Nearly 70 Judges Seek Retention in Cook County

Voters get the final say, but they rarely say no

October 26, 2010

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Voters next week in Illinois will be asked whether they want to re-hire a bunch of judges, including 68 in Cook County.

After a judge is first elected, he or she never again has to face an opponent.

"At the end of each term, a judge has to run essentially against himself or herself," says Malcolm Rich with the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, which tries to educate voters about judicial elections. He explains they are often as simple as, "Shall Judge X be retained as a judge?"

Judges need 60-percent approval from voters to stay on the bench. In Cook County they almost always get it. According to Rich, "There have been no judges that have not been retained since 1990."

Judge Ed Washington wants that streak to continue. He is on a committee - funded mostly by lawyers, law firms and the judges themselves - that's trying to retain all Cook County judges. Washington says they're all experienced, and cautions voters, "You don't want to make an error - if you will - as an electorate - and get rid of a good judge just based on a single issue."

Lawyers groups, though, say there are a handful of bad judges, and are asking voters to remove them from the bench.