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updated: 10/25/2012 5:51 PM

Lake County bar rates judicial candidates

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The Lake County Bar Association's judicial selection and retention committee released recommendations for the county's judicial candidates.

The recommendations cover candidates running for retention and seeking to fill vacancies on the 19th Judicial Circuit Court.

In the second subcircuit -- A, the bar group found Luis A. Berrones highly recommended but did not recommend opponent Patricia Fix. In the third subcircuit -- A, the group recommended Jeffrey S. Braiman and highly recommended Daniel B. Shanes. In the third subcircuit -- B, bar association members rated both Thomas Schippers and Nancy Waites as highly recommended. Bar association members also highly recommended John T. Phillips to retain his seat on the bench.

The LCBA bases its recommendations on surveys completed by members who evaluate candidates on legal ability, temperament, integrity, impartiality and courtroom management.

Lawyers polled by the Illinois State Bar Association recommended Berrones, Schippers, Shanes, Waites and Phillips. To be recommended, a candidate must receive a 65 percent "yes" response to the question of whether he or she meets the requirements of office. The lawyers polled by the ISBA did not recommend Fix. Braiman received too few responses for a valid poll.

The recommendations are based on 188 ballots returned out of 1,204 mailed, a 16 percent response rate. They do not reflect ISBA opinions; the association does evaluate candidates, however.

The ISBA evaluation found Joseph E. Birkett qualified to serve on the Second District Appellate Court. Birkett served as DuPage County State's Attorney from 1996 until his appointment to the Appellate Court nearly two years ago. He has no opponent in the Nov. 6 election.

Lawyers polled by the ISBA did not recommend Birkett, who received a 57 percent "yes" response to meeting the requirements of office. Regarding impartiality, Birkett received a 55 percent favorable response. In the other categories -- integrity, legal ability, temperament, courtroom management, health and sensitivity -- Birkett's favorable ratings ranged from 67 and 95 percent.

The results were based on 965 ballots returned out of 5,016 mailed, a 19 percent response rate.

"I think the perception was that I would be biased because I was a prosecutor. They were unfamiliar with my work," said Birkett, adding he believes the poll was conducted before lawyers had a sense of him as a jurist.

"I didn't have a track record as a judge and now I do," he said, adding that he is enjoying his tenure on the appellate court and is proud of the opinions he's written.

The biggest adjustment, he says, was going from being the "Shell Answer Man" to "the Maytag repairman."

As DuPage County's lead prosecutor, Birkett regularly received 20 calls before noon. He jokes that now he receives five calls a week, four of which are from his wife.

"It's a solitary job," he said. "You're with your clerks and the law."

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