Alfred Swanson: Candidate Profile

Cook County Circuit Court (Ward vacancy) (Democrat)

Updated 2/10/2012 4:55 PM
  • Alfred Swanson, running for Cook County Circuit Court (Ward vacancy)

    Alfred Swanson, running for Cook County Circuit Court (Ward 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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A



City: River Forest


Office sought: Cook County Circuit Court (Ward vacancy)

Age: 65

Family: Married to Irmgard. Three daughters - all married. Six grandchildren.

Occupation: Circuit Court Judge

Education: JD with Honors from Chicago Kent College of Law, 1982; B.S. in Jornalism and Political Science, University of Illinois, Urbana, 1968.

Civic involvement: Trustee, Village of RiverForest, 1997-2007; Administrative Adjudication Hearing Officer, River Forest, 2007-2009; River Forest Traffic and Safety Commission - 1995-1997; Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation, former Board member and chair of the Policy and Bylaws Committee. I have been active in my Church as a lector and formerly as a Trustee, member and Chair of the Endowment Fund Board, member of the Finance Committee. I am a member of the advisory board of the Sankofa Safe Child Initiative and of YouthMOVEIllinois. I was vice-chair of the Hanover Park Human Relations Commission, 1972-1974 when I lived in that suburb. While in Hanove Park, I was also a member of the volunteer fire department.

Elected offices held: Trustee, Village of River Forest

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Equal Justice for All.

To provide fair and impartial justice to the residents of Cook County and the State of Illinois.

Key Issue 2

To improve civility and competence in the trial bar and the judiciary.

In regard to the latter, I served two terms as a member of the Illinois Supreme Court's oversight committee on Judicial Performance Evaluation.

I am also a trained facilitator in the Supreme Court's judicial evaluation program that is now mandatory for most circuit and associate judges.

Key Issue 3

To improve the accessability of the courts.

Questions & Answers

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

Each method of selecting judges has its plusses and minuses.

I have yet to see an appointive proposal that improves on the current system of choosing judges.

Proposals I have seen seem to exchange one set of negatives for another of approximately equal import.

In reality, a significant number of the elected circuit court judges in Cook County were initially appointed - either as associate judges chosen by the circuit judges or circuit judges appointed by the Supreme Court to fill a vacancy.

I do not recall the exact number, but believe it my be 70% or more.

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

I have a broad and diverse background.

My first career was in braodcast news - in Chicago for WBBM and WMAQ radio between 1971 and 1982.

I worked my way through high school and college in broadcasting - both news and sports.

As a reporter I covered stories in all corners of Chicago and Cook County and beyond.

My reporting also taught me objectivity and the importance of listening to allsides before preparing my report.

Twenty-eight years as a trial lawyer in state and federal courts helped me hone the skills of objectivity.

My trial experience over those years also taught me to listen to all sides; note for the Latin phrase on the wall facing Illinois Supreme Court Justices in the Springfield and Chicago courtrooms which translated means: "Listen to the other side."

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 have no problem with sentencing guidelines that provide judges with a range of possible sentences.

I do believe that the sentencing laws should give a judge discretion to adapt the sentence to the facts of the particular case.

There is no "cookie-cutter" approach that could fit all cases - each is unique in its own circumstances.

Trial judges should have the discretion and flexibility to determine a sentence based upon the applicable law and the facts of the case.

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?

From the information I have seen, it seems these courts, particularly the drug, domestic violence, and mental health courts have had a positive impact.

I am not familiar with any statistics of results from prostituion or veterans courts in Cook County - the latter is sufficiently new that I am not aware of statistics or results.

Drug courts, in particular, can - and do - play a positive role in rehabilitation, especially for those defendants who are first time offenders for relatively minor levels of involvement.

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

I think cameras and microphones can have an appropriate place in some courts.

They are already allowed in the Supreme and Appellate courts.

I am not in favor of cameras and microphones being allowed in trial courts.

I believe strongly in the freedom of the press and that our courts should be open and accessible to the public, including the news media.

As a former reporter, I am very much aware of the deadlines, presures, and time constraints imposed upon broadcast news reporters.

Within those time constraints it is, I believe, more likely that reports would be more informative and more accurately reflect what actually transpired if audio and video clips were not used and reporters relied upon their notes to report the events.

One of my assignments for WMAQ-NBC News in the spring of 1980 was to cover the John Gacy murder trial.

An audiotape of the testimony or proceedings in court would not have improved my reporting on the case.

In fact, any pressure to use audio from that trial would have made it more difficult for me to have conveyed an accurate account of the trial proceedings within the 30 to 40 seconds allowed for a report.

The same is true of the Otto Kerner and other trials that I covered.

Although I do not remember the case, I do recall one instance where a Circuit Court Judge allowed audio recorders into his courtroom to record his ruling from the bench on a case of some signfiicance and high public interest.

That was a different situation from recording witness testimony.