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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.
City: South Barrington
Office sought: 13th Subcircuit (Pietrucha vacancy)
Family: Married to Robert J. Steffen for 16 years and have three beautiful children. Nicole (13), Alyssa (11) and Tirstan (6)
Occupation: Cook County Circuit Court Judge
Education: 1987 B.A. Political Science, Univ. of IL - Urbana-Champaign Jan. 1991, J.D. The John Marshall Marshall Law School Maine East High School graduate
Civic involvement: Barrington School District, Vision 20/20 planning Commission, Mentor Judge for Kent Law School Students, Teacher/Lecturer for Police departments, Domestic Violence Advocates, Public Defenders office. Pro-Bono Clinic, Co-Chair for Indian Bar Association,
Elected offices held: None
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
Treat others and you would have them treat you.
This means that respect and dignity must be dispensed equally with justice, fairness and commonsense but never disregard the law and our constitution due to personal bias or feelings.
Key Issue 2
That Judges are humble public servants and should have the highest qualifications and should conduct themselves with the highest ethical standards in personal and professional life (no excuses-ever)
Key Issue 3
Never forget the great opportunity that our county and it's freedoms have provided my immigrant family. So be humble and grateful and serve the peole and our nation to the best of my ability.
To me personally it means, work hard, never give up, always keep learning and never forget to say thank you and count your blessings.
Do you favor the appointment of judges or do you prefer the election process' Please explain your answer.
I prefer a system which allows both appointment and election because it helps provide the best overall judiciary.
The election process makes sure the public (who we serve) has a say in the process and can elect and throw out bad judges.
The appointment process also often allows people of great qualifications (who sometimes do not understand or wish for the politics of an election)to be given a chance to serve on the judiciary.
Neither process is perfect but, together, they both ensure that our judciary is unbaised, diverse and meets the highest standards.
What special qualifications or experiences make you the best person to serve as a judge?
I have been practising law for almost 21 years after graduating early from Univ. of IL-Urbana and The John Marshall Law School where I received the deans scholarship and served on the Moot Court. I served as an cook county prosecutor for 18 years and tried hundred of misdeameanor and felony cases (both bench and jury.
I have been privileged to argue before the appeallate court and successfully argued the Depaul University, serial rapist case. I specialized in prosecuting domestic violence cases and have special skills, knowledge and talent to effectively handle these very difficult cases.
As a prosecutor, I helped propose and pass the 'Cindy Bischof GPS' legislation that allows judges to place tracking devices on repeat domestic abusers and stalkers.
I also was recognized for my work in 'international extraditions' where I helped bring back to justice murder and child molestation suspects that were hiding on foreign soils. I have trained police officers and lawyers and have lectured and trained consistenly in this area. I humbly believe, that the Illinois Supreme Court has appointed me to the bench bases on a review of my qualification and commitment to serve the public. I have had the privilege of serving as a judge for over two years and have presided over hundreds of domestic violence and elder abuse cases including criminal and civil cases. I have been found recommended and qualified by every bar association for my work as a sitting judge. I truly believe I am the best person to serve as a judge because I not only possess the legal knowlege for the same but have always served on the bench with humility.
While many individuals may have a great legal mind, a good judge requires a great temperament and an ability to put aside their bias and ego and always try to serve the public.
I immigrated to this country at the age of 15 and started my work life working at McDonalds while attending High School.
I have succeeded in life because I believe in hard work and sacrifice and others have helped my family in our time of need.
This has helped me recognized the importance of humility and has instilled in me the the desire to help others and serve our community.
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 sitting judge I am ethically and legally bound to follow the sentencing guidelines set under our statutory scheme.
Leeway in sentencing for a judge is always an invaluable tool, specially in juvenile cases.
However as with all tools, the skill, commonsense and compassion of the tool-user go hand in hand.
A judge must adhere to the letter of sentencing statute and issues of fairness of mandatory sentencing should be address by the legislature, never by judicial activism.
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 find a great need and a great service that is done to the public by use of these specialized courts.
Each of these courts have very specialized concerns and needs that cannot be effectively met by grouping these cases with other cases.
e.g. The centralized DV court at 555 W. Harrison has provided great centralized facilities for DV victims where they can have access of social services and other resources such as child care when they attend court.
All of society benefits by children not witnessing domestic violence proceedings between parents.
Providing counseling services is vitally important in this areana and a centralized facility not only helps the victims and offenders but also save the public money by polling resources.
Mental health court are just as important because we must not allow people that need mental health treatment to be lost in the midst or other cases.
Centralization of services serves the community and improves the legal process by providing specialized service, recognizing that in the court system, 'one size does not fit all' and consolidating resources.
Most importantly this brings together judges and court personnel that specialize in this area and passionate about serving in this area and have the expertise to do an outstanding job.
Do you support eliminating the ban on cameras and recording devices in Illinois courtrooms' Why or why not?
No. I belive in transparency in the legal process and believe that an active involved public and the press are not only vital to the system but constitutionally mandated.