Before voting to retain Judge Kenneth J. Wadas, consider his troubling record

Decisions by Wadas have been reversed 25 times by the Illinois Appellate Court in the past six years, nearly twice as often as the combined total of the other five criminal judges running for retention.

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Cook County Circuit Judge Kenneth J. Wadas

Sun-Times Media

Early voting is good for democracy. The more time people have to vote, the more they can and will.

But there are downsides. Most obviously, things can change. Between the first day of early voting and Election Day, new information can crop up that might lead voters to reconsider their choices.

With that in mind, for the benefit of those who have yet to vote in Cook County, we’d like to call attention to the troubling record of one circuit judge on the November ballot, Kenneth J. Wadas, as first reported Sunday in the Sun-Times.

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Judges up for retention, such as Wadas, almost always get retained, given that they need the approval of only 60% of those who cast ballots for or against them. But that’s no reason not to size them up.

As reported in the Sun-Times by John Seasly of Injustice Watch, judicial decisions by Wadas have been reversed 25 times by the Illinois Appellate Court in the past six years, nearly twice as often as the combined total of the other five criminal judges running for retention this year. Appeals courts found that Wadas frequently disregards a law that prevents excessive sentencing and incorrectly dismissed prisoners’ claims of errors during their trials.

A typical bad decision by Wadas was his sentencing to 100 years in prison, effectively a life sentence, of a young man who had committed murder at age 16. A federal appellate court ruled that Wadas had failed to take the offender’s age into consideration, which is required by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that “children are different.”

Wadas’ response to the appellate court’s reversal was to grouse about it and re-sentence the offender to 39 years in prison — just a year short of the toughest sentence allowed. “The gun made him older,” Wadas said of the offender.

There’s a good argument Wadas, though approved for retention by all the major local bar associations, never should have been elected to the bench in the first place in 1996.

As an assistant state’s attorney in the 1980s, Injustice Watch found, he was involved in multiple cases in which prosecutorial misconduct led to appellate reversals. The Illinois Appellate Court called his tactics “an insult to the court and to the dignity of the trial bar.”

We urge you to read the entire Injustice Watch report about Wadas and three other judges on the ballot — Margaret Ann Brennan, Patrick J. Sherlock and Anna Helen Demacopoulos — whose rulings have been reversed on appeal more than three times as often as their colleagues.

And vote accordingly.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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