Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
City: Oak Park
Office sought: Cook County Circuit Court (Stewart vacancy)
Family: Married, four children.
Education: Bachelor of Arts and Doctorate of Juris Prudence.
Civic involvement: Ascension Catholic Church Parish Council, Women's Bar, Asian American Bar, Asian American Coalition of Chicago, Book Club, Block Club, International Sister Cities Program, (I am on the board of Sister City Lahore, Pakistan/ Chicago Committee). I did volunteer work at women's shelter, PADS, Hurricane Relief Fund, Greater Chicago Food Depository, Appalachian Service Project, just to name a few. I received the Community Service award from the former Mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley.
Elected offices held: Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
As a sitting judge I am bound to follow the law of the State of Illinois; as set forth in the Illinois Statutes, and interpreted by case-law precedent. I will uphold the law, apply it to the facts presented, in a fair way, with an understanding of my community and based on my extensive experience as a practicing attorney for 20 years. I believe in my duty to uphold respect for the Court, and demand orderly process. I also treat everyone who appears before me with dignity and respect, and I show compassion when needed. Cases need to be addressed in a timely fashion, resolved for review, and leaving those parties involved, regardless of the outcome, feeling that that they have had a chance to make their arguments and that they were treated fairly and with respect.
Key Issue 2
To introduce myself, my qualifications, and my judicial experience to as many voters as possible. I am confident that voters will give me their support if they are informed of my credentials.
Key Issue 3
Please vote for qualified judges on March 20, 2012. please vote for me, Judge Pamela M. Leeming,so that I may continue to serve you as a circuit court judge.
Do you favor the appointment of judges or do you prefer the election process' Please explain your answer.
I see the merit of preserving an elected process driven ultimately by informed voters at large, but consisting of a small group of qualified candidates - those having more to offer than having been granted a law license following a written test. As we all know, most citizens have little direct involvement in the courts; few get arrested, and rarely expose themselves to the criminal justice system. They also tend to not inform themselves of the qualifications of elected candidates. As a consequence, it is not likely that the general public will be more informed in the future. I am interested in other possible ways to narrow the choices of candidates, to a short list of minimally competent people, who have been pre-screened; perhaps by a committee of academic and political, bar associations and practicing attorneys. Such a revised election system would screen out unqualified candidates, who have demonstrated their lack of temperament, expertise, or experience. The legal community in in the best place to assess a judge's qualification, and judicial demeanor.
I would add, that participating in a county-wide election process, has permitted me the opportunity to visit organized citizens from all corners of the County. This experience has been demanding of my time, but has had many benefits, meeting and listening to constituencies and their different views on various issues.
What special qualifications or experiences make you the best person to serve as a judge?
I have documented experience as having successfully done the job; I am currently a sitting judge. None of other opposing candidates have demonstrated judicial experience. I also do not believe any other candidate in the race has as extensive a legal resume. I have represented clients and conducted litigation on cases before juries, the Appellate Court, the Illinois Supreme Court and the Federal District Court. I am qualified, able, and I am already doing the job that I seek in this election. I can also say that I have found it very rewarding to function as a mentor and an inspiration to many young women who are considering stepping into the legal community as a profession.
Before I became a judge I practiced law for 20 years. I have experience in civil and criminal courts throughout Cook County: bench trials, jury trials, misdemeanor - felony, juvenile justice, domestic violence, bond court, marriage/civil union Court, and drug court. I specialized in appellate litigation in reviewing courts; Illinois Appellate Court, First District, Illinois Supreme Court, United States Federal Court / Northern District, United States Seventh Circuit Court of Review and I filed a Writ in the United States Supreme Court.
I I have been an instructor, a moderator, a panelist, and a speaker for various bar associations and law schools. I have mentored law students, conducted workshops for young attorney career development and for continuing education. I have conducted Law School Moot Court, Mock Trial, and an ethics panel to name just a few.
I have been found Qualified or Recommended to serve as a judge by the following bar associations and committees: The Illinois Supreme Court - Screening Committee. Chicago Bar Association,
Illinois State Bar Association Cook County Bar Association Chicago Council of Lawyers Women's Bar Association Asian American Bar Association Black Womens' Lawyers Association Gay and Lesbian Bar Association Decalogue Society of Lawyers Puerto Rican Bar Association Hispanic Bar Association Hellenic Bar Association
What are your thoughts on mandatory sentencing? Do you believe judges should have greater leeway when it comes to sentencing defendants' Why or why not?
As I I understand it, mandatory sentencing was developed out of exasperation with decisions of few incompetent individual judges - who could not be trusted to do the right thing. The way to solve this problem, ultimately is to have only reasonably qualified people serve as judges. That being said, I
like the concept of setting parameters, to a degree, so that there will be parity and consistency in sentencing. But in some cases, the guidelines have taken away proper judicial discretion. Mandatory guidelines have 'tied the hands of all judges' and forced them to be too severe imposing long sentences, beyond what most people would find necessary, which besides imposing an injustice, puts a strain on jail resources, burdening them to house
non-violent offenders. Good judges do not need mandatory sentence guidelines, And bad judges usually find a way around them. No two defendants (or cases) are alike and it is unwieldy to anticipate every contingent to design a grid for setting guidelines. There is an appellate process to correct manifest errors in excessive sentencing
What are your thoughts on the use of drug courts, domestic violence courts, veterans courts, mental health courts and prostitution courts' Have they been effective?
I have worked in most of these types of courts; paternity, women's court (prostitution) , domestic violence, etc. These specialty courts; which are designed to develop expertise in all courtroom personnel in a specific area of law. Judges and attorneys can work there, function as an expert, then be rotated throughout the system to avoid stagnation and burn out. . The drug courts have shifted the focus to treatment and education for addicts rather than incarceration. The domestic violence courts are geared to provide long term solutions; in addition to incarceration, defendants are sentenced to domestic violence classes and counseling, anger management classes,drug and or alcohol evaluation, and even psychological evaluation when required. Veteran courts, mental health and prostitution courts offer alternatives to incarceration. They offer help(treatment programs, financial help and shelter through help from other agencies,and therapy/counseling)to a vulnerable portion of our population who are often victims of mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction. This in turn has cut recidivism rates in the prison population, and in the long run has benefited the tax payers as it costs more to house a prisoner than to rehabilitate him into a productive citizen. These alternative sentences should be for non-violent offenders or where the violence has not caused death or serious bodily injury.
Do you support eliminating the ban on cameras and recording devices in Illinois courtrooms' Why or why not?
Yes. The courtrooms are technically open, and should be made available as a practical matter. Given the ease of accomplishing this, the proceedings should be made fully open to the public. Cameras are an extension of the public's right to know what is going on with our justice/court system. In our Society, cameras would not be seen as a distraction to the litigants. (there would be a short list of exceptions including those protections necessary to shield jurors , and very young witnesses or complainants, whose identity should remain private for their safety).