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updated: 2/10/2012 4:52 PM

Karen O'Malley: Candidate Profile

Cook County Circuit Court (Conlon vacancy) (Democrat)

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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



City: Willow Springs


Office sought: Cook County Circuit Court (Conlon vacancy)

Age: 48

Family: I am the lucky aunt of many nieces and nephews.

Occupation: Attorney

Education: B.A., University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana 1985 J.D. IIT Chicago Kent College of Law 1992

Civic involvement: I have been a volunteer at Cook County Hospital, Children's Memorial Hospital, The Chicago Children's Advocacy Center, Feed My Starving Children and a choir member at St.Clements and Old St. Pat's churches.

Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

As a judical candidate, I stress my qualifications, experience both in and out of the courtroom and my strong record of public service.

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 believe that because judges serve the people, it is the right of the people to choose who serves as judge. Athough I recognize the difficulty of evaluating the experience and credentials of each judicial candidate, the role that judges have in the lives of so many merits the attention of the electorate and the ability of the public to select judges.

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

I possess the essential qualities needed in a good judge: proven experience, integrity, the ability to be fair and principled in applying the law; excellent knowledge of the law and a strong work ethic.

I have been found qualified or recommended by every bar organization that has issued its evalutation of me. As an attorney for almost two decades I have spent my career preparing cases for court, working in the courtroom or writing and arguing appeals.

For 16 years I served the people as a dedicated Cook County assistant state's attorney working on felony cases, trying hundreds of those cases, including the most violent crimes.

For five of those years I was as a supervisor in a sex crimes unit dedicated to the prosecution of offenders against children.

In addition to trying cases, I worked with a team of child protection specialists in a coordinated effort to protect children.

I oversaw charging decisions in thousands of those cases, requiring that I evaluate all of the evidence available to determine whether a crime occurred, that the correct offender was identified, and that the evidence supported charging.

I was called upon day and night to assess the credibility and weight of evidence and to make difficult decisions.

I taught school teachers and administrators, DCFS, doctors and other lawyers throughout the state on scientific evidence and the law related to child abuse.

I worked to develop policies and programs to protect victims and helped implement innovate rehabilitative programs for young offenders.

I left the State's Attorney's Office to join a law firm where I practice complex civil litigation.

I quickly gained diverse, extensive experience in an entirely new area, working in the law, chancery and probate divisions of state court and in federal court.

I have the unique distinction of long service in teaching the law.

For 15 years I have been a dedicated teacher, first at DePaul's law school where I taught Evidence and was assistant director of the moot court program.

For nine years I have taught trial advocacy at Northwestern Law, and have worked with many award winning trial advocacy teams.

I also taught in the criminal justice program at UIC. The vast majority of my teaching has been done without compensation, as it as my honor and responsibility to contribute to the next generations of lawyers.

The CBA found that I am ?well-regarded

for my "knowledge of the law, legal ability and outstanding demeanor."

I pursue this position because I have great regard for our justice system and a deep understanding that the decisions made by judges directly affects the lives of so many.

I have the experience, knowledge, compassion and strength of character to respectfully administer good judgment and believe that I would make an excellent contribution through serving as judge.

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 laws came about in large part to minimize disparite sentences for similar crimes.

Through the legislature, the people have expressed their desire that in determining a sentence, certain crimes be treated similarly.

The implementation of a sentencing range allows a judge to consider the appropriate aggravating and mitigating factors while imposing a sentence that is consistent with sentences for similar crimes.

Although there are instances when a mandatory sentence may seem too severe or too lenient, the court has broad discretion to impose a sentence within the prescribed range.

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?

Having worked for many years in the narcotics courtrooms and the felony courtrooms of Cook County, I believe that many of these specialized courts are very effective in serving the interests of justice and our community. The efficacy of each court lies in identifying the specialized needs of victims and defendants; incorporating services and programs to effect change, and monitoring compliance with

those services and programs.

This is especially true in drug, prostitution, veterans' and mental health courts, accomplishing more than we could within the traditional sentencing options.

Specialized courts also benefit victims, as is the case with domestic violence courts.

Having worked as a supervisor in a sex crimes unit where many offenders were family members, I am acutely aware of the complex issues facing victims of domestic violence.

In specialized domestic violence courts, not only are the courts better equiped to identify and work with those issues to the extent permitted by the law, but they allow for a consolidation of the network of services that benefits those who suffer at the hands of domestic abusers.

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

I do support eliminating the complete ban on cameras and recording devices in the courtrooms.

I believe in the transparency of the courts,the public's right to know what is taking place in public courtrooms, and how justice is being administered. The challenge lies in upholding the rights of the parties and not allowing a recording or the effects from recording to impede the orderly conduct of the proceedings or the rights of the parties.

Certainly there can and should be limited times when recording is not allowed, especially if it appears that such coverage will create a substantial likelihood of harm to any person or other serious harmful consequence. The courts can implement rules and procedures to avoid the recording resulting in harm to the proceedings or any of the parties, and the judge must be given discretion to determine if and when the recording is interfering with justice.