It’s time for a better way to elect Illinois judges
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Voters have once again gone through the charade of voting for judges. There were 54 names on the judicial retention ballot. Is there anyone, other than some lawyers and litigants (and their friends and neighbors), who might have appeared before any of these judges and thus have useful information or knowledge about their record, impartiality, honesty, demeanor, qualifications, or even their age and current physical condition?
Except for citizenship, bar admission and local residency, the Illinois Constitution and laws do not set any standards for experience and professional accomplishment to be a judge. In Cook County, a political label and partisan slating are the pathway to a judgeship and retention.
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How many voters had the patience, the stamina, or the desire to conscientiously mark the ballot line by line for those 54 largely unknown people ? For many, it was most likely just a game of identifying their race, ethnicity or religion by their names, then choosing who to identify with.
Ideally, judicial candidates and judges up for retention should be chosen in a separate judicial election without any suggestion of political party identification. The number of names on the judicial ballot at any one time should be significantly limited, and notice of the election should always include a useful short biography and curriculum vitae of the candidates, prepared by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.
When the 1970 Illinois Constitution was submitted to the voters, it included the options of administrative screening and appointment of judges or selection by general election. Perhaps it is time to reconsider those choices and adopt a better system.
Herb Caplan, retired attorney, Lake View
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