Friday, December 15, 2023

Fundraiser Tuesday, December 19 for Judge Owens J. Shelby -- Ugly Sweater Optional

Don't blame me: The organizers of next Tuesday's fundraiser for Judge Owens J. Shelby were the ones who suggested that ugly sweaters might be worn to the event, which will be held from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., at 345 Art Gallery, 345 N. Kedzie. As proof, I offer the invite, reproduced above (and linked here).

Shelby is a candidate for the 7th Subcircuit vacancy he now holds by appointment.

Illinois House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch is the guest host for this event.

The suggested individual ticket price is $125. Sponsorships are availble (Silver - $250, Gold - $500, Platinum - $1,000 or more). Tickets will be available at the door (checks should be made payable to Friends for Owens J. Shelby). Donations can be also made via the Donations button on the candidate's website.

Not a lot of judicial candidates in Cook County -- and several of these drew objections

The Cook County Officers Electoral Board will meet Monday morning. At that time, hearing officers will be assigned to handle objections that have been filed against several Cook County candidates, including many judicial hopefuls.

Readers should not assume that there really are fatal defects in the nominating petitions of any challenged candidates. Presumably, some objections will be sustained; this happens in every election cycle. Some candidates may evaluate the objections filed against them and decide not to fight. But others will oppose the objections and prevail. Some objections are substantive; some may merely be tactical.

Time will tell.

There are only two contests for the four vacancies on the First District of the Appellate Court. Objections have been filed to the petitions filed by both of the challengers, Judge Carolyn J. Gallagher (Cunningham vacancy) and Judge Leonard Murray (Delort vacancy).

Only one challenge has been filed to any of the petitions filed by countywide Circuit Court candidates. Ashonta C. Rice, who has filed for the Sullivan vacancy against Judge James S. Murphy-Aguilú, faces an objection to her nominating petitions.

Michael O'Malley is the only challenger to Loveleen Ahuja for the Collins-Dole vacancy in the 8th Subcircuit. An objection has been filed to his nominating papers.

Michael B. Kilgallon, who has filed for the Wojkowski vacancy in the 10th Subcircuit, has drawn a challenge, as has Steve Demitro, who has filed for the O'Hara vacancy in the 14th Subcircuit.

Hector J. Rodriguez filed for the converted Flood vacancy in the new 16th Subcircuit. He faces a challenge.

There are three candidates for the converted Senechalle, Jr. vacancy in the new 19th Subcircuit. Two, Risa Renee Lanier and Dave Heilmann, face challenges to their nominating petitions.

Former Greylord Defendant will become a Cook County Judge

Operation Greylord was one of those bright-line events in my career (Wikipedia, FBI links provided for the Millennials and Zoomers who may be unfamiliar). Before Greylord, young attorneys like me could prowl the hallways behind the courtrooms at the Daley Center, deliver courtesy copies, kibbitz with the judges' law clerks (some of whom we knew from school), and sometimes even exchange non-ex parte pleasantries with actual judges. When I did stuff like this, I felt connected (dangerous word choice there, I suppose) -- well, put it this way: Hanging around the chambers hallways, when I could, made me feel a part of the larger legal profession, something more than just a junior associate in a small firm.

After Greylord... well... those of you with young children or grandchildren may be familiar with the Kiboomers video, "The Floor is Lava." I don't know what came first -- there is a Floor is Lava board game, and a TV game show, too -- all I know is that, after Greylord, access to the chambers areas became much more restricted, even for lawyers having business in those courts. Especially for lawyers having business in those courts. Doors were locked. There was no more wandering about. The floor might as well have been lava.

I still think that isolating judges from the lawyers appearing before them was a mistake: The more innocent foot traffic, the more curious eyeballs taking in the sights, the more small talk -- the less opportunity for shenanigans or skulduggery. But no one asked me. Ever.

In addition to indictments against 17 judges, the Greylord investigation resulted in criminal charges against a number of deputy sheriffs, police officers, court clerks, and (according to the linked Wikipedia article, supra) 48 lawyers.

Among these lawyers was Ralph Meczyk.

Meczyk and his one-time law partner pled guilty to federal income tax charges in 1987, according to this Tribune article by Maurice Possley. I'm reprinting large portions of it here:
Two former law firm partners pleaded guilty Monday to federal income tax charges arising from the Operation Greylord investigation of Cook County Circuit Court.

Lebert D. Bastianoni, 48, and Ralph Meczyk, 36, who formerly practiced in their firm, Bastianoni & Meczyk, admitted they failed to report a combined total income of about $35,800 earned in 1980 from their representation of criminal defendants.

Bastianoni... and Meczyk... both pleaded guilty to filing a false partnership income tax return for 1980 and false individual returns for the same year.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Thomas Scorza said that the two men earned $60,700 from their representation of criminal defendants in 1980, which was paid them through cash bond refund checks sent out by the Circuit Court clerk's office. The charges were brought after the Internal Revenue Service conducted a computer analysis of the cash bond refund checks sent to Bastianoni and Meczyk and determined that the defendants had underreported their income.

Meczyk told U.S. District Judge Marvin Aspen that he and Bastianoni had left the Cook County public defender`s office and went into private practice together.

"We had an incredibly horrible bookkeeping system," Meczyk said.

"Because of our sloppiness and our foolishness, I've realized my mistake. I did understate my income."

*   *   *

The men are the 59th and 60th individuals to be convicted on charges stemming from the Greylord investigation....
Meczyk is now unopposed for a 13th Subcircuit seat in the March Democratic primary. No Republican has filed for that seat, so Meczyk is almost certain to win election next November.

Bar evaulations for this year's candidates are not available at this time, and will not be available until much closer to the March primary.

However, this is not the first time Meczyk has sought election to the bench.

He ran for a 12th Subcircuit vacancy in 2014 and participated in the CBA and Alliance evaluations at that time. Meczyk had nearly unanimous favorable ratings then, as FWIW reported.

In fact, Meczyk's only negative evaluation came from the Chicago Council of Lawyers. It read:
Eugene Meczyk was admitted to practice in 1977. He is a sole practitioner. Mr. Meczyk is a highly respected practitioner with substantial litigation experience in complex matters. He is praised for his temperament and his legal ability. Several years ago in a past evaluation, the Council said the following:
“Without further consideration, the Council would find Mr. Meczyk qualified for the bench. The Council is concerned, however, that Mr. Meczyk was convicted for failing to report income on his partnership and tax returns in 1980. He claims that he and his law partner did not keep adequate records and when he filed his tax return in 1981, he underreported the 1980 income. Judge Aspen sentenced him to a 30 day work release program, four years probation, a fine, and 500 hours of community service. He was censured by the ARDC in 1988, and ordered to permit the ARDC or its designee to review his bookkeeping from time to time for up to two years. Mr. Meczyk was pardoned fully and unconditionally by President Bill Clinton in December 2000. The Council as a matter of policy, is unable to find Mr. Meczyk qualified due to his past felony conviction.”
While the current evaluation of Mr. Meczyk establishes that he is still considered to be a good litigator, the Council as a matter of policy, is unable to find him qualified due to his past felony conviction.
I don't know Ralph Meczyk. I don't believe we've ever met. And I do not pretend for one moment to know whether he will be a good judge or a bad one.

What I do know -- or at least what I think I can predict, with a high degree of certainty -- is that someone in the media, here or on the national level, will, at some point in this election cycle, stumble upon the candidacy of Mr. Meczyk and, grabbing onto the Greylord conviction, attempt to frame him as a poster child for all that is wrong and corrupt in Cook County generally and in our court system in particular.

Yes, we have problems in Cook County and with our courts in particular. There are serious people who question whether our state and local governments generally, and some of our elected officials and judges in particular, have become too accommodating toward criminal defendants at the expense of crime victims and society in general.

But a productive discussion on that serious question will not in any way be aided by propping up Mr. Meczyk as a 'horrible example' and bleating nonsense like in Crook County (har, har) they coddle crooks so much, they even make felons into judges.... I think that's totally unfair. Unfair to Mr. Meczyk, who has apparently recovered from a serious blunder to become, in the judgment of his peers, a highly respected practitioner. Unfair, too, to persons who care about serious issues that are derailed and trivialized by carnival barkers spouting snarky slogans.

And, yes, I realize that no one cares what I think fair or unfair.

But I have here attempted to ascertain the available facts on this subject and to lay them out fairly. Will this head off any hullabaloo? Probably not. But I wanted to try anyway.

Friday, December 08, 2023

Sunil Bhave to seek 18th Subcircuit vacancy

Associate Judge Sunil Bhave has announced plans to seek the newly-certified 18th Subcircuit vacancy.

The vacancy was created by the conversion of the Associate Judgeship of Lauren Gottainer Eiden.

This vacancy did not come into existence during the regular candidate filing period (which closed this past Monday). It came into existence sometime between November 13 and December 4. Judicial hopefuls in the 18th Subcircuit can circulate nominating petitions for this vacancy; they can be filed as soon as Monday, December 18 and must be filed no later than 5:00 p.m. on St. Stephen's Day, Tuesday, December 26.

It is no easy task to gather the necessary valid signatures in such a short time, especially at this busy season. And Judge Bhave has established a Facebook page advising of his intentions to run, reporting several prominent endorsements, and soliciting help from voters in the new 18th Subcircuit in circulating his nominating petitions.

Bhave was selected as an associate judge earlier this year (he had also been a finalist in 2021). Immediately prior to becoming a judge, Bhave had been the supervisor of the Civil Prosecutions Unit of the Illinois Attorney General's Office. It was Bhave's second stint with the AG's office. He first joined that office in 2007, in the Civil Appeals Division, before leaving, in 2011, for the City of Chicago Corporation Counsel's office, serving for one year there in the Federal Civil Rights Division.

Bhave has been licensed in Illinois since 2005, according to ARDC; he has been licensed in Missouri since 2004. In 2018, Bhave represented the Circuit Court of Cook County against the Cook County Board in a lawsuit regarding court funding. From 2015 to 2019, Bhave served as a school board member in Elk Grove Township.

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

DSF Annual Unity Gala set for January 18; tickets and sponsorships now available

The Diversity Scholarship Foundation Unity Gala and Awards Ceremony has been set for Thursday, January 18, 2024, in the Grand Ballroom of the JW Marriot Chicago, 151 W. Adams St. A cocktail and networking reception will begin at 5:00 p.m. Dinner and the program, including the 21st Swearing-In of Bar Presidents, will follow starting at 6:00 p.m.

Tickets are $180 each; tables of 10 are $1,800. Tickets are available at this link.

Ads are available for purchase for the Gala Ad Book. Ad prices range from $175 to $2,000; details are available in this brochure and can be confirmed at this link.

And, of course, sponsorships are available (Bronze - $1,800, Silver - $3,500, Gold - $5,500, Platinum - $10,000, and Diamond - $15,000). The benefits appertaining to each level of sponsorship are described in in this brochure. There is also a sponsorship contract.

AABAR establishes Scholarship Fund

The Arab American Bar Association of Illinois has announced the establishment of the AABAR Scholarship Fund. The Fund is intended to assist Arab American students attending an accredited Illinois law school.

In announcing the establishment of the Fund, retired Judge Bill Haddad stated, "At this time, it is important that all peoples understand, honor, respect and abide by the Rule of Law."

Instead of raising funds at this nascent stage of the Fund's development, Judge Haddad is soliciting and collecting pledges, redeemable when the Fund secures tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) status. Pledge forms are available at this link. Instructions for the return of the pledge forms are contained thereon.

Monday, December 04, 2023

One additional subcircuit vacancy opens up for special judicial filing period

There are now two subcircuit vacancies that have been posted for the special judicial filing period (December 18 to 26). FWIW readers already knew about the Brosnahan vacancy in the 3rd Subcircuit.

The ISBE website has now posted a second vacancy, this one in the new 18th Subcircuit, created by the conversion of the Associate Judgeship of Lauren Gottainer Edidin.

Congratulations to the presumptive winners

They will have to wait an entire year, but each of the candidates named below are virtually assured of beginning (or, in some cases, continuing) a judicial career.

Each of these persons filed for a Cook County judicial vacancy.

And no one filed to run against them.

All of these persons will be unopposed in the Democratic primary in March and, inasmuch as no Republicans have filed to run for any of these vacancies, it is highly likely that each of these candidates will be unopposed next November.

So congratulations to Appellate Court Justices Mary Lane Mikva and Carl Anthony Walker who will almost certainly remain on that court. Congratulations also to these unopposed countywide Circuit Court candidates:
  • Corinne C. Heggie,
  • Sarah Johnson,
  • Deidre M. Dyer,
  • Arlene Y. Coleman-Romeo,
  • Jennifer Patricia Callahan, and
  • Chloe Georgianna Pedersen.
Congratulations, too, to these unopposed subcircuit Circuit Court candidates:
  • Pat Heery (3rd Subcircuit - Harmening vacancy),

  • Michael M. Chvatal (4th Subcircuit - Felice vacancy),
  • Philip Fowler (4th Subcircuit - King vacancy),
  • Koula A. Fournier (4th Subcircuit - Maloney vacancy),

  • Yolanda Harris Sayre (5th Subcircuit - Lewis vacancy),

  • Caroline Glennon-Goodman (10th Subcircuit - McWilliams Vacancy),

  • Dawn Gonzalez (11th Subcircuit - Collins vacancy),

  • Ralph E. Meczyk (13th Subcircuit - Betar III vacancy),
  • Mary Sevandal Cohen (13th Subcircuit - Steffen vacancy),

  • Stephanie Kathryn Miller (14th Subcircuit - Pierce vacancy),

  • John A. Fairman (15th Subcircuit - Toomin vacancy),

  • Cecilia Abundis (16th Subcircuit - Converted from Judgeship of Griffin, Jr.),

  • Rivanda Doss Beal (17th Subcircuit - Converted from Judgeship of Aguilar), and
  • Lloyd James Brooks (17th Subcircuit - Converted from Judgeship of Flaherty).
For the persons involved, for their families, for their friends and colleagues, this is wonderful, happy news.

But... while I can, and do, join in congratulations to these fortunate persons, I also believe that this is not a healthy development for our court system in particular or our society in general. You may have seen comments to a prior post about the change in the judicial pension structure discouraging potential candidates. I don't think that's the problem. Certainly not the only one.

I'd like to explore this further in another post.

But not in this post. For now, bouquets only to these presumptive winners.

Lynn Palac files for Republican primary in 18th Subcircuit

We now have a 2024 Republican candidate from outside the 12th Subcircuit.

Early this morning, Arlington Heights attorney Lynn Palac filed for the Linn vacancy in the new 18th Subcircuit. That's a link to the candidate's campaign website in the preceding sentence; a link has also been added to the Candidate List Sidebar on this site.

Licensed to practice law in Illinois since 1999, according to ARDC, Palac's website notes that she spent 10 years as a Cook County Assistant State's Attorney. After leaving the CCSAO, according to Palac's website, she has "continued to practice law in the same area courthouses," handling criminal matters, family law, and "other litigation." Palac's website notes that she currently supervises Catholic Charities Legal Assistance in Chicago.

Born and raised in Elk Grove Village, according to her website, Palac and her husband now reside in Arlington Heights with their three teenaged children.

Tonight: Campaign kickoff and fundraiser for Loveleen Ahuja

Supporters of Loveleen Ahuja's 8th Subcircuit campaign are planning a campaign kickoff and fundraiser for their candidate tonight, December 4, from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m., at Tufano's Vernon Park Tap, 1073 W. Vernon Park Place.

There will be an open bar (specific beer and wine selections only) and "bites" (which is a heck of a lot easier to spell than hors d'oeuvres) will be served.

The host committee for this event is Hon. Joseph M. Claps (Ret.), Hon. Grace G. Dickler (Ret.), Ald. Nicole Lee, Committeewoman Lucy Moog, Cook County Commissioner John Daley, Cook County Commissioner Josina Morita, Personal PAC CEO Sarah Garza Resnick, St. Sen. Ram Villivalam, Diana Bowman, and Reas Bowman.

Tickets for this event are $100 each and sponsorships are available (Bronze - $250, Silver - $500, Gold - $1,000. or Platinum - $2,500).

Tickets may be purchased through the candidate's website. Questions about the fundraiser should be directed to or to Bridget Dooley at (630) 640-7933.

New 20th Subcircuit attracts the most candidates so far

Assistant Attorney General Nadine Wichern filed nominating petitions to run for the new 20th Subcircuit vacancy this morning in Springfield, bringing the total number of candidates for that vacancy to four.

Four is not a particularly large number -- but at this point, early on the last day of regular filing -- it represents the single most crowded field for any Cook County judicial vacancy.

In addition to Wichern, the three other candidates for the 20th Subcircuit vacancy are John Poulos, Michael J. Zink, and Nickolas Pappas.

The links above are to prior FWIW articles about Wichern and Zink.

Pappas, who has been licensed in Illinois since 1995, according to ARDC, practices with Pappas Law Offices, P.C.

Poulos has been licensed in Illinois since 2007, according to ARDC, and practcies with Poulos Law. FWIW has so far been unable to track down campaign websites for either of these candidates, but that will presumably change. Pictured here is candidate Poulos, posing with his nominating petitions last Monday in Springfield. The image was obtained from his LinkedIn profile.

Friday, December 01, 2023

Advertisement: Poppa Mac's Roastery brings coffees to Evanston from around the world

Some folks don't know beans about coffee. Poppa Mac's Roastery, on the other hand, knows all about beans.

Coffee beans, that is.

Poppa Mac's roasts coffees from around the world for your enjoyment. Did you know that there are more than 40 countries where coffee is grown? Poppa Mac's scours the globe looking for the best beans for its customers, then roasts them right here in Evanston.

To find out more, and perhaps more than you ever cared to know about the coffee you crave, visit Poppa Mac's website, or follow Poppa Mac's on Facebook or Instagram. If you should talk to Kevin McCaffrey, Poppa Mac's proprietor, be sure to mention FWIW. It won't do you a darn bit of good, but so little in this world does....

December 6 kickoff fundraiser for Michael Zink campaign

Supporters of Michael Zink's 20th Subcircuit campaign are planning a kickoff fundraiser for their candidate on Wednesday, December 6, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., at Good Times Brewery, 3827 N. Broadway.

According to the event organizers, the Host Committee for this event includes Cong. Jan Schakowsky, Cong. Mike Quigley, St. Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, St. Rep. Margaret Croke, St. Rep. Ann Williams, Ald. Bennett Lawson, Ald. Timmy Knudsen, Ald. Angela Clay, Committeeperson Lucy Moog, and Committeeperson Tom Tunney.

Tickets for the event are $100 each. Sponsorships are available (Friend - $500, Host - $1,500). Young Professionals will be admitted for $50 apiece. Tickets are available through the candidate's website or this PayPal link. Questions about the event including, perhaps, exactly how old can one be before one is no longer a 'young professional', should be directed to

Pamela Curran Smith files in Republican primary for Quinn vacancy in 12th Subcircuit

According to the Illinois State Board of Elections website, a second Republican candidate filed for a Cook County judicial vacancy earlier today.

Pamela Curran Smith (who practices as Pamela Curran), a partner with Sam L. Amirante & Associates, Inc., has filed to run in the Republican primary for the 12th Subcircuit Quinn vacancy.

FWIW has not been able to find a campaign website at this point, but Smith's work bio notes that she has been with the Amirante firm since 2008, working in the areas of "general litigation, including traffic, criminal, civil, domestic, probate, and workers’ compensation." She previously handled worker's compensation matters on behalf of Travelers Insurance. She has been licensed to practice law in Illinois since 2006, according to ARDC.

Maria McCarthy becomes first Republican Cook County judicial candidate

The Illinois State Board of Elections website reports that former Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Maria McCarthy today became the first candidate to file as a Republican in a Cook County judicial race. That's a link to the candidate's website in the preceding sentence; a link has also been added to the Candidate List in the Sidebar on this site.

McCarthy filed for the Dickler vacancy in the north suburban 12th Subcircuit this morning.

Licensed to practice law in Illinois since 1989, according to ARDC, McCarthy's campaign bio emphasizes her 30 years of service in the CCSAO.

McCarthy currently practices with an Oak Brook-based firm, McCarthy & Valentini LLC, according to ARDC, but her campaign bio's statement that McCarthy is a career prosecutor is not inaccurate. She is still working as a special prosecutor in cases involving allegations of misconduct against a former Chicago police detective. According to the Chicago Tribune, McCarthy has been engaged as a special prosecutor in six of eight cases that are being heard by a Will County judge. The cases are being heard by a Will County judge because the former detective is married to a Cook County judge. The CCSAO has also recused itself in these cases.

Moreover, according to her campaign bio, before starting up her own firm, and after leaving the CCSAO in 2019, where she last served as Supervisor of the Third Municipal District, McCarthy became the First Assistant in the Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office, heading up the Criminal and Civil Bureaus in that office.

Several of the cases that McCarthy has tried have been profiled on Dateline NBC, the Oxygen Network, and ID Channel, according to her campaign bio, which also touts her "extensive experience with physicians, psychiatrists and forensic experts in DNA, fingerprints, firearms, trace evidence, blood spatter, cell tower analysis, pathology and water deaths."

McCarthy has taught trial advocacy classes at Northwestern University School of Law (where she received the Joan M. Corboy Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching Advocacy and Professionalism) and at the law school formerly known as John Marshall Law School, according to her campaign bio. She has also taught criminal law and criminal procedure classes at Harper Community College for 10 years.

A graduate of Prospect High School, McCarthy grew up in Mt. Prospect and Arlington Heights. In 2020, McCarthy was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, according to her campaign bio.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Contests so far in only seven subcircuit races

This is extraordinary. Surprising. Unprecedented, certainly.

Only seven of the 26 subcircuit races have so far drawn more than one hopeful. Seven!

Time was, we'd have seven contestants in some races and (especially in the subcircuits) few, if any, uncontested races. Check out the archives if you don't believe me.

The numbers would thin out a bit, after petition challenges.

But not like this.

Never like this.

It's not surprising that there have been no Cook County judicial filings since Monday morning -- I've been checking -- because in most years there's the huge rush of activity at the opening of the filing period, then nothing for days, and a little boomlet at the end. But, this year, the opening day tidal wave was hardly a ripple.

Here are the only subcircuit contests so far:
7th Subcircuit (Solganick vacancy)
Judge Owens J. Shelby vs. Deidre Baumann

8th Subcircuit (Collins-Dole vacancy)
Loveleen Ahuja v. Michael O'Malley

10th Subcircuit (Wojkowski vacancy)
James V. Murphy vs. Liam Kelly vs. Michael B. Kilgallon

11th Subcircuit (Daleo vacancy)
Kim Przekota vs. Audrey Victoria Cosgrove

15th Subcircuit (Demacopoulos vacancy)
Paul O'Grady vs. Luciano "Lou" Panici, Jr. vs. Allen Price Walker

19th Subcircuit (Converted from Judgeship of Senechalle)
Risa Renee Lanier vs. Dave Heilmann vs. Bridget Colleen Duignan

20th Subcircuit (Converted from Judgeship of Budzinski)
Nickolas Pappas vs. John Poulos vs. Michael J. Zink
The links in the list above are to the first stories I've posted on FWIW about that candidate's 2024 campaign. The order in which the candidates are listed is just the order in which they appear on the ISBE printout. Actual ballot order has yet to be determined for anyone on this list except Michael Kilgallon: He is the first, and so far the only, Cook County judicial candidate deemed to have filed after 8:00 a.m. Monday morning. He would be third on the ballot in his 10th Subcircuit race, therefore.

Some more contests may materialize before filing closes. And there is one special judicial filing period vacancy so far; perhaps that will result in a contest.

They say that low voter turnout is a sign of disillusionment among the electorate. What then does low candidate turnout signify?

Nothing good, I'll warrant.

December 7 Meet and Greet for Debjani Desai

Supporters of Judge Debjani Desai's countywide judicial campaign are planning a Meet and Greet for their candidate on Thursday, December 7, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., at Bárbaro Taqueria, 2525 W. North Avenue.

Strictly speaking, this is not a fundraiser. There's no ticket price. There aren't any sponsorship levels. There is not even a suggested minimum donation.

But there is an open bar and appetizers will be served. Since this is the Internet and the world is crazy, I hasten to point out that, while the bar will be open, and the apps free, the selection is, and should be, strictly limited. I know you probably understood that without my saying so, Dear Reader, but I see no harm in stressing the point.

Besides -- and I am sure you'd have worked this out for yourself in due course -- the Desai campaign is hoping that some of the persons interested in attending would also be interested in parting with a little of the long green in order to defray expenses. The invite asks that persons interested in attending to RSVP by emailing but it also asks those interested in joining the host committee to email

The invite also points out that donations can be made through the candidate's website. That's the subtle approach. But nuance is so often hard to discern on the Internet, so let me spell it out for you: The Desai campaign would be pleased an honored to take some of your discretionary income, even in conjunction with this free event.

But you already knew that.

I hope.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Michael J. Zink announces 20th Subcircuit candidacy

Michael J. Zink filed Monday morning for the 20th Subcircuit vacancy. That's a link to Zink's campaign website in the preceding sentence; a link has also been added to the Candidate List on this site's Sidebar.

Licensed to practice law in Illinois since 2004, according to ARDC, Zink works currently as a partner in the firm of Starr, Bejgiert, Zink & Rowells. According to his campaign bio, Zink began his working life as a union stock clerk at Osco Drug and as a clerk at the Oak Park Chamber of Commerce. He had to juggle three jobs, at one point, to finance and supplement his legal education, working, after his first year of law school for Osco, and serving in internships in the Office of U.S. Sen. Richard J. Durbin and at the Citizen Advocacy Center.

Zink served as President of East LakeView Neighbors for over five years, according to his campain bio, also serving on a Subcommittee for the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice, and volunteering as a coordinator and preparing meals for homeless individuals through Lincoln Park Community Services. Zink lives in Lakeview with his wife and daughter.

A press release issued in conjunction with his petition filing, claims endorsements from a host of local elected officials. It notes that Zink "is the only candidate to declare boldly his dedication to rejecting the implicit bias that is rooted in our judicial system."

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Judge Owens J. Shelby campaign website found online

A campaign website is now live in support of Judge Owens J. Shelby's 7th Subcircuit election bid. That's a link to the new campaign website in the preceding sentence; a link has been added to the Candidate List on this site's Sidebar as well.

Shelby was appointed to the Solganick vacancy in the 7th Subcircuit by the Illinois Supreme Court this Spring.

Licensed to practice law in this State since 2007, according to ARDC, Shelby's camapign bio notes that he began his legal career by serving as Assistant Counsel to the Illinois House of Representatives, Office of the Speaker. He subsequently moved to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, working there for 15 years. In his last year in the CCSAO, Shelby worked in the Community Justice Center – West, "collaborating with community stakeholders, law enforcement, and residents to create programming and seminars aimed at crime prevention," according to the campaign bio.

Shelby's campaign bio also notes that he has served on boards for St. Angela School, Better Boy’s Foundation, NAACP Westside Chapter, College Mentoring Experience, St. Joseph Services, and the National Black Prosecutor’s Association. He has coached youth basketball teams. Born in the Austin community and now a resident of the western suburbs, Shelby is a graduate of Providence St. Mel High School, Morehouse College, and Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Shelby was a candidate for 7th Subcircuit vacancies in 2020 and 2022.

The Bill of Rights and You: U.S. Courts celebrate the Anniversary of the Bill of Rights

Six students from the Northern District of Illinois are among the finalists for this year's U.S. Courts Bill of Rights Day Student Contest.

All of the local finalists -- Carmella Ramirez, Chloe Hart, Frank Lis, Kindyll Thompkins, Scarlett Haughey, and Yayden Waterhouse-Castro -- entered in the Middle School Essay competition.

Winners in this competition, and in the Middle School Art, High School Essay, and High School Art competitions, will all be announced in an online "virtual event" on Wednesday, December 6, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. In addition to Illinois, there are finalists from Wisconsin, Missouri, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Indiana.

Which explains one reason why the event is online.

But the event is also online to give all fans of American civics an opportunity to hear from a panel of federal judges who use the Bill of Rights every day.

And, as lawyers, I hope we are all civics fans. And supporters of the Bill of Rights, too.

Heaven knows, as does anyone who spends any time online, that there are quite a few people, and maybe even some lawyers, who could use a refresher course in civics... and the Bill of Rights.

Registration is required for this event. Click here to register for the Zoom link.

This year's Bill of Rights Day Student Contest is sponsored by the United States Courts of Appeals along with the United States District Courts in the Seventh and Eight Circuits and is hosted by the Judicial Learning Center.

First proclaimed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941, Bill of Rights Day is observed annually on December 15. It commemmorates the date (December 15, 1791) on which the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution were deemed adopted.

Campaign website launched for Judge Sarah Johnson

Judge Sarah Johnson now has a campaign website. That's a link to the new campaign website in the preceding sentence; a link has also been added to the Candidate List in this site's Sidebar.

The Illinois Supreme Court appointed Judge Johnson to the countywide Haberkorn vacancy Circuit Court in April of this year. The Cook County Democratic Party subsequently slated her to run for that vacancy.

Licensed to practice law in Illinois since 2006, according to ARDC, Johnson was a finalist for Cook County associate judge in the most recently completed selection process.

Johnson's campaign bio stresses her roots as the daughter of a social worker and a family physician, and her own professional background in medical malpractice defense. It also describes her service on the Auxiliary Board at Northwestern Medicine, as Co-Chair of the Clement Mom’s Service Committee at St. Clement’s Church, the Misericordia’s Women’s Board, and as a tutor of students at the Montessori School of Englewood.

Johnson and her husband are the parents of two sons, according to her campaign bio, and she and her husband have coached their children in baseball and soccer "with varying degrees of success."

Yolanda Harris Sayre files for Lewis vacancy in 5th Subcircuit

Yolanda Harris Sayre, who has been working as Legal Counsel to the Illinois State Police, has filed nominating petitions to run for the Lewis vacancy in the 5th Subcircuit. That's a link to Sayre's campaign website in the preceding sentence; a link has also been added to the Candidate List on the Sidebar on this site.

Licensed to practice law in Illinois since 2005, Sayre started her legal career in Texas, where, according to her campaign bio, while still a law student, she worked in the Texas Attorney General’s office and, practicing on a Texas student bar card (the equivalent, presumably, of our 711 license), participated in suits against "fraudulent bankers and insurers, winning millions of dollars for the people of Texas." After "working at several large law firms and deciding against that lifestyle," according to her campaign bio, Sayre "took a position with the Chicago Police Department (CPD) as an original civilian trainer of Community Policing and Diversity Management."

Sayre later became the first African American to serve as "in the postion of Attorney at CPD," according to her campaign bio. She has also worked in private practice and as an Administrative Law Judge, including work as a hearing officer or ALJ for the Cook County Officers Electoral Board, the Chicago Board of Elections, and, more recently, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

Active in several bar associations, Sayre's campaign bio notes that she is on the Executive Board of the Illinois Association of Administrative Law Judges. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

Sayre was slated for a countywide vacancy in 2022. In this election cycle, as FWIW readers may recall, Sayre was slated by the Cook County Democratic Party as its second alternate for any late-opening countywide vacancies. However, Sayre told slatemakers that she was eyeing a run for the 5th Subcircuit so, in an unusual move, the Party stipulated that, should Sayre make the 5th Subcircuit run, Ava George Stewart, who had been designated as the 6th alternate, would skip ahead of those in front of her and take Sayre's place.

Decalogue Family Chanukah Party December 11

The Decalogue Society of Lawyers will hold its Family Chanukah Party on Monday, December 11, starting at 6:00 p.m. This is a virtual event. To register, click here.

Michael Chvatal files for Felice vacancy in 4th Subcircuit

Westchester attorney Michael Chvatal was the only person to file yesterday morning for the Felice vacancy in the 4th Subcircuit. That's a link to Chvatal's campaign website in the preceding sentence; a link has also been added to the Sidebar on this site.

Licensed to practice law in Illinois since 2005, according to ARDC, this is Chavatal's first campaign for judicial office. However, according to the résumé posted on his campaign website, Chvatal has been politically active previously, serving as Proviso Township Mental Health Commissioner, from 2010-2012, and as Commissioner of the Park District of LaGrange, since 2022. Chvtal's website boasts a number of endorsements from elected officials in the 4th Subcircuit.

Chvatal's campaign bio notes that he began his legal career in the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, eventually being assigned to a 4th Municipal District courtroom.

According to the campaign bio, Chavtal moved to private practice in 2010, handling civil and criminal cases in Cook and surrounding counties, first as a member of a firm and, later, on his own behalf. He serves as "an administrative hearing officer and prosecutor for a number of local municipalities," according to his campaign bio.

A former President of the West Suburban Bar Association, Chavtal has also served as Chairman of the St. John of the Cross Parish School Board.

Found on the Internet: Campaign website for Judge Arlene Coleman-Romero

A campaign website has been launched for Judge Arlene Coleman Romeo. That's a link to the new campaign website in the preceding sentence; a link has been added to this site's Sidebar as well.

Coleman Romeo was appointed to the countywide Maras vacancy on the Circuit Court by the Illinois Supreme Court last summer. She has been slated for this vacancy by the Cook County Democratic Party.

Licensed to practice law in this State since 1987, according to ARDC, Coleman Romeo's campaign biography stresses her service on the boards of several different organizations, including the African American Employment Plan Advisory Council (2011-present); the Illinois Board of Admissions (2015-present), the National Conference of Bar Examiners, and the Bernie Mac Foundation (2020-present). She is also a former President of the Cook County Bar Association.

According to her campaign bio, Coleman Romeo's practice before going on the bench included Title VII employment discrimination claims; employee discharge and disciplinary proceedings; probate litigation, including the administration of decedent, disabled adults, and minor’s estates; and real estate matters. She is a member of Vernon Park Church of God where she serves as the Director of the Justice Ministry and member of the Scholarship & Education Committee and Farm Team member, according to her campaign bio.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Only four challenges... so far... in 11 countywide Circuit Court races

This will probably change, of course. But it is remarkable that the majority of the Cook County Democratic Party's countywide judicial slate currently face no opposition and, therefore, no matter how many opponents eventually step forward, will enjoy the top ballot spot in March.

No 'lottery luck' will be required for Pablo F. deCastro, Corinne C. Heggie, Sarah Johnson, Deidre M. Dyer, Arlene Y. Coleman-Romero, Jennifer Patricia Callahan, or Chloe Georgianna Pedersen.

Four of the Democratic Party's 11 slated candidates have drawn primary opponents so far and will have to win a lottery for the top ballot spot in their races. But, since each of these four has drawn only one lottery-eligible opponent each, the odds are 50-50.

Appointed Judge Neil Cohen, the Party's slated candidate, faces a challenge from Wende Williams. Appointed Judge Edward Joseph Underhill, the Party's slated candidate, faces a challenge from Lori Ann Roper. Appointed Judge Debjani 'Deb' Desai, the Party's slated candidate, faces a challenge from former Circuit Court Judge Russ Hartigan. Finally, appointed Judge James S. Murphy-Aguilú, the Party's slated candidate, faces a challenge from Ashonta C. Rice.

There was a rumor going around that Williams, Roper, and Rice were running together. I didn't publish it, because I couldn't confirm it. But this looks like confirmation today.

And, to be clear, all of the above named candidates have filed for the Democratic Primary.

I have not reported about any persons filing for the Republican Primary for any of these countywide judicial vacancies because there are none.

So far.

And, if recent history is any guide, none are likely to come forward either.

Challenges in Supreme Court, two Appellate Court races

So far.

"So far" being an important qualifier here. After all, filing merely opened up this morning. Petitions can come in for another week yet.

After the enormous crush in the morning when the doors open at the Illinois State Board of Elections, things do tend to settle down for awhile.

It works out this way because all those deemed in line when the doors opened at 8:00 a.m. this morning were treated as if they'd filed their papers at the exact same time -- the aforementioned 8:00 a.m. -- and, in races where multiple candidates were considered to have filed at the same time, they will be sorted out in a lottery to determine who gets the top ballot line.

And everyone wants the top ballot line because there is an electoral 'bump' associated with that position.

But, just because a candidate is unopposed now, it does not mean that said candidate will face no primary opposition. But... should one or more file against said currently-unopposed candidate, the latecomers will be listed on the ballot... pending the outcome of any ballot challenges, of course... in the order in which their petitions were received.

Does that sound needlessly complicated? It's supposed to....

Anyway -- so far -- the 1st Distict Supreme Court race is currently set up as a one-on-one contest between Justice Joy Virginia Cunningham, who was appointed to the position by the Supreme Court, and Appellate Court Justice Jesse G. Reyes.

It might be very interesting if no one else files in this race. But history suggests that this field will eventually become more crowded.

There are four Appellate Court vacancies in Cook County. Three have been filled by the Supreme Court. Two of these candidates, Justices Mary Lane Mikva and Carl Anthony Walker, have no opponents... so far. Judge Carolyn J. Gallagher has filed to run against Justice Cynthia Y. Cobbs for the Cunningham vacancy; Judge Leonard Murray has filed to run against the Democratic Party's slated candidate for the Delort vacancy, Judge Celia Louise Gamrath.

Again, history suggests that every one of these races may become more crowded before the filing period closes.

It should be noted that each of the persons above named has filed for the Democratic Primary. No Republican candidates have filed for any of these offices.

And the first non-lottery-eligible 2024 Cook County judicial candidate is...

Michael B. Kilgallon filed this morning for the Wojkowski vacancy in the 10th Subcircuit. That's a link to his campaign website in the preceding sentence; a link will be added to the Sidebar on this site as soon as possible.

Licensed to practice law in Illinois since 1983, according to ARDC, this is Kilgallon's first judicial campaign.

A Sauganash native and a graduate of Loyola Academy, according to his campaign bio, Kilgallon worked as a Deputy Sheriff by day while attending IIT/Chicago Kent Law School at night. He currently practices with the Kilgallon Law Offices; his résumé includes stints with the Chicago Corporation Counsel's Office and, later, with Hinshaw & Culbertson. He has contributed chapters to IICLE handbooks on Premises Liability and the Investigation of Premises Liability Cases from a Defense Perspective. In addition to extensive tort defense work, Kilgallon has provided coverage advice regarding several different types of insurance policies.

Kilgallon and his wife, Toni, a teacher, have three children and six grandchildren. His father was a Circuit Court judge.

James "Jack" Costello files for Schleifer vacancy in 12th Subcircuit

Updated November 27 to add photo and link to campaign website.

James "Jack" Costello, who lost a 2022 bid for a 13th Subcircuit vacancy by a razor-thin margin, has filed this morning for the Schleifer vacancy in the 12th Subcircuit.

Costello's filings with the Illinois State Board of elections provide a link to this campaign website; I have added this link to the Sidebar on this site.

Licensed in Illinois since 2007, according to ARDC, Costello has spent his entire legal career in the State's Attorney's Office. Costello's campaign bio stresses the "wide spectrum" of cases he has handled in the CCSAO, "from DUIs to homicides," and, in recent years "primarily on complex financial crimes and public corruption."

A graduate of St. Viator High School, Costello grew up in Arlington Heights where he still lives, with his wife (also an attorney) and their two children. Costello's campaign bio also notes that he helped create, and now coaches, the Rolling Meadows High School mock trial team. He has lectured about the criminal justice system for Barrington High School, Rolling Meadows High School, and Palatine High School. He has also served as a board member of the Arlington Heights Historical Society.

Dave Heilmann to run for 19th Subcircuit vacancy

Clausen Miller partner Dave Heilmann was in line when the doors opened at the State Board of Elections this morning, filing petitions to run for the vacancy in the new 19th Subcircuit.

That's a link to Heilmann's firm biography in the preceding sentence; I have not yet found a campaign website.

This is Heilmann's first bid for elected judicial office (although he applied for associate judge in 2015), but it is not his first election campaign: Heilmann is the former mayor of Oak Lawn.

Licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1987, according to ARDC, Heilmann has his own author's page on

Also filing for this vacancy this morning were Risa Renee Lanier and Bridget Colleen Duignan.

Ralph E. Meczyk files for Betar vacancy in 13th Subcircuit

Ralph E. Meczyk has filed for the Betar vacancy in the 13th Subcircuit.

There is no campaign website that I can find this morning; I will keep looking.

Licensed to practice law in Illinois since 1977, according to ARDC, Meczyk was a candidate in the former 12th Subcircuit in the 2014 election cycle. He has applied several times for associate judge.

Ed. Note -- Before someone complains, I have already seen a number of filings from candidates who have already been profiled on FWIW in this election cycle. I'm not ignoring them; rather, I am looking for 2024 candidates who have not previously been mentioned. More to come.

Miller, Vega Samuel file in 14th Subcircuit

Associate Judge Stephanie Kathryn Miller and MALDEF Midwest Regional Counsel Griselda Vega Samuel filed nominating petitions for 14th Subcircuit vacancies this morning, Miller filing for the Pierce vacancy, and Vega Samuel filing for the O'Hara vacancy.

Neither candidate appears to have a campaign website at this time. I will keep looking.

The Illinois Supreme Court appointed Judge Miller to a vacancy in the old 6th Subcircuit in 2017. While she did not hold that seat in the 2018 election cycle, she was selected as an associate judge in 2018. She was retained as an associate judge earlier this year.

Miller was licensed to practice law in Illinois in 1999. An Assistant State's Attorney at the time of her appointment to the bench, Miller has also worked as an Assistant Public Guardian. She has also served as a member of the Board of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago and was a co-founder of the National LGBT Prosecutor’s Association. In addition, Miller has served as the treasurer of the National Hispanic Prosecutor’s Association, and the LGBT committee chair for the Hispanic Lawyers’ Association of Illinois.

Vega Samuel appears to be a first-time judicial candidate. Licensed to practice law in Illinois since 2008, according to ARDC, Vega Samuel became Midwest Regional Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in 2018.

A biography included in the MALDEF press release announcing her appointment noted that Vega Samuel came to the organization "from Safe Horizon, where she was senior director of its Anti-Trafficking Program, the largest comprehensive service provider to survivors of human trafficking on the East Coast. Her legislative work includes being a member of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), as well as policy co-chair of the Freedom Network, a national coalition of more than 40 anti-trafficking service organizations and advocates."

According to MALDEF, Vega Samuel previously "worked at Global Workers Justice Alliance (GWJA) in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she identified, recruited, trained, and evaluated human rights organizations in Mexico for GWJA’s Defender Network, to properly serve the legal needs of their local migrant communities. Early in her legal career, she worked for Columbia Legal Services in Washington State, where she represented farmworkers in employment, civil rights, and class-action litigation, and worked to uphold consumer rights. She also worked for the Legal Assistance Foundation in Chicago, representing clients in family law, housing, and employment matters."

Who Sits Where: First Day of Filing edition

With all this warm weather we've had this autumn, one might have hoped that there would be decent weather for the Cook County judicial candidadtes' pilgramage to Springfield this morning.

It snowed instead.

There's a pretty cynical metaphor in there concerning the dangers of hope... but we're too busy today with the first day of candidate filing to tease it out.

We begin instead with an updated Who Sits Where....

Only one new vacancy has opened up since last we posted a list, this one in the 3rd Subcircuit, and it's a special judicial filing period vacancy, too. Meaning no one is filing for it today... but someone is out there collecting signatures furiously, probably even as you read this.

Unless you're reading this in the Archives, of course.

But, again, no time for temporal nonsense. Even if the new Dr. Who specials are finally airing. We'll be posting new articles as time permits, looking at who has actually filed today. In the meantime, though, here's the vacancies list:

Supreme Court Vacancy

Vacancy of the Hon. Anne M. Burke -- Joy V. Cunningham

Appellate Court Vacancies

Vacancy of the Hon. Maureen E. Connors -- Mary L. Mikva
Vacancy of the Hon. Joy V. Cunningham -- Cynthia Y. Cobbs
Vacancy of the Hon. Mathias W. Delort -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Eileen O'Neill Burke -- Carl A. Walker

Countywide Circuit Court Vacancies

Vacancy of the Hon. James P. Flannery, Jr. -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Vincent Gaughan -- Corrine Cantwell Heggie
Vacancy of the Hon. Catherine Haberkorn -- Sarah Rodak Johnson
Vacancy of the Hon. Arnette Hubbard -- Deidre M. Dyer
Vacancy of the Hon. Marcia Maras -- Arlene Y. Coleman-Romeo
Vacancy of the Hon. Raymond W. Mitchell -- Neil H. Cohen
Vacancy of the Hon. Timothy P. Murphy -- Edward J. Underhill
Vacancy of the Hon. Lorna Propes -- Debjani D. Desai
Vacancy of the Hon. William Raines -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Laura M. Sullivan -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Debra B. Walker -- Chloé G. Pedersen

Subcircuit Vacancies

3rd Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Janet Adams Brosnahan -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Edward S. Harmening -- Unfilled

4th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Peter A. Felice -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Edward J. King -- Phillip J. Fowler
Vacancy of the Hon. Edward M. Maloney -- Unfilled

5th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Casandra Lewis -- Unfilled

7th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Irwin J. Solganick -- Owens J. Shelby

8th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Ann Collins-Dole -- Unfilled

10th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Clare E. McWilliams -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Gregory J. Wojkowski -- James S. Murphy-Aguilu*

11th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Ann Finley Collins -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Paula M. Daleo -- Unfilled

12th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Grace G. Dickler -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Marguerite Quinn -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Andrea M. Schleifer -- Unfilled

13th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Samuel J. Betar III -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Ketki Shroff Steffen -- Unfilled

14th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. James N. O'Hara -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Daniel J. Pierce -- Unfilled

15th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Anna Helen Demacopoulos -- Unfilled
Vacancy of the Hon. Michael P. Toomin -- Unfilled

16th Subcircuit
Converted from the Associate Judgeship of Lawrence E. Flood
Converted from the Associate Judgeship of Maxwell Griffin, Jr.

17th Subcircuit
Converted from the Associate Judgeship of Carmen K. Aguilar
Converted from the Associate Judgeship of Brian K. Flaherty

18th Subcircuit
Converted from the Associate Judgeship of James B. Linn

19th Subcircuit
Converted from the Associate Judgeship of Robert E. Senechalle, Jr.

20th Subcircuit
Converted from the Associate Judgeship of Elizabeth M. Budzinski

*  Judge Murphy-Aguilú has been slated for a countywide vacancy by the Cook County Democratic Party. However, he continues to serve by assignment to this vacancy, subject to further order of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Tickets still available for Advocates Society Scholarship Fundraiser

The Advocates Society dinner in support of the Polish-American Advocates Scholarship Foundation is set for November 30, from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m., at Maggiano's, 516 N. Clark Street.

Individual tickets for this event are $175 each and are available at this page of the Advocates Society website. (Tables of 10 may be reserved for $1,500.) Registration for this dinner closes on November 27 (or when the event sells out, whichever comes first).

Sponsorships remain available for $300 each. Each sponsorship includes one event ticket, the sponsor's name or logo included in the program book, the sponsor's name or logo placed on the Advocates Society website, and a shoutout on social media -- but it takes time to print the program book. To insure your name and logo will be printed, you must reserve your sponsorship by November 22.

The program will feature a silent auction; bidding will close at 9:00 p.m. Persons wishing to donate to the silent auction should contact Eryk Wachnik at as soon as possible. Sooner than that, even.

IJEC offers FAQs for judicial candidates

The Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee (IJEC), a joint committee of the Illinois Judges Association, Illinois State Bar Association, and the Chicago Bar Association, has published an updated list of Frequently Asked Questions (or, at least, questions that should be asked) for the benefit of aspiring judges or incumbents running for election or retention.

This latest edition of the IJEC's FAQs is grounded in, and ties back to, the new Code of Judicial Conduct that became effective on January 1 of this year.

The FAQs contain an express disclaimer, namely, that "views of the IJEC expressed in these FAQs and its published opinions are not binding on the Judicial Inquiry Board, the Illinois Courts Commission, the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, or the courts."

On the other hand, the IJEC was instrumental in developing the update to the judicial ethics rules that the Illinois Supreme Court has now promulgated in the 2023 Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct. So if the IJEC's answers to the following questions are not conclusive, they are about as authoritative as a judge or judicial candidate can find... without becoming personally involved in a case involving the alleged violation of the new Code. While a candidate should always seek trusted election counsel, these FAQs would be a helpful starting point for any inquiry (by candidate or counsel) into whether a proposed campaign activity is permitted or prohibited.

Steve Pflaum, the Chair of the IJEC, emphasized in an email to FWIW, that "Canon 4 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, regulating political activity, applies to non-judges seeking judicial office as well as to sitting judges."

Losing an election does not necessarily confer immunity against a professional ethics charge arising from the breach of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Failing to be elected merely changes the identity of the entity that may mete out punishment for sins of omission or commission committed along the campaign trail -- the ARDC for 'losers' but the Illinois Courts Commission for 'winners.' In the case of seeking judicial office, how you play the game really is a big part of whether you win or lose.

For the benefit of judicial candidates and their supporters, and for the edification of the general public, the IJEC's FAQs are set out here in full:
  1. What activities may I engage in prior to declaring as a candidate?
    You may make inquiries to, and seek support from, elected officials and others to determine the viability of candidacy. You may ask people to join your committee or campaign team. You may not engage in any fundraising activities.
  2. When do I become a candidate?
    As defined in the Code of Judicial Conduct, a “judicial candidate” means “any person, including a sitting judge, who is seeking selection for or retention in judicial office by election or appointment. A person becomes a candidate for judicial office as soon as they make a public announcement of candidacy; declare or file as a candidate with the election or appointment authority; authorize or, where permitted, engage in solicitation or acceptance of contributions or support; or are nominated for election or appointment to office. See Rules 4.1, 4.3, and 4.4.
  3. May I personally circulate my nominating petitions?
    Yes. Rule 4.1(D)(2)(b) allows judicial candidates to distribute campaign materials supporting their candidacy.
  4. May I personally circulate or sign other candidates’ nominating petitions?
    Yes, you may sign any candidate’s petitions for election. As to other candidates seeking a judicial office in the same election, you may also circulate their petitions. You cannot circulate petitions for candidates for non-judicial office. Rule 4.1(D)(2). See IJEC Opinion 1998-02 (A judge may circulate and sign the nominating petitions of a judicial candidate when that judge is also a candidate in the same election).
  5. May I raise money for my campaign?
    No, you may not personally solicit campaign funds. All fundraising must be conducted by your campaign committee. Rule 4.4(B)(2) limits soliciting contributions no earlier than one year before an election and no later than 90 days after the last election in which the candidate participates during the election year. See also IJEC Opinion 1995-08 (judge may send a personally signed “thank you” note to campaign contributors).
  6. Is it necessary to form a campaign committee?
    Yes, it is necessary to form a campaign committee if your campaign intends to solicit funds from others. Rule 4.4. The primary functions of the campaign committee are to (a) raise money and (b) track and report funds received and expenses paid. To remain compliant with the Code of Judicial Conduct, it is advisable to form a campaign committee. However, it is not necessary to form a campaign committee if your campaign is self-funded and expenditures do not exceed the statutory threshold established by the Election Code.
  7. How do I form and organize a campaign committee?
    Rule 4.4 states that a candidate may establish a campaign committee, but it is silent on the organization of a committee. The Illinois Election Code only requires that a Chairman and Treasurer be named. See 10 ILCS 5/9-2(f).
  8. How does my campaign committee get registered?
    Registration is governed by the Election Code.
  9. What authority does my campaign committee have?
    Comment [2] to Rule 4.4 states a campaign committee “may solicit and accept campaign contributions, manage the expenditure of campaign funds, and generally conduct campaigns.” Comment [3] provides that the campaign committee may also “solicit and accept campaign contributions from lawyers and others who might appear before the candidate,” but that the “candidate should instruct the campaign committee to be cautious in connection with such contributions so it does not create grounds for disqualification. See Rule 2.11.”
  10. May I serve as chair or treasurer of my campaign committee?
    No. Rule 4.1(E) states a judicial candidate shall not personally solicit contributions. These activities are reserved for the candidate’s campaign committee. The chair or treasurer of a campaign committee is inherently associated with any solicitation of funds by the committee. Because a candidate is prohibited from soliciting funds personally it follows that the candidate cannot do so on behalf of the candidate’s committee.
  11. May a spouse or other family member serve as treasurer of my campaign committee?
    The Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct does not prohibit a spouse or family member from serving on the committee. Rule 4.1(C)(3) states that a “judicial candidate… except to the extent permitted by Paragraph (E) [concerning personal solicitation of funds], shall not authorize, encourage, or knowingly permit members of the judicial candidate’s family[] or other persons to do for the candidate what the candidate is prohibited from doing under the provisions of this Rule.” The exception stated at the beginning of the rule is important; the exception references Rule 4(E), which contains the prohibition against a judge “personally” soliciting or receiving funds. Because Rule 4.(C)(3) excepts Rule 4(E) from the prohibitions extending to “family or other persons,” it suggests that family and other persons can actively participate in campaign committees, including solicitation or receipt of contributions. See also IJEC Opinion 1996-01 (a candidate for judge or a member of the candidate’s family is not prohibited from signing campaign fund checks to pay campaign expenses).
  12. May I personally seek endorsements of my campaign?
    Yes. There is no prohibition against a candidate personally seeking endorsements.
  13. May my campaign committee seek endorsements of my campaign?
    Yes. Rule 4.4(A) allows a campaign committee “to manage and conduct a campaign for the candidate,” and there is no specific prohibition against seeking endorsements.
  14. May I endorse other candidates?
    Yes, as to other candidates for judicial office in a public election in which the judicial candidate is running. Rule 4.1(D)(2)(d). The permission granted by the Rule does not extend to candidates for non-judicial office. Note that a judge who is not a candidate is prohibited from publicly endorsing or opposing candidates for any office. Rule 4.1(A)(2).

    As to what actions constitute a public endorsement, wearing the emblem or logo of a candidate has been found to constitute a public endorsement of that candidate. In Re Klein, No. 05-CC-2 (June 16, 2005). Beyond this example, it may be challenging to determine when campaign activities with a non-judicial candidate cross the line into a prohibited public endorsement of that candidate. Keep in mind that the “Rules of the Code are rules of reason” and should be applied “with due regard for all relevant circumstances.” Code, Preamble and Scope, paragraph [9]. For context, the same Code that prohibits public endorsements of non-judicial candidates permits all judges—not just candidates—to attend fundraisers, identify as a member of a political party, or make political contributions. Rule 4.1(D)(1). All these permitted actions could be viewed as an implicit public endorsement; the fact that they are permitted leads to the likely inference that the type of public endorsement prohibited by the Code would tend to be fairly explicit.
  15. May I campaign with other judicial candidates?
    Yes. There is no specific prohibition against a judicial candidate (whether the candidate is a judge or lawyer) campaigning with other judicial candidates. Furthermore, the Code specifically allows judicial candidates to speak to gatherings on their own behalf, and publicly endorse or publicly oppose other candidates for judicial office in the same election. Rule 4.1(D)(2)(a), (d). These types of allowed activities may be undertaken with other judicial candidates.
  16. May I campaign with non-judicial candidates?
    Yes. Campaigns do not occur in a vacuum, as there is generally a large number of candidates running in the same election. Some may be of the same party as the judge. It is not unusual that candidates might campaign together. It is important to remember, however, that a judge’s campaign activities with non-judicial candidates should not rise to the level of an endorsement of a candidate for a non-judicial office. Rule 4.1(D)(2)(d); see also question 14, above.
  17. May I jointly advertise with other judicial candidates?
    Yes. There is no specific prohibition against a judicial candidate (whether the candidate is a judge or lawyer) jointly advertising with other judicial candidates. Nevertheless, a candidate should be mindful that a judicial candidate is individually responsible to maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office and act in a manner consistent with the integrity and independence of the judiciary. Rule 4.1(C)(1).
  18. May I jointly advertise with non-judicial candidates?
    Yes. There is no specific prohibition against a judicial candidate (whether the candidate is a judge or lawyer) jointly advertising with other non-judicial candidates. The joint advertising should not rise to the level of an endorsement of a candidate for non-judicial office. Rule 4.1(D)(2)(d). For example, an advertisement featuring only the judge and one other non-judicial candidate might reasonably be construed as an endorsement, whereas a joint advertisement with multiple candidates would be less likely to do so. Furthermore, be mindful that a judicial candidate is individually responsible to maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office and act in a manner consistent with the integrity and independence of the judiciary. Rule 4.1(C)(1).
  19. May I wear a robe in any of my advertisements?
    Yes. An incumbent judge may wear a robe in political advertisements as long as doing so is consistent with the dignity, integrity, and independence of the judicial office. Cf. IJEC Opinion 1994-03 (judge may wear his or her robe in civic parade).
  20. What if I have a question about a specific advertisement?
    The IJEC does not ordinarily comment on specific campaign advertisements. A candidate is responsible for any ads published by his or her campaign committee.
  21. May I be on a slate card that lists all candidates of my party?
    Yes. Rule 4.1(F) allows candidates for judicial office to permit their “name or image to be included in campaign materials along with other candidates for elective public office.”
  22. May I personally solicit campaign contributions?
    No. Neither a judge nor a judicial candidate shall personally solicit or accept campaign contributions. Rule 4.1(E)(1). See also Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, 575 U.S. 1656 (2015)(upholding constitutionality of prohibition against solicitation of campaign contributions by judicial candidates).
  23. May I purchase tickets to political events?
    Yes. A judge or judicial candidate may purchase tickets for and attend political gatherings. Rule 4.1(D)(1)(a).
  24. May I hold a fundraiser for my candidacy at my house?
    Yes. There is no specific prohibition against a judicial candidate (whether the candidate is a judge or lawyer) holding a campaign fundraiser for their own candidacy at his or her residence. Be mindful that you may not personally solicit or accept campaign funds, nor may you solicit individuals to attend the function. However, your campaign committee may engage in these activities. Rule 4.1(E)(1).
  25. May I accept donations from attorneys?
    No, you may not personally, but your campaign committee may. See Rule 4.4, Comment [3]. In accepting campaign contributions all candidates should keep in mind that if the total amount of the contributions from any one source is disproportionately large, that may provide the basis for a disqualification or recusal motion pursuant to the United States Supreme Court’s analysis in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., Inc., 556 U.S. 868, 129 S. Ct. 2252 (2009).

    If a party, a party’s lawyer, or the law firm of a party’s lawyer has made a direct or indirect contribution to the judge’s campaign in an amount that would raise a reasonable concern about the fairness or impartiality of the judge’s consideration of a case involving the party, the party’s lawyer, or the law firm of the party’s lawyer, the judge should consider whether recusal would be appropriate. Rules 2.11(A), Rule 4.4, Comment [3].

    Additionally, the IJEC has opined that a judge is disqualified from hearing any matters during an election campaign in which one of the parties is personally represented by the judge’s campaign chairman. However, this is limited to the chair and does not apply to other lawyers associated with the chair. See IJEC Opinion 1996-20. Moreover, a judge is usually not disqualified simply because a lawyer or a party was a contributor to the judge’s campaign. See IJEC Opinion 1993-11.
  26. What can individuals and family members do to help my campaign?
    Individuals may do anything within the election laws to help your campaign—such as raise money, solicit support, hand out literature, etc., unless they are judges, court employees or Hatch Act employees, subject to the same or similar restrictions as you.

    Rule 4.1(C)(3) provides: “except to the extent permitted by Paragraph (E), [judicial candidates] shall not authorize, encourage, or knowingly permit members of the judicial candidate’s family or other persons to do for the candidate what the candidate is prohibited from doing under the provisions of this Rule.” As discussed in question 11, family members and other persons are not prohibited from participating in campaign committees or from personally soliciting or receiving funds.
  27. What can my family members do to help another person’s campaign?
    IJEC Opinion 2006-02 notes that a judge’s family members may engage in independent campaign activities in support of a candidate for public office including: (1) soliciting funds for the candidate; (2) publicly endorsing the candidate; (3) displaying a bumper sticker on a vehicle jointly owned by the spouse and judge and driven by the spouse; and (4) displaying a campaign sign in the yard of the home jointly owned by the spouse and judge.
  28. May I contribute to the party organization or candidate?
    Yes. Any judge or judicial candidate may contribute to a political party or organization or candidate for public office; a judge is, however, prohibited from paying an “assessment” to a political organization or candidate. See Rule 4.1(D)(1), 4.1(A)(4), and IJEC Opinions 1994-06 and 1996-12.
  29. May I loan money to my campaign?
    Yes. You may loan money to your campaign. You must disclose this on your campaign finance report filings.
  30. What am I allowed to say, or prohibited from saying, during my campaign?
    Pursuant to Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), a candidate for judicial office may state personal views on legal, political or other issues but may not make pledges or promises other than the faithful and impartial performance of the duties of office. Rule 4.1(C)(4)(a). A candidate also shall not knowingly or with reckless disregard for the truth, make, or permit or encourage others, including, his or her campaign committee, to make any false or misleading statement (Rule 4.1(C)(4)(b)) or any public statement about a matter pending or impending in any court (Rule 2.10(A)). See also Rule 4.1, comments [7] through [10].
  31. May I make any promises or pledges regarding how I will conduct myself if elected?
    Rule 4.1(C)(4)(a) prohibits a judge from making “pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of judicial office with respect to cases, controversies, or issues that are likely to come before the court.” General statements, such as a pledge to follow the law, are usually permissible.
  32. May I respond to questionnaires?
    Yes. Candidates for judicial election or retention may respond to questionnaires from media sources, public interest groups or advocacy groups that ask for candidates’ views on controversial moral, legal or political issues so long as they refrain from making statements that commit or appear to commit the candidate with respect to cases, controversies or issues within cases that are likely to come before the court. See IJEC Opinion No. 2021-3.
  33. Is there a time limit on ending my campaign activities once the election is over?
    Yes. Pursuant to Rule 4.4(B)(2), a judge’s candidate committee may not solicit contributions “more than 90 days after the last election in which the candidate participated.”
  34. When are written thank you letters to contributors permitted?
    Your committee may thank your contributors at any time. A judicial officer may sign thank you notes to contributors before and after the election. The IJEC has opined that a judge may send a personally signed “thank-you” note to campaign contributors. See IJEC Opinion 95-8.
  35. What may I do if my campaign committee has a debt (or a surplus) after the election?
    This is governed by the provision of the Illinois Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/9-5, regarding disposition of surplus funds of an inactive committee.
  36. May I keep working as an attorney after the election?
    A judge-elect is permitted to continue practicing law until sworn in as a judge. Thereafter, like all judges, the new judge is prohibited from practicing law. See Rule 3.10.
  37. Must a judge’s name be removed from the firm name, and listing of lawyers, of the judge’s former firm once the judge takes office?
    Yes. Several jurisdictions and authorities have concluded that a newly elected judge is required to remove promptly the judge’s name from a law firm. See Gray, “Ethical Issues for New Judges,” American Judicature Society (1996).

    Some limited relief from this requirement was referenced in IJEC Opinion 1998-08 (“A judge need not require his former firm to remove his or her surname from the name of the firm if the judge’s foreseeable tenure on the bench does not constitute a substantial period of time”). See also Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 7.5(c) (“The name of a lawyer holding a public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.”).