Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Yolanda Harris Sayre to be sworn in Friday as Circuit Court judge

Pursuant to an order entered today by the Illinois Supreme Court, Yolanda Harris Sayre, unopposed candidate for the Cassandra Lewis vacancy in the 5th Subcircuit, will be sworn in Friday, February 2, to that vacancy.

Today's order brings to eight the total number of newly appointed judges, all drawn from the ranks of unopposed candidates, all being temporarily appointed to the vacancies to which they will be elected in November.

Sayre's appointment, like the others, is effective Friday and ends on the first Monday in December. Her appointment order, like the others in this new, and new kind of, judicial class, notes that she "has received recent positive ratings from members of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening and the Chicago Bar Association following the interviews and evaluations."

Each of the appointment orders also stress that this is being done as a matter of "public necessity in order to ensure a more adequate level of judicial staffing within the Circuit Court of Cook County." It effectively makes up for the associate judgeships that have been 'converted' into new subcircuit positions -- and perhaps faster than a class of associate judgeships might have been selected as well.

The Supreme Court's press release concerning the announcement is here.

Sayre was slated for a countywide vacancy by the Cook County Democratic Party 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. Running in a subcircuit race turned into a great career move for Sayre.

Circuit Court reinstates Judges Gallagher and Murray to the March primary ballot

Updated to reflect that Notice of Appeal has already been filed

In an Order entered late yesterday afternoon, Judge Marcia O'Brien Conway reversed the decision of the Cook County Officers Electoral Board removing Judges Carolyn Gallagher and Leonard Murray, reviving, for now at least, their bids for, respectively, the Cunningham and Delort vacancies on the Appellate Court.

The Circuit Court's Memorandum and Order is linked in this sentence. The Electoral Board's decision may be accessed at this link.

I use the phrase 'for now at least' because, FWIW has learned this morning, an appeal has already been taken from the Circuit Court's order (it was apparently submitted for e-filing last evening). By using this phrase, I mean to offer no opinion whatsoever on how this case might fare in the Appellate Court.

Non-lawyers (and, truthfully, some of us lawyers as well) may be surprised to learn that it is the Electoral Board's decision that will be reviewed in the Appellate Court, when this case is reviewed there. See, Zurek v. Cook County Officers Electoral Bd., 2014 IL App (1st) 140446, ¶10. (I admit that I did not always know this.)

This story may be updated or supplemented as additional information becomes available.

Circuit Court affirms Electoral Board's decision keeping Ashonta Rice off the March primary ballot

In an Order entered yesterday, Circuit Court Judge Maureen Ward Kirby, the Acting Presiding Judge of the County Division, affirmed the Cook County Officers Electoral Board's decision removing Ashonta Rice from the March primary ballot.

The judge's Order is linked in this sentence. The Electoral Board's decision is available at the link in this sentence.

This story may be updated with additional information, when and if it becomes available.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Decision expected Monday in Gallagher and Murray case

Thursday's argument in Gallagher and Murray v. Cook County Officers Electoral Board drew a pretty large crowd to Judge Marcia O'Brien Conway's Daley Center Courtroom. Both sides suggested they could make their arguments in 10 minutes, and neither did, but the extra time was well spent, listening to three good attorneys making excellent arguments in the best traditions of civility and professionalism.

I do not mean to sound flip or frivolous. Obviously this is a matter of great importance, particularly to the candidates, both those that have been removed from the ballot, and their erstwhile opponents, who stand to lose their uncontested path to election if the Electoral Board is reversed in this case. Still, it was a pleasure to watch and listen to Ed Mullen, for Judges Gallagher and Murray, and Burt Odelson and Michael Kasper, for the objectors, as they made their respective cases.

The news here is that Judge Conway took the matter under advisement, indicating that she will make a ruling Monday. According to conversations I had with counsel and with knowledgeable observers, however Judge Conway rules, whoever she rules against will take the case to the Appellate Court. FWIW will report Judge Conway's decision as soon as possible.

Unsuprisingly, the parties' arguments were consistent with those made before the Electoral Board. This is as it must be, of course. In reporting here those items from Thursday's argument that caught my particular attention, I do not mean to suggest any deviation from the prior course laid out by either side or any undue or new emphasis placed on these items.

As would be expected, Mullen used the words 'substantial' or 'substantially' many times in laying out his case, noting that the word 'substantially' is even used in the very first sentence of §7-10 of the Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/7-10. Odelson agreed that the word is used there, but only to modify a petition form that has actully been long abandoned.

I could not possibly immerse myself in the cases to the degree that counsel in this case have; often enough, one or more of them was counsel in the cases cited. But, it seems to me that 'substantial compliance' here applies, or does not, regardless of where the word 'substantially' appears in the statute. The presence or absence of that word in the statute does not appear, in my reading to date, to have been dispositive in any of the many cases in which 'substantial compliance' with various provisions of the Election Code have been deemed sufficient. I believe Mullen made this point in his final rebuttal.

I suppose I should not have been surprised that the parties differ on the applicable standard of review. The candidates assert that review of the Electoral Board's decision should be de novo. The objectors, on the other hand, suggested that the issue here presents a mixed question of law and fact.

This potentially makes a huge difference: Citing Cinkus v. Village of Stickney Municipal Officers Electoral Board, 228 Ill.2d 200, 209-211 (2008), the Supreme Court in Corbin v. Schroeder, 2021 IL 127052, ¶32, explained, "Our standard of review of the Electoral Board’s decision depends on the question presented. Id. at 209-10. Where the appeal presents a question of fact, we will not overturn the Electoral Board’s decision unless it is against the manifest weight of the evidence. Id. at 210. Where the appeal presents a question of law, we proceed de novo. Id. And where the appeal concerns the Electoral Board’s determination on a mixed question of law and fact, that decision will not be disturbed unless it is clearly erroneous."

Here is an example of where framing may be dispositive. There are no disputed facts here. The circulator's oath says what it says. If that means the issue is one of statutory construction only, de novo review will apply. Hutchinson v. Illinois State Board of Elections, 2022 IL App (1st) 220678, ¶23 ("proper interpretation of a statute is a question of law that we review de novo").

On the other hand, as the Supreme Court stated in Beggs v. Board of Education of Murphysboro Community Unit School Dist. No. 186, 2016 IL 120236, ¶50, "A mixed question of fact and law examines the legal effect of a given set of facts. [Citation.] Put another way, a mixed question asks whether the facts satisfy the statutory standard or whether the rule of law as applied to the established facts is or is not violated." So, just because the facts are undipsuted, it does not necessarily mean that the question to be determined is solely a question of law.

The Supreme Court took another stab at explaining the distinction in Goodman v. Ward, 241 Ill.2d 398, 406 (2011): "Our court has held that where the historical facts are admitted or established, the controlling rule of law is undisputed and the issue is whether the facts satisfy the statutory standard, the case presents a mixed question of fact and law for which the standard of review is 'clearly erroneous.' Cinkus, 228 Ill.2d at 211. We have also held, however, that where the historical facts are admitted or established, but there is a dispute as to whether the governing legal provisions were interpreted correctly by the administrative body, the case presents a purely legal question for which our review is de novo. Hossfeld v. Illinois State Board of Elections, 238 Ill.2d at 423."

In Goodman, a case involving the residency of a judicial subcircuit candidate in Will County, the Supreme Court concluded that the de novo standard of review would apply. While there is older case law that says that, even under de novo review, "some 'deference' should be given 'to the interpretation given by the agency charged with the administration of the statute'," Rita v. Mayden 364 Ill.App.3d 913, 919 (2006) ("THE COACH" case), and while this idea has surfaced in more recent cases as well (e.g., Akin v. Smith, 2013 IL App (1st) 130441, ¶3)(Electoral Board's interpretation is entitled to "some deference, as it is the entity charged with interpreting the Electoral Code," citing Rita), Goodman suggests otherwise. In Goodman, the Supreme Court stated that the "de novo standard [is one] we have characterized as 'independent and not deferential'," (241 Ill.2d at 406) (internal quotation marks edited).

At Thursday's argument, Michael Kasper provided the court with some deep background about the General Assembly's adoption of the 4th, 2022-only circulator's oath language.

He explained that this was included in the legislation that became P.A. 102-0692 because the Illinois State Board of Elections Candidate's Guide had included a form petition in which date range language was used. This language was quickly added into the legislation to prevent disputes arising where candidates and their attorneys followed the ISBE petition format -- 'covering' the ISBE's error, as my notes of Kasper's argument reflect, although that is my understanding and summarization of what I got from his argument on this point, not in any way a direct quote.

I can't verify everything that Kasper said on the provenance of P.A. 102-0692. But we know that the first day for circulation of petitions in the 2022 election cycle was January 13. I can confirm that P.A. 102-0692 sprang to life full grown, as Senate Amendment 2 to HB 1953, on January 5, 2022. The legislative history shows that the 'amendment' was adopted by the Senate on January 5, and also by the House that same day, and signed into law by the Governor on January 7.

It is interesting stuff, certainly. But is it truly significant in this case?

The objectors insist that Gallagher and Murray were trying to update an abandoned 2022-only circulator's oath option for their 2024 petitions. But Gallagher and Murray say that is not what they were doing. Their position is that the date range set out in their circulator's oath substantially complied with the third option for such oaths under §7-10 -- and I think their case will stand or fall on whether the last and final court to hear their case agrees or disagrees with that position.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

CBA Barristers Big Band at Andy's Jazz Club on January 29

The Chicago Bar Association's Barristers Big Band will put on a show -- two shows, actually -- at Andy's Jazz Club, 11 E. Hubbard, on Monday, January 29. Showtimes are 6:00 and 8:15 p.m.

The club website says reservations are required. The link from the CBA website lands on the club website. So this apparently would be different from the situation of my nightclubbing days, admittedly when dinosaurs roamed the earth, where one could simply proffer the cover charge upon walking up to the door. But the poster clearly indicates a $15 cover charge.

You have been duly notified.

Substantive issues involved in the Gallagher and Murray appeal from the Electoral Board's decision removing them from the March primary ballot

Let's look at the decision to knock Judges Carolyn Gallagher and Leonard Murray off the ballot in their respective Appellate Court primaries.

It is short and to the point, much shorter, in fact, than the hearing officer's report. But, remember, the Electoral Board's decision is the one that counts, and it is now before the Circuit Court on judicial review (it will be up in court on January 25).

Any serious discussion of the Electoral Board's decision requires consideration of the relevant provisions of §7-10 of the Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/7-10. This lengthy statute, which specifies the form that nominating petitions must take in order to be valid, was twice amended in anticipation of the 2022 primary, first by P.A. 102-0015 (discussed more at this June 2021 FWIW post) and, later, by P.A. 102-0692.

The specific provisions of §7-10 that are relevant to this controversy are set out below. As it happens, none of the amendments to §7-10 provided by P.A. 102-0015 are included in these excerpted provisions; only those added by P.A. 102-0692 are relevant to this discussion. These are set out in red below:
At the bottom of each sheet of such petition shall be added a circulator statement signed by a person 18 years of age or older who is a citizen of the United States, stating the street address or rural route number, as the case may be, as well as the county, city, village or town, and state; and certifying that the signatures on that sheet of the petition were signed in his or her presence and certifying that the signatures are genuine; and either (1) indicating the dates on which that sheet was circulated, or (2) indicating the first and last dates on which the sheet was circulated, or (3) for elections where the petition circulation period is 90 days, certifying that none of the signatures on the sheet were signed more than 90 days preceding the last day for the filing of the petition, or (4) for the 2022 general primary election only, certify that the signatures on the sheet were signed during the period of January 13, 2022 through March 14, 2022 or certify that the signatures on the sheet were signed during the period of January 13, 2022 through the date on which this Statement was sworn or affirmed to and certifying that to the best of his or her knowledge and belief the persons so signing were at the time of signing the petitions qualified voters of the political party for which a nomination is sought. Such statement shall be sworn to before some officer authorized to administer oaths in this State.
Obviously, Gallagher and Murray were not running in the 2022 primary. They were hoping to run in 2024. But, quoting the Electoral Board's decision, the circulator's certification language on their petitions stated "that the sheets 'were signed in my presence, during the period of September 5, 2023 through December 4, 2023'."

As it happens, it was exactly 90 days between September 5, 2023 and December 4, 2023. September 5 was the first date on which petitions could have been lawfully circulated; December 4 was the last day for filing petitions during the regular judicial filing period. (Gallagher's and Murrays petitions were in fact filed on November 27, the first day on which petitions could have been filed.)

But, obviously, the circulator's statements did not indicate the specific dates on which each sheet was circulated, nor did it indicate the first and last days on which each sheet was circulated.

Had the circulator's statement parroted the third option, saying only that "none of the signatures on the sheet were signed more than 90 days preceding the last day for the filing of the petition," there would have been no grounds for objection. But, because the circulator's oath used specific dates instead of the exact language provided for in §7-10, the objectors claimed that the oath was fatally defective -- and the petitions invalid accordingly.

While the hearing officer rejected this argument, the Electoral Board (which, remember, was not bound to accept the hearing officer's view) found it persuasive:
The Illinois Supreme Court in the case of Jackson-Hicks v. East St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners, [2015 IL 118929] found that the provisions contained in section 7-10 of the Election Code are mandatory, and where the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, strict compliance is required. The Objectors are correct that the language contained in the petition sheets is not specifically provided for in section 7-10, and that the legislature could have, but did not, extend the option of providing a range of dates of circulation that was allowed for the 2022 election cycle. The language on these petitions does not substantially comply with the statute.
In Jackson-Hicks, the mayor of East St. Louis was removed from the ballot because, after 48 invalid signatures were stricken from his nominating petitions, the mayor had no more than 123 valid signatures, fewer than the minimum 136 required for that race under the relevant statute (§10-3 of the Election Code). The mayor argued that, with 123 signatures, his petitions 'substantially complied' with the signature requirement. But the Supreme Court disagreed (2015 IL 118929, ¶23):
Generally speaking, requirements of the Illinois Election Code are mandatory, not directory (Purnell v. Municipal Officers Electoral Board, 275 Ill. App. 3d 1038, 1039 (1995); Kellogg v. Cook County Illinois Officers Electoral Board, 347 Ill. App. 3d 666, 670 (2004)). Consistent with the principles governing the mandatory-directory dichotomy, a candidate’s failure to comply with mandatory provisions of the Election Code governing nomination papers will therefore render the nomination papers invalid ( Powell v. East St. Louis Electoral Board, 337 Ill.App.3d 334, 338 (2003)), and require that the candidate’s name be removed from the ballot (Knobeloch v. Electoral Board, 337 Ill.App.3d 1137, 1141 (2003).
On the other hand, the Jackson-Hicks court recognized (2015 IL 118929, ¶36) that the Appellate Court has found, "in certain circumstances, substantial compliance can satisfy even a mandatory provision of the Election Code. See, e.g., Akin v. Smith, 2013 IL App (1st) 130441, ¶ 3 (missing language in notarial jurats on statements of candidacy did not warrant exclusion of candidates from ballot); Atkinson v. Roddy, 2013 IL App (2d) 130139 (objection to nominating papers properly rejected even though candidate filed statement of economic interest in wrong county); Samuelson v. Cook County Officers Electoral Board, 2012 IL App (1st) 120581 (single nonconforming page of petition did not result in disqualification of candidacy); Siegel v. Lake County Officers Electoral Board, 385 Ill.App.3d 452, 461 (2008) (good faith error in date listed by candidate in statement of candidacy and resolution to fill vacancy not sufficient to warrant removal of candidate from ballot)." However, the Supreme Court found that these cases (or other, similar cases, such as Zurek v. Cook County Officers Electoral Board, 2014 IL App (1st) 140446) were "of no relevance" in the case before it.

In the view of the Supreme Court, those Appellate Court cases involved situations where the "candidate met the basic requirements of the Election Code, but did so in a technically deficient manner." The case before it, however, involved "basic requirements" and the candidate's failure "to meet a threshold requirement completely" (2015 IL 118929, ¶37).

I therefore believe that the question to consider, in handicapping Gallagher's and Murray's chances on appeal in their case, is whether the courts will see their failure to chose one of the three options specified in the quoted language of §7-10 will be considered "basic" or just a 'technical deficiency.'

How does one try and figure that?

The cheap and easy, "bucks and clicks" way to do it would be to say that, since Gallagher and Murray are not the Party-endorsed candidates, the courts will see their misstep as basic... and fatal... and uphold the Electoral Board.

But such an approach denies the legitimacy of the objectors' arguments. And there is a solid, technical, statutory construction argument at issue here: For years, the Election Code has specified three, and only three, ways in which to phrase a circulator's oath. None of them involved specifying the range of dates during which petitions could be circulated, as the circulators of Gallagher's and Murray's petitions did here.

For the 2022 election cycle -- and only the 2022 election cycle -- the legislature did authorize a circulator's oath using the first-day-for-circulating, last-day-for-filing range that Gallagher and Murray used here.

Gallagher's and Murray's best argument (and this is my opinion only, and I don't have the benefit of the parties' briefs) is presumably that their date range language was substantially consistent with the third option always prescribed by the statute ("certifying that none of the signatures on the sheet were signed more than 90 days preceding the last day for the filing of the petition"). They merely 'did the math.'

That is a serious, substantive argument, and it may well carry the day on appeal. But the likely rejoinder is serious and substantive, too: If the date range language was always consistent with the third option, the General Assembly would not have needed to add a temoporary date range option for the 2022 election cycle only. Judging by what I heard when the case was argued before the Election Board on January 10, the argument would probably go something like this: The legislature clearly thought that the date range option was inconsistent with the three options previously specified by §7-10 before the amendments for the 2022 primary. If this wasn't the case -- if the date range option wasn't inconsistent with the existing statutory language -- there would be no reason to add it as an option for 2022. So the language must have been insufficient before P.A. 102-0692 and the 2022 election cycle. And, inasmuch as the date range option was made sufficient only for the 2022 election cycle, it is again invalid in 2024.

This is really a question of statutory construction.

And, where that is the question, there are some pretty clear general rules that presumably apply: "The primary rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the legislature’s intent. Bettis v. Marsaglia, 2014 IL 117050, ¶13. 'The most reliable indicator of legislative intent is the statutory language, given its plain and ordinary meaning.' 1010 Lake Shore Ass’n v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co., 2015 IL 118372, ¶21." Bueker v. Madison County, 2016 IL 120024, ¶13. The best indication of legislative intent "is found in the statutory language, given its plain and ordinary meaning." Price v. Philip Morris, Inc., 2015 IL 117687, ¶30. Legislative intent should be sought primarily from the language used in the statute. Abrahamson v. Illinois Dept. of Professional Regulation, 153 Ill. 2d 76, 91 (1992). "Statutory construction begins with the plain meaning of the language employed, and ends there when the meaning is clear." People v. Porter, 156 Ill.2d 218, 222 (1993).

In Jackson-Hicks, the Supreme Court did not overrule or invalidate the many cases that applied principles of substantial compliance to Election Code cases. But it did say that, 'generally speaking,' the provisions of the Election Code are mandatory, not directory, and therefore it is possible that the courts interpreting Jackson-Hicks may be increasingly unlikely to forgive even small missteps under principles of 'substantial compliance.' The Supreme Court’s judicial construction of a statute becomes part of the statute itself. Hernandez v. Lifeline Ambulance, LLC, 2020 IL 124610, ¶38; see also, Village of Vernon Hills v. Heelan, 2015 IL 118170, ¶19.

On the other hand, much as I am a sucker for a good, technical, down-and-dirty-in-the-text construction argument, and, indeed, much as I have raised such arguments many times in insurance policy construction and statutory construction cases in the course of my career, I have found that courts are not always receptive to the same.

On more than one occasion, I have seen my carefully-crafted consturction arguments swept aside with the court saying, in effect, that may be what the legislature said, but we know what the legislature really meant.... (I try to accept my lot cheerfully... but, in retirement, the practical effect of many such failed arguments over the years is the difference between clipping coupons from bonds and clipping coupons from the weekly shopper.)

But never mind any of that. The point is that there is ample precedent to support whatever outcome the courts reach in this case and I offer no prediction on the outcome.

In the final analysis, however, all may depend on whether the courts agree with the Electoral Board that allowing "careless and needless rewriting" in circulator's oaths will hamper the Electoral Board's work. Most lawyers have the luxury of time in pondering legal questions; deadlines can't always be extended, and never indefinitely, but they often can be, and frequently more than once.

It just doesn't work that way with elections. The calendar is inflexible. The law requires ballots to be ready by particular dates -- and, with the increased availability of vote-by-mail options, that date seems earlier in every election cycle. There isn't a lot of time for an Electoral Board to consider a lot of fine distinctions; insistence on strict compliance with the persnickety provisions of the Election Code may serve the status quo... and it unquestionably does... but it also provides the surest way for the Board to discharge its function in the limited time allotted. To those of us on the outside, the Electoral Board's statement that "allowing multiple variations in the circulator's affidavit could irreparably damage the integrity of the election process" may seem overheated, even hyperbolic. But we are not ordinarily under time constraints similar to those imposed on the election authorities.

In Jackson-Hicks, the Supreme Court seems to have considered the time pressures under which election authorities operate. Toward the end of the opinion, the Court imagines (2015 IL 118929, ¶40) what could happen were it to approve allowing approval of a nominating petition with fewer than the required number of signatures: "[T]here would be no way to insure consistency from one electoral jurisdiction to another, from one election to another, or even from one race to another. Local election officials could establish how many signatures are sufficient on a case-by-case basis according to a standard that is not only subjective and variable, but which lacks any obvious limits. Will 90% of the statutory minimum turn out to be enough? 75%? Less than that? Candidates will be left to speculate, and significant delay and uncertainty will inevitably result as objectors seek redress from the courts to review whether the signature cutoff was fairly and properly set by local election officials in particular cases."

The Jackson-Hicks court stated (2015 IL 118929, ¶41) "consideration of the consequences flowing from one interpretation of the law or another is not inappropriate speculation on an abstract or hypothetical proposition. Rather, it is an important factor under the analytical rubric established by this court for assessing whether a provision of the Election Code is mandatory or directory." So it is not impossible that a court may consider the concerns that the Electoral Board itself has raised about the potential consequences of having to assess the various forms of circulator oaths that may arise in the future if an oath is approved now that departs from those prescribed by statute. It certainly would not be improper were a court to do so.

On the other hand, a court may see a substantive difference between a prescribed minimum number of signatures on the one hand, and the use of a date range (that accurately 'does the math') on the other. So the outcome in this case will turn on statutory construction... and framing, too.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Supreme Court gives seven judicial candidates a head start on their judicial careers

In a series of orders entered yesterday, the Supreme Court appointed seven individuals, not currently serving on the bench, to the judicial vacancies they are seeking in uncontested primaries.

Specifically, unopposed countywide candidate Jennifer P. Callahan (Raines vacancy) was appointed to the Raines vacancy.

Unopposed 4th Subcircuit candidate Koula A. Fournier (Maloney vacancy) was appointed to the Maloney vacancy.

Unopposed 8th Subcircuit candidate Loveleen Ahuja (Collins-Dole vacancy) was appointed to the Collins-Dole vacancy.

Unopposed 10th Subcircuit candidate Caroline Glennon-Goodman (McWilliams vacancy) was appointed to the McWilliams vacancy.

Unopposed 11th Subcircuit candidate Dawn Gonzalez (Collins vacancy) was appointed to the Collins vacancy.

The candidates for both 13th Subcircuit candidates are unopposed. Both received bench appointments yesterday. Ralph E. Meczyk (Betar III vacancy) was appointed to the Betar III vacancy; Mary Sevandal Cohen (Steffen vacancy) was appointed to the Steffen vacancy.

Each of these appointments is effective on February 2 (Groundhog's Day, or Candlemas, if you prefer) and will terminate on December 2 -- when (barring a meteor strike or some equally improbable event) each of these appointees will be sworn in for full six-year terms.

Each of the appointment orders contains specific language -- unique in my experience -- that says that the appointee "has received recent positive ratings from members of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening and the Chicago Bar Association following the interviews and evaluations."

There are other uncontested candidates, not all of whom are already serving on the bench. Some of these will have good bar evaluations; some of these may also receive early appointments at some point. Some of the uncontested candidates will perhaps have less than stellar bar evaluations or eschew screening altogether; none of these are likely to receive early appointments. Time will tell.

The Supreme Court's press release concerning these appointments is here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Campaign website launched for Sunil Bhave

Supporters of Sunil Bhave's bid for election to a new 18th Subcircuit judgeship have launched a campaign website in support of that venture. That's a link to the new campaign website in the preceding sentence; a link has also been added to the Sidebar on this site.

Currently serving as an Associate Judge (he was selected just last year), Bhave's website notes that, prior to joining the judiciary, Bhave was as an Assistant Attorney General in the Illinois Attorney General's Office, working as a trial lawyer in the General Law Bureau. He also served in the Civil Appeals Division at the Attorney General’s Office, arguing cases in the state and federal appellate courts, as well as in the Illinois Supreme Court. The website stresses Bhave's experience in both civil and criminal matters.

Bhave's campaign bio also notes that he has served as an elected school board member in Community Consolidated School District 59, in Elk Grove Township. He and his wife have two children and reside in Arlington Heights, according to his campaign website.

Has §7-10.2 of the Election Code become a Catch-22 for married women running for judge?

Updated 1/19/24 to add additional authorities

Looking more at the decision knocking Ashonta Rice off the Cook County judicial ballot....

When Mary Smith marries John Jones, she may become known as Mary Jones. At one time, perhaps as late as my parents' generation, this was almost universally the case. Since then... well, things have changed.

But not uniformly. Suppose Mary Smith had been practicing law for some years before marrying the aforementioned Mr. Jones. While, in every term of the Supreme Court, one can find examples of newly married women obtaining Orders changing their surnames on the Master Roll to conform with their newlywed status, our hypothetical Mary may be quite content to be known in the parish, or at her childrens' school, as Mary Jones, but insistent on remaining Mary Smith in her professional life.

Chances are, moreover, that there are still other settings in which Mary may use a combination of her married and maiden names, sometimes hyphenated, sometimes not. On certain bank accounts, perhaps, or on her voter's registration or driver's license. Maybe, just because they don't much like it, she makes her in-laws address her as Smith-Jones. There may be as many reasons for using all these variations on Mary's surname as there are settings in which her surname might be used -- but, in each case, it is still the same Mary.

I am certain that, if you consider your own circle of acquaintance, you will readily think of women, lawyers or not, who use their maiden names in some contexts, their married names in others, and/or hyphenated or merely adjacent names in still others. Welcome to the 21st Century.

Which brings us to §7-10.2 of the Election Code.

This section of the Code was amended in 2007 to require that:
If a candidate has changed his or her name, whether by a statutory or common law procedure in Illinois or any other jurisdiction, within 3 years before the last day for filing the petition or certificate for that office, whichever is applicable, then (i) the candidate's name on the petition or certificate must be followed by "formerly known as (list all prior names during the 3-year period) until name changed on (list date of each such name change)" and (ii) the petition or certificate must be accompanied by the candidate's affidavit stating the candidate's previous names during the period specified in (i) and the date or dates each of those names was changed....
Failure to make the required disclosure would, henceforth, be grounds for removal from the ballot.

The apparent impetus for the insertion of this second sentence into §7-10.2 was the decision of a Park Ridge lawyer of German heritage to change his name to a more ballot-friendly Irish moniker. He did not just swap surnames, he changed his first and middle names as well.

Unfortunately for this person's judicial ambitions, the press got hold of the story... and, knowing that the papers were ready to pounce, he never did file. (He did, however, change his name back to the one his parents gave him.) (As I recall, not all the press coverage was negative. An Irish paper, the Irish Times, I think, wrote a rather good-humored article, welcoming the new Irishman.)


That near-occasion of candidacy was the reason for the statutory amendment. Perhaps the amended statute has since deterred others from attempting similar ploys. But if the purpose of the amendment was to keep people from assuming a more-electable name and then seeking election, it has certainly failed at least once. The way a candidate can entirely evade the past-names-disclosure provision is to keep his or her head down, and his or her new name out of the media, for more than three years.

I thought I had discerned all the pitfalls of §7-10.2 when I wrote about it in 2013.

As is all too frequently the case, I was wrong.

Section 7-10.2 was successfully deployed in the 2020 election cycle to knock Caroline Patricia Jamieson off the ballot. Caroline Patricia Jamieson had previously sought election to the bench, in the 2018 Democratic primary, as Caroline Jamieson Golden. The candidate's last name was Jamieson at birth; she had acquired the surname Golden by marriage. She'd used Golden on the Master Roll of Attorneys. She had been elected to her local suburban school board as Caroline Golden. On the other hand, she certainly had not changed her name; she'd done nothing like the Park Ridge attorney who'd inspired the name change amendment to §7-10.2. Instead, she chose to resume using a name she'd put aside some years back. But it was not a new name.

I wrote about that case, which went all the way to the Appellate Court (see, Oberholtzer v. Cook County Officers Electoral Board, 2020 IL App (1st) 200218-U), in some detail in February 2020. But I think that case can be quickly summarized this way: The candidate wasn't ruled off the ballot because she'd failed to disclose a change of name (second sentence of §7-10.2) but, rather, because she'd not used her actual "surname" in contravention of the first sentence of §7-10.2: Unlike our hypothetical Mary Smith and/or Mary Jones and/or Mary Smith-Jones, this candidate had (in the opinion of the judges deciding her case) not used both her married name and given name interchangeably, depending on circumstance and situation, but had really only used her married name. (Except, of course, that the challenge to her nominating petitions was based on an alleged violation of the name change provision, the second sentence of §7-10.2... and aren't petition challenges supposed to be limited strictly to the grounds asserted?)

I thought the answer to that parenthetical question is (and should have been in that case) "yes": In McCaskill v. Mun. Officers Electoral Board for the City of Harvey, 2019 IL App (1st) 190190, ¶32, the Appellate Court said it would not "create an objection never raised in the objector's petition before the Board," citing Wiesner v. Brennan, 2016 IL App (2d) 160115, ¶17, for the proposition that "all objections to nominating papers must be contained within objector's petition; no new objections may be raised or considered thereafter").

But, regardless, this brings us back, finally, to where we started, with the new case knocking Ashonta Rice off the ballot.

As the linked decision shows, the objection to Rice's nominating papers was grounded in that second sentence of §7-10.2, arguing her papers were fatally defective because they did not disclose that Ashonta C. Rice was "formerly known as" Ashonta C. Rice-Akiwowo.

The objectors submitted documentary evidence showing that Rice had used the surname Rice-Akiwowo or sometimes just Akiwowo after her 2012 marriage. FWIW readers will recall that Rice had run for a 15th Subcircuit vacancy, in 2018, as Rice-Akiwowo.

According to the linked decision, Rice filed a dissolution of marriage action in 2022. And therein lies the dispositive datum, in the opinion of those that matter, although I see this as nothing more than a red herring: An interim order was entered in that case (which is apparently still pending) entitled "Agreed Name Change Order," the operative language of which, according to the hearing officer's report and recommendation was, "Petitioner/Counter-Respondent, Ashonta C. Akiwowo is hereby granted leave to resume the use of her maiden name of RICE." Expert testimony was presented to suggest that this kind of a name change order, though common as part of the final disposition of a dissolution action, was, at this stage of the case, merely an interlocutory order subject to change at any time. Therefore, the exception to the name-change rule in the second sentence of §7-10.2, which is also contained in that very lengthy second sentence, excepting name changes "resulting from... dissolution of marriage" would not apply.

The objectors, the hearing officer, and the Electoral Board all took this interim order as proof that the candidate knew she was changing her name... which is why the first part of that second sentence of §7-10.2 would be implicated.

The hearing officer specifically noted that, after the name change order was entered, Rice changed her driver's license to Ashonta Rice. She changed her voter registration to Ashonta Rice. She changed her name back to Ashonta Rice with the Social Security Administration, too.

Well, of course she did: After Oberholtzer, and after Ruffin v. Feller, 2022 IL App (1st) 220692, any careful female lawyer with judicial aspirations and without official backing would and should anticipate some sort of name-based petition challenge. (In Ruffin, a divorced candidate for the office of Cook County Sheriff was ruled off the ballot. She had been granted leave to resume use of her maiden name as part of the final dissolution orders, but never re-registered to vote in her maiden name from the former marital residence, which she continued to occupy. Therefore, the Electoral Board ruled, and the Appellate Court affirmed, that, at the time of the signing of her statement of candidacy, there was no registered voter at the address given by the name of "Latonya Ruffin.")

As noted at the outset here, most married women, including women who marry and then divorce, proceed through life known by different names to different persons, in different settings, for different purposes, without much difficulty or confusion. But somehow female political candidates in Cook County are treated differently, as if, in bearing the various names that society bestows, they are trying to deceive the public like a candidate who really does change his or her name from one thing to something completely different, so the public might think the candidate was someone he or she was not.

Rice may not have helped her cause.

According to the hearing officer's report, when asked about the provenance of the name change order, Rice claimed that she could not "recall" who suggested it.

Fine. Rice would not be the first attorney who turned out to be a less than stellar witness on her own behalf. I can think of one excellent attorney that I had to present twice, in different cases, who could not turn off the lawyer-analyzing-everything portion of her brain and just answer the questions posed. She was playing chess, when only checkers was required, and she came off as evasive or uncertain.

I did not see Ashonta Rice testify, of course, and I don't know if she had the problem my friend did. But, if she did, it is no shame. Lawyers are not generally called upon to be witnesses; it is not part of our required skill set. The ability to come across as a good witness is certainly not required to be a good judge.

On the other hand, a fact finder, whether judge, jury, or hearing officer, can only evaluate what they see and hear. And if the testimony comes off badly, the witness' credibility will be damaged, perhaps fatally.

What Rice could have said, or at least what I think the truth is generally in these cases, if for some reason not actually so in Rice's case, is that, thanks to §7-10.2, a married woman candidate is now forced to navigate between Oberholzer and Ruffin, a modern-day Scylla and Charybdis. Heads I win, tails you lose. Catch-22.

I would agree that the §7-10.2 exception for name changes obtained in dissolution actions should not have applied in Rice's case -- but only because the first part of the second sentence of §7-10.2, prohibiting candidates from changing their names, also did not apply.

It is clear that Rice used her married name, or some hyphenated combination of given and married names, in a number of contexts. She ran for judge in 2018 as Rice-Akiwowo.

But, professionally, and unlike the candidate in the Oberholtz case who sometimes used her maiden name as a middle name but never as her surname until her last judicial run, Rice apparently always practiced law as Ashonta C. Rice. That is certainly the name she used when she applied for associate judge in 2015, in 2017, and in 2021.

Moreover, she was Ashonta C. Rice when she was slated by the Cook County Democratic Party as its 10th alternate in 2019, and again in 2021, when the Party slated her as its fourth alternate. (To be clear, in this election cycle, had she been allowed on the ballot, she would have been running against the Party's slated candidate.)

Rice never abandoned the surname Rice. She never put it to one side. She did not have to change her name 'back' to what it always was.

But, of course, that's only my opinion. And, if you have paying any attention here at all, my opinion is not the one that counts.

When the drafters of the amendment to §7-10.2 came up with a provision to prevent future German guys from pretending to be Irish, I very much doubt that they also intended it to weaponized against married women whose varying surnames conform to our current social customs. I am virtually positive that, even if that was their intention, such an intention was not communicated to the female members of the General Assembly who approved the amendment. Pending further amendment, or clarifying court action, however, this is where matters now stand.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Guest Post - Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride: Why I Did Not Run in the 2024 Primary

EDITOR'S NOTE: FWIW readers know that I have been stressing for weeks about the small number of judicial candidates in this election cycle, whining and whingeing about this on several occasions.

I wanted to do more than whine. I wanted to do a more substantive analysis of and investigation into the reasons why so few candidates came forward, both countywide and especially in the subcircuits, with their new, untested boundaries. That remains my plan... but this is not that post.

Among the people I reached out to in preparation of that still-in-development piece (what might be called 'reporting') was James Crawley.

FWIW readers will recall Crawley announcing his 2024 campaign plans on this page. I subsequently ran a post about his new campaign website.

But Crawley did not file. I asked him why.

I found his response very interesting. Rather than simply mining it for quotes when I finally get around to writing my story, I thought readers might find it interesting as a standalone piece. At my request, Mr. Crawley revised his initial response for this purpose, and I am pleased to present that here:


by James Crawley

The 2024 primary was not my first foray into running for judge, a position I have long aspired to for nearly two decades. 2024 would have been my fourth attempt, having run twice before, and having previously circulated, but not filed a third time.

My decision not to run in 2024 can be summed up as follows:

a. No clear path to victory.
Unless I believed that I had a 50% or better chance of winning, it did not make sense to run. In my previous two runs, I ran countywide and was handily beaten by women opponents. In 2024, I was unwilling to repeat a losing strategy of running against a countywide slated female sitting judge. Same script, different cast.

The male countywide candidates were also problematic. Most were well known, had clout, good bar ratings, money, and good ballot names. Also, male countywide candidates would draw many female opponents, thus once again placing me at a disadvantage.

My subcircuit had two vacancies up for election, but competition was stiff, all with good Irish ballot names. One candidate was the brother of a democratic committeemen, one was a former well known state’s attorney married to a judge (who beat me in a previous election), and one was a female felony prosecutor with a good reputation and great ballot name. The former state’s attorney also had nearly the same name as a well-liked, popular judge currently running countywide, and who was previously appointed to fill the subcircuit vacancy that was up for grabs. Given that their names were nearly identical, there was bound to be some confusion among voters, and both candidates would likely get votes that were intended for the other. The former state’s attorney’s wife had also been endorsed by labor and police in the past, and I anticipated the same good fortune for her husband given their connections. Both labor and FOP endorsements play big in my subcircuit. I knew I could not win one-on-one against the female candidate, and I had about a 33% chance of beating the two Irish male candidates vying for the other subcircuit position. This was not my definition of a clear path to victory.

b. The cost of playing the game.
In order to beat my two male opponents, I anticipated spending $150,000.00 or more of my own money, and even then, there would be no assurance of victory. At age 60 (I know, I look much younger), I was not willing to gamble my retirement savings for a one-third chance of winning a job I would hold for six or seven years, at best.

c. Sanity.
Some people enjoy the thrill of running for election. I do not. The process is draining and takes a huge emotional toll, especially if one is not used to Chicago politics. The only thing worse than the emotional toll of running and winning, is the emotional toll of running and losing … three times. Defeat, my friends, is brutal.

d. Domestic tranquility.
Running for election is not easy for one’s spouse or family. It takes a toll. Having put my spouse through it twice before, it did not seem fair to do it a third time despite his pledged support. It is a lot to ask of one’s spouse, and it was our retirement savings that I’d be gambling, not just mine. The prospect of eating cat food in my 80s was unappealing.

e. Acceptance
Like the stages of grief, I accepted that my aspirations were not meant to be. My time has come and gone, and unlike Susan Lucci who finally won an Emmy after 19 nominations, I do not have another campaign left in me, let alone 15. I will never be a concert pianist, movie star, or judge. The first two I accepted decades ago, it took a while longer to accept the third. Admission is the first step to recovery.

As painful as losing has been, and as emotionally taxing as campaigns can be, I do not regret my past attempts. There was personal growth beyond what I could have expected, I pushed myself to do things I was not comfortable doing, I made many new friends, I overcame challenges that I did not think were possible, and I ran honest campaigns. I am proud of myself for having tried and I have no regrets.

Deidre Baumann brunch event Monday, January 15

We all know, of course, that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

However, on Monday, January 15, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., 7th Subcircuit candidate Deidre Baumann is hosting a free brunch at Doe Doe's Eatery, 6620 W. North Avenue, and Style Records, 6622 W. North Avenue.

Reservations are not necessary for this event and "free" does in fact mean that there is no cost to attend.

However, event organizers have asked me to mention that they will cheerfully accept any donations that attendees may offer.

Three Cook County judicial candidates removed from the March ballot

Updated 1/19/24 to add additional authorities

As if we didn't have a dearth of contests already....

At yesterday's meeting of the Cook County Officers Electoral Board, two Appellate Court candidates, Circuit Court Judges Carolyn Gallagher and Leonard Murray, were removed from the March primary ballot.

For now, subject to any possible court challenge, the Electoral Board's action leaves four remaining candidates, all slated by the Cook County Democratic Party, unopposed in the March primary. These four candidates are Mary Lane Mikva, Cynthia Y. Cobbs, Carl Anthony Walker (all currently serving as justices of the Appellate Court pursuant to Supreme Court appointment), and Circuit Court Judge Celia Louise Gamrath. No Republicans filed for any of these vacancies.

At that same meeting, the Electoral Board also voted to remove Ashonta C. Rice as a candidate for the countywide Sullivan vacancy. Again, subject to any possible court challenge, the Board's action yesterday leaves Judge James S. Murphy-Aguilú unopposed in that race. No Republicans filed for any countywide Circuit Court vacancies either.

The Electoral Board did overrule a challenge to the nominating petitions of Steve Demitro, who is running, and who now can continue to run, against Griselda Vega Samuel. The Board also entered orders disposing of challenges to three other candidates as moot, specifically regarding Michael O'Malley (8th Subcircuit), Michael B. Kilgallon, Jr. (10th Subcircuit), and Hector J. Rodriguez (16th Subcircuit). Each of these candidates withdrew from the primary after the challenges to their nominating papers were filed.

O'Malley's departure leaves Loveleen Ahuja unopposed in her bid for the Collin-Dole vacancy in the 8th Subcircuit. Rodriguez's withrdrawal leaves Pedro Fregoso, Jr. unopposed in his bid for the 16th Subcircuit judgeship converted from the associate judgeship of Lawrence E. Flood. A contest still remains in the Democratic Primary for the Wojkowski vacancy in the 10th Subcircuit, however. While Kilgallon has been removed from the ballot, James V. Murphy and Liam Kelly remain.

Many cases before the Cook County Officers Electoral Board come down to counting or contesting signatures. The question is more mathematical than legal: Does Candidate X have the requisite number of valid signatures in order to qualify for the ballot... or not? Of course, all manner of legal arguments are deployed in challenging or defending individual signatures, or sheets of signatures, in these cases... but when the legal smoke clears, Candidate X has the requisite Y signatures... or Candidate X is ruled off the ballot.

The Rice and Gallagher/Murray cases were different. Both turned on legal interpretations of different provisions of the Election Code, and the issues presented in these cases will be taken up, separately, in future posts here. Stay tuned.

For the moment, however, suffice it to say that, in the Rice case, the Electoral Board chose to accept the recommendation of its duly appointed hearing officer; in the Gallagher/Murray case, the Electoral Board chose to reject the recommendation of the hearing officer assigned in that case.

This is a point of administrative law that some FWIW readers (meaning those who do not regularly practice in the field of administrative law) may find counterintuitive... at the very least: The Electoral Board, like virtually any administrative agency, can appoint hearing officers to be its 'eyes and ears' in a given case, but, inasmuch as these hearing officers are its own creatures, an agency or board is typically free to accept or reject the findings made by the hearing officer, or perhaps disregard them entirely, even though the hearing officer, and not the agency or board, saw or heard the witnesses.

It is a little easier to accept this principle when, as in the Rice and Gallagher/Murray cases here under discussion, only questions of law are presented.

It is the Electoral Board's decision that is the paramount focus on review. Even in the Appellate Court, where the Circuit Court has offered its evaluation of the Electoral Board's action, "the appellate court reviews the decision of the electoral board, rather than the decision of the circuit court." Zurek v. Cook County Officers Electoral Bd., 2014 IL App (1st) 140446, ¶10.

And, moreover, under Illinois law, there is nothing per se illegal, immoral, or fattening in an agency (or, specifically, the Cook County Officers Electoral Board) choosing to follow its hearing officer's recommendation in one case and refusing to follow it in another, even where, as here, the choices made result in a clear benefit to the slate chosen by the Cook County Democratic Party.

We'll pause here for a couple of other posts in the pipeline, and then return to a merits discussion of the Rice and Gallagher/Murray decisions.

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Two contests set up in special judicial filing period vacancies... maybe

Judicial vacancies that occured during last year's 'special judicial filing period' will be filled at the 2024 election, same as vacancies occurring prior thereto.

For those of you who didn't have the 'special judicial filing period' marked off on your calendars at home, that's the festive period of the year described as the three week period prior to the 106th day before the General Primary Election (this year, as you know, on St. Joseph's Day, March 19).

Political people really do count backwards like that.

Anyway, this year, only two additional Cook County judicial vacancies opened up during that brief interval.

Well, actually, only one opened up... in the 3rd Subcircuit... the other was "converted" from an associate judge vacancy and assigned to the new 18th Subcircuit.

Four prospective candidates, two in each subcircuit, were paying careful attention, and managed to circulate nominating petitions and get them filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections before the special judicial filing period closed, as it did, last year on St. Stephen's Day. Or, as some may call it, December 26. Or Boxing Day. It's the same day, however it might be labeled.

Three of these persons will definitely appear on the March primary ballot. The fourth, Lucy Vazquez-Gonzalez, must survive a challenge to her nominating papers before the Cook Couty Officers Electoral Board in order to get her name on the ballot for the Brosnahan vacancy in the 3rd Subcircuit. Martin Douglas Reggi, who sought a vacancy in the old 4th Subcircuit in 2018, is the other candidate to file in that race.

The Cook County Officers Electoral Board is expected to assign the challenge against Vazquez-Gonzalez to a hearing officer at its meeting tomorrow.

In the 18th Subcircuit, in the new vacancy converted from the associate judgeship of Lauren G. Edidin, two associate judges will run against each other. Associate Judge Jeffrey G. Chrones, who is assigned to the Second Municipal District Courthouse in Skokie, will face off against Associate Judge Sunil Bhave, who is assigned to the Traffic Division at the Daley Center.

Monday, January 08, 2024

Cook County judicial races thin out even more

Two subcircuit candidates have withdrawn from the March primary.

Both Michael O'Malley, who had filed for the Collins-Dole vacancy in the 8th Subcircuit, and Michael B. Kilgallon, who had filed for the Wojkowski vacancy in the 10th Subcircuit, have withdrawn their candidacies, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections website.

Both candidates were facing challenges to their nominating petitions before the Cook County Officers Electoral Board at the time they withdrew.

O'Malley's withdrawal leaves Loveleen Ahuja as the sole candidate for that vacancy in the Democratic Primary. No Republican filed for that vacancy.

Two candidates remain in the race for the Democratic nomination for the 10th Subcircuit Wojkowski vacancy, Liam Kelly and James V. Murphy. Inasmuch as no Republican filed for this vacancy either, the winner of that contest will be unopposed in November.

James Murphy fundraiser set for January 18

Supporters of James Murphy's 10th Subcircuit bid are holding a fundraiser for their candidate on Thursday, January 18, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., at the Billy Goat Tavern, 1535 W. Madison Street.

Tickets for the event are $100 each, but sponsorships are available ($250, $500, or $1,000). Tickets for government employees are $50 apiece. To register for this event, click on this page of the candidate website.

Applications open for Chicago Magistrate Judge position

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois is accepting applications for a full-time United States Magistrate Judge position in the Eastern Division.

The deadline for the submission of completed applications is 5:00 p.m. on February 2, 2024. This link should lead as directly as to the basic application. But, forms in addition to the basic application are also required; click here to get to a page linking to all the various application, certification, and waiver forms. If none of that works, try clicking here.

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

Quoting now from the Court's notice of the vacancy, eligible applicants must
  1. be, and have been for at least five years, a member in good standing of the bar of the highest court of a State, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands of the United States, and have been engaged in the active practice of law for a period of at least five years (though other kinds of legal experience may also qualify);

  2. be competent to perform all of the duties of the office; be of good moral character, emotionally stable and mature; be committed to equal justice under the law; be in good health; be patient and courteous; and be capable of deliberation and decisiveness;

  3. be less than seventy years of age; and

  4. not be related to a judge of the district court.
The current annual salary of a United States Magistrate Judge is $223,836. A United States Magistrate Judge who retires after attaining the age of 65 years and serving at least 14 years, whether continuously or not, shall be entitled to receive, during the remainder of the Magistrate Judge's lifetime, an annuity equal to the salary being received at the time the United States Magistrate Judge leaves office. Which is nice.

All applications have to go through the U.S. District Court's application webiste. Applicants must not seek interviews with or submit letters of reference to individual judges or members of the Merit Selection Panel.

Properly submitted applications will be reviewed by a Merit Selection Panel, composed of attorneys and other members of the community. The panel will recommend to the judges of the Court, in confidence, a list of the persons whom it considers best qualified. The Court will make the appointment of the person selected to fill the position, subject to a Federal Bureau of Investigation full-field investigation and Internal Revenue Service tax check. The Court makes efforts to give consideration to all qualified candidates, including women and members of minority or marginalized groups.

All applications will be kept confidential, except as necessary for the Merit Selection Panel to perform its duties, and all applications will be examined only by members of the Merit Selection Panel and the district judges of the District Court.