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updated: 2/10/2012 4:54 PM

Michael Forti: Candidate Profile

Cook County Circuit Court (Simmons, Jr. vacancy) (Democrat)

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  • Michael Forti, running for Cook County Circuit Court (Simmons, Jr. vacancy)

      Michael Forti, running for Cook County Circuit Court (Simmons, Jr. vacancy)

 

 

 

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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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A

 

Bio

City: Chicago

Website: michaelfortiforjudge.com

Office sought: Cook County Circuit Court (Simmons, Jr. vacancy)

Age: 57

Family: Single, partnered with Daniel Joseph for 14 years, no children

Occupation: Deputy Corporation Counsel, City of Chicago Department of Law

Education: B.A., Political Science (with honors), George Washington University, 1975 J.D., Northwestern University School of Law, 1980

Civic involvement: Music of the Baroque AIDS Legal Council of Illinois St. Clement's Church, parishioner

Elected offices held: None

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

My Number 1 campaign issue is to persuade voters that they should vote for the most qualified judicial candidate for the 'Simmons' vacancy.

I believe that my 30-plus years of experience eclipses the experience of my opponents, and it makes me the clear choice.

Since graduation from the Northwestern University School of Law in 1980, I have practiced in both the private and public sectors.

I developed my skills as a litigator first in private practice at a large Loop law firm, Bell Boyd & Lloyd, now known as KL Gates, where I eventually became an equity partner.

For the past 17 years as a Deputy Corporation Counsel in the City of Chicago's Law Department, I have honed my skills as a litigator and have been lead counsel on many cases of local and national interest.

These cases include the defense of the City of Chicago's ban on cell phones while driving, the legality of Chicago's use of cameras at intersections designed to reduce 'red light' violations, and scores of other cases, many of which are cases of first impression.

In addition, as a Deputy in the Corporation Counsel's office, I have managed as many as 25 lawyers and have litigated personally or supervised lawyers handling First Amendment, Second Amendment, contracts, zoning, nuisance, civil rights and police misconduct cases in state and federal court.

I have the legal ability to handle any litigation matter, but I also possess strong management skills which will help me manage a case load once on the bench.

I do not believe that anyone with limited experience, either in terms of years or breadth of litigation experience, has the necessary skill set that only experience in the field can give.

I submit that I have that experience, and therefore I am the most qualified candidate.

Key Issue 2

My unblemished record of service and integrity as a public servant is my Number 2 campaign issue.

The time I have spent in both the private and public sectors gives me a unique experience which should be an asset if I serve on the bench.

In addition, while devoting myself to public service, I believe I have made a real, positive impact on the lives of people living in Chicago and Cook County, all along adhering to the highest ethical standards.

Despite practicing under the light of public scrutiny, I have never been reprimanded by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of Illinois (ARDC), nor have I been sanctioned by any federal or state court.

I have always adhered to the highest ethical standards throughout my entire career, and that is why I am proud that the former Inspector General of the City of Chicago, David Hoffman, has endorsed my candidacy.

His endorsement and the Chicago Bar Association's highest rating of Highly Qualified demonstrate that I am a well-qualified candidate for the bench.

Key Issue 3

My Number 3 campaign issue is that I am a candidate that clearly has support throughout all of Cook County.

One fact which suggests wide support is my endorsement by the Cook County Democratic Party, which consists of committeemen from Chicago's 50 wards and the 30 committeemen of Cook County townships.

Further evidence of this broad support is the fact that I have the endorsement of Board President Toni Preckwinkle and two members of Congress representing Cook County -- Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Rep. Mike Quigley.

A third indication is that my supporters include traditional Democrats, progressive Democrats, and even Republicans, such as former Governor James Thompson.

Questions & Answers

Do you favor the appointment of judges or do you prefer the election process' Please explain your answer.

This is a much debated issue, and I understand why some favor the appointment of judges, while others prefer the election process.

In the end, it is my opinion that the people should elect judges despite the problems associated with judicial elections.

The conventional wisdom is that there will be more qualified judges if there were an appointment process, but I do not think that is necessarily so.

The success of any appointment process would rest on who exactly is being entrusted to make this decision.

Of course, when judges are elected, and not appointed, there continues to be a concern that voters are uninformed.

However, I think qualified candidates can be elected to the bench if endorsements are based first and foremost on a candidate's record and accomplishments.

Additionally, if endorsements are well publicized, this would increase the likelihood that voters would make better informed decisions.

An informed electorate is the best way of keeping the process 'democratic' and at the same time electing qualified candidates to the bench.

What special qualifications or experiences make you the best person to serve as a judge?

The legal work I have done for the past 30 years in the private and public sectors makes me uniquely qualified to serve as a judge.

There is no substitute for the ?hands on? experience I have had in courtrooms throughout this county and indeed, throughout the United States.

But in addition to courtroom experience, my job as a Deputy Corporation Counsel entails advising the Mayor and Corporation Counsel to whom I directly report.

I have been involved in client counseling, undertaking internal investigations into wrongdoing in City departments and the drafting of ordinances.

Finally, my involvement in the community and the real world experiences I have had as a mature adult will enhance my perspective and judgment on the bench.

I have given back to our community not only through my commitment to public service but through volunteer work.

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?

Based on what I know about mandatory sentencing in Illinois and other states, I am not convinced that it has enhanced the criminal justice system.

There is an assumption that mandatory sentencing will lead to stiffer penalties for those that are convicted; however, I think presiding judges are in the best position to consider the specific facts of a case as established by the evidence before the court.

Before mandatory sentencing is expanded, there should be further study of the impact of the sentencing guidelines used in federal courts.

Perhaps there should be minimum sentences for the most severe felonies, but, in my personal opinion, the discretion of judges should not be significantly curtailed in all cases.

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 think that as a general proposition there is a benefit to courts that are specialized and deal with specific issues, such as domestic violence courts.

Judges assigned to a specific area can develop a special expertise which should result in a more efficient and more effective administration of justice.

It may also be easier to control the backlog of cases if specific judges, rather than the entire circuit court system, are ?charged? with administrating their specialized case load.

Do you support eliminating the ban on cameras and recording devices in Illinois courtrooms' Why or why not?

I personally support eliminating the ban on cameras and recording devices in Illinois courtrooms, but I would recommend that a pilot program be instituted first before cameras and recording devices are allowed in all courtrooms.

A pilot program would allow people to evaluate whether there are problems associated with dropping the ban.

I have a great deal of experience working on First Amendment matters, and I am sensitive to the issues raised by bans that limit the media's access to courtroom proceedings.

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