The Chicago Bar Association has released its evaluations for judicial candidates who are seeking election or retention to the Illinois Supreme Court, the Illinois Appellate Court or the Circuit Court of Cook County in the upcoming November 3, 2020 general election.
The non-partisan evaluations are a comprehensive, peer-to-peer review process conducted as a long-standing public service by the CBA's Judicial Evaluation Committee. The CBA's Judicial Evaluation 'Judge Smart Guide' offers a narrative on evaluation findings of judicial candidates seeking election to the bench and can be found on the CBA's website using this link: www.chicagobar.org/chicagobar/votejudges . The Judge Smart Guide also lists the findings of the judicial candidates seeking retention.
"A Judge possesses the power to significantly impact a person's life and it is crucial that citizens arm themselves with the information that they need to make informed choices about judicial candidates who are seeking both retention and election," said Risa Lanier, Chair of the CBA's Judicial Evaluation Committee.
"The Chicago Bar Association's Judicial Evaluation process and our 'Judge Smart Guide' provide a tremendous tool for the electorate to help them cast educated and smart votes for judges."
In the approaching Nov. 3 election, there are a total of 62 judges running for retention including two candidates for Illinois Appellate Court, and 60 candidates for the Circuit Court of Cook County. All were found qualified with the exception of one Circuit Court Judge who was found Not Recommended for failing to participate in our evaluation process and one Circuit Court Judge who has indicated she is retiring and did not complete the evaluation process although her name remains on the ballot.
In addition, there is one candidate seeking election to the Illinois Supreme Court and two candidates seeking election to the Illinois Appellate court. The candidate for the Supreme Court was rated "Highly Qualified" and one candidate for the Appellate Court was rated "Highly Qualified" and the other was rated "Qualified."
There are 36 candidates seeking election to the position of Circuit Court Judge. Of those 36, the JEC rated 7 candidates as "Highly Qualified," 26 as "Qualified" and three as "Not Recommended." Of the three candidates found "Not Recommended" two declined to participate in the JEC screening process and were found automatically "Not Recommended" pursuant to JEC governing bylaws.
Candidates who wish to be evaluated by the CBA must submit a questionnaire and participate in a screening process that evaluates on the basis of seven criteria: integrity, legal knowledge, legal ability, professional experience, judicial temperament, diligence and punctuality.
The CBA has a long history of judicial evaluation, dating from 1887 and is considered to be the most comprehensive investigative body investigating judges in the State of Illinois. The guidelines and standards developed by the CBA for rating judges have been adopted almost entirely by the American Bar Association as a model for local and national bar programs.
"Judicial independence is the cornerstone of our democracy and judges are required to apply the law fairly and equally to all who appear before them. It is reprehensible for politicians and politically backed organizations masquerading as independent judicial watch dog groups to use innuendo and guilt by association tactics in the media to unfairly discredit the reputations of qualified men and women who are serving honorably as members of Illinois' judiciary," said Timothy S. Tomasik, Second Vice President of the Chicago Bar Association and past General Chair of the CBA's Judicial Evaluation Committee. "Politically motivated attacks on the judiciary are antithetical to the Justice System and undermine the core values of our Judiciary. These attacks cannot be ignored and/or tolerated without endangering the independence of the entire court system. There is good reason why the founders of our Country created three separate but equal branches of government and the independence of each must be preserved," Tomasik emphasized.
The CBA's comprehensive 'Judge Smart Guide' to Judicial Elections is available on the website for visitors to review and download ( www.chicagobar.org/chicagobar/votejudges ). A link to a condensed Judge Smart Pocket Guide is also available for easy printing and use in the voting booth.