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updated: 2/10/2012 4:53 PM

Gerald Cleary: Candidate Profile

Cook County Circuit Court (O'Brien, Jr. vacancy) (Democrat)

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  • Gerald Cleary, running for Cook County Circuit Court (O'Brien, Jr. vacancy)

    Gerald Cleary, running for Cook County Circuit Court (O'Brien, Jr. vacancy)




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



City: Glenview


Office sought: Cook County Circuit Court (O'Brien, Jr. vacancy)

Age: 47

Family: I am married to my wife, Pattie, for 18 years. We have four children, ages 16 to 7.

Occupation: I am a trial attorney and a partner at Pappas, O'Connor & Fildes, a litigation law firm. I am the head of its product liability, transportation and commercial litigation practice group.

Education: I graduated from the University of Illinois-Champaign with a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in 1986 and received a Juris Doctor degree from the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, cum laude, in 1989.

Civic involvement: I have been an active member of the Catholic Church and my parish for my entire life. My wife and I donate to many charities. Over the years, I served as a youth coach and volunteer for my four children's activities.

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

I am the most qualified candidate in my judicial race because I am an experienced trial attorney, I am knowledgeable of the law, I have a reputation for fairness and I am independent. I have practiced civil litigation in Cook County for over 22 years. I represent major corporations, insurance companies, municipalities and individuals in complex tort and commercial disputes involving catastrophic injuries and wrongful death. I tried many cases to jury verdict and I am a proponent of alternative dispute resolution. I participated in hundreds of mediations and I am a certified mediator and arbitrator. I know the adverse affects of prolonged litigation from the board room to the kitchen table and I will endeavor to minimize delays and costs while maintaining a fair process. My experience and background provides much needed professional diversity and a unique perspective to the bench that will best serve the people of Cook County.

I litigated cases against some of the finest trial attorneys in Chicago and it is the consensus of the bar that I am qualified to be a judge because of my knowledge of the law and my reputation for fairness. I was found 'Highly Qualified' by the Chicago Bar Association which is its highest rating and rarely given. The Justice Anne Burke Judicial Screening Committee found that I am recommended for a judicial assignment. Martindale-Hubbell, the world's most trusted legal resource, conducted a strenuous peer review and awarded me a rating of 'AV Preeminent' which is, 'the highest rating possible in both legal ability and legal ethics reflecting the confidential opinions of the bar and judiciary.' Finally, all the bar groups from the Alliance of Bar Associations found me Highly Qualified, Highly Recommended, Recommended or Qualified to be a judge.

I am the only independent candidate in my race that is not beholden to political officials or special interests. These are difficult and challenging times for the state of Illinois with pressing issues of pension reform, tax reform and tort reform, among others. Any legislative attempts to resolve these types of issues will be litigated. If elected, I envision that I would be assigned to the Law Division, Chancery Division or other civil division with the opportunity to hear these disputes. Unlike some other candidates, my campaign is neither financed nor influenced by politicians or special interest groups that have an interest in matters likely to come before the court. My independence is imperative to be an effective judge so that the people of Cook County can be assured that my decisions will be fair and based on the law and not outside influences.

Key Issue 2

Candidate did not respond.

Key Issue 3

Candidate did not respond.

Questions & Answers

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

I favor a hybrid process of appointed and elected judges. Generally, the current system of the public election of judges, the election of associate judges by the circuit judges and the merit appointment of judges by the supreme court has resulted in the selection of qualified and diligent judges. I believe that the public should continue to be actively involved in the election of judges because judges make decisions that affect people's everyday lives. I believe the election of associate judges gives the opportunity to select quality judges based on merit or who did not win an election. I believe the merit selection of judges by the supreme court is a means to reduce the influence of politics and the use of merit selection should be formalized and expanded.

However, the current selection of judges is not perfect. Unfortunately, politics and private interests sometimes influence the selection of judges. To lessen the political influence, judicial races should be non-partisan. Judicial elections should have fundraising limits. The petition requirements should be removed and replaced with a filing fee that would attract more candidates and generate revenue for the county. There should be more transparency and uniformity in the selection of associate judges and assignments by the supreme court.

Finally, the election of qualified and independent judges is difficult because the voters lack the information to make informed decisions. However, the increased use of social media, the publication of bar evaluations and endorsements by newspapers and organizations has resulted in a more informed electorate so that voters can choose judges based on their qualifications and evaluate whether the candidates are fair and impartial.

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

I believe that I am the best person to be elected judge because I am an independent candidate. I am not beholden to any political party or private interests such that my judicial career will not be influenced by politics. I am the only candidate in my race who received the highest evaluation from the Chicago Bar Association, the only candidate to be recommended for a judicial assignment by the Justice Anne Burke Judicial Screening Committee and the only candidate who received the highest rating for ethics and legal ability from Martindale-Hubbell after a peer review by the bar and judiciary. I am an experienced, knowledgeable and fair attorney. I have been a civil litigator for over 22 years practicing in Cook County. While most judicial candidates come from the public sector, such as a state's attorney or a public defender, my background in the private sector will bring a unique perspective and professional diversity to the bench that will better serve the people of Cook County.

My goal when I become a judge is to work hard to earn the respect of the bar and the public. I will build on my past experience and knowledge and diligently learn new areas. I will continue my hard work ethic that propelled me from an associate to part owner of a law firm. I want to strive in my judicial career to leave a legacy showing that I knew the law and that I applied the law in a fair and impartial manner.

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?

Mandatory sentencing guidelines are based on legislative statutes that reflect the will of the people of the state of Illinois to set sentencing guidelines for certain criminal acts. Generally, these types of statutes have been found to be constitutional. Judges are obligated to follow duly enacted statutes that are constitutional. To do otherwise, it would violate the separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches. Typically, mandatory sentencing guidelines provide adequate discretion to take into account the severity of the offense, repetitive conduct, and aggravating or mitigating factors to establish a just sentence.

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 am in favor of the use of these types of specialized courts which reflects the positive ability of the Cook County court system to respond to emerging social trends and issues. An excellent example is the planned elderly court that will handle matters particular to the aging population.

These courts are effective because the judges who serve in these courts have the focused training to resolve issues that are unique to the people that come before them. The courts typically have the discretion to tailor solutions to the problems in these specialized areas. Ultimately, these courts provide better service to the people of Cook County.

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

I support running a courtroom in a manner that provides the parties, witnesses, and jury a fair, impartial and efficient method in order to come to a just resolution of the issues. The use of cameras or recordings could result in the intimidation of parties, witnesses and jury that could compromise the goals of obtaining a fair and just result. Further, the use of this technology could have a negative effect on a jury's ability to deliberate fairly without outside influences. Any use of cameras must be considered on a limited case by case basis where it is established that the use of cameras will not jeopardize the rights of those involved or influence the result of the case.