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

 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.