Suffredin- Changing County Government  
 

Accountability
Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions
Unsung Heroine

 

   
 
   
   
 
   
     
  Office phone numbers:  
   
 
 

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.

   
 

Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

   
  Cook County was created on January 15, 1831 and named after Daniel P. Cook, Member of Congress and the first Attorney from the State of Illinois.
   
     
     
     



Choosing Cook County judges, Justice Ginsburg reminds us, should not be a popularity contest
It’s difficult for voters to improve the quality of the bench on their own, when there are so many candidate names.

Monday, September 16, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times
by EDITORIAL BOARD

Choosing Cook County judges, Justice Ginsburg reminds us, should not be a popularity contest

Take it from RBG: Electing judges, rather than appointing them, is bad for the cause of justice.

When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg visited the University of Chicago last week, she took a moment to remind us why Illinois should rewrite its constitution, which would require a referendum, to end the popular election of judges.

“I think popular election is a very bad way to select judges,’ Ginsburg said. “And judges campaigning for office, saying, ‘If you elect me I’m going to be tough on crime’ — it’s a spectacle. I don’t know any other country in the world where judges are elected.”

That’s a referendum we’d love to support.

Cook County has certainly seen its share of spectacles over the years. We’ve witnessed everything from outright incompetence to judges who looked the other way when defendants complained about police torture.

It’s difficult, however, for voters to improve the quality of the bench on their own when there are so many names, and the candidates operate in courtrooms far from the public eye. Who in the general public knows which judicial candidates have a strong grasp of the law or the appropriate demeanor?

Types of judicial elections

Cook County Circuit Court judges are elected by the public to six-year terms, either countywide or in smaller subcircuits. After that, they run every four years on a retention ballot, in which 60% of voters must vote to keep them on the ballot.

Associate judges serve four-year terms and are retained or removed in a secret vote by Circuit Court judges.

Slightly less than half of Cook County judges are associate judges.

In the party primary elections this coming March, voters in Cook County will be asked to choose from as many as seven candidates for the Illinois Supreme Court and a boatload more for lower courts. In the November balloting, voters will be asked to choose among primary winners, and they also will be confronted with perhaps 70 names on a nonpartisan “retention” ballot, meaning they will be asked to choose which judges to keep on the bench.

Some voters will throw up their hands and leave the judicial portion of their ballots blank. Others will check off names with the uneasy feeling that they just might be throwing the rascals in instead of out.

That’s why judges are almost always retained.

In 2018, Judge Matthew Coghlan was voted out of office after opposition from progressive organizations and lawyer groups, but it was the first time that happened in 28 years.

There’s a better way.

As a start, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, plans to revive an effort to replace the retention system with a system largely based on merit. Under her proposal, backed by the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice and the Chicago Council of Lawyers, a merit board — rather than the voters — would decide which judges have demonstrated the qualifications to remain on the bench.

Candidates who didn’t make the cut — perhaps four or five in each election cycle — would be allowed to run anyway, but the public would know there’s a reason those candidates are on the ballot.

The merit board would include appointees chosen by a variety of public officials to prevent any single person from controlling who remains a judge. The board would be made up of lawyers and non-lawyers with strong civic backgrounds. This change would require both legislative action and a constitutional amendment.

“I feel more strongly than ever we are doing this wrong,” Cassidy told us.

Many other states have adopted some form of merit selection. They have created nonpartisan commissions of lawyers and others who screen applicants to ensure they are qualified to sit on the bench. Elected officials then pick among the finalists.

No system is perfect. In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey was accused this month of manipulating that state’s merit selection system to appoint a political ally to the Arizona Supreme Court.

But at least the other states avoid what we routinely see in Illinois, especially Cook County: Judges being picked by the politicians who slate them or by big-money donors.

Merit selection also means judges don’t have to ask donors, usually lawyers, for money to fund a political campaign. That’s a big conflict of interest when those lawyers appear before judges who are beholden to them.

A merit system would have to be designed carefully to ensure a fair representation of minorities, women and all areas of the county.

But to improve the quality of the bench, it would be well worth the effort.



Recent Headlines

Landlords get socked as Kaegi reassesses north suburban properties
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

Council Endorses Petition for New Tax Status of Howard Street Building
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Evanston RoundTable

County watchdog: Police sergeant violated sexual harassment policy, employee misused time off for Jamaican vacation
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

What I learn when I have lunch at Cook County Jail
Monday, October 14, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

County officials say pension board’s proposed fix would cost an extra $267 million
Monday, October 14, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

Trump policy targeting immigrants who use safety net services blocked by federal court in Illinois
Monday, October 14, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle Unveils FY2020 Executive Budget Recommendation
Monday, October 14, 2019
Chicago Defender

Criminal justice reformers are making the case to end cash bail in Illinois
Sunday, October 13, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Expungements, tax appeals will cause hiring spree as overall Cook County jobs decline
Thursday, October 10, 2019
Daily Herald

Cost to Cook County to clear pot records: $700,000
Thursday, October 10, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

No New Taxes in Cook County Budget
Thursday, October 10, 2019
WTTW News

Inside the 2020 county budget Preckwinkle unveils today
Thursday, October 10, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

League of Women Voters of Illinois Executive Director appointed as Chair of the Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues
Thursday, October 10, 2019
Chicago Defender

No layoffs or tax hikes in Preckwinkle’s $6.1B county budget — but also no pot revenue or gambling jackpot
Wednesday, October 09, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Graduate Hotel coming to Evanston
Tuesday, October 08, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

Promising no tax hikes, Preckwinkle angles for no-drama 2020 county budget
Tuesday, October 08, 2019
The Daily Line

Metra revs up capital spending wishlist amid ‘unprecedented’ gush of state funding
Tuesday, October 08, 2019
The Daily Line

North-suburban assessments could mean for break homeowners, ‘straight-up terror’ for commercial owners
Monday, October 07, 2019

Federal monitor: Kaegi not on ‘effective path’ to end oversight of assessor’s office hiring
Monday, October 07, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Lightfoot, Preckwinkle Clash Over Metra Electric Proposal
Wednesday, October 02, 2019
WTTW News

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.
^ TOP