The wife of new Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch also wants a new job — as a Cook County judge.
ShawnTe Raines-Welch is among 246 lawyers going after 10 vacancies for associate judges, who are chosen by the circuit judges and get annual salaries of nearly $200,000, according to records obtained by WBEZ.
Last month, other state representatives picked Chris Welch to replace longtime Speaker Michael Madigan, the state Democratic boss whose 36-year tenure as a legislative leader ended amid a bribery scandal involving Commonwealth Edison.
WBEZ has reported that Madigan’s office asked Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker to give Raines-Welch a position at the Illinois Liquor Control Commission in 2019 at Chris Welch’s urging, but Pritzker did not appoint her.
Raines-Welch, 38, is a partner at the Ancel Glink law firm in Chicago, according to the firm’s website. Chris Welch also was a partner at Ancel Glink, and after becoming the state’s first Black speaker in January, he announced he will continue to be “of counsel” at the downtown firm.
Raines-Welch graduated from John Marshall Law School in 2009 and joined Ancel Glink in 2019, after working at two other firms in Chicago, according to her attorney-registration filings. Welch and Raines-Welch got married in 2010 and live in Hillside.
After this story was published, Welch told WBEZ, “I’m always proud of my wife. ShawnTe’s credentials speak for themselves. I’m staying out of the process and my wife is more than able to advocate for herself.”
In addition to Raines-Welch, the list of applicants for the openings includes many other familiar names in Cook County political and legal circles, including:
John Fritchey, a former Democratic state lawmaker who lost his 2018 re-election bid for Cook County commissioner.
Robert Milan, a former assistant Cook County state’s attorney who lost in a campaign for the top county prosecutor’s job.
Dartesia Pitts, general counsel to Democratic Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton and a past president of the Cook County Bar Association.
Jackie Portman-Brown, a former Cook County circuit judge who lost her retention bid last year after a video surfaced of her locking a child in a cell.
Frank DiFranco, who lost in a Republican campaign for a judgeship but sued to try to overturn the results, alleging voter fraud in the November election.
Joseph Chico, a cousin of Chicago City Hall veteran and losing mayoral candidate Gery Chico.
Patrick Blanchard, who has been the county government’s inspector general since 2008.
Felicia Simmons-Stovall, who works for Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.
Timothy Evans, the chief judge of the Cook County Circuit Court, posted the 10 openings on Jan. 4. The vacancies opened up when judges retired or resigned and because some associate judges were elected as circuit judges.
Evans’ spokeswoman said this week he has asked the bar associations to evaluate the applicants for the associate judge openings. Once that’s done, a committee of judges will interview all the candidates.
The committee will nominate twice as many applicants as the number of vacancies there will be by that point. Finally, the circuit judges will pick the new associate judges from the candidates on the committee’s list.
The current salary for associate judges is $196,926 a year.
Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team.