Monday, October 31, 2022

Jewish Judges Association of Illinois to hold Awards and Installation Dinner December 8

The Jewish Judges Association of Illinois will hold its 18th Annual Justice, Lifetime Achievement, and Public Service Awards and Installation Dinner at the Hilton Doubletree, 9599 Skokie Blvd., on Thursday, December 8, with a reception starting at 5:30 p.m. and dinner following at 6:30 p.m.

Outgoing Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White will recieve the group's First Special Recognition Award at the event. Lake County Circuit Court Judge Daniel B. Shanes will receive the Honorable Seymour Simon Justice Award, recently-transferred Fourth District Appellate Court Justice Kathryn Zenoff will receive the Honorable Ilana Diamond Rover Lifetime Achievement Award, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Gilbert will receive the Honorable Richard J. Elrod Public Service Award.

Tickets for the event are $175 each, or $1,750 per table.

Sponsorships are also available (Gold - $1,000, Platinum - $1,500, and Diamond - $2,500).

The last date to purchase tickets is November 15, 2022. Further information about the event, and a form for ordering tickets or sponsorships, can be found by clicking here. Dietary laws will be observed.

Justinian Society to hold its Endowment Fund Scholarship Dinner on November 17

Thursday, November 17 turns out to be a busy day for scholarship fund fundraisers.

In addition to the BWLA Scholarship Fund event, the Justinian Socity of Lawyers will hold its Endowment Fund Scholarship Dinner at the Rosebud, 1500 W. Taylor St., on Thursday, November 17, with cocktails starting at 6:00 p.m., and a family style dinner (with wine included) following at 7:00 a.m.

Hard choices may have to be made... although it may just be possible to hit one for the appetizers, then head over for dinner at the other. The venues are only about 1.3 miles apart. Depending on the timing, the truly ambitious, or determined, may even make it back to the first venue in time for the wine tasting.

Anything for the next generation of lawyers, right?

Tickets for the JSEF Scholarship Dinner are $65 for Justinian members, $75 for non-members, and $55 for students. All are available at this link.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Justinian Society of Lawyers Endowment Fund, a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization. Contributions are deductible to the extent allowed by law.

BWLA Scholarship Fund Board announces Sips for Scholarships on November 17

The Black Women's Lawyers' Association of Greater Chicago, Inc. Scholarship Fund Board will present its annual Sips for Scholarships event on Thursday, November 17, from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m., at the Nych Art Gallery, 2025 S. Laflin St.

The event will feature a beer-and-wine open bar, appetizers, and wine tastings featuring a Black and female-owned winery. There will also be raffle prizes and a silent auction. The winners of the Scholarship Fund's Fall Book Award and Bar Review Scholarships will be announced.

Tickets for the event are $65 each for BWLA members, $85 for non-members, and are available at this link.

Persons with items to donate to the silent auction are urged to contact

Cook County Bar Association co-hosts November Joint Dinner this Thursday

The Cook County Bar Association, in conjunction with the Illinois Judicial Council, the Black Women Lawyers' Association of Greater Chicago, Inc., and the Black Men Lawyers' Association, is co-sponsoring a November Joint Dinner on Thursday, November 3, from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m., at Row 24, 2411 S. Michigan Ave.

Appellate Court Justice Cynthia Cobbs will receive the Trailblazer Award at the event.

Tickets for the dinner are $65 apiece (the price includes one free drink ticket) and are available at this link. For questions or additional information about the event, contact

Friday, October 28, 2022

Welcome early voters! Everything you need to know about the Cook County judicial retention ballot

Updated October 28 and bumped up for greater visibility
Updated October 14 and bumped up for greater visibility

Early voting is now well underway for both Chicago residents and residents of suburban Cook County.

If you've landed here via a web search, you are probably seeking information about the lengthy Cook County judicial retention ballot. What follows are a number of links to recent FWIW posts that should help satisfy your curiousity.

Feel free to share this post (or any of the posts linked herein) with your friends and neighbors by clicking on one of those little buttons at the bottom of the post you wish to share (or in whatever other way you share on social media).

And, for those of you who are voting early, you do know it won't stop the commercials on your TV, right? (If only...........)

Without further adieu, then, links:

Northern District of Illinois announces application process for Magistrate vacancy

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois is accepting applications for a full-time United States Magistrate Judge position in the Eastern Division, "with the Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse at Chicago, Illinois as the duty station."

Chances are pretty good that the successful applicant for the position would already know where the "duty station" is... but I suppose the Court did not wish to automatically exclude law professors from the process.

Of course, even if law professors were interested in getting a real job (as opposed to the adjuncts who do work all day in the real world and then teach nights and weekends, trying to provide law students with practical instruction they would never otherwise get), the academics would likely stumble on the first of the following requirements of the magistrate position:
  1. be, and have been for at least five years, a member in good standing of the bar of the highest court of a State, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands of the United States, and have been engaged in the active practice of law for a period of at least five years;
  2. be competent to perform all of the duties of the office; be of good moral character, emotionally stable and mature; be committed to equal justice under the law; be in good health; be patient and courteous; and be capable of deliberation and decisiveness;
  3. be less than seventy years of age; and
  4. not be related to a judge of the district court.
The pay is good -- the present annual salary for a United States Magistrate Judge is $205,528 -- and the retirement plan is even better: A magistrate who reitres after turning 65 and serving 14 years in the position, whether continuously or not, gets an annuity equal to the salary being received at the time the United States Magistrate Judge leaves office.

Further details, and the application itself, are available at this page of the Northern District's website.

Filling this U.S. Magistrate Judge position is contingent upon approval of the Seventh Circuit Judicial Council and of the Judicial Conference Committee on the Administration of the Magistrate Judges System. The candidate selected will be appointed only upon the successful completion of a Federal Bureau Investigation and Internal Revenue Service background check.

The application deadline for this vacancy is 5:00 p.m. on November 23, 2022.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Cook County Bar Association Judges' Night set for November 16

Corrected 11/14/22
The Cook County Bar Association will hold its Judges' Night on Wednesday, November 16, from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m., at Fremont Chicago, 15 W. Illinois.

The CCBA will confer the Justice Charles Freeman Award on the two newest Illinois Supreme Court justices, Joy V. Cunningham and Lisa Holder White at this event. It will also present the Timothy C. Evans Judicial Award on Circuit Court Judge Arnette Hubbard.

Tickets for the event are $150 each, for non-members; tickets for members are $85 each (judges are admitted free of charge). Event tickets are available at this link.

Sponsorship opportunities are also available for this event. Sponsorship levels and benefits are as follows:
Friend of the Court Sponsor - $350
Includes one event ticket and logo placements on Media at the event and on the CCBA's website;

ALJ Sponsor - $1,500
Includes two event tickets, logo placements on Media at the event and on the CCBA's website, and verbal recognition at the event;

Magistrate Sponsor - $5,000
Includes four event tickets, logo placements on Media at the event and on the CCBA's website, and verbal recognition at the event;

Judicial Sponsor - $10,000
Includes a reserved table with six tickets, logo placements on Media at the event, on the event invitation, and Step and Repeat. Also, placement on CCBA's website and Social Media, and verbal recognition at the event;

Appellate Sponsor - $15,000
Includes a reserved table with eight tickets, prominent logo placements on Media at the event, on the event invitation, and Step and Repeat. Also, placement on CCBA's website and Social Media, and the opportunity to address the guests at the event; and

Supreme Sponsor - $20,000
Includes a reserved table with 12 tickets, dominant logo placements on Media at the event, on the event invitation, and Step and Repeat. Also, placement on CCBA's website and Social Media, and the opportunity to address the guests at the event.
Sponsorships may be obtained at this link.

PRBA member featured on recent Chicago Tonight segment

Puerto Rican Bar Association member Martha Soto was among the panelists on a recent Chicago Tonight segment concerning Latino representation in local elected offices, including the judiciary.

The complete segment is available on this page of the WTTW website.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Former alderperson and Democratic Party committeeperson recommends "no" vote on Chief Judge Evans

No, not Bob Fioretti. (Although he presumably does, too.)

I refer instead to recently-retired 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith. While she has not held both titles for several years, Smith was at one time both alderperson and 43rd Ward Democratic Party Committeeperson.

And Smith has long had a lively interest in the quality of the Cook County judiciary. FWIW has frequently reported her recommendations in judicial races.

Though now out of office, Smith has again released her recommendations for voters in her former constituency, a list which includes her choices on the judicial retention ballot. (A complete list is available here.)

Perhaps the most notable of Smith's choices on the retention ballot is her recommendation that voters vote NO on the question of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans "despite his other accomplishments."

Smith's argument against Evans is laid out in an email. The starting point, for her, is Circuit Court General Order No. 18.8A which "[changed] the way pre-trial bond is determined in Cook County" (links as in original):
We are all aware of the controversy over pre-trial detention. However, underlying all of this controversy is a lack of transparent and accurate data.

In Chicago, the city’s data portal has a record of every crime reported to the police since 2001. It can be searched by ward, date and type of crime. While not perfect, it provides an ability to understand reported crime in our neighborhood.

Cook County has no easily publicly accessible, searchable database for its criminal justice system. It’s almost impossible for the media (much less the public) to actually track the progress of criminal cases through the system.

The decision to NOT have this data for criminal cases falls squarely on the Chief Judge and the [Clerk of the Circuit Court]. Good government organizations such as the Civic Federation and reform groups like Chicago Appleseed have been calling for more transparency in the data processes of the criminal courts since at least 2017.

The impact of this lack of data is significant because the Court’s data has been found unreliable. In May 2019 the Circuit Court published a study of the first 18 months of implementation of the new bail bond rules. The county claimed that rates of re-offending (meaning an arrest) were the same 18 months after implementation of the new rules. No underlying data was made available.

The Chicago Tribune published a report in 2020 after a hand analysis of case files of all murders committed after the report was issued. That analysis found that instead of three murders committed by offenders who were out on bail there were twenty-one.

The Court's analysis of its data is also misleading. In its report, the court stated that after being released on bond, the same percentage of people were not rearrested, 82.2% before and 83.1% after - and claimed that crime by people out on bond had not increased.

However, straightforward math shows that the number of crimes increased after the bail bond rules changed. In the first 18 months of the new system, 4164 new crimes were committed by felony defendants out on bond compared to 3712 in the 18 months before the new system, a total of 452 new crimes – 8 more a week of the most violent crimes in our city.

More shocking is that the court’s calculations on violent crimes committed by released defendants do NOT include crimes such as domestic battery, assault, assault with a deadly weapon, battery, armed violence and reckless homicide.

As of June 30, 2022 the Court states that 83,206 adult felony defendants have been released under the new order, and at least 15,060 of those arrested and released on bond under the new system were arrested for new crimes.

No comparative analysis is available to calculate how many of those would have been released under the old system. The Court continues to release quarterly or monthly dashboards with the same unsubstantiated data.

There are many more questions about this data, such as the impact on the dramatic increase in the number of defendants on electronic monitoring, the re-arrest records of misdemeanor defendants and the large number of crimes committed for which there are no arrests. There is no analysis at all about juvenile defendants, only adults.

The person responsible for the issuance of Order 18.8 and the person responsible for the courts, Chief Judge Evans, has not made the data available for unbiased study.

I therefore recommend a NO vote to retain Chief Judge Evans (#218) despite his other accomplishments over his long career.
Smith also recommends a "no" vote on four other Circuit Court judges, only three of whom are seeking retention. Quoting again from Smith's email:
  • 242 Daniel James Pierce - would not participate in the evaluation process
  • 255 Ann Finley Collins - would not participate in the evaluation process
  • 257 Daniel J. Gallagher - Judge Gallagher, while a compassionate judge, has made it difficult to achieve justice in our misdemeanor cases. With frequent "do overs" for defendants, delays and continuances, even our own attempts to get defendants treatment for drug or mental health issues in lieu of incarceration took tremendous effort by our citizens, victims and our office.
  • 282 Rossana P. Fernandez - Several bar associations recommend she leave the bench for poor disposition.

Another day, another voters' guide....

This one is from an outfit called Chicago Votes, but it's not pitched at all Chicagoans apparently... only the "young people":
The reader may wonder what is meant by the above and foregoing. I can offer no clarification.

But I can tell you how this particular guide was made, because the makers offer this explanation: "We asked candidates questions about issues that young people give a sh*t about."

But, you say, never mind the generalities: What does the Chicago Votes Voters' Guide have to say about the retention judges?

Well, the Guide comes in hot, to begin with (punctuation, CAPS and bold as in original):
AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM, and that is our courts! Use our judicial cheat sheet to disrupt judges that have been flagged as not recommended or not qualified! They too COZY!
But... it is a little unclear at whom the Chicago Votes disruptors have been aimed.

Here are the instructions for reading the Chicago Votes judicial guide:
Note the use of red letters. Practically anyone who drew any sort of notice, good or bad, in the Injustice Watch Judicial Guide gets branded with red letters by Chicago Votes:
It is safe to say that Injustice Watch has singled out one of the members of the retention class for having what it deems an unusually high reversal rate and also that Injustice Watch has highlighted two members of the retention class (only one of whom is actually seeking retention) who chose to forego the bar associations' judicial evaluation process. But the 'judicial cheat sheet' from Chicago Votes seems to be suggesting a sort of equivalence between "0% qualified" and a "flag" from Injustice Watch.

Chicago Votes bills itself as "a non-partisan, non-profit organization building a more inclusive democracy by putting power in the hands of young Chicagoans. We’re engaging a new generation of leaders, changing laws to make Chicago and Illinois a better place to be young, and in the process, we’re making democracy FUN."

A Tweet about CTA safety from the Chief Judge's Director of Communications

Presented without comment (except to note, for the reading-comprehension-impaired, that this is obviously a statement of personal opinion and not any sort of attempt at communication on behalf of the court system). Here's the link to the original Tweet, which should be embedded below:
But, just in case, here's a screenshot:

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Next week: CBA, CBF host Annual Pro Bono Week

The old joke is that pro bono is Latin for 'you're not getting paid for your services.' But that's not true. I've had clients say that to me many times during the years (actually, they seldom said anything; they merely ignored my bills). Either way, I can tell you for a fact that getting stiffed by non-paying clients does not constitute pro bono work. I've asked.

Rather, pro bono is short for "pro bono publico," literally 'for the public good,' and some very good lawyers have made their living doing this kind of work.

But their efforts frequently need supplementation from persons who know -- in advance -- that they will not get paid for their public-spirited efforts. It is to these volunteers and potential volunteers that the activities of the forthcoming Pro Bono Week are directed.

Pro Bono Week began in 2005 when the Chicago Bar Association and Chicago Bar Foundation realized the increasing need for pro bono services during harsh economic times. In 2009, the American Bar Association took up the cause and created a National Celebration of Pro Bono to draw attention to the need for pro bono participation, and to thank those who give their time year-round.

In a press release calling attention to this year's observance, the CBA says Pro Bono Week 2022 will focus on efforts to provide access to justice to empower people and communities. The week’s events will highlight the vitally important legal work lawyers do in their communities to improve the lives of their friends and neighbors while ensuring the access to justice that people deserve, not just what they can afford.

"Equal access to justice is core to the CBA’s mission. Serving our community members in need and fighting for justice and equality for all, is our profession’s highest calling," said CBA President Timothy Tomasik. "We are proud to join with lawyers across our nation to celebrate National Pro Bono Week 2022 and to recognize the important contributions that have been made as well as the work that still needs our support."

Here are some of the scheduled Pro Bono Week events:
Monday, October 24:
  • Pro Bono in Communities - Registrants will hear from the Center for Disability & Elder Law, the Legal Aid Society Communities Partnering 4 Peace Program, the CBA’s Lawyers in the Classroom program, and the CBA’s Young Lawyers Section about how volunteer lawyers can give back in their communities. Panelists will describe the work their organizations are doing, discuss how persons can get involved as a pro bono volunteer, and provide details about volunteer opportunities at all levels of engagement. This is a hybrid event from 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. at The Chicago Bar Association, 321 S. Plymouth Court or via webinar.

  • Justice: An Evening of Stories and Community - The CBA describes this as a "fan favorite celebration" to kick off Pro Bono Week with an evening of justice-themed stories told by audience volunteers. Persons interested in telling their own story may sign up and come prepared with a five-minute story to share. Storytellers and listeners alike are encouraged to attend. This is an in-person event from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Revolution Brewpub at 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60647.
Tuesday, October 25:
  • Voting Rights and Election Protection - Attorneys from the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Kirkland & Ellis LLP (who together operate the Election Protection Hotline - 866-OUR-VOTE) will present on the history of voting rights and the current state of the law in Illinois and Indiana. Registrants will learn about what challenges and opportunities they expect in the upcoming November election and hear about opportunities to support the hotline as a call center volunteer or serve as an in-person field volunteer (poll-watcher). This is a hybrid event from 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. at The Chicago Bar Association, 321 S. Plymouth Court or via webinar.
Thursday, October 27:
  • Annual Pro Bono and Community Service Fair - Over 40 of Chicago’s legal aid, pro bono, community service, and mentoring organizations will gather at tables to meet with members of the legal community. Hear directly from legal aid and pro bono attorneys about how you can make a difference. Co-sponsored with the CBA Young Lawyers Section and Kirkland & Ellis LLP. This is an in-person event from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Kirkland & Ellis LLP at 300 N. LaSalle Street Chicago, IL 60654.
To register for any of the events listed or for more information about Pro Bono Week, click here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Reminder: Deadline for Bill of Rights Day Student Contest is October 30

The United States Courts of Appeals along with the United States District Courts in the Seventh and Eighth Circuits are hosting the third annual Bill of Rights Day Contest and students in Grades 5-12 are encouraged to enter before the 5:00 p.m., October 30 deadline.

I don't suppose that FWIW draws many readers from middle school or high school (although this might explain some of the comments received here and duly flushed away) -- but I would wager that a great many regular FWIW readers know teachers of students in the aforementioned grades or, perhaps, have students in these very grades consuming comesitbles under their very roofs. Get creative, people. If we can draw any lesson from the miserable political climate in our home state and country, it is that proper civic education, in generous doses, is sorely needed.

Detailed contest prompts, guidelines, and online submission form can be found at this link.

More information (summarizing the contest) may be found at this prior FWIW post.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

CWBChicago offers guidance in some Cook County retention races

Not endorsements.

CWBChicago wants to make it clear that it neither makes endorsements nor recommendations in judicial elections (or in any others).

But, yesterday, CWBChicago published two posts offering information about certain retention races. The posts are:
Both posts provide extensive links to prior CWBChicago coverage about the judges identified (Chief Judge Evans and Judges Susana Ortiz, Charles Patrick Burns, Aleksandra Gillespie, William H. Hooks, and John Fitzgerald Lyke, Jr.).

And, before someone takes me to task for not saying it, I will say that CWBChicago, like Injustice Watch, has a point of view. Well, not a point of view like IJW... but a distinct voice, shall we say, just as IJW has its own distinctive voice....

Both publications are particularly interested in the criminal courts. Both will agree that most of the Circuit Court judges on the retention ballot are assigned elsewhere. And while CWB and IJW will have vastly different takes on whether Bond Court judges are too lenient or too restrictive, both would agree that, contrary to the insinuations of some politicians, almost all of the judges up for retention this year are not Bond Court judges. As this Tweet from IJW's Maya Dukmasova makes clear: CWBChicago and IJW may draw different conclusions from mostly the same data -- but they share their data along with the conclusions. Which permits voters to draw their own conclusions.

You mean there might be even more commercials?

The following item, from today's Chicago Public Square, caught my attention:
■ A federal judge has at least temporarily blocked Illinois laws limiting political contributions to judicial races—potentially unleashing what the Tribune calls “a deluge of cash into two hotly contested races for … the state’s highest court.”
The linked article discusses, but does not link to, the October 14, 2022 Memorandum Opinion and Order of U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp, Jr. in Chancey v. Illinois State Board of Elections, 22 CV 04043. Here's the link.

Just what we need: More outrageous nonsense about the State Supreme Court candidates in the newly-reconstituted Second and Third Judicial Districts.

I didn't think it was possible to buy any more airtime... but I fear I may be proved wrong.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Some resources for Downstate voters in judicial races

While the primary focus of this site is on Cook County judicial races, I get inquiries from time to time from persons looking for information about judicial elections outside Cook County -- or "Downstate" as the term is sometimes (and imprecisely) used. For those who may have landed here looking for information about judicial elections outside Cook County, I can offer the following:

While the Illinois State Bar Association is but one of many bar groups in Cook County that evaluate judicial candidates (although, since it has started publishing evaluation narratives, an increasingly important one), outside of Cook County it is the go-to source.

This page of the ISBA website will take the reader to a hyperlinked list of Illinois counties; each county link will take the reader to a list of all judges on the ballot in that county.

Outside of Cook County, the ISBA reviews candidates by polling practitioners -- it requires a certain minimum response before making a recommendation, so not every candidate may be evaluated... but, in the smaller counties there is a good chance that the lawyers really do know each other and deeply concerned about who may preside when they attempt to earn some portion of their living in court.

In this election cycle the ISBA also has had its Judicial Evaluation Committee evaluate Downstate (outside Cook County) candidates for Supreme and Appellate Court vacancies or retention. So the reader reviewing the county list will sometimes find two ISBA evaluations for some Appellate or Supreme Court vacancies.

But, while the ISBA is the traditional, go-to source for judicial evaluations outside Cook County, there are evaluations published by the DuPage County Bar Association specifically for the November election. The Lake County Bar Association and the Kane County Bar Association published ratings for the June primary on their respective websites (but the KCBA rating was only for the 16th Circuit, 1st Subcircuit vacancy) (as regular FWIW readers know, a great many Illinois counties have their own subcircuits these days). Voters in these counties may find these of interest as well.

Readers are invited to advise of any additional resources I have overlooked; I will update as necessary.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Illinois Latino Judges Association plans Holiday Fiesta on December 8

Here's the festive Save the Date poster:

And I know these events have to be planned well ahead of time... and well I know how quickly dates fill up as the end of the year sneaks up on us... but I can't help myself:

I've seen this one in several places online in recent days... and I've been itching for a chance to use it....

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Just in time for the November elections, the Illinois Judges Association makes a plea for judicial independence

From the text of the "Judicial Independence Declaration" on the Illinois Judges Association website:
A basic principle that defines the United States of America is that we are all entitled to equal treatment under the law. The judiciary’s primary function is to protect the rights of all people.

The court system can only function if it is viewed as impartial, that means making decisions based solely upon the facts and the law.

There are headline grabbing incidents of judges being threatened at all levels of the judiciary. The incidents are happening more frequently. These assaults are not solely limited to a disgruntled litigant, or non-prevailing party. Many are based upon a political agenda.

Judges are called upon to make decisions on controversial and hotly contested matters. We make these decisions because we have been given a position of trust in our communities. The voters should be able to determine whether we retain that position of trust based upon whether our rulings are fair and well grounded in the law, not whether we adhere to anyone’s political idealogy.

Our democracy encourages discussion, debate and scrutiny. The scrutiny that a judge receives is appellate review, and further Supreme Court review. The right to appeal an adverse ruling subjects those rulings to further scrutiny to determine if that decision comports with the facts and the law.

In November, judges on each level of court system will be on the ballot. Members of the state supreme court, the state appellate court, and the circuit court will be seeking retention. Voters should evaluate judges based on their integrity, professionalism, temperament, fairness and impartiality.
Of course partisans on OUR SIDE (whatever side is yours) can point to all sorts of instances where partisans on THE OTHER SIDE are guilty of terrific attacks on judicial independence but never see any problem in their campaign rhetoric or tactics. This always reminds me of the quote from the Gospel of Matthew (in the exquisite language of the King James Bible), "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."

Which is yet another reason why I never made it in politics....

But the principle of judicial independence is of vital import to the continued vitality of our system and the reminder is timely and appropriate.

On the judicial retention ballot, the default vote should be "yes"

In most elections, supporters of a candidate who wins 59% of the vote will use words like "landslide" to describe their favorite's splendid victory.

In Illinois judicial retention elections, a judge who receives a 59% favorable vote has to look for a new job come the first Monday in December.

To remain in office, a judge must receive a better-than-60% "yes" vote (often expressed as 60% + 1). Historically, most Cook County judges have little trouble surpassing this minimum requirement, high as it may seem.

For several consecutive elections (from 1992 until 2018) all Cook County judges won retention. In 2018 one judge was targeted for defeat by the Cook County Democratic Party (which historically had always supported all retention judges, even those first elected as *gasp* Republicans) -- and the targeted candidate lost. In 2020, the Party targeted a veteran judge and two judges in "judges' jail." One of the judges in judges' jail quit before the election; the other lost. The targeted veteran judge survived.

So even the occasional judge who has incurred the wrath of powerful politicians can survive on the retention ballot. And most judges do their necessary work unnoticed, safely out the politicians' reach.

But this rosy prospectus is darkened by the fact that, in any given retention election, 15 to 20% of the Cook County electorate reaching the retention ballot will vote "no" on every single judge. Every single judge -- no matter how universally praised by the bar associations -- no matter how highly praised by the press, dead tree or online -- no matter how mellifluous their surnames -- will get a "no" vote from 15 or 20 of every 100 voters.

In the 2020 retention election, for example, only five judges (all female) secured more than an 80% "yes" vote -- and none of them got 81%.

Some people (me, for one) believe that the influence of consistent "no" voters increases in inverse proportion to the turnout: The number of always-"no" voters is roughly consistent from election to election, so if turnout is lower, the indigestible lump of "no" votes may climb higher than 20%.

And turnouts for gubernatorial elections, like this one, are typically lower than the turnouts in presidential election years.

And that's before the selective "no" votes are counted. Lawyers will vote against judges who did not (in the lawyers' subjective view) treat them, or their clients, with the respect they considered due. Some may vote on the basis of 'sour grapes' -- that judge ruled against me, so I will vote 'no' on that judge. And ordinary people, too: "No" on the judge who dinged them on the speeding ticket, "no" on the judge who handled the divorce, "no" on the judge who put the voter's relative in jail, "no" on the judge who didn't jail that trouble-making kid down the street. Any time a judge makes a decision, someone is likely to be upset. And a judge's job is to make decisions.

So judges on the retention ballot (and their friends and family) may be forgiven if they get a little squirrelly around this time.

We have many very good, hard-working, scholarly judges in Cook County. With two exceptions, one of whom has already retired, all of the judges on the 2022 retention ballot are recommended by most of the bar associations that screen judicial candidates; the overwhelming majority have been recommended by each each and every one of the bar groups.

Therefore, while I mean to express no opinion about whether any particular judge should or should not be retained, I submit that the default vote on the judicial retention ballot, in the absence of a good reason to vote otherwise, should be "yes."

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Injustice Watch out with its "Check Your Judges" Guide

I've spent some time today reviewing Injustice Watch's "Check Your Judges" Guide.

The key feature of the Guide is this info button; information (including the ratings offered by every bar association, both the CBA and every Alliance member) is available for every retention candidate and for the two candidates in the one contested judicial election, in the far northwest suburban 13th Subcircuit. Some retention candidates provided questionnaire responses for Injustice Watch; others did not. Where a response was provided, an excerpt is included in the information summary, along with a link to the full candidate questionnaire.

For those who don't want to read all the details about each candidate, Injustice Watch provides these handy symbols. Former public defenders get nice, robust shields; former ASAs get pointed fingers. I'm guessing these are supposed to be accusatory fingers, consistent with a prosecutor's statutory function. Given the editorial bias of the publication, I wonder if a different pointed-finger-symbol might not have been considered.

Of course, I realize that might sound a tad mean-spirited. And I don't mean it that way. It might make me sound a little envious, too, and I suppose I might be: But I also recognize and appreciate what an involved and substantial undertaking this Guide represents.

If you've been following this year's retention election at all, you know that nearly all the members of the retention class have 100% favorable ratings. There are a number of instances where, for a given candidate, Injustice Watch has gone back and documented where a candidate, who now is favorably reviewed, was initially elected with negative or even strongly negative ratings. It has always been the perception that most (not all) judges elected despite bad ratings wind up with good ratings come retention time; Injustice Watch has collected the actual data that backs up this perception.

The little rotation symbol has generated its share of controversy among the retention judges.

Last week, Injustice Watch's Maya Dukmasova tweeted that some judges were "livid" about possible links to old news stories about their decisions. A couple of days before that she had tweeted a question: "Who's a good expert to ask about the meaning of appellate court reversals?"

The problem with considering a trial judge's reversal rate is the implicit assumption that the trial judge who is reversed was wrong... and the Appellate Court was necessarily right.

But if ever the lawyer's clichéd fallback response to almost any question (it depends) applies, it is on the question of whether a judge should be subject to criticism in any given case because a higher court reversed that judge's decision.

The Illinois Supreme Court sits atop the Appellate Court of Illinois in the judicial pyramid, but in any given term it agrees to hear roughly 1% of the cases in which review of an Appellate Court decision is sought. And that dismal figure does not, and can not, take into account the number of disappointed litigants who are dissuaded from even seeking Supreme Court review because of the daunting odds against being accepted for further review.

Thus, our Appellate Court is effectively the court of last resort for Illinois litigants. But just because that court disagrees with a Circuit Court judge in a given case does not mean that the Circuit Court judge really erred. The Appellate Court is not final because it is always right; rather it is only "right" because it is (almost always) final. And a Circuit Court judge who makes decisions with a view toward avoiding reversal in a higher court probably is unworthy of the robe.

Anyone who has handled any significant number of appeals can point to instances where the trial court erred and the Appellate Court failed to correct the error -- at least in the practitioner's opinion. (Funnily enough, I can't recall a single instance where the trial court erred in a way that redounded to my client's benefit and where that judgment was affirmed....) But the bottom line is that Appellate Court panels can err, too, and do.

Also, there really is often no one 'right' answer in any given set of facts. If there were, we could just turn the justice system over to some all-powerful computer (and anyone who has ever watched Star Trek or Dr. Who knows what a bad idea that would be). In many cases, the way the issues are framed determines the outcome -- and reasonable judges can disagree on how the issues should be framed in a given case. It may be that the dispositions of both the trial court and the Appellate Court are reasonable -- but the Appellate Court has the last word.

True story: Some years ago I got involved in a case at the Petition for Leave to Appeal (to the Supreme Court) stage. The trial court had dismissed the case. The Appellate Court had unanimously affirmed in an unpublished Rule 23 Order (the Appellate Court's equivalent of 'nothing to see here, citizens, move along'). But, against all the odds, the Supreme Court took the case and reversed the Appellate Court in a 4-3 decision. (This was certainly not solely due to my efforts; the late William J. Harte handled the argument and signed the brief -- but I did get to drive the car to Springfield and whole paragraphs of my drafts were included in the final product.)

Anyway, in due course, the case made its way back to the Circuit Court of Cook County, and, when the defendant brought another motion to dismiss, I wound up appearing before the judge who'd originally dismissed it. The trial court made a point of telling me that six out of 10 reviewing court judges had viewed the case as she had -- and she was not wrong.

Earlier today, in promoting the release of the Guide, Dukmasova tweeted that the Guide "takes thousands of hours of our team's time to research." I believe it. And I believe it shows, too.

But I can't imagine how many more hours would be necessary to fairly evaluate whether a given judge really should be criticized because of the number of times that judge was reversed -- even if that judge was (as Dukmasova also tweets) reversed more than twice as often as that judge's next-most-reversed peers. Reversals alone do not make a judge unworthy of retention. Even if those reversals are occasionally accompanied by a 'bench slap' that gets picked up by a reporter.

With that caveat, the Injustice Watch "Check Your Judges" Guide is a valuable tool and well worth the consideration of the voter looking for help in navigating the retention ballot.

Friday, October 07, 2022

Chicago Bar Association says vote "yes" on all retention judges, with two exceptions

The Chicago Bar Association has announced that it is recommending that voters give a "yes" vote for all Cook County retention judges on the November ballot -- with two exceptions. As will come as no surprise to FWIW readers, the two exceptions are Daniel James Pierce and Ann Finley Collins.

Both told bar screeners that they would not participate in either screening by either the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening or the CBA because they were planning to retire. While both filed for retention, Pierce ultimately went through with his retirement plans; Collins changed her mind about retiring this year.

Both Pierce and Collins will appear on the retention ballot. But votes for or against Pierce will not count because he has in fact retired. Votes for or against Collins will count.

Diversity Scholarship Fund Unity Award Dinner set for December 6

The Diversity Scholarship Foundation has announced that its annual Unity Award Dinner will take place this year on December 6. It has also announced that it is looking for additional sponsors for the event: Email for more information.

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Rena Marie Van Tine named Acting Presiding Judge of County Division

Press release issued yesterday by the Chief Judge's Office:
The Hon. Rena Marie Van Tine has been named Acting Presiding Judge of the County Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans said.

Judge Van Tine was the first female Indian American in the nation to serve as a judge on a state court on June 12, 2001, when she was appointed Associate Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County. She was the first female Indian American judge to be appointed to a countywide vacancy by the Illinois Supreme Court in February 2021, and the first to win a county-wide election. With this new appointment, she is the first female Asian American Acting Presiding Judge in Illinois.

Judge Van Tine has been assigned to the Law Division since February 2017, and handled complex litigation. She was previously assigned to the Child Protection Division.

“Judge Van Tine has had many years of experience as a judge and a practicing attorney, handling hundreds of complex cases,” said Judge Evans. “She also has built a reputation as a leader and an educator in the legal field. I am confident that the County Division will benefit from her leadership.”

Prior to her appointment to the bench, Judge Van Tine served as Special Counsel to Illinois State Comptroller Daniel W. Hynes, where she assisted in managing about $1 billion in trust funds.

Before joining the Comptroller’s Office, Judge Van Tine was a Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney for 12 years, serving both in the Criminal and Civil Divisions. Prior to becoming an Assistant State’s Attorney, she was an attorney in private practice.

Judge Van Tine also has served as an adjunct professor of trial advocacy at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, and is often called on to give legal education presentations to her fellow judges, lawyers, and the public. She is a founding member of the Chicago chapter of the Indian American Bar Association (renamed the South Asian American Bar Association of Chicago in 2016), and served on its first board of directors. She is past president of the Asian American Bar Association, and is currently Vice President of the Asian American Judges Association of Illinois.

Judge Van Tine graduated from New York Law School in 1986, and received a B.A. from Oakland University in Michigan in 1982 and was a graduate student at Michigan State University in intercultural communications.

“It's been my honor to serve as a judge in Cook County for over twenty-one years,” Judge Van Tine said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to segue into this new endeavor, and I look forward to assisting Chief Judge Evans in carrying forward his vision for the County Division and our court system.”

Judge Van Tine replaces the Hon. Sanjay T. Tailor, who has been elevated to the First District Appellate Court. Judge Tailor, who was first appointed to the bench as an Associate Judge in 2003, was the state’s first Asian American presiding judge.
Actually, although this is just a formality, Judge Van Tine will not actually win election to the Circuit Court until next month. She won the Democratic Party's nomination for the countywide Leeming vacancy in the June primary and is unopposed on the November ballot.

"Girl I Guess Progressive Voter Guide" recommends "no" votes on six -- no, check that -- five Cook County retention judges

The "Girl I Guess" voter guides are the brainchild of @Stephanie_Skora who describes herself as a "Genderqueer Trans woman, Femme Lesbian, Jewish Mom Virgo, organizer, [and] speaker."

Ms. Skora has also become, in a very short time, quite influential in Cook County judicial races. In his post-primary analysis for FWIW, Dr. Albert J. Klumpp wrote:
One other relevant factor was the “Girl I Guess” progressive voter guide that has been a detectable presence in the two most recent November retention elections. It influenced roughly six percent of the vote. This is an impressive achievement for a single individual, but it was not part of any larger grassroots movement that was the primary cause of anyone’s victory or defeat.
Skora's opinions on Cook County judicial retention candidates are therefore newsworthy.

These may be found in the Guide itself, a Google doc, linked herein.

To find Ms. Skora's pungent commentaries on those candidates she deems unworthy of retention, one must scroll down the 46-page document quite a bit. The reader with time may find it illuminating to first read Ms. Skora's explanations of herself, her methods, methodologies, metrics, and priorities (pp. 3-7), but most FWIW will want to 'cut to the chase' and see who Ms. Skora rejects.

Those singled out are Anna Loftus, Alison C. Conlon, Daniel James Pierce, Ann Finley Collins, and Rossana Patricia Fernandez. Judge William H. Hooks was also initially targeted for a "no" vote, but Skora changed her mind.

Skora explains her choices in detail at pp. 39-41 of her Guide but, to summarize, Pierce and Collins are singled out on account of their failure to participate in the bar associations' review process. Pierce has since resigned; FWIW has not yet determined whether his name will appear on the ballot but, even if it does, and even if Pierce attracts sufficient "yes" votes, he can not "un-resign." Collins recently contacted FWIW to explain that she, too, had been planning to retire, which was why she did not submit to bar screening, but changed her mind at the last moment when she realized that personal financial considerations made retirement in 2022 inadviseable. Skora's current version of her Guide contains this "update" in regard to Collins:
Several people have reached out to me to express that Judge Collins is hardworking and should be retained. I’m including that in this update here because it’s important that folks are vouching for her as a Judge, including one individual who I’ve endorsed in a Judicial race before. But with little other information to work off of, I’m not able to change my endorsement based on her lack of participation in the Bar Association ratings. If anyone is able to tell me why she chose not to participate, that might sway things, but barring that information, I don’t have enough to change my mind.
Skora recommends that Anna Loftus be turned out of office because Loftus hired a law clerk with Trumpian views. FWIW has tracked down the apparent Facebook page of the person in question; if the screen grabs Skora includes with her "dish" were public posts, they have (unsurprisingly) been scrubbed. All of which begs the question of whether a public agency can, or should, be permitted to vet a job applicant's political leanings in making a hiring decision. Obviously, this was once permitted: For many years in Cook County, no one could get a public job without a letter from one's committeeman attesting to the applicant's bona fides generally and party loyalty specifically. This was called "patronage" -- and progressives used to hate it. But, I guess, times change.

Skora calls Rossana Patricia Fernandez a "complicated case." She writes:
According to all accounts, she’s a capable judge who knows the law, can do the work, and has held a number of impressive leadership positions throughout her career... and also according to the Illinois State Bar Association, the Chicago Council of Lawyers, and an anonymous website where litigants and attorneys can review judges, she’s got some serious problems with her temperament, and has been reported as condescending and disrespectful to attorneys and litigants alike. Bar Associations are split on Fernandez because of her impressive qualifications, but I’m not inclined to give a break to a Judge who should treat people better from the bench. Vote NO.
For the record, the "anonymous website" referred to in Skora's "dish" regarding Fernandez is The Robing Room -- where, indeed, Fernandez comes in for a very poor rating... on the basis of three evaluations.

While it may seem otherwise from Skora's remarks, the Chicago Council of Lawyers did rate Fernandez "Qualified," although it did consider her case a "close call." Here is the complete text of the CCL's evaluation of Fernandez:
The Hon. Rossana P. Fernandez was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1997. She is currently assigned to the Domestic Relations Division in the Third Municipal District. She was appointed to the bench by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2015 and elected as a Circuit Court Judge in 2016. Previously, she had been a Partner at Sanchez and Daniels, where she handled personal injury litigation. She had also worked at Eannace Lowery & Meade as an Associate Attorney.

Judge Fernandez has extensive legal knowledge and ability. She is praised for her opinion writing skills. However, there are mixed reviews on the issue of temperament and court management. Many lawyers praised her ability to control a courtroom while being respectful. Others criticize her for being inflexible and rigid in managing her courtroom and applying courtroom procedures in Domestic Relations and Domestic Violence cases, which, they say sometimes leads to questionable outcomes. Many lawyers praise her temperament and how she addresses person in her courtroom. But many other respondents say she is sometimes rude to litigants and lawyers. Because of the wide disparity of views, Judge Fernandez’s evaluation presents a very close call. The reports of problems with Judge Fernandez’s handling of her call are credible and concerning. Ultimately, however, the Council credits reports that Judge Fernandez is a hardworking and caring judge who is capable of improvement. On balance, the Council finds her Qualified for retention.
Of the four Alliance bar groups that recommend "no" votes on Fernandez, the Decalogue Society, the Hellenic Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and Chicago’s LGBTQ+ Bar Association (LAGBAC), only the ISBA publishes a narrative explaining its rating. That explanation may be found in this prior FWIW post.

That leaves Alison C. Conlon and William H. Hooks. Skora recommends voting against Judge Conlon because of an alleged relationship between the judge and a Sergeant in the Cook County's Sheriff's Office and what her apparent single "source in the Daley Center" says are the consequences that follow therefrom. I won't repeat the "dish" here, but commend the reader to p. 39 of the guide instead.

As to Hooks, Skora initially called him a misogynist, among other things. While noting the Chicago Council of Lawyer's praise for Judge Hooks for "calling out cops who lie on the stand," she initially opposed Hooks' retention because he was required to attend anger management training (which he was, in October 2018, though he was reinstated in January 2019).

Skora announced her change of heart about Hooks in this update:
A trusted source reached out to me with more context on Hooks’s anger management stint, and it very much changed my mind on this endorsement. Evidently, what went down is that Hooks called out a shitty, ex-cop judge for throwing out the cases against the cops who covered up the murder of Laquan McDonald in 2014. He called her a bitch and a bunch of other things, and she reported him to the presiding justice at the time, so he got sent to anger management classes! Holy shit! Throwing out cases against cops who covered up a murder for a disgraced former Mayor absolutely qualifies someone as a bitch, and Hooks has been on the side of victims of police violence for years internally to the courthouse.