Dartesia A. Pitts, Attorney at Law - Dartesia A. Pitts, Esq. Dartesia A. Pitts, Esq.
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02 Nov

#DottysList: Judicial Guidance for the 2016 IL General Elections




Here is my guide to the 2016 Illinois General Election for the Cook County Judicial elections. You can check out my previous lists here.




First things first, I encourage you to visit the website of your local voting authority and upload the sample ballot from your district. This will let you know who will appear on your ballot and who you will vote. Research the candidates before you go into the ballot to cast your vote because there are too many important issues pending in our city and county to simply vote blindly. Here are links to obtain your sample ballots:


Understanding the Judicial Evaluations


Most Bar Associations issue their own judicial ratings for the candidates. The Chicago Bar Association (CBA) has a separate evaluation process for the judicial candidates and they issue their ratings on their website. A special association, the Alliance Bar Associations for Judicial Screening*, which comprises 11 local and state bar associations, joins forces to evaluate the judicial candidates as well. Historically, the latter alliance was formed to ensure and promote diversity in judicial screening.


Both processes involve judicial candidates applying via a standard application asking extensive questions about their legal career, personal life and health. The candidates’ applications are then reviewed and investigated by the evaluating committee. The candidates then face a group interview with their fellow attorney colleagues who issue their ratings based on established criteria, like temperament, knowledge, bias, etc. Every member Bar Association has their own set criteria for rating a candidate. If you look at the Illinois State Bar Association’s (ISBA) published judicial ratings and compare them to the Cook County Bar Association’s (CCBA) — the nation’s oldest association of Black judges and lawyers in the country– published judicial ratings, you will see that they disagree on certain candidates. Again, that contrasting recommendation won’t help the average person. It actually is quite confusing especially when you don’t “know” the candidate!


It is to be noted that some judicial candidates opt out of the evaluation process for various reasons. Voters should evaluate those candidates on a case-by-case basis as each candidates reasoning is different. Even though the intent is to help the voters vote for qualified judges, this rating method does not completely help the average person. For example, typically, judicial candidates who have been practicing law for less than 10 years are automatically given a rating of “Not Recommended” (NR or NQ) by some Bar Associations. So, many who don’t meet this criteria, decide NOT to apply for evaluations because they will be granted a “Not Recommended” despite their experience or potential individual contribution to the bench.


Although not as confusing in the General Elections, these published rating lists won’t give you guidance on who to select in contested races. The evaluations are specific to the candidates and are not partisan. Example, if you have two candidates, running against each other who both received ratings of “Recommended”, then who should get your vote when you don’t know either? Ultimately, what many voters tend to do is a) vote for no one or b) blindly vote for one of the candidates.


Please note that the Bar Associations don’t always agree on the ratings of judicial candidates. For example, one retention candidate threw a Defendant’s cell phone against the wall when it rang… in open court. That’s just one of many temperament concerns for that judge. The CCBA did not endorse that particular judge but other Bar Associations did.


Here are links to judicial evaluations by some of the Bar associations.



Summary of the General Election — Illinois 2016


The general election judicial ballot isn’t as bad as you think it is.
On the first part of your ballot, the judicial candidates will appear from their respective parties (Democrat or Republican). Since this is Cook County, most of the judicial Democrats are running unopposed.
On the second part of the judicial ballot, you have Cook County circuit judges who are seeking retention.  There are plenty on your ballot.  These are judges who have previously been elected to the Cook County bench and now are asking you to allow them to continue serving.  You will vote “YES” or “NO” for each candidate. The Bar Associations, including the CCBA, have done a lot of  research for you and the ratings are based on such.  I’ve attached the CCBA list as well as some of the other lists from the Alliance Bar Association (where CCBA and ISBA are members) and the CBA for your review for comparison.


Lastly, there is a high profile contested race pending in the 1st Judicial sub-circuit. This will affect you if you live on the far south side and south suburbs. The circumstances surrounding this matter are unusual and confusing for the voters.  The current candidate, Crawford, is barred from running by the Illinois Supreme Court although her name will appear on your ballot for the Hopkins Vacancy.  On your ballot, she appears to be running unopposed but she is not.  The Illinois Supreme Court granted a  petition to allow a write-in candidate to run.  The write-in candidate is Maryam Ahmad, who is currently a sitting judge who lost in the 1st sub-circuit primary in March.  To validate this vote for Ahmad, you must spell the write-in’s name correctly.  Here are some newspaper articles on that matter for your review so that you may assess for yourself.




We live in a democracy which means our leadership is chosen by the people.

We live in a democracy which means our leadership is chosen by the people.


–For the first part of your ballot, I support all the democratic judicial candidates in the general election except Crawford, 1st Judicial Sub-circuit (Hopkins Vacancy), who is barred from serving based on a recent ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court. I support the write-in Candidate Maryam Ahmad. Please spell her name correctly. The 1st sub-circuit is the far south side and south suburbs. If you live in that area, this will directly affect you!

–As it relates to the judges up for retention, please vote “NO” for the following:

Daniel Joseph Lynch
Irwin L. Soganik
Charles Patrick Burns

–Vote “Yes” to all the other listed judges on your ballot up for retention




The General Election is a lot easier for the voters because they are mostly uncontested (please refer to the section above).  So, I am giving special recognition to some of the judicial candidates and judges I know personally, have worked with, appeared before or been mentored by!  From my own experience, I can attest to their knowledge, temperament and sensitivity to diversity.


County Wide Circuit Judicial Races special recognition  


(all running unopposed except Ahmad)


(Vacancy of Biebel, Jr.) — Circuit Wide
John Fitzgerald Lyke, Jr.


(Vacancy of Hogan) — Circuit Wide
Alison C. Conlan


(Vacancy of Vanessa Hopkins) — 1st Sub-Circuit
Maryam Ahmad


(Vacancy of Savage) — 2nd Sub-Circuit
D. Renee Jackson


(Vacancy of Eadie-Daniels) — 5th Sub-Circuit
Leonard Murray


(Vacancy of Stuart) — 5th Sub-Circuit
Freddrena M. Lyle


(Vacancy of Williams) — 5th Sub-Circuit
Daryl Jones


(Vacancy of Berman) — 9th Sub-Circuit
Jerry Esrig


Judicial Retention  — “YES” votes special recognition
Chief Judge Timothy Evans
Appellate Court Justice Joy Virginia Cunningham
Judge Sophia H. Hall
Judge Vincent Michael Gaughan
Judge Robert W. Bertucci
Judge Cheryl Ingram
Judge Arnette Hubbard
Judge Leroy K. Martin, Jr.
Judge Edward “Ed” Washington, II
Judge Thaddeus L. Wilson
Judge William H. Hooks
Judge John P. Callahan, Jr.
Judge Bonita Coleman
Judge Sharon O. Johnson


*The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening is comprised of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area (AABA), Black Women’s Lawyers Association of Greater Chicago (BWLA), Chicago Council of Lawyers (CCL),  Cook County Bar Association (CCBA), Decalogue Society of Lawyers (DSL), Hellenic Bar Association (HBA),  Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI), Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA),  Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago (LAGBAC), Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois (PRBA), and  Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI), working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois.



My most favorite dissenter, Justice Thurgood Marshall.

My most favorite dissenter, Justice Thurgood Marshall.

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