Thursday, January 27, 2011

Judicial Arrogance? No. Judicial Independence? Yes.

This week, the Chicago press has engaged in extensive coverage of the legal proceedings involving the challenge to Mayoral Candidate Rahm Emanuel’s residency. The proceedings, understandably, hold great public interest. But the press has gone beyond the bounds of responsible journalism in impugning the integrity of several distinguished jurists who have been or will be involved in the legal proceedings before this case is over. Members of the legal community should speak out against the unfair, and unfounded, accusations that the Tribune has leveled against these judges.

The Chicago Tribune, in one supposed “news article” and two editorials (one entitled, “Judicial Arrogance”), has suggested that Illinois Appellate Justices Thomas E. Hoffman and Shelvin Louise Marie Hall were motivated by politics in issuing the majority appellate decision in the case. The Tribune suggests that both were “anointed by a Chicago political power broker who openly supports an Emanuel opponent.” The Tribune’s statements are baseless and unfair. Both Justice Hoffman and Justice Hall, who collectively have served the people of the State of Illinois as judges for 47 years, were, it is true, slated to run for office by the Democratic Party of Cook County. But so was Justice Bertina E. Lampkin, who penned the dissent in the case, and the Tribune does not question Justice Lampkin’s motives. All three are well-respected judges who have consistently been found qualified by this Bar Association and others.

What all three Justices did in this case was exactly what judges do in every case – they read the briefs, heard the arguments, studied the law, and reached what they believed were the correct decisions interpreting the law and applying it to the facts of the case. We express no opinion on the merits of the Appellate Court’s decision, but it is common in litigation that reasonable lawyers and judges, acting in good faith, reach different decisions. What is important to the rule of law is that we jealously guard judicial independence. If judges are not free to decide cases based upon their best judgment and are instead put under political pressure to reach one conclusion, then our legal system is deserving of no respect. The Tribune is irresponsible in suggesting that any of the three justices who participated in hearing this case was motivated by anything other than his or her honest interpretation of the law.

Even more irresponsible, both the Chicago Sun Times and the Tribune have attacked Justice Anne Burke of the Illinois Supreme Court, suggesting that she should recuse herself from participating in the Illinois Supreme Court’s review of the case because her husband is a “key Chico backer.” The editors of the these two distinguished papers should be ashamed of themselves for impugning Justice Burke’s independence and integrity. There is absolutely no basis on which to suggest that Justice Burke, whose reputation is beyond reproach, would decide any case based upon anything other than her best judgment of what the law requires. And, as a woman, I find particularly offensive the suggestion that Justice Burke would squander her reputation and her sacred oath in service of political views which the press attribute to her husband.

The press should know better. As retired Illinois Appellate Justice Gino DiVito said in an op-ed piece published in today’s Tribune:

“Totally unjustified is the destructive tendency by some to attribute judicial decisions to some sort of bias: to a preordained result, to political identity or payback, to downright corruption. Flippant and erroneous remarks by those who have the privilege of influencing large segments of the public serve no proper purpose and undermine the trust that is so vital to our system of justice. Critical review of court decisions, of course, is desirable. But we owe it to our courts and to ourselves to base such analysis on evidence and applicable law. Criticism should not be based on imagined impropriety or demonization of parties or judges.”

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jerold S. Solovy

This is the text of a letter to the Editors of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin that I wrote on behalf of the Chicago Bar Association in memory of our long-standing member and good friend, Jerry Solovy.

On January 19, the Chicago legal community, and the Chicago Bar Association in particular, lost its heart and soul with the passing of Jerold S. Solovy. Jerry was always a leader in the Bar, and especially in the Chicago Bar Association.
As a young lawyer, Jerry was a mainstay of the CBA Defense of Indigent Prisoners Committee, recruiting his partners and associates to represent countless defendants in criminal trials at 26th and California. Jerry ultimately chaired that Committee, as well as the CBA’s Special Committee Studying the Adequacy of Legal Representation Afforded Indigent Defendants, the CBA Commission to Study the Criminal Justice System in Cook County, and the CBA Continuing Commission on Administration of Criminal Justice in Cook County. Beyond his formal committee service, Jerry could always be counted on to chair an event and to raise money for any worthy cause sponsored by the CBA.

I am proud to have called Jerry Solovy my law partner for the better part of the past two decades. On behalf of the Chicago Bar Association, I express our condolences to his family and to the many whom he touched with all the good works that he did for the people of the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois. As Jerry was fond of saying, “You are not put on this earth just to make money. You are put on this earth to do good for your fellow persons.” Jerry Solovy did that every day. He will be greatly missed.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Barristers’ Big Band Selected for Lawyers Rock Legends Concert

Congratulations to the Chicago Bar Association Barristers’ Big Band for being selected to play in the ISBA Lawyers Rock Legends Concert on February 3, 2011. The BBB was one of eight bands who won the right to play at the concert, which takes place at Buddy Guy’s Legends, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

Please come out and cheer on the BBB as they represent the CBA on February 3. Tickets are $85 and $125 for VIP Main Floor Seating (which includes food and beverage), or $35 for Upper Level Seating (which includes only two free drink coupons). You can purchase tickets through the ISBA by calling (312) 726-6072 or emailing A video of the BBB’s audition piece (“25 or 6 to 4”) can be found on You Tube at:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Presidential Action on Travel to Cuba

Following the Chicago Bar Association’s trip to Cuba last fall, several of us who traveled on the trip contacted the White House to urge the President to take action to loosen restrictions on travel by Americans to Cuba. Currently, there is a statutory ban on travel in place, and, since George W. Bush’s first term in office, travel by non-Cuban Americans has been permitted under only very limited circumstances.

On the afternoon of Friday, January 14, I was invited to participate in a conference call in which the White House announced the issuance of new Orders expanding Americans’ ability to travel to Cuba for study and for religious purposes, expanding the number of domestic airports from which airlines may operate direct flights to Cuba and expanding Americans’ ability to send remittances to Cuba to support non-family members. These changes essentially restore where were known as “people to people” policies previously in place during the Clinton administrations in the 1990s, and will make it possible for Americans to engage in broader humanitarian and educational travel to Cuba.

It was an honor for the Chicago Bar Association to be invited to participate in this important announcement. You can find a summary of the new policies at the following link: