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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.
Office sought: Cook County Circuit Court (Kinnaird vacancy)
Family: My immediate family is comprised of my Mother and four siblings. They are spread out all over the Midwest.
Occupation: Cook County Circuit Court Judge
Education: Northwestern University/B.A. Political Science and German Studies, 1987 University of Cincinnati College of Law, J.D., 1990
Civic involvement: LaSalle Street Church Member Annual Expungement Summit Constitutional Rights Foundation of Chicago (Volunteer instructor for middle school students for inter-active constitutional lessons) Volunteer Judge for City of Chicago High School Mock Trial Competition Volunteer Judge for Northwestern Undergraduate Mock Trial Competition Push Excel Dr. King Oratory Contest (Elementary - High School) Volunteer
Elected offices held: None
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
All who come before the court must be treated fairly and with dignity and be given a full and fair opportunity to be heard and to understand the proceedings.
Key Issue 2
The judiciary must attract and keep ethical, experienced, knowledgeable judges with the appropriate temperament, who will continually study the law.
Key Issue 3
The judiciary must strive for excellent judges of diverse ethnicities, race, gender, areas of practice and experience.
Do you favor the appointment of judges or do you prefer the election process' Please explain your answer.
The pros of an elected judiciary are that the people are allowed to voice thier preference, which is a basic freedom, and one we hold dear in this country.
Judges are subject to public scrutiny by being elected, and have an opportunity to meet members of the electoral unit in other than the courtroom setting.
Some cons of the system are the lack of a good mechanism to inform and educate these same voters about
judicial candidates, and that too often, financial means determine who is elected rather than qualifications and merit.
Many of us who run for judge are not wealthy and have a difficult time raising funds because of the restrictions on judicial candidates.
This makes it difficult to reach the voters and educate them.
Additionally, in Cook County, we have a unique problem that when voters do not know who to vote for, they tend to vote for favored names not knowing anything else about the candidate,
and without regard to a person's qualifications.
This tends to reduce the level of quality and diversity on the bench.
However, a purely appointive system may not be the answer since we have to deal with the issue of who makes the apppointments.
A place to start might be a task force made up of retired judges, representatives from bar asociations, community and civic organizations and the offices of the Clerk, State's Attroney, Public Defender and Attorney General to examine the options of elective versus appointive versus a combined system. Another solution that could be implemented and would help is campaign finance reform and better methods to educate the voters about judicial candidates and sitting judges.
News publications help.
What special qualifications or experiences make you the best person to serve as a judge?
I am well qualified for the position, and I am the only candidate in my race with actual judicial experience.
The Illinois Supreme Court appointed me a year ago. Before my appointment, I practiced as an attorney in the Cook County Public Defender's office for over 19 years.
I tried many cases-- felony and misdemeanors, mostly criminal and some civil.
I won new trials in several wrongful conviction cases while working in the post-conviction unit, one of which, as co-lead counsel, resulted in the release of a man who spent 26 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
I have taken a case from post conviction through re-trial, direct appeal and argument before the Illinois Supreme Court and a filing in the United States Supreme Court.
I have been found qualified or recommended by all evaluating bar associations, including a "Highly Qualified" rating from the Illinois State Bar Association and a "Highly Recommended" rating from the Cook County Bar Association.
I have taught law school for the past 16 years at three of the Chicago-area law schools.
The courses I teach include Legal Writing, Trial Advocacy, and Advanced Criminal Procedure. All of these experiences distinguish my candidacy and commend me to serve as a circuit court judge.
Even as a new judge, I
instituted changes in my Traffic Court call to create more efficiency and decorum in the courtroom.
I volunteered for and was granted assignment to the Child Protection division of Juvenile Court to use my energy, knowledge and experience to work with families in crisis.
I have also been appointed to the New Judge's School faculty.
My goals are that more qualified, fair-minded and diverse judges in Cook County be elected, that all court personnel with whom I work provide the help the public needs in an effective, courteous and efficient manner, and that every case be given full and fair attention so that the issues and needs of the people are fully, fairly, and accurately, decided.
I will also continually work to remain abreast of the law, continue to invest in tomorrow's attorneys through teaching,
and continue to work to improve the judiciary's work to better serve the people and the judiciary's purpose.
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?
History and common sense tell us that 'one size does not fit all.'
The legislature's intention behind mandatory sentencing is a strong and important measure to try to stop repeat offenders and protect the public.
Clearly, violent repeat offenders and child predators and those who prey on the elderly or infirm, must be fully incapacitated for all of our safety and protection. Unfortunately, mandatory sentencing can cause unwarranted harsh sentences and hamper a judge's ability to craft a sentence that best fits other crimes and specific circumstances. It also encroaches on a judge's authority and ability to exercise discretion, such as to achieve restorative justice or a sentence that includes an educative function.
While strong arguments for mandatory sentencing are that it deters crime, exacts retribution, and creates the perception of equal treatment, to pre-determine a sentence without individual consideration contravenes due process.
Tax dollars are spent jailing people in some mandatory sentencing cases, when the offenders could be working to pay back victims and some of the costs of the criminal justice system.
Judges should have the discretion to weigh and evaluate the specific facts and circumstances of each case, and apply the many statutory factors to be considered in aggravation and mitigation to achieve justice for the state, the victims and their family, the public, and the offender, one case at a time.
Instead of mandatory sentencing maybe sentencing guidelines would better effectuate the legislature's goals without interfering in the judiciary's role.
With sentencing guidelines, judges could spread of record the guideline and the court's reasons for deviating from the guideline using the already established factors in aggravation and mitigation.
If after due consideration the sentencing guideline is warranted, it should be given.
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?
Again, 'one size does not fit all.' Specialty courts are effective tools in the fight against recidivism and escalating costs by allowing
the court the opportunity to directly address the individual offender's needs for the public's safety and protection.
Having specially trained court personnel, including judges, prosecutors, public defenders, social workers and probation officers, allows the court a greater opportunity to more quickly and effectively address the issues that brought certain offenders before the court.
Court personnel can intervene to educate and redirect offenders.
Specific agencies for helping to address the special needs are also plugged in and ready to provide the needed services. The goals of punishment are effectively and humanely achieved to benefit and protect society from repeat offenders, and in the long run, escalating costs of repeat prosecution
Do you support eliminating the ban on cameras and recording devices in Illinois courtrooms' Why or why not?
As a sitting judge, publicly committing to a position on a matter that may come before me is inappropriate.
Additionally, I must follow the law. Eliminating the ban on cameras and recording devices provides the public greater access to court proceedings, which helps to achieve a criminal defendant's constitutional right to a public trial, promotes freedom of the press, provides opportunity for the public to hold the court system accountable, and provides greater access to the mobility disabled, among other benefits.
Maintaining the ban can be viewed as helping the Sheriff's office maintain security and control of the courtroom setting, which can become volatile.
People with sensitive pending matters are able to have their matters heard and resolved while 'passing under the radar' and avoiding scrutiny or embarrassment. Still others may view maintaing the ban as a way to reduce people dramatizing or 'playing to the media' for self aggrandizement, among other concerns.
When or if the issue comes before a court, society will benefit from a strong discourse from each side in reaching its ultimate decision while being guided by the principles of precedent and stare decisis and the fact that no law or ruling can contravene the Constitution.