Thomas Schippers: Candidate Profile

19th Circuit, 3rd Subcircuit (Seat B) (Republican)

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. Jump to:BioKey IssuesQA Bio City: MundeleinWebsite: http://www.judgeschippers.comOffice sought: 19th Circuit, 3rd Subcircuit (Seat B)Age: 52Family: Married to Carol for 28 years. Three children. Allison, 27, 1st grade teacher in the Hawthorne School District, Thomas, 21, Student, Finlandia College. Scott, student, Northern Michigan University.Occupation: Associate JudgeEducation: Juris Doctor, Loyola University School of Law Bachelor of Science, English, Northern Michigan UniversityCivic involvement: Member, Santa Maria del Popolo. Knights of Columbus, Cardinal Mundelein Counsel. Blood Drive Coordinator, Santa Maria and LifeSource. Former Board Member, Crimestoppers. Former Coach, Mundelein Junior Football, Mundelein Little League, Glacier Hockey. Former Treasurer, Cub Scout Pack 195 Various volunteer activities, including Waukegan Soup Kitchen, Libertyville Manor elderly facility.Elected offices held: NoneHave you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.Candidate's Key Issues Key Issue 1 MORE WITH LESS As we all know, Illinois is in dire financial strates. As a Circuit Judge, I will work to accomplish more in the courthouse with less financial burden on the taxpayer. To do that, I will look to reassess allocations of resources within the court system to maximize efficiency. For example, many municipalities are writing fewer tickets for traffic violations, reducing the number of cases heard in traffic court. However, mortgage foreclosures have increased exponentially. Instead of simply requesting increased resources to handle the burgeoning foreclosure call, a more efficient solution entails reducing the number of traffic court calls to free up resources to handle the foreclosure call. this is a proactive approach that requires constant monitoring and reassessments of where the public resources are being used. This approach makes the courthouse much more efficient, without increasing the financial burden on the taxpayers. If elected, I will work to ensure justice for each and every litigant, but in an efficient and cost-effective manner.Key Issue 2 EQUAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE Regardless of a person?s economic status or their mental or psychological condition, all persons should have equal access to the courts. And equal access to the courts means equal access to justice. Lake County has implemented many programs to assist litigants in order to ensure that their cause is heard on equal footing. This is imperative that we continue to work to to ensure that all litigants have equal access to justice.Key Issue 3 JUDICIAL RESTRAINT As a judge, I am sworn to uphold the law. It is imperative that a judge adheres to this oath in each and every case. If a judge disagrees with the law, it is not his place to disregard it. The separation of powers in both state and federal constitutions delegate the law making powers to the legislature. If a person does not agree with the law, recourse is through the democratic process of electing officials who will repeal that law. An individual cannot disregard a law because he disagrees with it; neither can a judge.Questions Answers Do you favor the appointment of judges or do you prefer the election process? Please explain your answer.I believe there are pros and cons for each. The appointment process helps to ensure that qualified candidates ascend to the bench. If officials appoint judges, ideally those officials would engage in an in-depth vetting process of all candidates. This could include ratings by bar associations, and polling of and interviews with fellow attorneys about the candidate?s experience, character and ability. Voters simply do not have the time to engage in this time-consuming process. Anecdotally, in my campaign travels, I have heard from many voters that historically they have known very little about the judicial candidates. Several people have candidly told me that they cast their ballot based upon the judicial candidate?s name. A person?s name is in no way a barometer of a person?s qualifications to sit as a judge. It is the person?s experience, character and ability that sets the candidate apart from the others. The appointment process is not without its drawbacks. In our federal system, all judges are appointed. And they are appointed by politicians. As such, judicial appointments can be quite political. As I mentioned, I believe that a person?s experience, character and ability are the best measures of determining whether that candidate is the best person to serve the people. This issue, however, is settled. Our U.S. Constitution states that judges shall be appointed. Our Illinois Constitution states that associate judges will be appointed, and circuit, appellate and supreme court judges will be elected. Change must come from the Legislature via a Constitutional Convention.What special qualifications or experiences make you the best person to serve as a judge?I believe that the breadth and depth of my experience makes me the most qualified candidate. As an associate judge, I have presided over more than 70 jury trials and many more bench trials in both criminal and civil matters. Prior to being appointed as a judge almost 6 years ago, I had extensive litigation experience dealing with complex criminal and civil matters on the federal, state and local level. Furthermore, I had extensive experience as both a government or prosecuting attorney, and as an attorney working in private practice. I teach advanced trial practice at Loyola School of Law, and I teach trial practice skills to practicing attorneys. I serve as adjunct faculty at Columbia College of Missouri, teaching business law, constitutional law, and other law-related classes. I have taught law students and practicing attorneys for more than 10 years. I graduated No. 1 of my law school class at Loyola University School of Law in Chicago, graduating a semester early while working full time during the day and going to school at night. Prior to law school, I spent five years working in the private sector as a newspaper reporter/ editor in Wisconsin. The Lake County Bar Association has provided me with a "highly recommended" rating, which is the highest rating possible. Furthermore, in a poll conducted by the Lake County Bar Association, judicial candidates were rated by attorneys familiar with the candidate?s judicial performance. Candidates were rated for various qualities integral to quality judicial performance. Those areas included integrity, impartiality, legal abilities, temperament, court management, and whether the candidate meets the requirements to be a judge. Overall, I received a 95 percent approval rating by those who have appeared in front of me over the past six years. Lastly, I strive in each and every case to treat people with dignity and respect, and to get to the right and just decision. I work to ensure that every litigant is provided with the due process our constitution requires. If elected, I will continue to work to ensure justice for the good people of Lake County.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?The legislature is empowered by the Illinois Constitution to enact laws. That means that the Legislature determines what acts constitute crimes; it also means that the Legislature determine sentences for individuals convicted of those crimes. If the citizenry believes that the sentences are too lenient, or too oppressive, it can seek redress through the democratic process by electing legislators who champion their beliefs. With that said, I do believe that it is imperative that judges be afforded a certain amount of discretion. For example, not all burglaries are created equal. An individual with a long history of criminality who conducts an advanced burglary ring and makes his living by fencing the booty should be treated quite differently than the person who has no criminal record but burglarized after recently becoming homeless. The legislature has created a sentencing scheme that sets forth various factors I can consider in aggravation and mitigation. And this allows me as a judge to treat each case individually but still within the statutory parameters. However, if a person is convicted of a crime, and that crime carries with it a mandatory minimum sentence, I must impose that mandatory minimum sentence ? because that is the law of the land. It is for the people of Illinois, not Judge Tom Schippers, to determine whether that mandatory minimum sentence is appropriate.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?Specialty courts have been extremely successful in reducing recidivism, and therefore I believe they should maintain a prominent presence in our court system. In Lake County, we have established a drug court, domestic violence court, mental health court, and a newly formed veteran?s court. The drug court, mental health court, and veteran?s court are different than other traditional courtrooms in that the judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, probation officer, and other professionals work as a team striving to rehabilitate the individual and stop the cycle of criminality and reoffending. This is very intensive, as oftentimes the person will appear in front of the judge with a report on progress on a weekly basis. These courts are staffed by experts in the particular field. In drug court, for example, the rate of recidivism is substantially lower than in the traditional courts. Not only does it save a tremendous amount of money for the state by keeping people out of prison, but it also saves lives. When an individual enters the court system as a defendant and exits the system rehabilitated, armed with the tools to be a productive, law abiding citizen, then that is success. I believe these specialty courts can be very effective in reducing recidivism, which protects the public and saves the taxpayers significant expense.Do you support eliminating the ban on cameras and recording devices in Illinois courtrooms? Why or why not?This is a decision that is left solely with the Illinois Supreme Court, which has recently allowed counties within the state to begin pilot programs allowing cameras in the courtroom. Courtrooms are open to the public, and the public has a right to know what is happening in our courtrooms. If cameras can facilitate that, without affecting fairness in the courtroom, then as a full circuit judge I would support its implementation within the the directives set by the Illinois Supreme Court.