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Judge Elizabeth Flood, a Republican, and her opponent, Brittany Pedersen, a Democrat, both point to different experiences and qualifications as they seek to be elected in the Nov. 3 General Election.
Flood, formerly an associate judge, was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by Robert Spence, who is now running for Kane County State’s Attorney. Her appointment runs out on Election Day.
Among the issues Flood has raised are her opponent’s past DUI charges.
“Certainly, people deserve second chances,” Flood had said at an Oct. 1 candidate Zoom forum hosted by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce.
“We are the ones imposing the law, upholding the law. We are looked upon to be the moral high ground in a lot of ways: Telling other people what they are expected to do,” Flood had said. "We are the ones at the front of the courtroom, setting the tone, not losing our temper, being composed and telling others to keep cool and follow procedures. The question of what role the judge has – they have to be the example for others as well as upholding the law.”
To a question asking how she would handle members of the public charged the same as she had been, Pedersen stated in an email, “What my experience cemented for me is just how important the presumption of innocence is.”
“Being arrested does not make one guilty. I was not found guilty of DUI nor did I plead guilty to DUI. The cynical attempt by my opponent to deceive voters to presume arrest equals guilt should disqualify her from ever being given the awesome responsibility of serving the people of Kane County as a judge,” Pedersen’s email stated.
Flood’s campaign literature points out that Pedersen was charged with driving under the influence in 2003 in Chicago, and in Kane County in 2016, and with driving on a suspended license in 2004.
“It’s not a deception to say she was charged twice with DUI because she was,” Flood said. “Both times, she was lucky to be represented by a private attorney and plead guilty to a reduced charge of reckless driving. This is a standard plea agreement for a first-time offender, but Ms. Pedersen was given that opportunity twice.”
Court records in Kane and Cook counties show that Pedersen was not prosecuted for DUI in either case because she pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving and received supervision. Pedersen pleaded guilty to the driving on a suspended license charge, paid a fine and received 12 months of supervision, court records show.
Pedersen also completed a drug and alcohol evaluation and recommendations as required by the court in connection with the 2016 charge.
“This evaluation is required in the vast majority of traffic related cases where alcohol may be an alleged factor, whether or not proven,” Pedersen’s email stated.
“I am thankful for having had the opportunity to educate myself about how alcohol and drugs can negatively impact our lives and to recognize problematic patterns in the choices that we make,” Pedersen’s email stated. “In both individual and group sessions, I benefited from listening to the stories and realities of other members of our community who were addressing their issues and looking to better themselves.”
In doing so, Pedersen’s email stated that, “I had the rare opportunity that most lawyers and judges never do: to experience a process that so many defendants do.”
“I have a greater understanding of what this aspect of treatment based sentencing and the value that it truly has, which will make me a better, more thoughtful jurist,” Pedersen’s email stated. “I will be elected because I am the only candidate in this race with the professional and life experience to treat every defendant, victim, witness and attorney that appears before me with dignity, respect and fairness without biased judgment.”
Flood disputed Pedersen's characterization.
“We need judges who will understand the law and uphold the law; breaking the law is not a qualification,” Flood said. "We need people with good judgment in and out of the courtroom.”
According to her campaign website, Pedersen was licensed as an attorney in 2009 and is owner and managing partner of the Law Offices of Pedersen, Campbell & Irvin, Ltd. in Aurora. From 2009 to 2012, she was an assistant public defender in Kane County.
Flood said she has 25 years of legal experience – seven years as a Kane County criminal prosecutor, 10 years in the civil division and eight years as a judge in Kane County, the last five years in family court.