County watchdog champing at the bench

Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard made it to the short list of 44 finalists for a spot as an associate judge, a job he called “a lifelong ambition.”

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Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard in outside his Loop office in 2012.

Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard in outside his Loop office in 2012.

Tom Cruze/Sun-Times file

Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard isn’t scheduled to leave his post until next year, but the governmental watchdog is already sniffing out a new job.

Blanchard made it to the short list of 44 finalists for a spot as an associate judge, Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans’ office announced Tuesday.

He said a seat on the bench has been a “lifelong ambition, a natural progression to what interests me: government, integrity and the rule of law.”

“It is a good job,” Blanchard said. “They do wonderful work. They do wonderful things. That’s where the rubber meets the road when it comes to human relations.”

Before being named the county’s first independent inspector general in 2008, Blanchard spent about 15 years as an assistant Cook County state’s attorney. While working as a prosecutor, he pursued becoming an associate judge “a couple of times” but fell short, he said.

Nearing the end of his second six-year term, Blanchard announced last September that he would be stepping down from the watchdog post next year after serving a special two-year term to assist officials as they look for a replacement.

Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard in his office in 2012.

Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard in his office in 2012.

Tom Cruze/Sun-Times file

At the time, he said providing “a long period of time to allow the search and reappointment process to take place” was “good government.”

In the meantime, Blanchard was one of 225 applicants for associate judgeships that Evans’ nominating committee interviewed over a 10-week period before unanimously selecting the 44 finalists, according to a news release from Evans’ office.

Within two weeks, a secret ballot with the names of the finalists will be mailed to the 249 Cook County Circuit Court judges who will then vote on which of the 44 candidates they want to fill the 22 vacancies the court currently has open.

The candidates, including Blanchard, will spend the next few weeks presenting their credentials to the Circuit Court judges.

“Any one of these talented and capable candidates will be an asset to the bench if ultimately elected by the circuit judges,” Evans said in the news release.

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