Linda Mastandrea: Candidate Profile
Cook County Circuit Court (Democrat)
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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.
Family: husband Jesse Rodriguez, stepdaughter Lisa Rodriguez, stepson Justin Rodriguez (deceased), stepson Bobby Harris, grandchildren Mahli Rodriguez, Raquel Harris, Emmett Harris
Education: J.D. IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, 1994
B.A. Speech Communication, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 1986
Civic involvement: President, Board of Directors, Variety of Illinois, 2012-present
Board of Directors, Variety of Illinois, 2006-present,
Midwest Olympians and Paralympians, 2007-2012
Vice-President, Board of Directors, United States Olympians and Paralympians, 2011-present
Board of Directors, World Sport Chicago, 2007-present
Legal and Ethics Committee, International Paralympic Committee, 2005-present
Building Board of Appeals, City of Chicago, 2007-present
AT&T Advisory Panel on Access and Aging, 2006-present
Chicago 2016 Board of Directors, 2006-2009
Chairperson, International Paralympic Committee Electoral Commission, 2013 & 2009
Board of Directors, Access Living, 2004-2010
Vice-President, National Disability Sports Alliance, 1994-2004
Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Associate Board, 1995-2006
Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Public Policy Committee, 2002-2006
Attorney General's Disability Rights Transition Committee, 2002
United States Olympic Committee Board of Directors, 1998-2000
Atlanta Paralympics Athletes Advisory Committee, 1993-1996 Paralympic Gold and Silver Medalist, wheelchair track
Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, 2010
Impresa Award, Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, 2010
National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, 2010
National Spinal Cord Injury Association Achievement Award, 2009
Huntington's Disease Society of America Leadership Award, 2009
AAU Sullivan Award finalist, 1999
Culture of Disability Award, America's Athletes with Disabilities, 1999
Woman of Distinction in Sports, Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, 1997
USCPAA Athlete of the Year 1996 and 1994
YWCA Outstanding Woman Leader in Sport, 1995
IOC President's Disabled Athlete Award, 1995
David Award, Italo-American National Union, 1995
Achievement Award, National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, 1993
Elected offices held: None
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No, I have never been arrested for or convicted of a crime.
Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is that?
I am seeking the honor of serving the residents of Cook County as a Circuit Court Judge after a career in the law and in the non-profit sector dedicated to giving people with disabilities and others a voice. In the nearly nineteen years I've been an attorney and the decade prior to that, I have worked to ensure that people with disabilities and others who have been marginalized have access to all facets of society--housing, education, employment, public benefits, vocational rehabilitation, civic and cultural life.
I became an attorney thanks to the passage of the Americans with
Disabilities Act-- I believed in the potential of that law to change
peoples' lives for the better. As a result, I've spent the last decade using federal, state and local disability laws to help improve conditions for people with disabilities, opening up opportunities for job training, education, home services, careers, sports, recreation, and community life.
I am passionate about laws like the ADA because I believe all people deserve to be treated fairly, with dignity, compassion and grace. This is so whether going out to eat with friends, riding a bus, exercising the right to vote, serving on a jury, going to school, or to work. The laws we have put in place to protect civil and human rights ensure that all people--no matter their race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or disability status--will be able to fully and fairly participate in all our country has to offer.
This notion of full and fair participation will guide my approach to the judiciary as well. If elected, I will ensure that everyone who appears in front of me--no matter what the issue is in dispute-- will have the opportunity to be heard and have a fair decision rendered.
What differentiates you most from your opponents in the race?
My candidacy is unique because I have had a different life experience than others in the race. Growing up with a disability made me keenly aware of how people treat others who are different, making me strive to always be fair, kind and compassionate. I have set my own course from the beginning,
training and competing in Paralympic sport while pursuing a J.D. Some thought I was taking on too many challenges at once, but earning Paralympic gold and silver medals along with developing the skills--goal setting, determination, dedication to name a few--that it took to win them are an asset to any member of the bench. Plus, I have never been afraid to learn something new. Starting my own practice straight out of law school, I learned to ask questions, to get help, and to trust my own instincts.
These qualities served me well when I added the role of hearing officer to my legal career. For over eight years, I've heard cases at the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Department of Human Services, and the Illinois Tollway Authority. In this role, I have managed cases from complaint through disposition. I have heard and decided motions, held pre-hearing conferences, and presided over many multi-day hearings. I've learned to work with parties represented by counsel and those without, and
leave everyone satisfied that even if the decision didn't go their way, the proceedings were fair and impartial. As a result, I've developed many of the skills necessary to be effective on the bench.
The members of the bench must remain fair, impartial and independent in order to be effective, and to earn the public's trust. If I have the honor of being elected, I will hold those qualities sacred.
Finally, is there anything we haven't asked about that you feel we should know?
As a child growing up with cerebral palsy, physical education, sport and recreation were seemingly out of reach for me. I sat on the sidelines, was picked last for teams if at all, and was sent to study hall or the library instead of PE. Thanks to attending the University of Illinois, my whole life and the direction my future would take were irrevocably changed when I was introduced to wheelchair sport. This opened the door to a whole new universe of opportunities I hadn't known existed, a new way of looking at myself, at life and at my future possibilities and potential.
Over the next two decades, I would become a Paralympic champion in wheelchair racing, something I wouldn't have believed possible as a child. My Paralympic involvement continues to present opportunities. In 2006, I joined Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
I was often asked to speak on behalf of the bid organization. My ability to convey passion for the Games and why it was the right thing for Chicago at that time led to my selection as part of the delegation that would present Chicago's case to the International Olympic Committee on why we should be awarded the honor of hosting the 2016 Games. So, on October 2, 2009, I found
myself on stage with President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago 2016 CEO Patrick Ryan.
Being entrusted to share the story of Chicago with leaders from around the world while standing on stage with our President is a memory I will always cherish. And now, I hope I am entrusted with the confidence of the Cook County voters and elected to the bench.