Dartesia A. Pitts, Attorney at Law - Dartesia A. Pitts, Esq. Dartesia A. Pitts, Esq.
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13 Mar

Dotty’s List: Navigating the Judicial Candidate Ballot

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.

Every election season, I get phone calls, emails and text messages from friends and family asking for guidance on the judicial ballot. It’s ALWAYS a tough ballot to navigate and especially when you don’t know the candidates. Many judges don’t campaign like the other candidates which makes it difficult for the everyday voter to know them. I am an 8 year practicing attorney who is very active within the Bar and I have substantial courtroom experience. However, even I don’t know ALL the judicial candidates. This is my attempt to help you make your selections in the voting booth.

Prior to going into the polls, I recommend going to the Cook County Clerk’s website and uploading your sample ballot. This will make it easier for you to know who is going to be on your ballot and research them prior to entering the poll.


Member Bar Associations of the Alliance of Bar Associations publish their list of recommended judicial candidates. The Alliance of Bar Associations is comprised of 11 different Bar Associations in Chicago. Judicial candidates who decide to go through this process are interviewed, investigated, and rated.

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” by the Bar Associations. So, many, who don’t meet this criteria, decide NOT to get evaluated because it technically won’t help their rating. They will get a “Not Recommended” regardless of their evaluation. In addition, these published rating lists don’t give you guidance to how to select in contested seats. The ratings are specific to the candidates’ individual legal history and are not partisan. Example, if you have two candiates,= running against each other who both had great evaluations, then their “Recommended” ratings don’t help you decipher who to vote for. Ultimately, what many voters tend to do is a) vote for no one or b) blindly vote for one of the candidates.

Every member Bar Association has their own set criteria for rating a candidate. If you look at the Illinois State Bar Association’s published judicial ratings and compare them to the Cook County Bar Association’s 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!


Both the power to vote and to choose your judges are very necessary. Although the judicial voting process may seeme onerous, the process allows for democracy and diversity on the bench. The diversity in which I speak is the diversity in thought, diversity in views, diversity in culture and diversity in gender. So, be an informed voter and don’t take this power or choice lightly.


Here are my personal endorsements for the 2014 contested judical elections. There really is no point, to me, to endorse someone who is running unopposed unless they have CLEARLY demonstrated that they lack integrity and the requisite knowledge to serve. I also did not endorse anyone for some of the contested judicial elections because I, personally, don’t know any of the candidates. My recommendations are based on my personal interaction with or knowledge about the candidate I endorsed. You don’t have to go by my ensorsements. The point of this is to encourage people to vote and for those who vote to be informed.

Again, I recommend that you research all candidates to make your own determination. You can start with the Cook County Bar Association’s list for further research.

Judge of the Appellate Court (Vacancy of Gordon)
Freddrenna M. Lyle

Hands down. Without a doubt. She is my candidate of choice. She is a current sitting judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County. She is the former Alderman of the 6th Ward of Chicago and served in that position for 13 years. She is a past president of the Cook County Bar Association and a past board member of the National Bar Association. She is a leader and definitely one I admire. In addition, she was “Higly Recommended” by the Cook County Bar Assocition and she is the Democratic Party endorsed candidate.

Judge of the Appellate Court (Vacancy of Steele)
Sharon Oden Johnson

Judge of the Circuit Court (Vacancy of Arnold)
Alfred M. Swanson, Jr

Judge of the Circuit Court (Vacancy of Connors)
Kristal Rivers

Judge of the Circuit Court (Vacancy of McDonald)
Cynthia Cobb

Judge of the Circuit Court (Vacancy of Neville, Jr)
Mary Alice Melchor

Judge of the Circuit Court (Vacancy of Hill Veal)
Andrea Michele Buford

Again, hands down, without a doubt, my endorsement. Judge Buford is currently sitting on the bench. She is a past president of the Cook County Bar Association and the Democratic Party endorsed candidate. She was one of the first lawyers I met when I began practicing. She’s always been reasonable and fair. She sets her leadership by example and is highly respected in the Bar.

Judge, 2nd Subcircuit (Vacancy of O’Neal)
Nyshana Sumner

Judge, 3rd Subcircuit (Vacancy of Donnelly)
Terrance J. McGuire

Judge, 7th Subcircuit (Vacancy of Taylor)
Marianne Jackson

Judge, 10th Subcircuit (Additional Judgeship A)
Anthony C. “Tony” Kyriakopoulos

Judge, 11th Subcircuit (Additional Judgeship A)
Pamela McLean Meyerson

I practiced as opposing counsel against attorney Meyerson on a case. She was fair, reasonable and followed the law.

Judge, 15th Subcircuit (Vacancy of Sterba)
Sondra Denmark

Again, hands down my choice. Attorney Denmark and I went to law school together. She was a leader there and I know she can serve well as a judge!

I hope this list helps you. Happy voting!

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