After the Nov. 2 retention election results come in, Cook County Circuit Judge Susan McDunn and her supporters would like to say one phrase: Happy days are here again. However, a growing legion of people would like to say something else: Stick a fork in her, she's McDunn.
(In a retention election, a candidate runs unopposed. Voters simply decide whether to retain that candidate or to let that person go.)
The army of people who would like to see McDunn go includes many in the GLBT community—and their strong feelings stem mainly from two adoption cases involving lesbian couples. In 1998 and 1999, McDunn tried to stop the couples from adopting the children—and even gave files to anti-gay organizations. These moves occurred even after knowing that court-appointed guardians highly recommended that the women be allowed to adopt. When the case was taken to the Illinois appeals court, McDunn's ruling was overturned. In an opinion read by Justice Morton Zwick, McDunn's decision was termed 'an inexcusable injustice.' The court also criticized the judge as having 'a clear bias against lesbians' and diminishing the credit of the judiciary and 'the people of Illinois.' The Judicial Inquiry Board of Illinois subsequently issued an eight-count complaint against McDunn; however, the Illinois Courts Commission dismissed the charges.
Indeed, strong feelings against McDunn seem to run across the demographic spectrum, at least in the legal arena. The most telling signs are the judicial evaluations that the Alliance of Bar Associations recently released. (The Alliance is a coalition of nine Chicago-area bar organizations that meet to investigate and interview judicial candidates; groups include the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago as well as the Black Women Lawyers Association of Greater Chicago.) Not a single group in the Alliance recommended McDunn for retention. In fact, the Chicago Bar Association stated that McDunn is 'indecisive' and 'does not appear to understand the proper application of the rules of evidence.' The Chicago Council of Lawyers, in finding her unqualified to remain a judge, stated The Council believes that 'Judge McDunn's actions in handling [the adoption cases] are unacceptable and went well beyond the pale of appropriate judicial conduct.' Mark Wojcik, a professor at John Marshall Law School, thinks that people should take every possible step to make sure McDunn does not stay in office. 'Write her name down and keep it in your wallet or with your voter's card, so that you'll remember to punch [number 276] on the ballot. [Also,] tell your friends and family to do the same,' Wojcik urges.
All of these statements and evaluations point to the very real possibility that enough people will punch that number on Election Day to knock Judge McDunn off the bench. She must get 60% yes votes to retain her post.