Joy Virginia Cunningham: Candidate Profile

Supreme Court 1st District (Fitzgerald) (Democrat)

Updated 2/10/2012 4:48 PM
  • Joy Virginia Cunningham, running for Supreme Court 1st District (Fitzgerald)

    Joy Virginia Cunningham, running for Supreme Court 1st District (Fitzgerald)



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: Supreme Court 1st District (Fitzgerald)

Age: 60

Family: Married with one child.

Occupation: Illinois Appellate Court Justice

Education: B.S. in Nursing City University of New York 1975 J.D. John Marshall Law School 1982

Civic involvement: Chicago Legal Clinic Center for Disability & Elder Law Chicago Urban League Chicago Community Trust -- Chicago Area Foundation for Legal Services Chicago Association for the Education of Young Children Chicago Legal Aid to Incarcerated Women Constitutional Rights Foundation Center for Conflict Resolution Economic Club of Chicago Operation PUSH The Chicago Network

Elected offices held: Illinois Appellate Court Justice

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Ensuring the independence of the judiciary.

Key Issue 2

Bringing a diversity of experience to the bench that will benefit the judicial process and those involved.

Key Issue 3

Ensuring that everyone has equal access to justice and to a fair trial before the courts.

Questions & Answers

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

Maintaining the independence of the Judiciary is of paramount importance.

I believe that aspects of the election process, namely the political slating process,

should be revised in order to ensure independence.

And that is the very reason why both in 2006 and in this current election, I chose to continue with my campaign despite not being slated by the Cook County Democratic Party.

I believe the voters rewarded me for demonstrating my independence by electing me to the Appellate Court in 2006, and I am confident they will stand behind me in this election as well.

The differing points of view regarding whether an appointive system is better than an elective system seems to be based upon the underlying question of which system is more likely to yield qualified judges.

Illinois has a hybrid system, in that we have elected and appointed judges.

Organizations such as bar associations and newspapers help ensure that the public is informed with respect to the qualifications of elected judges.

In general, Illinois has a very strong judiciary.

This suggests that our system is working in that it consistently yields a high quality judiciary.

However, it is important that bar associations, news media, and other entities continue to inform the public regarding the qualifications of judicial candidates.

We must work with the system that we have, since it would require a constitutional amendment to make a change.

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

My thirty-years of legal experience span a breadth and depth of practice, which touches on almost all areas of law and legal and judicial practice.

The Illinois Supreme Court, is the ultimate safety net for the judicial system, and therefore, for the people of Illinois.

Accordingly, a justice of this court should have the necessary breadth and scope of experience and credentials to meet the court's significant responsibilities of decision and policy making.

I believe that good judges are those who consistently exercise good judgment.

Good judgment in turn is informed by those who have excellent credentials and broad experience.

My legal experience meets this criteria because of its breadth and depth.

It covers the private sector, public sector, active trial work, legislative activity, and administrative experience.

My private sector work includes service as Loyola University's Associate General Counsel and Chief Counsel for Health Care and as the General Counsel for the Northwestern Memorial Health System. Additionally, my judicial experience covers both the trial court and the appellate court levels.

My experience as President of the Chicago Bar Association also speaks to my administrative, legal, and legislative abilities.

I have carved my own path over the course of my career and that has led me from being a patient transporter in a New York hospital to being a candidate rated 'highly qualified' for the Illinois Supreme Court. The perspective that I can offer the people of Illinois is unique and would bring much-needed diversity of experience to the bench.

Diversity among our justices in terms of race, gender, life, and professional experience is a critical check and balance on our court system.

Diverse experience informs sound judgment, thus paving the way for a more representative, more impartial judicial system.

As the first African-American woman to serve as President of the Chicago Bar Association, I helped to establish a framework for capital punishment legislation and offer a platform for the debate of an issue that in part defines who we are, not just as a nation, but as a people.

My tenure on the CBA also helped to set the stage for an overhaul of Cook County's juvenile justice system establishing more accountability and leading to reforms that have won national attention.

It is the composite of these attributes, experience, and credentials that sets me apart as the best and most qualified candidate to fill the current vacancy on the Illinois Supreme Court.

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?

As an experienced member of the judiciary, I take the position that every case presents unique facts and circumstances.

Mandatory sentencing removes some of the discretion and flexibility with which a court may influence the outcome of the case.

That being said, I believe a judge is bound to follow the law.

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?

Courts addressing individual areas of law have been established in some jurisdictions. For example, Cook County has established courts for domestic violence, foreclosures, and housing matters, all of which appear to be working, based upon my knowledge.

The judges presiding in these courts develop a specialized expertise in these unique areas of law.

Therefore, the likelihood of consistency in outcomes, treatment of litigants, and rulings is necessarily increased.

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

Since this issue continues to be one of controversy, as a sitting judge, I am precluded from taking a position.