Residency questions plague Cook County 12th judicial race

 
 
Updated 10/30/2014 5:48 PM

Questions about residency and qualifications dog the candidates running in Cook County's 12th judicial subcircuit, which encompasses parts of Maine, Wheeling, Elk Grove, New Trier and Northfield townships.

Supporters of Republican challenger James Pieczonka claim the incumbent, Cook County Judge James L. Kaplan, resides in Lake County, and is therefore ineligible to hold the seat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Kaplan, a Democrat appointed by the Supreme Court in 2010 and again in 2012, acknowledges he and his wife of 39 years own a Lincolnshire home where she lives with one of their adult children. However, for several years, he has resided in a Glenview apartment -- a second home he calls "the man cave" -- to comply with circuit court residency requirements. He said he spends weekdays at his apartment and returns to the Lincolnshire home Friday evening.

Kaplan said his lease, bank statements, credit card and utility bills demonstrate he resides in Glenview, and he does not claim a homeowner's exemption on his Lincolnshire property. Kaplan, who has been rated qualified by every bar association, insists his opponent's charges are politically motivated.

"Ill-founded and wrongful as it is, it is all they've got," says Kaplan, who served as a judge on the Illinois Court of Claims from 2005 to 2010 and spent 39 years in private practice.

Pieczonka claims Kaplan is "playing musical chairs with appointments." A "crash pad" does not satisfy constitutional residency requirements, he says.

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A private practice attorney for 30 years, Pieczonka has been involved in real estate development and served for 11 years as an administrative law judge for the Illinois Department of Revenue. While the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois rated Pieczonka qualified, every other bar association found him unqualified for the circuit court.

The residency question may ultimately be decided in court. Retired circuit court Judge Robert L. Sklowdowski recently filed an emergency motion on behalf of Peter T. Amarantos, a Northbrook resident and committeeman for the Northfield Township Republican Party, claiming Kaplan is "seeking an office he has no right to seek because he's not truly a resident of the area."

Sklowdowski argued Tuesday before Chancery Court Judge Franklin U. Valderrama that the Democratic position on the Nov. 4 ballot be left blank. Valderrama denied his request, ruling that Amarantos lacks standing to file a complaint. However, Valderrama gave Sklowdowski the option to file an amended complaint which Sklowdowski says he is considering.

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