James Pieczonka: Candidate Profile
Cook Circuit, 12th Subcircuit (Rochford vacancy)
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 Circuit, 12th Subcircuit (Rochford vacancy)
Family: Married 34 years to Lucy Pieczonka. Three Children: Thomas age 31 (Pilot); Michael, age 29 (CPA and Attorney, and Diana,age 27 Speech Language Pathologist.
Occupation: Attorney at Law: Law Offices of James P. Pieczonka, P.C. Former Administrative Law Judge for Illinois Department of Revenue- Income Tax Appeals Division Thomas James Realty, Inc., Illinois Licensed Real Estate Broker
Education: Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Business& Management with a Minor in Economics;Northeastern, Illinois University (1979) The John Marshall School of Law, J.D. (6/1983)
Civic involvement: Chicago Bar Assn, Polish Advocates Society,Northwest Suburban Bar Assn., Cook County Volunteer Legal Services- Foreclosure Mediation, Polish American Police Assn., Northfield Township Republican Org., New Trier Republican Org., Republicans of Wheeling Township, Republican Organization of Elk Grove Township,Northfield Township Food Pantry.
Elected offices held: None.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: NO.
Key Issue 1
My first campaign objective is to assure all voters that I will be independent and treat all litigants and their attorneys that appear before me in a respectful manner. I will be even-tempered, impartial,listen to all the parties, ensure they have their day in court, and apply the law as justice requires.
Key Issue 2
My second campaign objective is to be impartial and prompt in my decisions; bring closure to all cases as soon as possible while equally protect the rights of all citizens before me.
Key Issue 3
My third campaign objective is to serve the public as I have done in the past as an Administrative law tax judge, use my life and more than 28 years of legal experiences to resolve litigation in a just manner, and treat all litigants and attorneys equally.
Do you favor the appointment of judges or do you prefer the election process? Please explain your answer.
I prefer the election process of judges. An election provides a forum for the citizens to decicide on the make up of the judiciary, not special interest groups or political insiders. The election process preserves the principle of independence in the judiciary.
What special qualifications or experiences make you the best person to serve as a judge?
My experience as an administrative law tax judge for the Illinois Department of Revenue for more than 10 years in conjunction with my experience for the last 15 years as a private practice attorney and as a small business owner has provided me with the opportunity to participate in the legal profession from an impartial judicial standpoint and from an advocating attorney's standpoint. Most attorneys as judicial candidates do not have such an opportunity or experience. They are trained to be an advocate for their client's position, not impartial as required to be a judge. Additionally, as a former tax judge for more than 10 years, I gained substantial legal knowledge and litigation experience. I presided over thousands of tax cases and/or trials litigated by Illinois Assistant Attorney Generals and private attoneys representing the taxpayers. As a tax judge, I developed the judicial traits to be a productive, well-rounded judge. I heard cases and issued independent and impartial decisions that ranged from individual taxpayer's claims for refund of $12.00 to millions of dollars in corporate deficiencies. I made impartial findgs of fact, interpreted and enforced the law from a judicial standpoint and made fair, timely, well-reasoned and at times, difficult decisions. My 10 years of experience as a tax judge trained me to listen to the facts; remain open-minded, just, fair, impartial, unbiased; develop an even temperament and be respectful to practicing attorneys and litigants. I interacted daily with a wide array of individuals from diverse backgrounds consisting of farmers, high welath individuals, pro-se taxpayers, tax objectors, Fortune 500 hundred offciers and directors, sole-practitioner attorneys, mid-sized and world-wide firm attorneys. My exposure to such a broad spectrum of individuals and attorneys has taught me how to exercise control over court proceedings; communicate orally and in writing; articulate in a logical manner; and bring closure to cases. Additionally, my experience as a tax judge, I have learned to be independent,impartial, patient, courteous, compassionate, neutral, and have developed an excellent temperament in performing judicial functions. Furthermore, as a private practice attorney for the last 15 years, I can appreciate the legal system from an attorneys and litigants standpoint and the need to bring closure to a case for a client. Over the years, my practice included a wide variety of causes of action and court forums;civil and criminal contested proceedings and settlements; and I was active in all divisions and branches of the Cook County Court System. I have had jury trial experience and personally handed three First District Appellate Court Appeals, including one Appellate Oral Argument, and Petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court regarding a complex zoning case to protect the property rights of landowner from over-regulation by a municipality. My experience as a tax judge and private practice attorney will ensure that I follow the law and apply equal justice to all parties or litigants.
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?
I believe mandatory sentencing is a good method to give some guidance to judges,prosecutors and defense attorneys, and to provide offenders with information as to the consequences of their actions. Mandatory sentencing prevents abuse and subjectivity in sentencing. However, I believe the trial judge should have greater leeway as to sentencing in cases of special circumstances that he can justify since he is hearing all the evidence at trial,considering the totality of all the circumstances of the case and the harm or impact on the victim(s), and to ensure the crime is not repetative. The sentencing ranges help keep sentencing consistent. The judge, however, must apply the law and sentencing equally to defendants of all races and backgrounds.
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 think the establishment of the above specialty court programs is a good system. They streamline the cases to closure and minimize overcrowding of the jails. I believe it is a good system to afford a first time offender an opportunity for rehabilitation. If they complete the program, they will be given a second chance to reform and put their life back on track. Additionally, the system also allows the judges and prosecutors to specialize in the particular court to process cases efficiently and effectively and to become familiar with the repeat offenders. Yes, I believe they have been effective, The system allows the judges and prosecutors to concentrate on specific crimes and determine the best result for each offender's crime,and to protect each victim.
Do you support eliminating the ban on cameras and recording devices in Illinois courtrooms? Why or why not?
No. I do not support camera's and recording devices in Illinois courtrooms. I believe that a court proceeding and/or trial is a venue that should be more private than public. The trial process, whether criminal or civil is a very stressful and emotional event for most defendants, victims and civil litigants. The outcome affects or impacts the defendants, victims or civil litigants in various and unpredictable ways; their emotions should not be subject to public display by the media or viral on the internet. The privacy of all involved should be protected over a story for the media. Additionally, the media cameras and recording devices may cause distractions to the trial process and intimidate witnesses. Particularly in jury cases, cameras in the court room may distract jurors from concentrating on the case and law and have an impact on their deliberations. Additionally, cameras in the courtrooms in high profile cases destroy the anonymity of the jurors during the trial which may influence them in their deliberations. I believe, in-person public attendance at a trial is a sufficient safegard for a just trial process.
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