A week ago, on the eve of early voting/mail-in ballot season, I encouraged readers to learn about the three Illinois Supreme Court elections.
Reader Ed S., of Sycamore, doesn’t live in one of those districts but did find judicial branch names on his ballot. He wrote, in part, “I am called upon to vote on the retention of two appellate court justices, Ann B. Jorgensen and Mary S. Schostok. … Have you any suggestions on how I can go about informing myself so that I may make reasoned decisions on these judges?”
I do! The first place to look is the Illinois State Bar Association’s judicial evaluations landing page, isba.org/judicialevaluations. The lawyers’ group aims to provide evaluations or poll ratings — both in the case of Supreme and Appellate candidates outside Cook County. ISBA assembles the ratings following “an in-depth review of candidates.” Also included are Judicial Advisory Poll Ratings, which are the opinions only of lawyers who respond and not the ISBA as an organization.
Click on the “view all ratings by county” option, then find your county and open a PDF to see which races are on your ballot. This way you don’t need to know your judicial district or circuit, although the documents will give you that information while also explaining what other counties are involved with the judges you’re considering.
Taking Ed’s district as an example, Jorgensen is listed first, then Schostok (the ISBA recommends retaining both) with brief professional histories and an explanation of the evaluations committee’s process. In addition to written applications, the committee interviewed other judges and “numerous attorneys from various areas of practice” directly familiar with each justice.
The advisory poll also is listed. Though self-selected samples, it’s interesting to see how each woman rated in eight categories: meets requirements of office, integrity, impartiality, legal ability, temperament, court management, health and sensitivity.
Unfortunately, the document is not exhaustive. DeKalb and Kendall county voters will consider Jody Gleason, who filled a vacancy left by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Timothy McCann’s July 2019 retirement and now is seeking a six-year term. The advisory poll says nothing about Gleason, so voters are left to turn elsewhere.
Other circuits also are incomplete, such as the 19th (Lake County), with 106 responses to recommend Christopher Morozin, but no rating for opponent Marnie Slavin. Yet both 19th retention candidates are rated. In the eight categories, Valerie Ceckowski’s scores ranged from 97.12 to 98.15. James Booras was as low as 77 and only broke past 88.12 in health (92.71), but both are recommended for retention.
County bar associations also are good resources. Such research is time-consuming, but worth the effort, for those who want to cast informed ballots.
• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.