The Election File Voting Guide: Should I ‘retain’ these judges, or boot them?
- Judicial Performance Commission: Recommends all judges be retained, except for Dorothy F. Jones, Jeffrey Lawrence and Susan J. McDunn.
- Chicago Bar Association: Finds these judges NOT qualified for retention: Dorothy F. Jones, Susan J. McDunn, William D. O’Neal, and Jim Ryan.
- Chicago Council of Lawyers: Finds the following judges NOT qualified for retention: Laurence J. Dunford, Dorothy F. Jones, Jeffrey Lawrence, Susan J. McDunn, Patrick T. Murphy, William D. O’Neal, Jim Ryan and John D. Turner, Jr.
- Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening: A combination chart of ratings from eleven bar associations.
On Friday and over the weekend, I called the chambers of each judge who got an unfavorable recommendation, and left a message. Calling me back first was Patrick T. Murphy, who received a "not qualified" rating from the Chicago Council of Lawyers. Ironically, "the only bar association I belong to is the Chicago Council of Lawyers," Murphy told me. "I have enormous respect for them."
The council wrote of Murphy, "Some say that he fails to follow the law, ruling in a way that he believes is correct." Murphy says he considers the second half of that sentence to be "a great compliment," and notes that Illinois divorce law allows him the latitude to consider a number of factors when ruling on a case. He says he doesn't understand the poor rating from the council, but thinks it originated with some disgruntled divorce attorneys.
UPDATE: Likewise, Judge Laurence Dunford blames his "not qualified" rating from the Chicago Council of Lawyers on lawyers who didn't get their way. Dunford says he has a "difficult" assignment as a supervising judge that requires him to move cases along quickly. "Lawyers sometimes allow cases to be put on the back-burner and don’t like it when a judge calls them task." He guesses the attorneys who complained about him "were upset because I did not give them what they wanted. I don’t know. But my obligation is to have cases go to trial…and sometimes that creates conflicts with lawyers."
All judges likely to keep their jobs
Worth noting: despite the efforts of the bar associations to defeat judges they say are unfit for the bench, sitting judges rarely lose. Here is the Appleseed Fund for Justice’s Malcolm Rich:
“Since the 1960s, there have been 14 judges that have not been retained in Cook County. So in general, judges are always – or nearly always – retained. Because in Cook County while there have been 14 that have not been retained throughout the history of our retention process, there have been no judges that have been not retained since 1990.”
"We seek the voters out there to retain all the judges because we look at the tested and collective experience of all these judges. And we feel that we have been committed to doing a good job. The circuit court of Cook County takes about 2.4-million filings a year. And the judges that are up for retention have been doing that job for at least one term, if not some of them two or three six-year terms. And we’ve been evaluated by a lot of groups, we make decisions that are very important and we’re dedicated to our work. And in order to have an independent and fair and impartial judiciary, we need the people’s support."
“I think people should check out a number of sources – and whatever sources that they are comfortable with - in making their decision to vote on judges. I don’t advocate that you don’t look and make your own informed decision. But if you consider the type of work we do, the number of cases that we have and how the courts have functioned over time, there’s no way you’re going to have an independent judiciary with integrity and they’re not going to be some decisions at some point that either some people or some entities or organizations disagree with.”
“There is very little [for a voter] to do. Judge Pucinski will be elected to the Illinois Appellate Court because of the system that we have. And we only hope that she can become a better appellate justice than the bar groups think that she will be. But the bottom line is that in all these uncontested races – judicial races – those judges that you see, qualified or not qualified, will become judges.”
"In those reports from the bar groups, they all complimented my work ethic, and gave me high praise for my work ethic - everyone knows that I am a hard worker - and for knowing the law. So I am confident that I can do the job. I look forward to it. I like the give-and-take of trial work, but I like the brainiac part - the research and writing part of it - too. And I am very excited about the opportunity to serve this community at the appellate court."