In 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed lawyer Andrea Schleifer to the 12th Judicial Subcircuit. To continue serving as a judge, she is running in the March 20 primary. If she wins in the primary and wins again in November, then six years from now she will run to retain her seat on the bench.
Schleifer worked in her own private practice for more than 30 years concentrating in general civil litigation and family law prior to her judicial appointment. She practiced in every division of the circuit court and was one of the very first "Super Lawyers" named in Illinois. Among her many awards, the Illinois Federation of Business and Professional Women named Schleifer an Outstanding Working Woman, and she was honored with a Presidential Citation from the Decalogue Society of Lawyers.
Currently, Schleifer's supporters include Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Mike Quigley, State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, Ald. Tom Tunney and Commissioner Larry Suffredin, along with many others.
Windy City Times caught up with her just as she was finishing her day on the bench to discuss her campaign, her background as a lawyer, the cases she hears and LGBT issues as they relate to the law.
NOTE: View downloadable election guide charts at the following link. This election chart was updated online on Tuesday March 13 with corrections and updates. www.windycitymediagroup.com/pdf/WCT_2012_primarychartsforweb.pdf .
Windy City Times: You are running for the 12th judicial subcircuit. Do you have any opponents? What cities are in your subcircuit?
Judge Andrea Schleifer: I have four opponents. My subcircuit includes Northbrook, Winnetka, Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village, Mt. Prospect and all points in between.
WCT: Tell me a little about your background.
Andrea Schleifer: I grew up in New Jersey and got a degree in English literature from Indiana University. A number of years later I moved to Chicago and got a job with public aid. While working for public aid I decided to go to Loyola Law School. I opened my own law practice with a friend and we were partners for a year. He left our firm for another job opportunity so I was on my own for a number of years. From time to time though, I would have associates work for me. I was always interested in child support cases. While practicing law, I learned about domestic-violence issues and was a part of the implementation committee when the Domestic Violence Act of 1982 was enacted.
WCT: As a lesbian or woman, have you experienced discrimination in your career as a lawyer or judge?
Andrea Schleifer: I was a very active feminist and as a feminist people assumed, presumed and concluded that I must be a lesbian although I didn't have a relationship with a woman until 1994. In 1988, I did make the short list to become an associate judge but found out later that someone on the interview committee said I shouldn't be appointed because I was a lesbian since they had never seen me with a man. After that incident, I decided to run for the 8th subcircuit in 1994 but I didn't win. At that time some people believed it would be inappropriate to have judges elected who were gay or lesbian so therefore I never made the final cut. Being a lesbian didn't factor into my recent appointment, however. Now when an associate justice list is created, the LGBT community seems to be one of the constituencies that is considered.
I did experience gender bias as a lawyer. I was on a committee in the late 1980s/early 1990s to study the issue. We made recommendations that judges receive sensitivity training which has reduced gender bias in the courts. Over the years it has gotten better for women lawyers in the Chicago area.
WCT: What cases do you hear?
Andrea Schleifer: I hear cases involving unmarried former couples ( both same-sex and opposite sex ) fighting over custody/visitation and child support matters. Our sub-division of the court is called the domestic relations division parentage and child support section.
WCT: What is the biggest overall issue that you see within the court system?
Andrea Schleifer: Access to the courts since many of the people we see in front of us in this subsection are pro se litigants ( people who are representing themselves ) .
WCT: What have been the most important cases you worked on as a lawyer or heard as a judge?
Andrea Schleifer: Early on, I represented a woman in a discrimination case. She applied to be a correctional officer at Pontiac State Prison but wasn't hired. It was determined that the department of corrections had a limit on the number of women that they could hire and were therefore discriminating against women. I was also hired to sue adoption agencies on three different occasions and as a result I worked with Feigenholtz and others to draft the Adoption Reform Act which regulated what adoption agencies could do in obtaining and placing children for adoption. As a judge, I think every case I hear is important.
WCT: Do you feel that you should have to recuse yourself from cases involving LGBT issues?
Andrea Schleifer: No.
WCT: Do you believe there are areas under the law in which LGBT individuals are deprived?
Andrea Schleifer: Yes, there is inequality since there isn't marriage equality in all 50 states. In any area where LGBT people are not protected under the law they are deprived of equality.
WCT: What are the most significant legal issues facing the LGBT community?
Andrea Schleifer: There's the lack of uniform divorce laws since there isn't uniform marriage laws for same-sex couples nationwide.
WCT: What are the most important traits that a judge should have?
Andrea Schleifer: A judge should have empathy, objectivity and the ability to make a decision in a timely fashion.
WCT: Is there anything else you want to tell our readers?
Andrea Schleifer: It's important for voters to research all of the judges and their ratings from the bar associations so they know who vote for and then vote for their choices on election day.
See www.electjudgeschleifer.org for more information about her campaign.