We will be covering Chicago’s down ballot races all week leading up to the election on November 8th. Keep an eye on our site to learn more about what you’re voting for!
There are judges on the ballot for the state-level Illinois Appellate Court, and the county-level Cook County Circuit Court.
Illinois Appellate Court
- The intermediate court in Illinois – it hears appeals from verdicts reached at the trial level (circuit courts throughout the state). Its decisions, in turn, can be appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.
- Judges serve 10 year terms; incumbents run in nonpartisan retention elections, and can be elected for subsequent 10 year terms.
- Candidates on the 2016 ballot are running for retention only.
- A 60% “yes” vote keeps them in office.
Cook County Circuit Court
- The trial-level courts throughout Cook County; may hear trials on anything from traffic cases to child custody hearings to criminal cases.
- Serve six year terms; incumbents run in nonpartisan retention elections, and can be elected for subsequent six-year terms.
- There are a handful of contested races on the 2016 ballot – these judges need a simple majority to win.
- Judges up for retention need 60% “yes” votes to stay in office.
Why is it important?
- Judges rule on cases that can affect our lives for years to come.
- It’s hard to remove a bad judge from the bench.
- Cook County voters haven’t removed a sitting judge since 1990, though there have been many outrageously incompetent or derelict judges.
- Many voters don’t bother to vote for judges, and others vote based on gender or ethnically identifiable names or by political party affiliation.1
Judges with Poor Ratings
To provide some guidance on the long list of names that will be unfamiliar to most, here we’ve focused only on the races most worthy of note: 1) contested races, 2) judges who received ratings of “Not Qualified”/”Not Recommended” by the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screenings, or 3) have opted not to participate in the review process. (Participating bar associations and additional resources are listed at the end of this post.)
All Cook County judicial candidates NOT mentioned below received approvals from all bar associations – you can download their full review here.
Things to note:
- Candidates who received a “Not Recommended” (NR) rating for not participating in the review process should be noted – some choose not to seek the bar associations’ recommendation because a) they’re not qualified, so they won’t get it, or b) they’ve been clouted onto the ballot, so they don’t need it. Or both.2
- Appellate Court judge Joy Virginia Cunningham (running for retention) received unanimous “Yes” recommendations from all 11 bar associations. Appellate candidates Eileen O’Neill Burke and Bertina E. Lampkin (running uncontested) both received ratings of “Qualified” or better from all 11 bar associations.
- Candidates with clearly more favorable ratings are highlighted in bold green.
- Negatively reviewed candidates who are running unopposed are included FYI.
Contested Races – Cook County Circuit Court
1st Subcircuit (Hopkins vacancy)
|Rhonda Crawford (D)||Maryam Ahmad (D)
12th Subcircuit (Kazmierski vacancy)
|Marguerite Anne Quinn (D)||Thomas William Flannigan (R)|
12th Subcircuit (Mathein vacancy)
|Janet Cronin Mahoney (D)||James Leonard Allegretti (R)|
12th Subcircuit (Tristano vacancy)
|Carrie Hamilton (D)||David Studenroth (R)|
12th Subcircuit (additional judgeship A)
|James Edward Hanlon, Jr. (D)||Steven A. Kozicki (R)|
13th Subcircuit (Fecarotta vacancy)
|Ketki “Kay” Steffen (D)||Kevin Michael O’Donnell (R)|
Matthew Link (14th Subcircuit – Murphy vacancy)
-“Not Recommended” by 11 of 11
Brendan A. O’Brien (Love vacancy)
-“Not Recommended” by 1 of 11 bar associations (Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago)
Daniel P. Duffy (Grussel vacancy)
-“Not Qualified” rating from 2 of 11 (Chicago Council of Lawyers, Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois)
-“Not Recommended” by 1 of 11 (Women’s Bar Association of Illinois)
Renee Jackson (2nd Subcircuit – Savage vacancy)
-“Not Recommended” by 11 of 11
Daryl Jones (5th Subcircuit – Williams-Hayes vacancy)
“Not Qualified” rating from 1 of 11 (Illinois State Bar Association)
Retention Votes – Cook County Circuit Court
- Irwin J. Solganick – “No” from Cook County Bar Association
- William Maki – “No” from Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago
- Nicholas R. Ford – “No” from Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago; “No” from Romanucci & Blandin (police misconduct attorneys):
“Circuit Judge Nicholas Ford is refusing to take himself off the Jackie Wilson case, even though Ford could be called as a witness and has links to several key actors in the police torture scandal involving former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.” (Romanucci & Blandin)”
–Chicago Sun-Times Editorial: Change judges in case of Burge-era torture claim
–Appeals court reversals mar record of Cook County judge up for retention Nov. 8
- Daniel Joseph Lynch – “No” from Chicago Council of Lawyers, Illinois State Bar Association
- Laurence J. Dunford – “No” from Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago
- Jeanne R. Cleveland Bernstein – “No” from Black Women Lawyers Association of Greater Chicago
- Daniel Malone – “No” from Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago
- Bonita Coleman – “No” from Chicago Council of Lawyers
- Sandra G. Ramos – “No” from Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago
- Participating bar associations
Candidates were reviewed by the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening, working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois. The Alliance is comprised of:
-Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area (AABA)
-Black Women Lawyers Association of Greater Chicago (BWLA)
-Chicago Council of Lawyers (CCL)
-Cook County Bar Association (CCBA)
-Decalogue Society of Lawyers (DSL)
-Hellenic Bar Association (HBA)
-Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI)
-Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA)
-Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago (LAGBAC)
-Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois (PRBA)
-Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI)
- Additional resources:
-The Chicago Tribune:
Editorial: Chicago Tribune endorsements in Cook County judicial races
Cook County 2016 Election Guide: The judges up for retention
A voting guide for the Cook County judges races
Negative ratings unlikely to keep seven judges from Cook County bench
1. Cook County needs merit selection of judges: http://chicago.suntimes.com/opinion/editorial-cook-county-needs-merit-selection-of-judges/
2. Chicago Tribune endorsements in Cook County judicial races: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-judges-endorsements-cook-county-retention-edit-20161013-story.html