P. Scott Neville Jr., Illinois Supreme Court Democratic candidate profile
He was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 2018 to fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Charles E. Freeman.
P. Scott Neville, Jr.
Running for: Illinois Supreme Court
Occupation: Illinois Supreme Court Justice
Other Professional Experience: Attorney for 25 years
Circuit Court 1999 – 2004
Appellate Court 2004 – 2018
Supreme Court 2018 to present
Education: Forrestville Grammar School
DuSable High School
Culver Stockton College
Washington University School of Law
Campaign website: nevilleforjustice.com
Facebook: Citizens for P. Scott Neville, Jr.
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent candidates for Illinois Supreme Court in the 1st District that covers Cook County a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues. P. Scott Neville,Jr. submitted the following responses:
Tell us why you are qualified to be a Supreme Court justice.
CAREER AS A LAWYER
I am qualified to be a Supreme Court justice because of my 45 years of legal and judicial experience. I began my legal career in 1974 as a law clerk for Justice Glenn T. Johnson, and when I accepted the clerkship, I became the first African American man to clerk for an appellate court justice in Cook County. My appellate court clerkship, which began in 1974, gives me the right to make the argument that I have been practicing appellate law for 45 years. During my 25 year career as a lawyer, I prosecuted civil and criminal cases in the Federal and State courts, including Barnett v. Daley, 32 F.3d 1196 (7 th Cir. 1994), a case in which President Barack Obama was one of the attorneys. I argued numerous cases before Federal and State reviewing courts and practiced in the United States and Illinois Supreme courts.
I was a judge on the circuit court of Cook County for four years (October 1999 – June 2004) and presided over 100 jury trials. I was a justice on the Illinois Appellate Court for 14 years (June 2004 – June 2018) and authored over 1,400 opinions, Rule 23 orders and summary decisions. While on the Appellate Court, I was Chairman of the Executive Committee from 2013-2014, and I was also the Presiding Justice of the Second, Third and Fourth divisions. Finally, during my 18 months as a justice on the Illinois Supreme Court, I authored 14 opinions, 1 special concurrence and 2 dissents, and I appointed 8 lawyers to judicial vacancies on the Circuit Court: 4 black judges, 4 white judges, 4 men and 4 women.
PROMOTION OF DIVERSITY
I have always worked to make the judiciary more diverse. First, I was one of the lawyers advising the legislators (Judge Anthony Young, Representative Paul Williams, Senator Howard Brookins, Senator Miquel De Valle, and Senator Richard Keats) who sponsored and passed the sub-circuit legislation making Cook County’s judiciary more diverse. See 705 ILCS 35/2f. Second, I also made the judiciary more diverse by co-founding the Alliance of Bar Associations: (1) Asian American Bar Association; (2) Black Women’s Lawyers Association; (3) Chicago Council of Lawyers; (4) Cook County Bar Association; (5) Decalogue Society of Lawyers; (6) Hellenic Bar Association; (7) Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois; (8) Illinois State Bar Association; (9) Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago; (10) Puerto Rican Bar Association; and (11) Women’s Bar Association of Illinois. The Alliance (or the United Nations of Bar Associations) was founded in 1998 to make judicial evaluations in Cook County a diverse process and to ensure that the lawyers considered for judgeships were evaluated fairly.
MENTORSHIPS AND SCHOLARSHIPS
I have been on the battlefield my entire life fighting to improve the lives of all people. When I attended Culver Stockton College, there were only 10 black students on campus. However, Culver Stockton hired me to recruit and mentor black students and when I graduated there were between 40 and 50 black students on campus. I have also mentored numerous Circuit Court judges, including Judge Thaddeus Wilson, Judge Dominique Ross, Judge Yvonne Coleman and Judge Myron Mackoff. I have also mentored lawyers, law student externs, college students, high school students and grammar school students. Finally, I also have given back to my community by making a scholarship contribution to the Cook County Bar Foundation, each year, for the past 25 years and by making a scholarship contribution to the Illinois Judicial Council Foundation, each year, for the past 20 years.
PHILOSOPOPHICAL AND STRUCTURAL DIFFERENCES THAT DISTINGUISH ME FROM THE OTHER SUPREME COURT CANDIDATES
I am the only Supreme Court candidate born in Bronzeville, educated in segregated public schools in Bronzeville, who attended a black church and worshiped in Bronzeville. I am one of six children who was raised by a single mother in Bronzeville because my father died when I was 13, and I was socialized in Bronzeville over a 52 year period during which I acquired my values, my moral compass and my equal justice for all judicial philosophy. At least four Supreme Court justices voted to elevate me to the Supreme Court and elected not to elevate one of the five Appellate Court justices or the two lawyers running against me.
Finally, I am the only candidate for the Supreme Court who received the majority of the weighted vote from Cook County’s 80 Democratic Committeemen and was the only candidate endorsed as the Cook County Democratic Party’s candidate for the Illinois Supreme Court.
In conclusion, my 45 years of legal and judicial experience coupled with my leadership experience of having served as President of the Cook County Bar Association, Co-Founder of the Alliance of Bar Associations, Chairperson of the Illinois Judicial Council, and Chairman of the First District’s Executive Committee have prepared me to sit on the Illinois Supreme Court. I have been found highly qualified by the Chicago Bar Association, highly recommended by the Cook County Bar Association and highly qualified by the Illinois State Bar Association and the bar associations’ evaluations establish my qualifications to sit on the Illinois Supreme Court. I am the only candidate for the Supreme Court who has served on the Supreme Court for the past 18 months. I have a diverse staff: 2 black lawyers, 2 white lawyers, a black secretary and a Latino Marshall. Finally, as the 117 th and second African American in the Supreme Court's 200 year history and, as the only candidate for the Supreme Court who is a current member of the court and has authored opinions and appointed 8 lawyers to the circuit court, I think I am the best qualified judge or lawyer to sit on the Illinois Supreme Court.
What two cases have you ruled on as an appellate or supreme court judge that best reflect your scholarship, judicial philosophy and approach to justice?
11A. People ex rel. Raoul v. Gaughan, No. 124535 (opinion filed March 19, 2019). In Gaughan, petitioners, Kwame Raoul, Attorney General of Illinois, and Joseph McMahon, Special Prosecutor and State’s Attorney of Kane County, filed a motion in the supreme court seeking leave to file a petition for writ of mandamus of prohibition against respondent, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Gaughan. Petitioners contended that the trial judge committed error by failing to comply with mandatory legal standards in sentencing then-Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald. The supreme court’s majority had four votes to deny the motion to hear the case.
I filed a dissent and highlighted the facts that a jury convicted Van Dyke of second degree murder and of 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm: one conviction for each separate shot that Van Dyke fired. I also highlighted the fact that the trial judge sentenced Van Dyke only on the second degree murder conviction to a prison term of 81 months. I stated that People v. Lee, 213 Ill. 2d 218 (2004), mandated that the trial judge sentence Van Dyke on the more serious offense, which was aggravated battery with a firearm. Finally, I highlighted the fact that the trial judge ignored the principal of stare decisis and Supreme Court precedent, People v. Lee, 213 Ill. 2d 218 (2004), and, instead of following the majority in Lee, relied on the dissenting opinion filed by a single justice in the Lee case.
Stare decisis, in my opinion, dictated that the Supreme Court find that petitioners sufficiently asserted that a sentencing error occurred when Lee was not followed, and that mandamus relief was appropriate. I also believed Lee dictated that this case was appropriate for the exercise of the court’s supervisory authority. We live in a time when the Rule of Law is being ignored by our leaders. Therefore, the Lee case is important because it demonstrates that I believe in stare decisis and that I am willing to stand alone or dissent when my colleagues refuse to follow the law or established court precedent.
11B. People v. Buffer, 2019 IL 122327 (opinion filed April 18, 2019).
In Buffer, defendant was sentenced to a prison term of 50 years for a shooting he committed when he was 16 years old. I authored the opinion in which the Illinois Supreme Court determined that a prison sentence that exceeds 40 years for a juvenile is a de facto life sentence in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Since Buffer’s 50-year prison sentence was greater than 40 years, the supreme court concluded that Buffer received a de facto life sentence. In addition, since Buffer received a de facto life sentence without consideration of his youth, the supreme court vacated Buffer’s sentence and remanded the case to the trial court for resentencing under the new juvenile sentencing statute. This is the most significant decision I have written in my 20 years of judicial service because it is estimated that it will affect 128 juveniles who committed serious crimes and received sentences exceeding 40 years when they were under 18.
In what way would you fill circuit court bench vacancies?
I think that the circuit court bench should be diverse. The best way to bring about diversity is to have an open and transparent process for filling vacancies. In my opinion, the most transparent vetting process for filling circuit court vacancies is the Cook County Associate Judge process. All Cook County lawyers are invited to apply for judgeships and the judicial applicants are investigated and evaluated by the 11 member Alliance of Bar Associations, by the Chicago Bar Association and interviewed by an Executive Committee composed of Circuit Court judges. The Associate Judge process is open to all, and therefore, lawyers don’t need to get permission from a Supreme Court justice or any other judge to apply for a judgeship. The evaluations of the bar associations and the Cook County Circuit Court Judges’ Executive Committee’s finalist list were very helpful in my deliberations when I was attempting to fill circuit court vacancies. When the bar associations disagree about the qualifications of a candidate I am considering for a judicial position, I have a committee that will act as a reviewing body and the committee will make a recommendation to me about the qualifications of a prospective candidate. I appointed eight lawyers to the circuit court in 2018 and 2019, and they were all unsuccessful Associate Judge applicants. In conclusion, I will continue to select my circuit court judicial appointees from the Associate Judge pool because the associate process is open to all, the applicants are rigorously investigated and scrutinized, and all lawyers will have the same opportunity to be considered for an appointment by me to a circuit court judgeship.
What would you do to improve the way the Supreme Court administers the state’s entire legal system?
The Illinois Constitution provides that “the concurrence of four (judges) is necessary for a decision”. Ill. Const. Art. VI, Section 3. Therefore, section three of the constitution makes it clear that one justice can not change the State’s legal system without the concurrence of three other justices. Ill. Const. Art. VI, Sec. 3. I have attempted to get three votes from my colleagues to make two changes to our legal system. First, I have been reminding my colleagues on the Supreme Court that approximately 70% of all civil litigants appear in court without an attorney. In civil cases, there is no sixth amendment right to counsel as there is in criminal cases.
My solution to the self-representation problem is to give Illinois lawyers 6 hours of continuing legal education credit every two years for 30 hours of work if they represent a self-represented litigant: one hour of credit for every five hours of work for a self-represented litigant. The Supreme Court is concerned about keeping track of the number of hours worked and the services performed by lawyers representing self-represented litigants. In my opinion, unless every litigant has a lawyer, the litigant does not receive due process: notice and a “meaningful opportunity to be heard.”
Second, I think that a litigants’ right to appeal is also limited unless the litigant has a transcript of the trial court proceedings. In order to get a transcript of the trial court’s proceedings, a litigant needs to hire a court reporter, who like lawyers, cost money. Most litigants don’t have money to hire court reporters or lawyers. My solution is to put recording devices in all of Illinois’ courtrooms: there are approximately 400 courtrooms (195 courtrooms in Cook County and 200 in the remainder of the State) in Illinois without court reporters or a recording device. It would be cheaper for a litigant to pay a typist to transcribe a recording. If the litigant can’t afford to have the recording transcribed, the disk could be submitted to the reviewing court. If we had recording devices in all civil courtrooms, all litigants would be able to effectuate their appeals. It should be noted that I proposed putting recording devices in courtrooms on June 15, 2018, at my swearing- in to the Supreme Court, and recording devices have been installed in Cook County’s eviction court rooms. Finally, recording devices are being installed in Illinois’ courtroom therefore, we only need the money to pay for them all over the State.
Will you ask the Legislature for more money and what would you use it for?
It would cost approximately $2,000,000 or $5,000 per courtroom to put 400 recording devices in Illinois’ 400 civil courtrooms. I will encourage my colleagues to include the $2,000,000 projected cost for putting recording devices in Illinois’ civil courtrooms in the Supreme Court’s 2020-21 budget.
Statewide, court filings are down 30%. At some point, do we need fewer judges? And are judges properly deployed now to where they are most needed? Please explain.
Statewide court filings are down 30% because people cannot afford to hire lawyers and do not understand the operation of the legal system. Court filings would increase if the Supreme Court amended its Rules and gave lawyers continuing legal education credit if the lawyer represented a self-represented litigant: (1) litigants who cannot afford to hire a lawyer to file a lawsuit, and (2) litigants who cannot hire a lawyer to defend them in collection cases, eviction cases, or in foreclosure cases.
Lawyers could help to demystify the law if they explained the legal system to those litigants who did not speak English or to those litigants who cannot read and are unable to navigate the legal system. Litigants would not be afraid to come to court if they knew they would be represented by a lawyer.
ARE JUDGES PROPERLY DEPLOYED
At this time, I think judges are properly deployed because we have specialty courts addressing the needs of citizens with special problems in counties like Cook County: (1) Drug Treatment Courts; (2) Mental Health Treatments Courts; (3) Veterans Treatment Courts; (4) an Elder Justice Center for People 60 or over; and (5) Restorative Justice Community Courts which serves North Lawndale. In conclusion, I think self-represented litigants would use Illinois’ courts if they had lawyers to represent them. Therefore, I think we should wait until the Supreme Court decides if lawyers will receive continuing legal education credit for representing self-represented litigants, who are 70% of all litigants in Illinois, before we consider reducing the number of judges.
In each term, the Supreme Court receives hundreds of petitions for leave to appeal (PLA’s). What is your guiding philosophy as to which cases the court should decide to hear?
My starting point for reviewing cases when a PLA is filed in the Supreme Court is Supreme Court Rule 315. Rule 315 requires me to consider the following:
(1) the general importance of the question presented; (2) the existence of a conflict between the decision sought to be reviewed and a decision of the Supreme Court, or of another division of the Appellate Court; (3) the need for the exercise of the Supreme Court’s supervisory authority; and (4) the final or interlocutory character of the judgment sought to be reviewed.
In addition, I also consider whether the case is one of first impression: See (In re N.G., 2018 IL 121939). Second, whether the case is one where Illinois precedent has not been followed People ex rel Raoul No. 124535 (opinion filed March 19, 2019). Third, whether the case has precedential value or is a Rule 23 which has no precedential value. Finally, I vote to allow PLA’s in cases that contain important issues that I believe the court needs to resolve.
The Illinois Reform Commission has recommended a pilot program for public financing of judicial elections. Should judicial elections be publicly financed, and why or why not?
I agree with the Illinois Reform Commission that judicial elections should be publicly financed. First, to place all candidates on the same financial footing and to prevent a candidate from having an advantage because of their financial resources.
Second, public financing would help ensure that candidates are evaluated based on their qualifications and not on the number of commercials they can afford. I have 45 years of Appellate experience and have been found highly qualified by the Chicago Bar Association, highly recommended by the Cook County Bar Association and highly qualified by the Illinois State Bar Association. My highly qualified recommendations should not be ignored. Money should not be the determining factor in who sits on the Illinois Supreme Court. If the Illinois legislature does not provide for public financing of judicial campaigns, the judiciary will be controlled by judges with money. Therefore, I clearly believe that judicial campaigns should be publicly financed.
The Illinois Supreme Court currently is overwhelmingly white. Given that, how important is the issue of diversity in this specific election?
The issue of diversity is extremely important in this election. First, it took Illinois over 172 years (1818 until 1990) to elect an African American judge to the Illinois Supreme Court. Presently, there are 23 states that do not have a judge of color and 13 states that have never had a judge of color on their Supreme Courts.
I think a diverse Circuit, Appellate and Supreme Court judiciary is important because if citizens do not think their point of view or group is being represented, we take the risk of citizens losing confidence in our courts’ decisions. Moreover, citizens will have more respect and confidence if the judiciary is diverse. Finally, diversity is important because a diverse judiciary provides Illinois citizens with a broad range of judicial philosophies which are important and necessary in solving the complex problems presented by people of all races, religions, and sexual orientations to our courts.
Many cases now being addressed by appellate courts have to do with gun possession, in part because of the state’s new concealed carry law. We also anticipate an increase in cannabis-related cases now that, as of Jan. 1, recreational marijuana will be legal but highly regulated. In light of this, do you foresee the Supreme Court being asked to redefine search-and-seizure protections? What is your view on the current restrictions on search-and-seizure?
I do not think the Supreme Court will be asked to redefine search-and-seizure protections. Search-and-seizure court rulings are not based on changes in the law (marijuana becoming legal and gun possession being permitted) but are based on our constitutions. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures but “upon probable cause.” Article I, Section 6 of the Illinois Constitution also protects people against unreasonable searches and seizures “without probable cause.”
Searches and seizures for drugs and guns will continue to be driven by whether a police officer has probable cause for stops or seizures, for searches and for arrests. In light of the fact the Second Amendment will permit people, with certain exceptions, to possess guns, and Illinois law, after January 1, 2020, will permit people to possess certain amounts of marijuana, an officer’s mere sighting of a gun or marijuana may or may not provide probable cause for the arrest: probable cause will be decided on a case by case basis. The federal and state constitutions codify the probable cause standard as the standard judges must follow in search-and-seizure cases. Therefore, without an amendment to the federal or state constitutions, courts must follow the probable cause standard codified in our constitutions.
You’re a lawyer, right? So, tell us. What’s the best movie, TV or book ever set inside a courtroom?
The best TV program in my opinion is Law and Order. The show begins with a crime being committed, shows the police investigation, shows the trial, and finally, shows plea bargaining, because 95% of all trials end in a settlement. There are also instances where Law and Order shows some aspect of the case being reviewed by a reviewing court.
Law and Order is important because each year the program deals with contemporary problems. The show explains the difficulty in finding witnesses and getting witnesses to testify. The show is realistic because the State does not always win. Therefore, in my opinion, Law and Order is a good show for a layman to watch in order to learn how our justice system works.
What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.
The historical figure I most admire is Justice R. Eugene Pincham. Justice Pincham was a mentor for most of the African American lawyers from my era. He was a member of the greatest generation and was a drum major for the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the left out and those criminal defendants who were counted out. Justice Pincham had an indomitable spirit and believed, even when he lost a case, “that there was nowhere to go with a losing case but up until the case was reversed on appeal or a PLA was denied by the Supreme Court.” Justice Pincham believed, like Oliver Wendell Holmes, that a judges’ judicial philosophy should be guided by common sense and by what the judge believed was the “right” disposition for the case. Finally, and most importantly, he believed that no person should be denied “the equal protection of the laws.”