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.