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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: 13th Subcircuit (Pietrucha vacancy)
Family: Married, two sons
Occupation: AAttorney and Illinois Public Administrator for Cook County
Education: Loyola University of Chicago College of Arts and Sciences, Bachelor of Arts; Loyola University of Chicago, School of Law, Juris Doctor
Civic involvement: • Knights of Columbus, Fourth Degree Knight, (religious based charitable and fraternal organization), Involved in fundraising, and service to local parish and community.
• The ALS Association, Greater Chicago Chapter,(Lou Gehrig's Disease) Member Board of Directors.
• Palatine Youth Baseball Association. Past Manager and coach for community baseball league.
• Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity Alumnae Board, Loyola University of Chicago, Secretary Board of Director
Elected offices held: None
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
The manner in which Judges are chosen/elected in Illinois must be re-examined. Too much influence is excercised by ward/township political bosses (yes including the suburbs) whose paramount interest is to have control over the process and treat the position of Judge as purely a political one without deference to the truly independent and qualification based office it should be. Therefore, a change in the judicial election process is warranted as soon as possible.
Key Issue 2
In my present practice I am often contacted by women who are actually the victims calling me on behalf of the persons who have victimized them. I constantly need to explain my role as a defense attorney and have too often been told that neither the police nor anyone from the State's Attorney's office has spoken to them or consulted with them since the incident at issue. I believe that a very real issue exists in that these women are further victimized by the State's Attorney's office which is focused on obtaining the greatest public relations benefit from the prosecution of domestic violence cases without any serious consideration of the facts of each case. Instead, the State's Attorney proceeds on all such cases often without regard to anything more than which party reached the courtroom door first by way of a police report and misdemeanor complaint containing uncorroborated facts and allegations. Ultimately, they simply leave it for the judge to sort out and further clog an overburdened system in the process. That system should be attending to the victims of domestic violence.This should be corrected by applying felony review standard scrutiny to all misdemeanor prosecutions, but especially domestic violence cases. Otherwise, truly victimized women continue to be further victimized by the very process that is in place to protect them.
Key Issue 3
The consistent and voluminous number of frivolous cases filed in the Cook County Circuit Court--in all civil divisions--continues to pollute our system. As a result, our judges and court personnel are overburdened and resources best directed toward the resolution of legitimate controversies are compromised. This is unacceptable. Our courts must implement and enforce those procedural mechanisms already in place, and examine additional remedies, which not only prohibit the filing of such maters, but ensure that the attorneys AND parties who authorize their filing are fully held accountable both financially and professionally for violating those prohibitions.
Do you favor the appointment of judges or do you prefer the election process' Please explain your answer.
Illinois' elected system for a judiciary is terribly flawed and in desperate need of, not merely reform, but transformation. The voters simply cannot be expected to discern the best qualified candidate for what is expected to be a non-political office in a partisan election. The result is that our judicial elections are too often relegated to mere popularity contests decided only on the basis of the candidate's last name. Consequently, we are sometimes given unqualified judges without the necessary experience or temperament required for that position.
Nevertheless, our citizens must have a voice in the selection of their judges. This can be accomplished by the creation of an independent judicial advisory board whose members are appointed by political officials of BOTH parties, i.e., the Governor, the Speaker of the House, President of the Senate AND THEIR MINORITY LEADERSHIPS.
These members, in turn, would select from a list of qualified lawyers (created as much as possible without regard to political sponsorship) provided by the various participating bar associations who extensively evaluate and properly rate the candidates for judge. The independent board would then offer the Governor three names from which to choose for each available judgeship. Ultimately, the Governor is directly accountable to the citizens for those choices by way of election thus ensuring their participation in a process whose goal is to achieve the best qualified rather than the most popular or best connected candidate.
What special qualifications or experiences make you the best person to serve as a judge?
I am the only candidate in my race to be rated "Highly Qualified" by the Chicago Bar Association, the CBA's highest rating. Likewise, I have received a "Qualified" or "Recommended" rating by each and every other bar association which has evaluated me to this point. I am endorsed by the IVI/IPO Independent political organization. I have the longest and most versatile legal experience and public service experience. I have served as a civil litigator, a law firm associate and partner, a criminal prosecutor, a criminal defense attorney, and a government official as Public Administrator.
As a prosecutor, I approved the prosecution of and actually tried hundreds of felony cases myself. These cases ranged from murders (including death penalty eligible offenders), sexual assaults, child predators, armed robberies, aggravated batteries/shootings, domestic batteries, narcotics distribution as well as financial crimes. I have also argued countless motions, pled hundreds of cases and presented several appeals.
As Public Administrator for Cook County I assumed leadership of a little known state office which is charged with the duty of investigating, protecting and probating the assets of deceased persons who die without wills or whose designated executors are unable or unqualified to serve. It is here where I "de-Blagojefied" an office which was a classic forum for "pay to play" politics and cronyism. I implemented many reforms to the dismay of some with well-settled influence in government.
This past year with my staff, we deposited with the county a record $9.3 million without using a dime of tax revenue as we must be entirely self-funded by statute. The office has been transformed to a truly independent non-political fiduciary office and opened up in terms of access, participation, and hiring. Recently, I literally received applause from the Cook County Commissioners present at the time I presented my last record setting budget. It is worth noting that almost all the Commissioners present were NOT from my political party. It should also be noted that I am a Republican appointed by a Democratic Governor with the unanimous advice and consent of a Democratic Senate. I respectfully suggest that this fact bolsters my independent credentials which are imperative to the office of Judge.
As further evidence of my professional independence, it should also be noted that I was chosen by my former partner who was appointed by the Illinois Secretary of State (both Democrats) as Special Counsel relative to the Operation Safe Roads ("License for Bribes") investigation to assist in that investigation with the federal prosecution of the former Republican Secretary of State and Governor in whose conviction the operation concluded.
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 a criminal defense attorney I am constantly faced with the fact that cases which should be pled based on the facts and the substantive law governing the offense are precluded from doing so because of the mandatory minimum sentences recently placed on those offenses. The fact of the matter is that these sentences do not take into consideration the mitigating factors involved in a particular case or the weaknesses in the prosecution. In those cases an available sentence less than that mandatory minimum would allow for a likely plea.
Consequently, either the charge needs to be reduced by the State, which is seldom done or the matter proceeds to trial on the basis of the proverbial "we have nothing to lose" position. Unfortunately, that position results in extended litigation and court time and resources, and, too often, an even more extensive sentence after a trial. In both cases, there is a cost--one to the judicial system for needing to try more cases and one to the defendant by way of a longer than minimum sentence on a finding/verdict of guilty. In these situations, judges should be allowed some leeway so as to take into consideration the proper scope of sentencing based on enunciated factors specifically provided by law.
On the other hand, the cases which properly contemplate the implementation of mandatory minimum sentences by virtue of their particular facts should be by governed by their mandatory penalty range. This balance which would result in this approach would serve the purposes of both, punishment, and due process considerations.
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?
Except for drug preliminary hearing courts, Cook County no longer has trial courts exclusively dedicated to drug charges. However, I had the privilege of serving as a prosecutor when it did have a Night Narcotics Division as part of the Felony Trial Division in the 1990's. During that time and in the course of a single courtroom, we disposed of hundreds of felony cases each year without sacrificing time from the felony calls with their more serious felony dockets, including murders, armed robberies, sex assaults, etc. Narcotics courts have a valuable place in the Cook County Circuit Court.
With respect to domestic violence courts, please see my response to Answer 2 in Key Campaign Issues & Answers above.
Finally, I believe that veterans' courts and prostitution courts have been effective. This is due to their focus on alternative (non-prison) sentencing and community service for non-repeat offenders or substance addicted offenders who are non-violent. I favor their continuation on an economical level and a criminal justice level.
Do you support eliminating the ban on cameras and recording devices in Illinois courtrooms' Why or why not?
Government should never operate outside the public sunlight. The courts should be no exception to this. I support cameras in the courtroom.