Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Plea!

The cast of the 2010 Christmas Spirits  (photo by Bill Richert)
Last night about 900  CBA members, friends and family enjoyed an annual holiday treat – the CBA Christmas Spirits show.  This year’s offering is chock-full of talent.  My favorite numbers included a clever Asian Carp number, sung by Bob Canel (to Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea”), an Elvis Blago trial triptych featuring solos by Sam Adam (Corey Berman), Blago (Tony Calzaretta) and Pat Fitzgerald (Kevin Krantz, in a perfect “Elvis in Vegas” jumpsuit), torch song offerings by June Brown (as Oprah) and Kate Kelly (in a wonderful turn on Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” dedicated to Tiger Woods).

Our local politicians, as always, provided much of the fodder for the show.  In fact, Blago should get royalties for continuing to generate material for several years running! 

The cast is wonderfully talented, the spirit is high, and the laughs are many.  My thanks to Mary McNichols, Corey Berman and all the CBA members who put so much time into writing, directing and performing this show.  Special props to my two former partners, Ben Weinberg and Dan Hurtado, each appearing in his first Christmas Spirits, and each landing a featured singing role.  You do the Buster Cluster proud!

Buy a ticket and see Plea this week – the show runs through Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Merle Reskin Theatre.


I joined the cast for a number. At left in the brown sweater is the show's
co-writer Julian Frazin.  (photo by Bill Richert)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Report from Cuba - Day 4

Cuban Supreme Court Justices
Well, we certainly saved some of the best for last in our visit to Havana! We started the day today with a session with three members of the Cuban Supreme Court -- three Judges who sit in the divisions of that court that hear economic and commercial cases. They were very open about their judicial system, and we discussed how disputes over international transactions, environmental disputes and what they call "collective" disputes -- the closest thing Cuban law has to class actions -- are handled.


Some of the art on display
at Jose Fuster's studio

At the Fuster studio











A couple points were of particular interest to me. First, they explained that under Cuban environmental law, the person or entity who builds near an environmental hazard, and not the owner of the hazard, is responsible for protecting residents or workers at the new development from the environmental impacts of the hazard. Second, the judges explained to us that there is a void in Cuban law with regard to consumer protection. As a result, the only recourse consumers have when they are injured is to bring an administrative action charging that a person or entity has violated a regulation. Third, the judges told us that, in anticipation of the new economic reforms that will be implemented next year (see yesterday's blog on that topic), it will be necessary for Cuba to completely revamp its commercial code.

Artist Jose Fuster, second from left,
with Aurora Abella-Austriaco, me, and Beth McMeen
 After the Supreme Court session, many of us visited the studio of a Cuban artist, Jose Fuster. Fuster works in ceramic tile, sculpture and oil paintings. He has decorated his home and all of the surrounding homes in the neighborhood with beautiful sculpture covered with mosaics, as shown in these pictures. Several of us purchased examples of his artwork to bring back to Chicago with us.

This afternoon, Alderman Ed Burke, Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, Professor Alberto Coll of DePaul Law School and I met with the Vice Mayor of Havana, Noraima Tabares, in the official residence of the Mayor of Havana. Alderman Burke delivered to Senora Tabares a letter from Tom Rickets proposing a baseball exchange between the Chicago Cubs and one of the professional baseball teams in Havana. Senora Tabares was very interested in the proposal, and Alderman Burke promised to follow up with the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs upon our return to Chicago. Senora Tabares is a very impressive and warm woman. Trained as an architect, she was formerly in charge of urban development for the City of Havana. She is also an avid baseball fan, and we promised her a front-row seat in Wrigley Field for the exchange.

About to enjoy lunch

The meeting was one more indication to us that the people of Havana are very interested in normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba (as are all the members of our delegation, as a result of the wonderful experiences we have had and the friendships that we have made here in Havana). We have learned throughout this week that we as lawyers and judges have much more in common with the lawyers and judges of Cuba that we have differences. We have also found that the people of Havana are friendly, warm and giving. It has been a tremendous privilege to visit Cuba, particularly at this crucial time of changes in the nation's economic and political systems. We hope that our visit to Havana is only the first step in establishing relations between the people of Havana and the people of Chicago.

This weekend, we all return to Chicago. We promise you that we will hold seminars and report to you what we have learned about Cuban lawyers and the Cuban legal system. Adios, Havana!


From left, Justice Anne Burke, Vice Mayor of Havana
Noraima Tabares , Alderman Ed Burke, and me.
 
A group shot from the closing dinner


Friday, December 3, 2010

Report from Cuba - Day 3

An interior at the Ernest Hemingway house



At the Hemingway house
 Today was the most interesting day so far. This morning we visited Hemingway's House, which is in a small village outside Havana.
But that wasn't the interesting part. This afternoon we met with a young Economics professor from the University of Havana, Dr. Omar Everleny. Dr. Everleny is one of the primary architects of the proposed plan recently announced by President Raul Castro to lay off 1 million Cuban state workers and to expand the possibilities available to start free-enterprise small businesses and cooperatives. We all left the meeting thinking if Cuba can pull this off, Dr. Everleny deserves to win the Nobel Prize for Economics.

Dr. Everleny is an out-spoken critic of socialist economics. As he put it, socialism is "interesting, but theoretical, and depends upon the creation of a new type of man who doesn't exist." For 50 years, he told us, Cuba has had socialism and inefficiency. Until 1989, when the Soviet system collapsed, the inefficiency was invisible because the Cuban economy was supported by the former Soviet states. But now, economic growth is declining steadily, and by his calculation while "official" unemployment is only 1%, fully 25% of the Cuban work force is unproductive.
Me ringing the porch bell at
Hemingway's house

Hence, the plan to lay off 1 million Cuban workers. If the plan is adopted, each entity that employs workers will be required to assess job performance and lay off the bottom performers in its work force. Government "businesses" will be streamlined to increase efficiency, services will be consolidated and, as he put it, "whole Ministries will disappear -- government doesn't have to run business, just regulate it." At the same time, the Cuban government will allow the creation of small businesses and cooperatives in many fields in which free enterprise is not currently allowed. The free enterprise businesses will be able for the first time to hire employees outside of the family, and if they earn 50,000 pesos or more a year, will be required to keep formal books and records (thus creating a need for accountants, because currently no businesses must report on their financial status or transactions). The role of cooperatives will also be expanded if the plan is adopted.

Free enterprise entities will pay taxes on income at percentages up to 40%, but the average business is expected to be in the 25-30% tax range. They will also be required to pay social security taxes for the workers who they employ. The taxes will be used, in part, to provide social services to those "particularly vulnerable persons" who are laid off.

Alderman Ed Burke and Justice
Anne Burke at the Old Fort in Havana
Quoting Raul Castro, Dr. Everleny told us, "We have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where one can live without working." Dr. Everleny believes it is significant that Raul, "one of the Revolutionary Generation," is supporting these reforms. He believes that Raul does not want to leave the legacy of the country being worse off after his generation than before the revolution. Dr. Everleny stressed that this plan has just been announced, and discussion is just beginning about it, so many elements of the plan remain to be fleshed out. But President Castro will take the plan to the National Assembly of the Peoples' Power for discussion in December, and to the Communist Party in April 2011.

A poster of Fidel at the School of Economics
 Dr. Everleny firmly believes that the Cuban economy must be changed if it is to survive. "If we have to keep thinking in terms of perfect equality [as in the Socialist economy], that will lead to failure." "Poverty distributed is more poverty."


 The reforms sure sound like capitalism to me. It was refreshing to hear Dr. Everleny's views. I think that everyone who attended the meeting left with the feeling that we had observed a little bit of history being made.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Report from Cuba - Day 2

An image of Old Havana
Today we had a day filled with meetings with different members of the bar, the courts and the Cuban National Assembly of Peoples' Power.

We started off with a panel of constitutional law scholars and practitioners, discussing the Cuban Constitution. We learned that the Cuban Municipal, Provincial and National Assemblies are elected by popular election from neighborhood "electorates," which each nominate a candidate. There are no political parties involved in Cuban elections, although at the National level, approximately 2/3 of the members of the Cuban National Assembly of Peoples' Power are members of the Communist Party.
 
The Cuban Capitol Building
A church in Old Havana
  
























We asked whether the Cuban Constitution provides for any individual rights. The discussion on that issue was among the more interesting discussions of the day, at least in my opinion. At first, one of the scholars told us that the Constitution establishes rights to association, of free expression, of freedom of religion, and equality. Then, another scholar said, of course, in view of the fact that Cuba has been "under attack" since 1951, it is necessary for the people to tolerate certain restrictions on those rights. To quote him, "Our system has to place controls on how to exert political rights. So long as there is that much hostility [toward Cuba from the United States] we cannot be as free as we would be otherwise. If you are under attack from your neighbor you cannot live a normal life." Indeed, the Cuban Constitution protects free speech, but only "free speech consistent with the objectives of the socialist society."

That session was followed by a session with three members of the National Assembly (the equivalent of our House of Representatives and Senate combined). The session was dominated by Dr. Jorge Lezcano Perez, who gave us a whopping dose of party line about the "power of the people" in Cuba. Among other things, Dr. Perez said that the supreme power in Cuba rests in the National Assembly, and the Cuban President has no significant powers.

Justice Anne Burke of the Illinois Supreme Court (second from left)
and Justice Joy Cunningham of the Illinois Appellate Court
visited with several Cuban judges.
In the afternoon, we had a wonderful discussion with several Cuban judges, led by Dr. Armando Torres, President of the Provincial Court for the Province known as City of Havana. Also joining that discussion was a prominent criminal lawyer, Jorge Bodes Torres, assistant to the Minister of Justice. We had a very free question and answer session, with questions ranging from criminal procedure to the caseload of the Cuban courts to how judges are selected to what rights Cuba protects in intellectual property. Of much interest to me, the judges told us that in a criminal case, by law a statement by the defendant is not sufficient evidence to support a conviction -- it must be corroborated by other evidence. We also learned that during interrogations, criminal suspects in Cuba have the right to remain silent, and once a decision is made whether to keep the suspect in custody, the right to a lawyer. We also learned that, while the prosecution must share its evidence with the defense pretrial in a criminal case, there is no right to pretrial discovery in civil cases.

Donating medicine at the Presbyterian church in Havana
Following our session in the afternoon, Tom Sullivan, Dan Cotter and I made a visit to the Presbyterian Church in Havana, where we delivered over-the-counter medicines that members of our group brought with us to donate to the church. The church was in a very poor-looking neighborhood, but the sanctuary was beautiful.

Tonight we visit a private enterprise restaurant in a home -- part of Raoul Castro's capitalist reforms. Hasta manana, CBA!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Report from Cuba - Day 1


The Old Spanish Fort
Yesterday, 32 members of the Chicago Bar Association arrived in Havana, Cuba. Our delegation includes CBA Offices Aurora Abella-Austriaco and Dan Cotter, Justice Anne Burke and Alderman Edward Burke, Appellate Court Justice Joy Cunningham, and several judges of the Circuit Court. We traveled here to meet with and learn from Cuban lawyers, law professors and judges about the Cuban legal system. The trip has already been eye opening.

Our first evening, we observed the Canon Ceremony at the old Spanish fort, which guarded Havana Harbor during Cuban colonial times. Today, we began our meetings with a panel discussion by the President of the Union of Cuban Jurists, Dr. Ramon de la Cruz Ochon, Dr. Delio Carreras Cuevas, a former Attorney General of Cuba who now practices as a criminal defense lawyer, and Dr. Mayda Goite Pierre, Professor of Law and Assistant Dean of the Law School of the University of Havana. We had a far-ranging discussion, which included the Cuban ethics code, the structure of the Cuban Courts and how lawyers in Cuba are compensated for providing services. (There is a set schedule of fees prescribed by the Ministry of Justice, and each firm charges the same amount for each type of service). 


At the Old Spanish Fort are from left, Dan Cotter,
Judge Clare McWilliams, Beth McMeen, me
and  Justice Anne Burke


Of particular interest to me, we discussed the state of the death penalty in Cuba. There are many similarities between Illinois and Cuba on that issue. While both jurisdictions have the death penalty, Cuba has had a moratorium on executions since 2003, like Illinois. There have been only a few death sentences imposed in Cuba since 2003. Recently, a published interview with former President Fidel Castro quoted Castro as saying, “I believe that the death penalty is not a solution.” This prompted Dr. Cuevas, who is opposed to the death penalty to say, “we count Fidel in our group.”


Guards at the Canon Ceremony
This afternoon, we met with Josefina Vidal, head of the North American Section of the Cuban Foreign Ministry. Senora Vidal, in my opinion, recited for us the “party line” on the U. S. foreign policy toward Cuba. While many in our group share her view that the U. S. should drop the travel ban and economic embargo, she clearly was sent to speak with us about the government’s position on all matters bearing upon the relationship between our two countries. Nonetheless, she was a dynamic speaker, and it was very interesting to hear the Cuban side of U.S./Cuban foreign policy.

We’ll keep reporting this week as internet connections allow. Hasta Manana from Cuba!

Justice Anne Burke
and  Dr. Delio Carreras Cuevas,
Profesor Emeritus, Universidad
de la Habana
  
The University of Havana Law School



Inside the Law School



    

Friday, November 19, 2010

THE CBA, CBF AND COOK COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT GO TO THE WHITE HOUSE FOR ACCESS TO JUSTICE

At the White House with
Judge Dorothy Kinnaird (left)
This morning Presiding Judge Dorothy Kinnaird of the Circuit Court of Cook County and I attended a special White House briefing on initiatives to increase access to justice coordinated by the Department of Justice’s Access to Justice Task Force and Vice President Joe Biden’s Middle Class Task Force. The CBA was invited to participate in the briefing because of our participation in a new lawyer referral program coordinated by the American Bar Association to provide referrals to lawyers qualified to represent workers in wage disputes under the FLSA. Judge Kinnaird, who was accompanied by Carina Segalini, administrator of the Circuit Court’s foreclosure mediation program, was invited because of the Court’s pioneering foreclosure mediation program. The Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF) was a key partner in the development of the mediation program and coordinates the program's legal assistance and mediation aspects.
 
Professor Laurence Tribe, Special Counsel on Access to Justice issues, kicked off the event, telling us that we must see access to justice “not only as a snapshot that we view from 35,000 feet, but as it is lived day to day.” He stressed the need to form new innovative, community-based initiatives, like the mediation foreclosure program and the lawyer referral program, to increase real access to justice not only to the indigent, but to Americans who need affordable legal services. 

Vice President Joseph Biden

Vice President Biden followed Professor Tribe, and declared that all individuals should be treated the same in the eyes of the law, which means that we have to ensure that every American has real access to justice. This is increasingly a problem for middle income Americans – 60% of judges responding to a recent study reported that they have more pro se litigants in their courtrooms this year than last year. The Vice President announced three initiatives developed jointly by his office, the DOJ, the Department of Labor, the Office of Veterans’ Affairs and the Federal Trade Commission:
 - Providing referrals to affordable legal services to protect workers’ rights

- Helping veterans get access to their benefits

- Assisting homeowners at risk of losing their homes in foreclosure

From left, American Bar Association President-Elect Bill
Robinson, me, Judge Kinnaird, and Jack Rives



As the Vice President put it, “you have to know what you need to know,” and that is difficult for most Americans without the help of a lawyer.

Panel presentations followed on each of those initiatives, with speakers including Secretary of Labor Solis, ABA President-Elect Bill Robinson, and the CBA’s own John Levi of Sidley & Austin, Chairman of the Board of the Legal Services Corporation, who spoke about the LSC’s new veterans’ rights initiative. During the presentations, the Cook County foreclosure mediation program, the CBA Lawyer Referral System for Wage Claims, and the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago program on veterans' rights (a CBF grantee) were mentioned as leading programs in improving access to justice.

U.S. Attroney General Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder wrapped up the event with a call to action to the private Bar, community organizations, the government and legal services organizations to work on these and other initiatives.

We all should be very proud of the efforts of the organized Bar, the Courts and the public interest community in Chicago for all we are doing to improve access to justice – and we must resolve to do even more!

For more about the programs visit the White House web site at
http://www.whitehouse.gov.blog/2010/11/19/helping-middle-class-families-pursue-justice

or read an article about the program at Legal Times web site.

http://legaltimes.typepad.com/blt/2010/11/preparing-to-step-down-laurence-tribe-announces-major-access-to-justice-initiatives.html

Thursday, November 4, 2010

November 4th Address to New Members of the Bar

I had the honor today to address the new lawyers being admitted to the Illinois Bar at their swearing in ceremony at McCormick Place, Chicago. Here are my remarks.

To commemorate your admission to the Bar today, you will receive a beautiful certificate, bearing the signatures of the Justices of the Illinois Supreme Court.  That certificate is not just a license to start billing clients.

It is the badge of admission to a noble profession, and with membership in this profession come some obligations.  In the United States, only two professions are commonly referred to as “callings”: ministers are “called” to a church, and lawyers are “called” to the Bar. That similarity is not mere coincidence, because both professions are service professions.

I believe that to be “called” to the Bar means that we are called to serve the public. Our democracy is a nation of laws, and lawyers are entrusted with enabling the public to negotiate their way through those laws. You took an oath today to protect and defend the constitution. Those are not just empty words.

As members of the profession, we are called to work to establish good laws and, when needed, to change the law for the better of society. We are called to represent those who can’t afford to hire a lawyer, to take on positions of public service and to work for the improvement of the profession through the organized Bar.

Listen for your call. Maybe your call will come from a homeowner who risks losing his home in foreclosure. Maybe your call will come from a battered woman who needs a lawyer to help her get an order of protection. Maybe your call will come from a young boy or girl who has been charged with a crime.  Maybe it will come from a charity that needs help to set up a not-for-profit corporation.  But the call will come, and it is your professional obligation to respond.

We members and leaders of the organized Bar are here to help you. We will be your mentors, your teachers, your friends. We will help you respond to the call.

As Winston Churchill said: We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

Listen for your call, give freely, and you will have made for yourself a good life.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Retirement Celebration for Chief Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald


At the November 3rd luncheon to honor recently retired Chief Justice
Thomas R. Fitzgerald are, from left, me, Justice Lloyd Karmeir, Justice Rita
Garman, Chief Justice Fitzgerald, Justice Mary Jane Theis, Justice Robert
Thomas, Mark Hassakis, President of the Illinois State Bar Association.
On November 3, 2010, over 500 lawyers, judges and public officials gathered for lunch in the International Ballroom of the Chicago Hilton and Towers to pay tribute to Illinois Chief Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald upon his retirement from public office. The event, sponsored by several Bar Associations and co-hosted by the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association and John Marshall Law School, was a moving celebration of Chief Justice Fitzgerald’s career of service to the people of the State of Illinois.

Four sitting Illinois Supreme Court Justices -- Justice Mary Jane Theis, Justice Rita B. Garman, Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier and Justice Robert R. Thomas -- appeared and spoke about their friendship with and admiration for Chief Justice Fitzgerald. In addition, Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride, unable to attend the luncheon, sent remarks honoring his friend and colleague.

The Justice and me.
The Justices described Chief Justice Fitzgerald as a wonderful mentor, friend, story-teller and “judge’s judge” who always asks the probing question that gets right to the heart of a case. They described how Chief Justice Fitzgerald worked to achieve compromise on the Court, and how he led in the development of the new Illinois Rules of Evidence. Several speakers mentioned also the critical leadership role that Chief Justice Fitzgerald played on the Circuit Court of Cook County, taking the helm of a troubled Traffic Court reeling from the disclosures of corruption ferreted out during the Operation Greylord investigation in the 1980s.

Chief Justice Fitzgerald spoke of his sadness in leaving the bench and the work that he has loved, and quoted from Lou Gherig who famously said, “I am the luckiest man in the world.” He also joked that he did not understand why everyone was being so nice to him, as he no longer has the authority to appoint judges.

A standing ovation greeted the introduction of the guest of
honor. Appaluding the Justice are Judge William J. Bauer,
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and Justice Mary
Jane Theis, Illinois Supreme Court.
The luncheon was a fitting tribute to Chief Justice Fitzgerald for his many years of public service. My thanks to ISBA President Mark Hassakis, who served as my co-emcee for the luncheon, to the CBA Scales of Justice and CBA musicians Frank Cargill and Steve Thomas for performing, and to the following Bar Associations for sponsoring this wonderful event: Advocates Society; Arab-American Bar Association of Illinois; Asian American Bar Association; Black Women Lawyers Association; Chinese American Bar Association; Cook County Bar Association; Decalogue Society of Lawyers; Filipino-American Bar Association; Hellenic Bar Association; Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois; Illinois Native American Bar Association; Indian American Bar Association; Justinian Society of Lawyers; Korean American Bar Association; Lesbian & Bay Bar Association of Chicago; Muslim Bar Association of Chicago; Pakistani American Bar Association; Puerto Rican Bar Association and Women’s Bar Association of Illinois.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vote For Qualified Judges

When you cast your vote on November 2 don't forget to vote for judges.

The CBA has evaluated all the candidates running in this election and has found four sitting judges "Not Recommended" for retention.

I urge you to vote "NO" for --

Punch # 243   Dorothy F. Jones
Punch # 255   William D. O'Neal
Punch # 267   Susan Jeanine McDunn
Punch # 335   Jim Ryan 

There are also five candidates seeking election to serve as judges who have been found "Not Qualified" by the CBA.

I urge you to vote "NO" for -

Punch # 85      Aurelia Marie Pucinski  (Running for the O'Malley vacancy
                       in the Appellate Court)

Punch # 95      Sandra G. Ramos (Running for the Riley vacancy
                       in the Circuit Court)

Punch # 97      Sharon Oden-Johnson (Subcircuit 1,
                      Running for the Steele vacancy)     

Punch # 98      Bonita Coleman-John (Subcircuit 1A)

Punch # 97      Steven James (Steve) Bernstein (Subcircuit 9A)  

For the full evaluation and recommendations of all the candidates running for judge in Cook County, click on the link below.  And remember to take these names and punch numbers with you into the voting booth when you cast your vote on Tuesday, November 2.

http://www.chicagobar.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Judicial_Evaluation_Committee&Template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=5694

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Visit from the Paris Bar



From left are our host Bob Clifford, Vincent Canu, Jean Castelain, me,
Florence Achache, Helene Bornstein, and Laurent Martinet

This week we had the opportunity to visit with Batonnier Jean Castelain and several of the members of the Council of the Paris Bar, who were in Chicago for a conference hosted by Aon. The delegation, led by M. Castelain who is my counterpart as President, included Mme. Florence Achache, Mme. Helene Bornstein, M. Vincent Canu and M. Laurent Martinet.

CBA First Vice President Bob Clifford and his wife, Joan, welcomed the group, along with the CBA Executive Committee and several representatives of the CBA Young Lawyers’ Section, to their home for dinner. We had an evening of good conversation about our respective organizations, and issues facing lawyers in France and in the U.S.

Jill Eckert McCall, Chair of the CBA's
Young Lawyers Section chats
with Paris lawyer Vincent Canu.

The Paris Bar, like the Chicago Bar, has approximately 22,000 members. But Membership in the Paris Bar, unlike the Chicago Bar, is mandatory. The Batonnier not only serves as leader of the organization for policy purposes, but also oversees all disciplinary actions, client trust funds and disputes between clients and lawyers over fees. The position is a full-time job with a two-year term, really comparable to serving as CEO of a large not-for-profit organization. The position is not without its perks, however. M. Castelain told us that he has a private dining room near his office in the Ministry of Justice in the Palais de Justice on the Ille de la Cite in Paris (not far from the Cathedral de Notre Dame), complete with a private chef! We look forward to visiting M. Castelain’s offices the next time we are in Paris!

One of my initiatives as President has been to expand our relationships with the Bars of other metropolitan cities in the U.S. and abroad, with the hope that we will collaborate in developing educational programming and working on initiatives of common interest. We were honored to be able to show off Chicago to our good friends from Paris, and look forward to working with them in the future.


From left, host Joan Clifford, CBA 2nd Vice President
Aurora Abella-Austriaco, Jean Castelain of the Paris Bar
and host Bob Clifford.
 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

CLE Program on Judicial Selection in Illinois

Prof. Dawn Clark Netsch
On October 5, 2010, the CBA played host to a well-attended and thought-provoking seminar on Judicial Selection in Illinois. The free program, for which three hours of Illinois ethics MCLE credit was available, covered the history of efforts in the state to introduce appointed/merit selection of judges, and featured stimulating panel discussions among current legislators, judges and senior members of the Bar about the best method for selecting judges. Over 270 people attended the program with another 60 accessing it online. It will also be available via archived webcast through http://www.chicagobar.org/.

 Professor Dawn Clark Netsch of Northwestern University Law School kicked off the program with a history of the development of Illinois constitutional law on judicial selection.

From left:  State Senator Dale Righter, State Senator Kwame
Raoul, State Representative Elaine Nekritz, State Senator Don
Harmon, State Senator Kirk Dillard, and Commissioner Larry
Suffredin at the podium.
Following Professor Netsch’s lecture, Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin moderated a lively panel discussion among State Senator Kirk Dillard, State Senator Kwame Raoul, State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie, State Senator Don Harmon, State Senator Dale Righter and State Representative Elaine Nekritz, as well as the Honorable Anthony L. Young. The broad-ranging discussion covered several possible approaches to improving the way we select judges, including public financing of judicial campaigns, legislating minimum qualifications for judicial candidates, whether judicial subcircuits are a help or a hindrance in improving the quality of the judiciary, the role of campaign contributions in judicial elections, and potential non-partisan election of judges. The views expressed on these issues were also wide-ranging. One thing was clear: while there have been many proposals in recent years, it will be an uphill battle to convince the Illinois legislature to change the current method of judicial selection, at least if the goal is to move entirely to an appointive/merit selection procedure.

Left to right: Paula Holderman, Judge Gino DeVito,
Justice Joy V. Cunningham, Judge William Cousins and
moderator Olivia Clarke
The judicial panel discussion that followed was even more lively. The panel, moderated by Chicago Daily Law Bulletin Editor-In-Chief Olivia Clarke, included Professor Ann Lousin of the John Marshall Law School, the Honorable Michael Hymen, retired Justice Gino DiVito, the Honorable Joy Cunningham, retired Justice William Cousins, and ISBA Third Vice President Paula Holderman. There was sharp disagreement among members of the Panel concerning whether diversity is better served by an elective or appointive system. Several of the panelists expressed concern about the role of campaign contributions in judicial elections, and several supported at least moving to a non-partisan election for judiciary positions – but others favored keeping popular elections under the current system.

The program, co-sponsored by the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association and CourtCall, Craig & Craig, Dykema, Elite Deposition Services, Goldberg Weisman & Cairo, Hepler Broom LLC, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, The John Marshall Law School, Johnson & Bell Ltd., Jump & Associates PC,  McKenna Storer, Smith Amundsen, and Trial Graphix, hopefully will spur legislative activity to improve our method of selecting judges. The CBA and the ISBA have long supported moving to an appointive/merit selection process.


A crowd of 270 onsite participated in lively discussion with the panelists.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

8 O'Clock Call

One thing I’ve always liked about the Chicago Bar Association is that it’s a place where lawyers can get to know Judges one-on-one, outside the formal, sometimes uncomfortable setting of the courtroom. Since 2006, the CBA has made it easy for members to get to know our local Judges by hosting a series of “8 a.m. Calls” -- short, informal question and answer panels on a Friday morning at 8 a.m., over in time to get us all off to court or to our offices by 9 a.m.

The 8 a.m. Calls give us a chance to ask Judges what they really think -- about trial lawyers, the court system, anything. At the Friday, Septemebr 24 8 O'Clock Call, we met with three Judges from the Law Division of the Circuit Court, Hon. James P. Flannery and Hon. Thomas L. Hogan of the Jury Trial Section, and Hon. Bill Taylor of the Individual Commercial Calendar Section. CBA Past President, Hon. E. Kenneth Wright, Jr., Presiding Judge of the First Municipal District, led the discussion.

From left are Judge Bill Taylor, Judge Thomas Hogan,
Judge James Flannery and,
at the podium, Judge E. Kenneth
Wright, Jr.

We learned that Judges don’t like lawyers who don’t admit that they don’t know the answers to the Judge’s questions. They want us either to be prepared to answer their questions -- even if we’re sent in to appear on a case that isn’t our case -- or to be straight with them, let them know we’re covering for someone else and that we don’t know the answer to the question but we’d be happy to step out into the hall and make a call to get the answer.

We also learned that juries expect lawyers to be courteous to witnesses. One thing jurors expect is that a lawyer will ask the Judge’s permission to approach a witness.

We learned that the Law Division tries 450-550 jury cases a year, and that there are more civil jury verdicts in the Law Division in two weeks than in our federal District Court in a year.

We learned that Category 1 cases in the Law Division -- cases expected to take 4 days or less to try -- comprise 85% of the cases filed in Division and typically get to the close of discovery in 20-22 months. Category 2 cases -- which will take a week or more to try -- typically get through discovery in 32 months.

The Judges also gave us tips for getting to trial once a case rises “above the Black Line” and goes to Room 2006:


           Agree upon a trial date and you can get a set trial date within 60-90 days.

           Ask (in Room 2005) for a pretrial before any Judge in the Division, and if the case doesn’t settle that Judge may take you onto his or her regular calendar and set a trial date.

We’ll have several of these 8 a.m. Calls throughout the year -- come join us and get all your questions answered!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Justice Stevens Returns to the CBA


 
The CBA Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

Over 650 CBA members assembled in the Grand Ballroom of the Chicago Hilton and Towers Hotel on the evening of Sept. 15 to honor one of our own -- Justice John Paul Stevens -- in his first return to Chicago since retiring from the United States Supreme Court this summer. We celebrated his career of service, and also honored the two 2010 recipients of the John Paul Stevens Award, Judge Wayne Andersen and Judge Sophia Hall. 

 
From left: Stevens Award winner Judge Wayne Andersen,
Justice John Paul Stevens, Stevens Award winner Judge
Sophia Hall and me.
Justice Stevens spoke of his views on the misguided attempts to use history by the majorities in four recent decisions of the Court which stuck down gun control laws, including McDonald v. City of Chicago, decided this past term. Of the McDonald decision, Justice Stevens said: “[T]he most persuasive history on which the Court relied to support its holding that the constitutional right at issue is truly ‘fundamental’ is its account of the post-Civil War atrocities committed by the Ku Klux Klan and other racists against African-Americans whom they out-gunned. Implicit in the discussion is the suggestion that rather than allowing the government to disarm the law-breakers, the draftsmen of the 14th Amendment wanted all the adversaries to have adequate weaponry for a fair fight.” (The full text of Justice Stevens’ remarks will appear in the next issue of the CBA Record.)


Proclamation making the Justice
"Honorary President" of the Association

The CBA Board of Managers honored Justice Stevens’ long service to the Association by presenting him with a resolution naming him Honorary President of the Chicago Bar Association. Justice Stevens, tongue in cheek, graciously accepted after extracting the CBA’s promise that we would not require him to resign from any of his country club memberships in order to serve. Justice Stevens also eagerly accepted Young Lawyers Section Chair Jill Eckert McCall’s resolution naming him “Honorary Young Lawyer in Perpetuity.” The Justice said that resolution had special meaning for him, because his brother, who he credits for persuading him to go to law school, had served as the Young Lawyer Committee’s representative on the  Board of Managers.

With his lifelong friend Judge William Bauer
Before and after dinner, we were entertained by the Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and after dinner we enjoyed the music of the Barristers Big Band. It was a great reunion between the CBA and one if its own, Justice John Paul Stevens.    
 
Jill Eckert McCall announces the YLS proclamation making the Justice
a "Young Lawyer in Perpetuity"



On the dais were, Judge Timothy Evans (l), Judge Sophia Hall
and CBA Secretary J. Timothy Eaton

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Stevens Award Dinner Wednesday, September 15

Justice John Paul Stevens
You won’t want to miss this year’s Stevens Award Celebration. We’ll be honoring two pillars of the Chicago legal community and CBA stalwarts, Judge Wayne Andersen (recently retired) and Judge Sophia Hall. Both Judge Andersen and Judge Hall have devoted their careers to public service, and they have had immense impact upon our legal system and access to justice in Illinois. Join us in thanking them for their careers of service.


Hon. Sophia Hall
And join us in celebrating the storied career of Chicago’s own Justice John Paul Stevens. Justice Stevens, the third longest-serving Justice in the history of the Supreme Court, was himself a stalwart CBA member as a Chicago lawyer. Justice Stevens served for many years on the CBA Committee that reviewed judicial candidates, served on the Board of Managers, and, when he was appointed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, was serving as Second Vice President of the Association. This year’s dinner will be a homecoming of sorts for one of our own, and you’ll want to be a part of it.


Hon. Wayne Andersen
This year’s celebration, a dinner, will feature performances by the CBA Symphony, the CBA Chorus, the Scales of Justice and the Barrister’s Big Band. We’ll begin with a reception at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 and dancing afterward. Dress is black tie (or, in honor of Justice Stevens, bow tie) optional. Everything takes place at the Chicago Hilton and Towers, the old “Stevens Hotel,” once owned by Justice Stevens’ family. Tickets are $165 each, or $1650 for a table of 10.


I look forward to seeing you on Sept. 15!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2010 PRO BONO AWARDS

It was my privilege to co-host the 2010 Chicago Bar Foundation Pro Bono Awards Luncheon at the Fairmont Chicago Hotel on July 13, along with CBF President Steve Patton. This year, more than 750 people came to celebrate the work of the CBF and seven extraordinary honorees. I always find this luncheon to be one of the most uplifting of the Bar year, and this year was no exception.
It was inspiring to hear the stories of the 2010 awardees, Beth Cunningham, Mary Anne Smith, Professor Joe Butler, Todd Solomon, Dan Kirk, Ben Wolf and Fred Cohen. Each has used his or her particular legal talents to advance the cause of equal access to justice in our community in a very significant way. One of the goals I would like to emphasize this year is to encourage all of my colleagues in the profession to use our privileged position within our community to help those most in need. This year’s honorees are great role models for all of us.

2010 Chicago Bar Foundation Pro Bono Award Winners

The Kimball R. Anderson and Karen Gatsis Anderson Public Interest Law Fellowship for 2010 went to Beth Cunningham of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. The Los Angeles native became devoted to child welfare law while attending law school at the University of Denver. She moved to Chicago to become Youth Attorney for Youth Futures, and took the law to the streets in a mobile legal clinic for homeless youth.

The Exelon Outstanding Corporate Counsel Award went to Mary Anne Smith, Vice President and General Counsel of the Illinois Institute of Technology. For 30 years, Mary Anne has volunteered for the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, handling over 200 adoption, guardianship and divorce cases for low-income clients. In 1988, she founded the legal clinic at Visitation Catholic Church on Chicago's south side, which she has run ever since. Mary Anne spoke about how much she enjoys getting “out of the comfort zone” of a University counsel to help individuals with legal problems that are very different from what she sees in her day job.

I was happy to help honor such outstanding honorees. On the first row are (from left) Mary Anne Smith, Joseph Butler, Todd Solomon, Elizabeth A. Cunningham, Bejamin S. Wolf, Daniel A. Kirk and Dana Cohen (who appeared on behalf of her late husband, Frederick Cohen, to receive his award). In the back row (from left) are Stephen R. Patton, President of the Chicago Bar Foundation; Pauline Levy, Co-Chair of the Annual Awards Luncheon; David E. Mendelsohn, Co-Chair of the Awards Luncheon; me.

The Leonard Jay Schrager Award of Excellence was awarded to Professor Joe Butler of The John Marshall Law School. At the suggestion of students, in 2006 Joe started the Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic. Since then, he has educated over 70 students in advocacy for vets, a unique clinic program. Joe spoke about how rewarding it is to serve those who have served our country.

The Maurice Weigle Exceptional Young Lawyer Award went to Todd Solomon, an employee benefits attorney with McDermott Will & Emery LLP. With the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, Todd takes on pension benefits cases, and, as a result, has become an expert in domestic partner benefits. Todd has assembled teams of lawyers from McDermott to spend hundreds of hours benefiting non-profit organizations through the Community Economic Development Law Project. He heads McDermott’s pro bono and community service committee and has been a leader in raising funds for pro bono efforts through the CBF Investing in Justice Campaign.

The Richard J. Phelan Public Service Award was given to Dan Kirk of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. Dan serves as Chief of Staff for State's Attorney Anita M. Alvarez. When he's not upholding justice for the citizens of Cook County, Dan donates his time and talents to one of the most vulnerable communities in Chicago, homeless teens. Through the program Teen Living, he assists young people with nowhere to turn, helping with problems of daily life and any legal issues that arise from their homelessness.

The Thomas H. Morsch Public Service Award went to Ben Wolf of the Roger Baldwin Foundation of ACLU, Inc. For the past 25 years, Ben has worked on behalf of children, victims of abuse and neglect, prisoners and the mentally ill. Throughout his career, he has addressed problems in state institutions by filing class action impact lawsuits, effecting substantive change. Some of the major reforms brought about through his efforts have affected the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and the State of Illinois system for the care of mentally ill and developmentally disabled people.

The Edward J. Lewis II Pro Bono Service Award was awarded posthumously to Fred Cohen, who died of cancer last May at the age of 45. Fred’s wife, Dana, accepted the award on his behalf. A partner with Goldberg Kohn Ltd., Fred was a commercial litigator. Dana told us how Fred’s career was transformed when he took on a major class action suit against Medicaid that benefited 600,000 kids and set landmark standards for children's health care. Fred litigated the case while fighting his own private battle with the cancer that ultimately claimed his life. Fred, like Edward Lewis, for whom the award is named, had a real impact on the lives of many, many in our community before being taken from us much too soon.

You can visit the Chicago Bar Foundation here www.chicagobarfoundation.org/