2022 Election Primary

Election 2022: Three Democrats vie to be appellate judge in 2nd District

Winner will go on to face Republican candidate in the fall in district that includes McHenry, Lake, DeKalb, Kane and Kendall counties

The candidates for the appellate court’s 2nd District include, from left to right, Lake County Judge Christopher Kennedy, attorney Michael G. Cortina and Lake County Circuit Clerk Erin Cartwright Weinstein.

This is the 10th in a series of articles outlining competitive races in McHenry County ahead of the June 28 primary. Check out nwherald.com/election for more election coverage.

Read about the McHenry County Board District 2 candidates running in the Democratic primary here, Republicans running in District 3 here, Republicans running in District 4 here, Republicans running in District 5 here, Republicans running in District 6 here, Democratic candidates for county clerk here, Republicans running in the 35th Illinois Senate District here, Democrats running for the Illinois Supreme Court here and Republicans here.

The three Democrats running to join Illinois’ appellate courts include a candidate who, if he wins, would be the first Hispanic appellate judge; a Lake County judge who has written laws protecting people with disabilities; and the Lake County circuit clerk who said she would ensure “equitable access to justice.”

The candidates for the appellate court’s 2nd District include attorney Michael G. Cortina, Lake County Judge Christopher Kennedy and Lake County Circuit Clerk Erin Cartwright Weinstein.

They are vying for the vacant seat of Judge Michael Burke, a Republican who was appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court in March 2020 to fill a vacancy left by Judge Robert Thomas.

The winner of the June 28 primary will go on to face Kane County Judge Susan Clancy Boles, a Republican, in the general election Nov. 8.

The 2nd District includes DeKalb, Kendall, Kane, McHenry and Lake counties.

An objection was filed against Cartwright Weinstein with the state electoral board questioning her name and her law license. The board dismissed the objection, and a court upheld that decision Friday, according to state records and the Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman.

Michael G. Cortina

This is the first time Cortina has run for public office.

He is the only Hispanic candidate running for a bench serving in a district made up of 25% Hispanic residents. The district has not had a Hispanic judge, something he said “needs to change.”

Cortina, who said he has “a passion for the law” and an “unrelenting need to find answers,” has been a prosecutor and defense attorney before juries and judges in criminal and civil cases.

He began his legal career in 1998 as an assistant state’s attorney in Whiteside County prosecuting traffic and misdemeanor cases. He also conducted reviews of felony cases.

In 2000, he joined Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle as an associate attorney working in a variety of areas, including municipal law, traffic prosecution, commercial law, real estate law, bankruptcy and banking.

Cortina began his own law firm in 2006 in Crystal Lake, which has since merged with SmithAmundsen. Today, he is co-chair of the firm’s financial services group and a partner.

Cortina, who has been married for more than 25 years and has two adult daughters, is the son of a certified public accountant and a man who fled Cuba and became a U.S. citizen and attorney.

He said there needs to be a diverse panel of judges, and his legal experience, love for researching and writing about the law and sense of curiosity make him the perfect fit for appellate judge.

“We do not need an appellate court judge that is looking to rise in the ranks,” Cortina said. “We need someone who loves researching and writing about the law. I am that someone.”

Christopher Kennedy

The Lake County judge is a married father of three adult children living in Libertyville, where he has served as a longtime school board member.

He was raised in a blue-collar family. His grandparents were Irish immigrants, and one of his first jobs was at the age of 14 as an onion farmer in upstate New York.

From 2003 to 2009, Kennedy was on the board of the Autism Society of Illinois and volunteered as its legislative director. He has lobbied for laws helping those living with disabilities, ensuring they receive much-needed financial assistance and can afford medical care and medicine vital to live their lives, he said.

He described himself as “diligent, considerate and persistent,” and said he has had a long law career as a defense attorney, prosecutor and judge.

“I have tried cases both as a lawyer and as a judge, seeing all sides of many different types of matters, which has given me perspective and a deep appreciation for the great breadth and diversity of the law and those affected by it,” he said.

Kennedy began working as a prosecutor in the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office after passing the bar in 1994. While there, he tried numerous jury and bench trials, including many violent felony cases.

After several years as a prosecutor, he went to a firm in Chicago to try catastrophic personal injury cases. His experience includes defending verdicts on appeal, writing briefs and arguing before the Illinois Appellate Court.

After forming a firm with a partner in 2004, he argued on cases defending clients involved in personal injury, wrongful termination and contract cases.

“I ... understand the challenges ordinary families face, including some of the most difficult, like supporting a child with special needs,” Kennedy said. “As an appellate court judge, I will apply the law knowledgeably, correctly and fairly, without forgetting the people affected by our rulings.”

Erin Cartwright Weinstein

With fairness, impartial views and a diverse background gained in almost 17 years of practicing law, Cartwright Weinstein said that if she is elected, she will continue to ensure equitable access to justice for all.

“I will listen to every point of view and apply the law to my decisions,” Cartwright Weinstein said. “I am willing to disagree if I believe my decision is the correct decision. Access to justice is an ongoing issue that should continue to be discussed at all levels of the judicial system.”

From 2000 to 2004, Weinstein, born and raised in Michigan, worked in the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office before opening her own practice. She also worked for a period “in more complex family law litigation” while at Chausow Shafer in Highland Park.

She was elected as the Lake County circuit clerk in 2016 and won her reelection bid in 2020.

“I am a strong woman with experience in various areas of the law,” she said. “I have been able to view the court system as a litigator, fighting for my clients or prosecuting for the county, and as an administrator within the court system as circuit court clerk.

“I know how to prepare and argue a case, and I can provide business flows to make the court system run more efficiently. I work with self-represented litigants, and I understand how complicated the court system is and how we need to focus on access to justice issues.”

Cartwright Weinstein said she also has testified before the Illinois House of Representatives, implemented laws passed by the Legislature and followed the orders entered by the Illinois Supreme Court.

“It is a very different view when you have to look at a law neutrally and determine how to implement it versus being the litigator who argues to the court as to the reasons why the law is on their side or distinguishable from their side,” Cartwright Weinstein said. “All of these perspectives give me a diverse background to bring to the bench. I will be impartial and compassionate. But I am willing to be the dissent if I believe that is the right decision.”

Amanda Marrazzo

Amanda Marrazzo is a staff reporter for Shaw Media who has written stories on just about every topic in the Northwest Suburbs including McHenry County for nearly 20 years.