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updated: 2/10/2012 4:48 PM

James McGing: Candidate Profile

Appellate Court 1st District (Cahill) (Democrat)

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  • James McGing, running for Appellate Court 1st District (Cahill)

    James McGing, running for Appellate Court 1st District (Cahill)




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: Chicago


Office sought: Appellate Court 1st District (Cahill)

Age: 50

Family: Married to Breda 21 yrs, recruiter at DraftFCB Ad Agency. 3 sons all play hockey. James & Liam at Culver Military Academy, Liam drafted OHL 2011, Hugh at St. Juliana, Chg. 1 Brother at Misericordia & 2 sisters, 1 an LGH-Nurse & 1 at Zurich,Schaumburg

Occupation: Circuit Court Judge Oversee the only Public Nuisance Call in Cook County to address gangs, unlawful use of weapons, illegal narcotics possession/delivery and prostitution and a variety of other cases: demolitions, city liens and administrative review.

Education: DePaul University 1983, Bachelor of Arts, Political Science DePaul University School of Law 1986, Juris Doctor FBI National Academy, Quantico, Virginia 1999

Civic involvement: Current: Chairman- Chicago Bar Association 1st Municipal Committee, volunteer Misericordia Former Board Member: Park Ridge Express Hockey, Trinity Irish Dance Company, Oversight Board Dept of Justice Regional Computer Forensics Lab (Chicago), President N. IL FBI National Academy, Judge Strayhorn Cook County Warrant Committee, E911 Board Cook County, Criminal Apprehension & Booking System Board(Livescan), NW Business Institute Crim Justice Advisory Panel, Il Crim Justice Information Authority Subcommittee on Technology, Richard Devine's Transition Team addressing Special Prosecutions & Narcotics Investigations, UIC Criminal Justice Research Panel.

Elected offices held: Circuit Court Judge 2006-present

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

To ensure that I hold myself to the highest standards. The Chicago Bar Association in past evaluations stated that, "...Mr. McGing is well respected for his knowledge of the law, integrity, demeanor and work ethic. He has practiced law in the public and private sectors for many years and has earned the respect and praise of his peers and adversaries."

I will bring those same ethics to the Appellate Court and decide and issue issue opinions in a timely, fair, impartial and deliberate fashion so that litigants and their representatives receive a well reasoned decision in a timely manner after reading the court briefs in each case assigned, applying the correct standard of review and not being outcome determinative.

Key Issue 2

My number 2 campaign issue relates to procedures within the Appellate Court. I will support an amendment to Supreme Court Rule 23 matters: Currently cases deemed to involve issue(s) that are likely to be unpublished (meaning they are not cases of precedent) are sent to the Legal Research Department where attorney clerks draft a summary order or a Rule 23 order for unpublished opinions. The order is a draft of a decision in the case. Rule 23 refers to the Illinois Supreme Court rule which allows for unpublished decisions by the appellate court. I would support rescinding Rule 23 as it pertains to unpublished opinions and publish all decisions of the court. Published opinions can be cited as precedence and I believe that Rule 23 orders should be allowed to be cited as authoritative law. It stifles development of the law when decisions are not published. Illinois is one of only a handful of states still following such a practice.

I would also seek to have weekly meetings within my division to address motion matters that are not routine. Some justices do this and others do not.

Lastly, I would seek to have more oral arguments in cases, clearly more attention is required by a justice with oral arguments and it allows for litigants to clarify issues and assist justices in their reasoning and conclusions.

Key Issue 3

To seek greater authority for the executive committee (1 Justice is chosen from each division) of the appellate court and help to create a position of a Chief Judge on the Illinois Appellate Court that would rotate amongst the members. Currently, the chairman of the executive committee has no authority over any other Justices. The Illinois Supreme Court in the past two years has directed the committee and chairman to take action when issues arise in the Appellate Court and that was a much needed step. However, a Chief Judge would have greater authority to uphold the integrity of the court whether it be related to the timely disposition of cases or other matters and to take steps to assist the functions of the Appellate Court.

Questions & Answers

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

The issue is accountability, competence, fairness and impartiality. Picking judges by the result of a small group of political leaders making backroom deals is improper. For currently elected circuit and associate judges, there is no accountability for judges who do not perform as they should. Judges are retained again and again even after they are deemed unworthy to hold the position.

I have been elected as a Judge and a better system should be instituted in Illinois that would allow for inclusion of all segments of our society while seeking out the best attorneys and allowing any interested, qualified attorney to submit their credentials to a nominating committee. The representation on that committee is extremely important. There should be representatives appointed by legislative leaders,

bar associations representation and non-lawyer members representing the public at large.

I would favor a system whereby three names would be forwarded to the governor and the governor must choose one of the three nominees. Some states use a retention ballot after one or two years on the bench so that an evaluation can be done as to how well the Judge is doing and squarely addresses the issue of whether the person should continue on the bench.

In such a system, there is accountability for the people who nominate a person and the governor who chooses someone. The elected people can be held accountable for the judges they nominate or choose. Currently, no one is held accountable.

Eliminating judicial elections also removes the money factor needed for political campaigns from the selection process which might also help to eliminate conflicts of interests. The public deserves better and should not support a process that is not more open with accountability, they deserve it.

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

I have been a prosecutor and felony criminal defense attorney. I have been a civil law practitioner while representing large government agencies and practicing as a plaintiff's attorney. I also have great experience in administrative law both before I became a judge and since. I was a partner in my own firm for 14 years and I served as a legal counsel to the Sheriff of Cook County. I have tried hundreds of cases as a lawyer and presided over that many as a judge.

As a judge I have the only public nuisance call to address gangs, guns, drugs and prostitution in Cook County and I created a new trial call just for those cases. I have created new court calls to address backlogs in city liens and demolitions and helped to create a new foreclosure call to address vacant and abandoned properties in communities. I have also worked to address the backlog which existed in the City of Chicago for people appealing administrative decisions against them. I hear all pretrial motions of administrative review cases from the City of Chicago to our section and assign them for hearing before other judges. I personally keep any time sensitive cases for my room such as vehicle impoudments.

I have written numerous decisions and drafted dozens of appellate briefs. I have been appointed as a Special State's Attorney several times in my career, I drafted the Safe Towns Ordinance Program, Co-authored the Cook County Boot Camp legislation, drafted the Police Fake Badge legislation and drafted changes to the sex offender registration in Illinois which are now law.

The three main areas of law that the Appellate Court hears is: Civil, Criminal and Administrative Review. I have practiced and presided extensively in those three areas of law.

I also strive to be patient with people, courteous, fair, impartial and diligent in my work. I will take those attributes with me to the Appellate Court if I am fortunate to be elected. Thank you.

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?

Judges should have greater leeway with sentencing. One sentence does not fit all. Sometimes there are compelling stories to be told about a defendant and a reason why a diversion from the "normal range" should be considered. I was a member of the Women's Justice Furlough Advisory Panel when the programs in Cook County were created such as the MOM's program for pregnant offenders, day reporting to allow women to be with their children at night and attend classes and drug treatment during the day. The programs work. The Boot Camp that then-Sheriff Mike Sheahan envisioned also works. It has a followup aspect that every program we I co-drafted the legislation which created the Boot Camp.

Participation in a pretrial program allows a judge to take into consideration the participation, progress and completion for mitigation purposes. The Boot Camp is in lieu of going to prison.

Although we have numerous mandatory sentences in Illinois we have had state's attorneys who have worked with and supported these programs. Mandatory sentencing sounds good in theory but has helped to create a system of mass incarceration which contributes to a cycle of re-incarceration. Make no mistake, violent people need to be locked up but non-violent offenders need to be locked into programs.

Mandatory sentencing takes away the discretion of a trial judge to evaluate someone independently of everyone else that he or she sentences and to take into consideration any mitigation or unique circumstances.

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?

They have been very effective. The personnel assigned to that courtroom: The Judge, prosecutors, public defenders, defense bar, etc., all become experts in the area of law they are dealing with. Drug courts have spawned drug treatment alternatives to prosecution and incarceration, domestic violence courts have allowed court personnel to interact with and learn from experts in the field and devise victim assistance programs for housing and counseling as well as the more recent creation of offender treatment programs.

Veterans courts are a new phenomenon in Cook County and have been focusing on the unique needs of veterans who might have PTSD or other mental health needs, drug or alcohol dependency due to self medication, etc. Mental health courts as specialized courts in the criminal courts was a long time coming. When I served for awhile as the Acting Director of Operations at Cook County Jail, more than 10% inmates (pretrial and sentenced or there on a writ) were on some form of a psychotropic drug. The practical result is that while they are in custody they are receiving treatment and medications but the challenge is when they are released. Their public aid has been cut off by state law and they are the least likely to followup and re-register and get their medictions, etc. They then are on the cycle, recommit crimes, self medication and they are back in the jail or prison. I volunteered for the mental health criminal court call but judges had already been chosen for the program and I then decided to stay in a civil courtroom. These types of courts are very helpful not only to the offender but for society.

Prostitutes have learned in specialized prostitution courts that they are not alone, that they have shared backgrounds and experiences with others and that often times they and other prostitutes have been victimized and feel there is no alternative to their lifestyle. Then when they meet former prostitutes who have left that behind, sought support and treatment they needed, they also know that there is hope for them and that they can also have wonderful and fulfilling lives. The women who work in these programs are extraordinary role models for anyone when you hear their stories sometimes so brutally violent.

They are especially role models for the women just coming into the courts and entering the programs.

This specialization could not occur in other environments where the veteran or domestic violence victim or offender or prostitute is just one of many other type of offenders and the expertise by court personnel cannot be developed or programming created to target needs. As a person with a brother with special needs, I understand the issues which families also face.

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

I am not opposed to cameras in the courtroom. The court system is such an important aspect of our society that the public should be able to see and hear cases and to observe their judiciary at work.