The Nominating Committee of the Cook County Circuit Court decided today to postpone the Associate Judge selection process until after the March 15 primary election.
The Nominating Committee took this action to avoid the potential appearance of impropriety because several applicants for Associate Judge are also running for Circuit Judge in the March primary.
While Circuit Judges are elected by the public, Associate Judges are appointed by the Circuit Judges.
The Nominating Committee interviewed 255 applicants for the Associate Judge vacancies and was preparing to select 26 finalists. The Circuit Judges would then approve 13 Associate Judges from the list of 26.
But the Nominating Committee’s process to select the 26 finalists is on hold until the primary election concludes. The Nominating Committee wants to ensure that the upcoming election is not influenced by the Associate Judge selection process.
The Nominating Committee deemed this action necessary because the timing of the Associate Judge selection process is in such close proximity to the March primary. The Nominating Committee’s decision also ensures that the Nominating Committee avoids any potential or perceived conflict with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 67, Canon 7 which states that judges may not “publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for public office.”
“I commend the Nominating Committee for this action and look forward to resuming deliberations at a future date,” Chief Cook County Circuit Judge Timothy C. Evans said.
In addition to Chief Judge Evans, the Nominating Committee consists of the following Circuit Judges:
· Honorable Mary Ellen Coghlan, Presiding Judge, Probate Division
· Honorable Sophia H. Hall, Administrative Presiding Judge, Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Resource Section
· Honorable Moshe Jacobius, Presiding Judge, Chancery Division
· Honorable Raymond L. Jagielski, Presiding Judge, Fifth Municipal District
· Honorable Marjorie C. Laws, Presiding Judge, Sixth Municipal District
· Honorable William O. Maki, Presiding Judge, Third Municipal District
· Honorable Shelley Sutker-Dermer, Presiding Judge, Second Municipal District
· Honorable E. Kenneth Wright, Jr., Presiding Judge, First Municipal District
Circuit Judges have the constitutional authority to fill Associate Judge vacancies and are required to follow the procedures outlined in Rule 39 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Illinois. Under Supreme Court Rule 39, the Nominating Committee must select twice as many qualified candidates as there are vacancies to be filled; in this instance, 26 candidates will be selected to fill 13 vacancies. Any additional Associate Judge vacancies that occur between now and when the committee reconvenes will be addressed by the Nominating Committee.
The Chief Judge must then notify the Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts of the names of the candidates selected by the committee and request the Director to begin the balloting process.
Within 14 days after the Chief Judge’s notification, the Director mails a secret ballot with the names of each candidate to each Circuit Judge. The Circuit Judges vote for one candidate for each vacancy to be filled. The judges must return the ballots to the Director within 14 days of the date the ballots were distributed. The director then counts the ballots which are accompanied by a signed card, tabulates the results and certifies them to the Chief Judge, at all times maintaining the secrecy of the ballots.
Bar evaluations were issued for all of the Associate Judge applicants by The Chicago Bar Association and the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening, at the request of Chief Judge Evans. The Alliance is made up of 11 minority and ethnic bar organizations: the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area, the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago, the Chicago Council of Lawyers, the Cook County Bar Association, the Decalogue Society of Lawyers, the Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois, the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, the Illinois State Bar Association, the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, the Puerto Rican Bar Association, and the Women’s Bar Association.
“I want to thank the bar groups for their time and diligent work on evaluating all of the candidates,” Chief Judge Evans said. “We certainly value their input and appreciate their important contributions to the process.”