Rep. Turner introduced a couple of amendments on successive days, March 19 and 20, 2019. Meanwhile, the original bill was passed out of committee, without the amendments, on March 27 and March 28, 2019. The amendments were tabled on March 28 and HB3360 received its Second Reading in the House on April 2, 2019. Then, on April 4, 2019, HB3360 received its Third Reading. The bill was passed by the House and sent to the Illinois Senate that same day.

In the Senate, still on the same day, April 4, 2019, HB3360 received its First Reading, and was referred to the Assisgnments Committee.

On April 24, 2019, HB3360 was referred to the Financial Institutions Committee.

Action in the Financial Institutions Committee was postponed on May 1 and May 8, 2019. Committee scheduling deadlines were set for May 17, May 24, and May 31, the final day of the 2019 session. Until May 31, 2019, HB3360 sat in the Senate Financial Institutions Committee. On that date it was sent back to Assignments.

Meanwhile, in Article 50 (Adminstrative Provisions) of the FY2020 Budget Implementation Act, P.A. 101-10, in §50-25 to be precise, amendments were made to §§15-1504.1 and 15-1507.1 of the Mortgage Foreclosure Article consistent with those sought by HB3360.

HB3360, it would seem, had achieved its purpose without ever leaving a Senate committee. Section 50-25 of P.A. 101-10 became effective on June 5, 2019.

Then someone must have blinked.

And, in that blink of an eye, on January 10, 2021, the dessicated corpse of HB3360 was suddenly reanimated and placed on the Senate Calendar for an immediate Second Reading. It was set for a Third Reading on January 11.

On January 11, Senate President Don Harmon introduced a floor "amendment" to HB3360. The "amendment" deleted all the no-longer-necessary stuff about §§15-1504.1 and 15-1507.1 of the Mortgage Foreclosure Article of the Code of Civil Procedure and substituted in its stead an amendment to §2-1303 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the section pertaining to interest on judgments, adding new subsections (c) through (f) thereto. These provisions, which will be discussed substantively in Part 2 of this article, provide for prejudgment interest in Illinois tort cases.

The General Assembly website is very detailed, and very helpful, but I can not be sure I understand this January 11, 2021 entry: "Senate Floor Amendment No. 1 Be Approved for Consideration Assignments." I don't know for certain whether this means the "amendment" went to committee and immediately returned, duly approved. But the next entry, also on January 11, the bill was "Recalled to Second Reading." The next entry on the timeline, also January 11 was "Senate Floor Amendment No. 1 Adopted; Harmon." Then -- still on January 11 -- the bill was placed on calendar order for Third Reading. HB3360, now as "amended," passed 38-17 (with two not voting) following the Third Reading.

Someone blinked again and HB3360 "returned" to the House. Here's the rest of the Actions recorded on the ILGA website:

Because an entirely different version of HB3360 had already passed the House, way back in April 2019, this wholly different statute with the same name could bypass all the scrutiny new legislation would ordinarily receive. Fast as any Weeping Angel, HB3360 moved from committee oblivion to the Governor's desk, through the House -- which, during these two days was grappling with, and presumably at least somewhat distracted by, the selection of a new Speaker.

I realize a significant number of FWIW readers will be thrilled by this new law -- and again, we'll talk about the substance of the legislation in Part 2 -- but, even if you have lobbied for the adoption of pretrial interest for many years, is this any way to run a legislative process?

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For Part 2 of this article, click here.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Justice Neville announces procedure he will follow in filling Cook County judicial vacancies

The Illinois Constitution gives the Illinois Supreme Court the power to fill Circuit Court and Appellate Court vacancies as they occur. Three of the Supreme Court's justices are elected from Cook County (the First Judicial District). As a practical matter, the Cook County justices take turns filling vacancies as they come open. While I suppose it could happen that his or her colleagues might veto a particular choice, as a practical matter, when a justice proposes someone for a vacancy, that person gets a robe.

There are no specific rules governing how a justice may fill a vacancy. No justice needs to publicly explain why he or she appointed Lawyer A instead of Lawyer B, and no justice ever will. However, in recent years, however, Supreme Court justices have announced individual application processes, including screening committees, some more public than others. Now that he has been elected to a full term, Illinois Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr. has today announced the procedures he will follow. I quote verbatim from the press release (emphasis in original):

To be eligible for consideration for appointment to the circuit court, the candidate must be a lawyer in good standing, licensed to practice law in Illinois for 12 years, and a resident of Cook County.

To be eligible for consideration for appointment to the First District Appellate Court, the candidate must be a lawyer in good standing, licensed to practice law in Illinois for 15 years, and a resident of Cook County.

Under the Illinois Constitution, judicial vacancies are filled on an interim basis by Supreme Court appointment. See Ill. Const. Art. VI, § 12(c). Justice Neville will make a recommendation to the Supreme Court to fill a vacancy (1) after the candidate has undergone a screening and evaluation by the Alliance of Bar Associations, and (2) after Justice Neville has considered the findings made by the Cook County Circuit Court’s Screening Committee. If there are several outstanding candidates for a vacancy, Justice Neville may have his own committee review the findings and recommendations made by the Alliance of Bar Associations and the Cook County Circuit Court’s Screening Committee, and they will make a recommendation to Justice Neville.

All candidates for judgeships must have an evaluation from each bar association in the Alliance and the evaluation must have been issued by the Alliance within the last six years in order to be considered for a vacancy. If the candidate does not have an evaluation from each member of the Alliance within the last six years, the candidate should file an application and go through the Associate Judge application process. Finally, if there has been a change in a candidate’s status during the six years, e.g.,a move to another firm, a promotion to partner, or a contempt finding, conviction, suspension or disbarment, the candidate’s application must be supplemented and the information must be sent to the Alliance.

An application for Associate Judge may be obtained from the Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC) on the form prescribed and furnished by the Director. The form and instructions for electronically submitting an application are available on the Supreme Court’s website by clicking here. If the candidate is unable to electronically submit an application, the candidate must submit two (2) signed originals of the prescribed application to the Director of the AOIC at the address listed below:

Marcia M. Meis, Director
Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts
222 North LaSalle Street, 13th Floor
Chicago, Illinois 60601

As FWIW readers already know, an associate judge selection process is now underway in Cook County. The deadline for applications is February 3. For more information about the current process, see these prior posts:

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Congratulations to new Illinois House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch

It's been a long morning watching Twitter -- mostly @capitolfax and @ShiaKapos on this issue -- but the Illinois House Democrats have finally named a successor to Michael Madigan. Emanuel "Chris" Welch (7th) was elected Speaker of the Illinois House this morning. Licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1997, Welch is also employed by the law firm of Ancel Glink P.C., according to ARDC.

But... though Mr. Madigan is no longer Speaker, the question still remains... who will draw the new legislative maps? And how will they be drawn? Remember -- judicial subcircuits are being redrawn this year, too.

Second City Cop is gone

I've been retweeting updates on this from @CWBChicago on this one. This is the latest, and presumably the last:

The CWBChicago blogpost about this is here. The statement issued by the SCC authors is on HeyJackass!, at least for the time being. An excerpt:

Over the weekend, we received information from a contact at Google that internal chat/e-mails led them to believe that certain precautions we had taken over the years had been breached by Google. We had gotten similar warnings from others in the past, and we dealt with or ignored them as the situation warranted. But this one was different.

You may dismiss the SCC authors as paranoid right-wingers -- but former New York Times editor and writer Bari Weiss wrote, just yesterday, of the "takeover and the unimaginable strength of the new powers that have superseded" the "old truths, the old political consensus, ...the old common identity." Borrowing from David Samuels, she dubs this new age the age of machines. She continues (emphasis in original):

Now those machines, operated by people none of us elected, have begun an open war against us.

It’s not that Trump was permanently banned from Twitter. I’d be happy to never hear that voice or see those CAPS again. It’s that Twitter can ban whoever it wants whenever it wants for whatever reason. It’s that all the real town squares have been shuttered and that the only one left is pixelated and controlled by a few oligarchs in Silicon Valley.

We were promised the Internet would be better than democracy. But then it got privatized. Corporations own it. There is no online bill of rights. There is only the frenzy of the mob and fickle choices of a few billionaires.

Look, friends, even Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose disdain for Donald Trump has been open and obvious right from the beginning, thought it "problematic" that Twitter had evicted Trump from its platform.

Even if one exists, however, the SCC authors may have misinterpreted how high they were on anyone's hit list. But they had reason enough to fear for their paychecks if their identities were revealed. Clearly, there will be no tears shed for SCC's demise at City Hall, in the Chief Judge's Office, or by the Sheriff or the State's Attorney or the County Board President.

If they were in danger of being 'outed', I hope they got out in time. SCC has provided a genuine public service over the years, bringing important news to light that otherwise would have remained unseen. They were not journailsts -- but, often, they did work that the newspapers and broadcast media should have done.

Of course, sometimes, SCC just spouted some truly crazy sh*t. They had a point of view. Well, so does Injustice Watch (although a very different point of view, to be sure). You had to read through the point of view, sometimes, to get to the useful information, but there was useful information there. Some mornings they may have made you mad. Some mornings they made me mad, too. And some of the comments were truly frightening. But I will miss SCC. I wish its authors well.

Update: How long do Alliance ratings last?

In a recent post, I reminded persons interested in applying for associate judge of the need to seek or update ratings from the Chicago Bar Association and the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening. A commenter asked about the shelf life of ratings... and my response was not entirely accurate.

Alliance Administrator Joyce Williams contacted FWIW to set the record straight. "For candidates evaluated before January 1, 2017," she advises, "favorable ratings are valid for six years. For candidates evaluated after January 1, 2017 favorable ratings are valid for four years. Unfavorable ratings have a life of three years."

Williams added that, because most evaluations took place more than 12 months ago, each candidate will have to update their questionnaire. The Alliance "short form" questionnaire has been eliminated, Williams said, explaining that "there were too many areas of interest to the evaluators that were not covered."

"I will begin sending out questionnaires this week to individuals who have contacted me," Williams said. The new Alliance questionnaire is almost duplicative of previous ones, but now requires a Letter of Good Standing from ARDC. There are also two new questions dealing with how the candidate is coping during the pandemic shutdown.

An explanation of the “life” of the ratings, instructional cover letter, and other required forms will be sent with the Alliance questionnaire, Williams said. A link to Williams' email is provided above for those who have not yet reached out to the Alliance. Associate judge applicants need to remember to contact Therese Kurth at the Chicago Bar Association as well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Guest Post: Puerto Rican Bar Association issues statement on the U.S. Capitol attack

The PRBA is far from the only local bar group to offer a response to last week's riot at the Capitol. Follow the links in this sentence for statements from the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Asian American Bar Association of Chicago.

But the PRBA's statement is a little different and readers may find it of particular interest. I reproduce it here in full, without comment. (The pictures used here were provided by the PRBA.)

The PRBA strongly denounces the attack on the US Capitol as anti-American and anti-democratic. The vision of confederate flags, armed insurgents and crouching legislatures will forever be a stain in this country’s history. The insurrection was a cowardly attempt to thwart our presidential electoral process and the voice of the people, who elected Biden as our next president.

Fortunately, these Trump-fueled domestic terrorists were unsuccessful, but as events unfolded on January 6, it was evident to the world that the US has another problem besides preserving our democracy; America needs to address the racist, double-standard that was also clearly on display that day. One need only compare the response from authorities to the mob that attacked the Capitol, and the military response to the Black Lives Matters protests this summer, to see the blaring disparity.

This was not the first time the Capitol was attacked. On March 1, 1954, four members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, led by Lolita Lebrón, made it into the House of Representatives. From the visitor's gallery, Lebrón stood up and shouted, “Viva Puerto Rico Libre!” ("Long live a free Puerto Rico!") and unfurled a Puerto Rican flag. Five congressmen were shot and survived their wounds. Lolita Lebrón, Irvin Flores, Rafael Cancel Miranda and Oscar Collazo were immediately arrested by the US Capitol Police, and later found guilty of attempted murder. They would serve 25 years in prison before their 50 year sentences were commuted by President Carter in 1979.

The US Constitution and our democracy will survive the attempted coup this past week-- Joe Biden will be sworn in as president on January 20. But America’s bigger problem of systematic racism will linger. The PRBA, and millions of people of color in this country, demand that our leaders, in all branches of government, but particularly in the judicial branch, hold the perpetrators of this week’s attack fully accountable.

Lolita Lebrón served 25 years in prison for her role in wounding 5 congressmen. Black Lives Matters protesters from this summer all over the country are still facing pending charges. What will be the fate of the privileged insurgents who attacked the Capitol this week, where 5 people died?

Monday, January 11, 2021

Associate Judge Process Panel Discussion set for January 21

The Asian American Judges Association of Illinois is hosting a panel discussion "regarding the Associate Judge process" in Cook County on Thursday, January 21, at 5:30 p.m. There is no charge to attend this virtual event; a Zoom link will be provided upon registration. (Click here to reach the event registration page).

Associate Judge Neera Walsh will moderate the panel, which includes Associate Judges William Yu (selected in 2018) and Rena Van Tine and the newly appointed Acting Presiding Judge of the County Division, Judge Sanjay Tailor.

The South Asian Bar Association of Chicago is also promoting this event.

COVID-19 update

Next Monday will mark the 10th month anniversary of the Governor's stay-at-home order. Put another way, we are about to start our 11th month of our temporary two-week shutdown.

Vaccines are coming... eventually. They exist, anyway, and all we have to do is wait our turn. And wait some more. But remember when it was big news that there'd been a thousand tests administered in a single day? On November 25, the IDPH announced that there had been 10 million tests administered in the State of Illinois, 114,233 specimens having been tested in the 24 hours preceding alone. Vaccinations will ramp up similarly -- and the sooner the better, thank you.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Chief Judge has put out another COVID-19 update: Another employee, one who works at the Juevenile Temporary Detention Center, has tested positive for the virus. This brings to 100 the number of JTDC staff cases; there have also been some 80 resident cases there.

In total, according to this morning's announcement, 245 employees (out of a total of 2,600) of the Chief Judge's Office have tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, 18 judges, out of about 400, have tested positve.

The most recent COVID-19 update from the Cook County State's Attorney's Office is dated January 7. According to that announcement, an employee of that office, working at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, is the most recent person to report a positive test result. Some 71 employees of the SAO have tested positive for COVID-19, according to that announcement.

Friday, January 08, 2021

Christmas tree, holiday light recycling options

The Three Kings are on their way home now. It is now possible to go whole minutes without seeing an Amazon truck.

If you put one up, you are probably thinking it's time to take down that Christmas tree.

If you had a real tree you may be looking for a way in which to responsibly dispose of it.

There are options.

Starting tomorrow, January 9, and running through Saturday, January 23, you can take your tree to one of 25 Chicago parks for recycling. All ornaments and lights must be removed first, of course.

Here is the list of participating Chicago parks, per this December 29 report from ABC-7:

  • Bessemer Park
    8930 S. Muskegon Ave.

  • Clark Park
    3400 N. Rockwell St.

  • Forestry Site
    900 E. 103rd Street
    This site offers free mulch

  • Garfield Park
    100 N. Central Park Ave.

  • Grant Park
    900 S. Columbus Dr.

  • Humboldt Park Boathouse
    1369 N. Sacramento Ave.

  • Jackson Park
    6300 S. Cornell Ave.

  • Kennedy Park
    2427 W. 113th St.

  • Kelvyn Park
    4438 W. Wrightwood Ave.

  • Lake Meadows Park
    3117 S. Rhodes Ave.

  • Lincoln Park
    Cannon Dr. at Fullerton Ave., east of Cannon Dr.
    This site offers free mulch

  • Margate Park
    4921 N. Marine Dr.
    This site offers free mulch

  • Marquette Park
    6700 S. Kedzie Ave.

  • McKinley Park
    2210 W. Pershing Rd.

  • Mt. Greenwood Park
    3721 W. 111th St.
    This site offers free mulch

  • North Park Village
    5801 N. Pulaski Rd.
    This site offers free mulch

  • Norwood Park
    5801 N. Natoma Ave.
    This site offers free mulch

  • Portage Park
    4100 N. Long Ave.

  • Riis Park
    6201 W. Wrightwood Ave.

  • Rowan Park
    11546 S. Avenue L

  • Sheridan Park
    910 S. Aberdeen St.

  • Walsh Park
    1722 N. Ashland

  • Warren Park
    6601 N. Western Ave.
    This site offers free mulch

  • Wentworth Park
    5701 S. Narragansett Ave.

  • West Chatham Park
    8223 S. Princeton

According to this post on recyclebycity.com, some 17,000 trees were composted in the City program in 2019, diverting an estimated 620,000 pounds from landfills.

For tree recycling in areas outside the City, including Downstate, see this post from EHSO.com.

Trees, you say, are the easy part. What about the strings of lights that stopped working over the holidays?

The options here are more limited, but there are some.

A private company called Elgin Recycling partners with a number of local municipalities to collect and recycle holiday lights. If you explore the company's website, you will find all sorts of information about the program... in 2012. But, the lack of updates on its website notwithstanding, the Elgin Recycling program continues.

According to the January 4 issue of the Daily Herald (accessed via Lexis), the Village of Arlington Heights is working with Elgin Recycling in collecting strings of holiday lights or extension cords at the Health & Human Services Dept. in the Village Hall, 33 S. Arlington Heights Rd., or at the Arlington Heights Public Works Center, 222 N. Ridge Ave. through February 26. "Last year," according to the Daily Herald article, "with 51 municipalities participating in the Elgin Recycling program, more than 100,000 pounds of holiday lights were recycled instead of thrown away. Lights accepted include mini-lights (or Italian lights), C7 lights, C9 lights, rope lights and LED lights, as well as extension cords."

The Village of Glenview is also working with Elgin Recycling to collect used holiday lights, through February 28, at the Public Works Department, 2498 East Lake Ave. (corner of East Lake Avenue and Shermer Road) (there is tree recycling information available at that link, as well).

Mt. Prospect residents can drop off unwanted holiday lights and extension cords at the Public Works Department, 1700 West Central Road, between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., from Monday to Friday. The website says "residents"; I don't know if they card.

This is a very short list because I only reported sites that I am reasonably confident about. There is---and I know this will come as a shock to some---a lot of outdated and downright inaccurate information floating around the Internet, even about holiday light recycling.

However, I would be pleased to add to this list. Email me or leave a comment about tree or light recycling in your area and I will update where possible.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Thinking about submitting an application for associate judge?

Filling out the revised application on the Illinois Courts website is merely Step One.

Step 1A involves reaching out the bar associations that evaluate associate judge hopefuls. While there are 13 bar associations that issue evaluations that will be considered by the Circuit Court Executive Committee, 12 of these groups work together as the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening. Joyce Williams, the administrator who coordinates the Alliance screening process, has asked all potential candidates to contact her for the Alliance questionnaire forms as soon as possible. That's a link to Ms. Williams' email in the preceding sentence.

The Chicago Bar Association is the other bar group that issues evaluations of judicial candidates. Email Therese Kurth at tkurth@chicagobar.org to receive the CBA Questionnaire and forms.

First time applicants will note that the associate judge application is similar to, but not the same as, the Alliance Questionnaire which, in turn, is similar to, but not the same as, the CBA Questionnaire. Nevertheless, most people will find it helpful to work on all of these simultaneously. These are all substantial undertakings and will take some time to properly complete. (And while it's true that, in every election cycle, one or more candidates gets elected without submitting to bar association screening, no one is going to make the "short list" without going through the evaluation process.)

And if you are not thinking about applying for judge, at least not for a few years, you may wish to consider helping the bar groups sift through the lengthy candidate questionnaires by joining a judicial evaluation committee. Every bar group that issues evaluations has one. And if you are a member of any of these bar associations, you can join.

As longtime FWIW readers know, judicial candidate evaluations are sometimes criticized as partisan or ideological; individual evaluators have been criticized for having an 'agenda.' But the influence that any one evaluator may have, no matter how determined, can be diminished, if not eliminated, through numbers: The more evaluators that participate, the fairer the process should likely be. Particularly if you, Dear Fair-Minded Reader, participate.

There is significant work involved in JEC committee service, but, particularly for those attorneys who regularly appear in court (or who will, eventually, again regularly appear in court some day) there is also an opportunity to improve the quality of the bench and thereby improve the quality of your own professional life.

Members of Alliance groups interested in JEC service should contact Joyce Williams; CBA members may wish to contact Therese Kurth.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Chief Judge Evans names three new acting presiding judges

The headline-grabber is the appointment of Judge Erica L. Reddick to head the Criminal Division of the Cook County Circuit Court. Reddick succeeds Judge Leroy K. Martin, Jr., recently assigned to the Appellate Court (replacing Justice Robert E. Gordon, who was appointed to the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Shelvin Louise Marie Hall).

But Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans also announced yesterday that newly-appointed Circuit Court Judge Sanjay T. Tailor will become the acting presiding judge of the County Division, replacing Judge Sharon Sullivan, who has retired. Also, Judge Diann K. Marsalek, who had been Supervising Judge of the First Municipal District's Traffic Court, has been appointed to the newly-created position of "acting presiding judge over all traffic judges in Cook County."

Judge Reddick, the first woman to head the Court's Criminal Division, was appointed to the Circuit bench in 2010, elected to a countywide vacancy in 2012, and retained in 2018. Licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1991, Reddick spent her pre-judicial career in the Public Defender's office, serving "in a number of leadership positions, including deputy chief of the felony trial division, acting chief of the Third District and attorney supervisor of the felony trial division," according to the Chief Judge's announcement.

According to the Chief Judge's Office, Judge Tailor will be the first Asian-American to serve as a presiding judge in the history of the State of Illinois. An associate judge since 2003, Tailor had served in the Chancery Division since 2015.

Judge Marsalek was first appointed to the Circuit Court in 2011; she was elected to a countywide vacancy in 2012 and retained in 2018. Since becoming Supervising Judge of the First Municipal District Traffic Court, Marsalek has "trained approximately 150 new judges," according to the announcement from the Chief Judge's Office.

Eleven associate judge vacancies to be filled in Cook County... at least at this point

Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans announced yesterday that there are 10 associate judge vacancies to be filled. Applications are available on this page of the Illinois Courts website and must be submitted by February 3.

In keeping with the modern trend, applications may be submitted electronically to the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (and emailers will have until 11:59 p.m. on the 3rd to send in the application). However, 'wet signature' applications (applications signed in ink) can still be delivered to the AOIC's Chicago office, so long as they are received by 5:00 p.m. on the 3rd. A new application form was promulgated in September 2019; no applications using the old form will be accepted.

The announcement of a new class of associate judges is not a signal that the Pandemic is past; rather, it was triggered by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 39(b), which requires posting of a notice of vacancy when five or more associate judge vacancies exist. One vacancy was created when Associate Judge Franklin U. Valderrama moved to the United States District Court; four others were created when Associate Judges Michael A. Forti, Mary C. Marubio, Celestia L. Mays, and Levander Smith, Jr. were sworn into full Circuit Court judgeships last month.

In a departure from past practice, the Chief Judge's announcement yesterday mentioned all of these by name, as well as the resignations of Associate Judges Earl B. Hoffenberg, Carol A. Kipperman, Macia B. Orr, and the retirements of Associate Judges James N. Karahalios and Richard A. Stevens. If you're keeping score at home, that adds up to 10 vacancies -- but that did not include the vacancy opened yesterday by the appointment of Associate Judge Sanjay T. Tailor to a countywide vacancy.

Casual observers of the process (and first-time applicants) are often astounded by how long it takes to form each new class of associate judges. For example, for the class of associate judges announced in April 2012, applications were closed on November 1, 2010. There were 276 applicants in March 2013; the 13 associates selected from that applicant pool were announced in April 2014. There were 283 applicants in early 2015; 13 new associates emerged from this group in April 2016. A notice of vacancies in January 2017 attracted 272 applications and, eventually, 17 new associates (16 associate judges were announced in May 2018; because of a tie, the 17th was not selected until June). Vacancies announced in August 2018 attracted 212 hopefuls; 15 new associates were selected from this list in December 2019.

One reason that it ordinarily takes more than a year for each new crop of associate judges is that the Chicago Bar Association and each of the Alliance bar groups will be asked to weigh in on the qualifications of each aspirant. That takes time; while many candidates have previously sought judicial office, there are always some newcomers. And, only when the evaluations are done, or largely done, will the Circuit Court's executive committee begin interviewing hopefuls. After the interviews are concluded, the executive committee will select a "short list" from the applicants in the current pool, two for each vacancy. These names are on the ballot submitted to all the eligible full Cook County Circuit Court judges -- and, almost always, the associate judges selected will be on this ballot. (There have been a couple of recent exceptions -- a couple of "write-ins" have been selected without making the short list -- but these were already-serving judges; anyone else attempting a "write-in" campaign would presumably damage, if not destroy, their long-term prospects.)

The announcement of the formation of the next class of associate judges will also depend on the results of the 2020 census.

The number of associate judgeships available in Cook County is set by statute, but is determined by population. The Associate Judge Act provides, in pertinent part, at 705 ILCS 45/2(a), "The maximum number of associate judges authorized for each circuit is the greater of the applicable minimum number specified in this Section or one for each 35,000 or fraction thereof in population as determined by the last preceding Federal census, except for circuits with a population of more than 3,000,000 where the maximum number of associate judges is one for each 29,000 or fraction thereof in population as determined by the last preceding federal census...."

The population of Cook County declined by 182,500 between the 2000 and 2010 censuses. That cost the Cook County Circuit Court six associate judge positions.

Judges are immune from layoffs. But, when an associate judge surplus exists, the death, resignation, retirement, or removal of an associate does not create a vacancy. Thus, because of the decline in the number of associate judgeships required by the 2010 census results, there were only nine vacancies available in the 2012 class.

The final 2020 census figures have not yet been determined. But preliminary figures suggest a population decline of 45,000. The July 1, 2019 estimate shown in the linked table will surely change when the final figures come out. If the number were to stay the same, one existing associate judge vacancy would not be refilled. If the final number is lower than the estimate, more may be lost.

If the county population drop is significant, and several positions thereby eliminated, this year's process might be stretched out, waiting for additional attrition among the ranks of the associates. Time, and numbers, will tell.