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updated: 8/26/2011 5:06 PM

Supreme court to stop reappointing Cook judges

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Associated Press

Justices on the Illinois Supreme Court have decided to stop using their recall power to reappoint Cook County judges who have lost their elections, a spokesman said.

A Chicago Tribune review found that the Supreme Court has reappointed 18 judges to the Cook County circuit court bench since 2000 after voters rejected them. Those judges include 13 currently hearing cases.

The justices privately decided months ago that they will no longer use their "recall" power to keep such judges, spokesman Joe Tybor said. The court's three Chicago justices decided this spring to reexamine the practice, Tybor said.

The Tribune reported Friday that the court also promised to end the practice nearly 20 years ago but did not.

"We believe this (practice) is not authorized by the Illinois Constitution," said Malcolm Rich, executive director of the Chicago Council of Lawyers, which pushed for change in 1993.

Rich said he hoped the court follows through this time.

The state Constitution gives the Illinois Supreme Court the power to appoint judges, including those who have retired, if their services are needed because another judge has died or retired.

In Cook County, however, the court had stretched that rule to include judges who have lost elections. Those judges often are repeatedly reappointed and serve without having to face voters again, the Tribune reported.

Tybor told The Associated Press that the judges reappointed under the recall policy were found qualified by bar associations. "Many of them were very good judges," he said.

He said the policy also allowed the court to contribute to the diversity of the bench by appointing minorities.