ELMHURST - Few aspects are more challenging for voters than finding out which judicial candidates represent their worldviews and their ideals, and which have served with distinction. And more and more as judges not only interpret the law, but edge towards setting legislative precedent and making public policy, serious voters are demanding more information before going to the polls.
That's exactly why the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICLJ) has put together a judge and judicial rating system for March 15th primary election candidates. The initiative called Judges: Good and Bad-You Can’t Afford to be Indifferent can be found at illinoisjudges.net.
The ICJL judicial ratings show that Cook County is offering voters a number of candidates with Highly Recommended or Recommended ratings. That good news, however, is tempered by the fact that three judges in downstate St. Clair County have received Not Recommended ratings due to questions about their integrity.
“The ICJL invited judicial candidates and judges running in the Primary Election to submit answers to questions about their careers and candidacies in their own words which the ICJL then published in unedited form on its website, illinoisjudges.net,” according to John Pastuovic, President of the Illinois Civil Justice League.
The ICJL also evaluated questionnaire answers, judicial and career records, media accounts, bar ratings, campaign contributions, and other sources of information about each judge and judicial candidate to establish individual ratings.
Judges and judicial candidates were considered for ratings of Highly Recommended, Recommended, Not Recommended, or No Position.
The ICJL gave the rating of Recommended to judges or judicial candidates they believe have demonstrated a satisfactory level of competency in regards to their legal and/or judicial careers, and/or who have demonstrated their commitment to educating the voters about their background, experience and viewpoints on the judicial system.
The Highly Recommended rating was reserved for candidates or judges who have demonstrated a high level of competency based on those criteria.
The rating of Not Recommended was assigned to candidates or judges who have judicial records or campaigns that have left the ICJL with questions about the integrity, impartiality, fairness, or conduct of the candidate, judge, or their campaign. Additionally, the ICJL reserved the right to take No Position on a candidate or judge who did not return the questionnaire, and/or their candidacy left the ICJL insufficient information to assign a rating.
“We are pleased to report that voters, particularly in Cook County, will have the opportunity to vote for a number of candidates who will bring a high level of knowledge and experience to the bench,” Pastuovic commented.
In contrast, the ICJL said they are "compelled" to draw the voters’ attention to three judges whose actions – in their opinion – disqualify them to serve.
“St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic and Circuit Judges Robert LeChien and Robert Haida, all of whom were facing an uphill retention election which requires 60 percent voter approval in November, have purposefully gamed the system. Instead of running for retention, they subverted the process by turning in their resignations effective Dec. 4 and filed as candidates in the March 15 primary, where they would only need a simple majority to win,” Pastuovic continued.
“While none of these three judges have primaries, it is critical that voters in St. Clair County are aware that with this maneuver, these judges ignored the intent and spirit of the Illinois Constitution and are deemed Not Recommended. Moreover, their behavior is just another example of why Illinois must reform its civil justice system,” he concluded.
The ICJL’s ratings for judges and judicial candidates are as follows:
For Cook County Circuit Judge
- Biebel Vacancy: Fitzgerald Lyke (D) – Recommended
- Elrod Vacancy: Rossana Patricia Fernandez (D) – Highly Recommended
- Hogan Vacancy: Alison Conlon (D) – Highly Recommended
- Johnson Vacancy: Carolyn Gallagher (D) – Highly Recommended
- Karnezis Vacancy: Devlin Schoop (D) – Highly Recommended
- O’Brien Vacancy: Maureen O’Donoghue Hannon (D) – Recommended
- Palmer Vacancy: Pat Heneghan (D) – Recommended
- Ruscitti Grussel Vacancy: Daniel Patrick Duffy (D) – Highly Recommended
- Walsh Vacancy: Frederick Bates (D) – Recommended
Walsh Vacancy: Patrick Powers (D) – Recommended
For Cook County Subcircuit Judge
- Brim Vacancy – 1st Subcircuit: Maryam Ahmad (D) – Recommended
- Savage Vacancy – 2nd Subcircuit: Chelsey Robinson (D) – Recommended
- Eadie-Daniels Vacancy – 5th Subcircuit: Leonard Murray (D) – Recommended
- Santiago Vacancy – 6th Subcircuit: Richard Cooke (D) – No Position
- Rivkin-Carothers Vacancy – 7th Subcircuit: Rose Silva (D) – Recommended
Rivkin-Carothers Vacancy – 7th Subcircuit: Mable Taylor (D) – Recommended
- Howard Vacancy – 10th Subcircuit: Colleen Reardon Daly (D) – Recommended
Howard Vacancy – 10th Subcircuit: Rick Cenar (D) – Highly Recommended
- Kazmierski Vacancy – 12th Subcircuit: Louis Apostol (D) – Recommended
For Downstate Circuit Judge
- 14th Circuit (Rock Island County): Kathleen Mesich (D) – Recommended
- 20th Circuit (Circuitwide): John Baricevic (D) – Not Recommended
- 20th Circuit (Circuitwide): Robert Haida (D) – Not Recommended
- 20th Circuit (St. Clair County): Robert LeChien (D) – Not Recommended
Additional recommendations will be made for general election contests and retention contests later in the year. For more information, visit illinoisjudges.net.