Chicago voters help unqualified judges keep their jobs
11/10/2010 10:00 PM
A dozen Cook County judges deemed unqualified by legal organizations won reelection on Nov. 2, a result that left their opponents searching for better ways to educate city voters and strengthen Chicago’s judiciary.
Two judges rated “not recommended” in a Judicial Performance Commission pilot project only barely topped the 60 percent of votes necessary to keep their jobs. Their support was stronger in the city than in the Chicago suburbs.
“Most people didn’t know that this new process existed,” said Andy Shaw, executive director of the Better Government Association. “They definitely didn’t miss any of the negative ads – but they missed this.”
To Shaw, the hard work of judicial evaluations done by such groups as the JPC, the Chicago Bar Association and the Chicago Council of Lawyers is like a tree falling in the forest. The word, as he sees it, is not getting out.
Malcolm Rich, executive director of the Judicial Performance Commission, said his organization will focus on reaching city residents, the group from which judges identified as poor performers garnered greater support.
The two lowest scorers among the 69 Cook County judges up for retention were Susan J. McDunn, who received 63.8 percent “yes” votes, and Dorothy F. Jones, whose reelection was approved by 64.1 percent of voters.
In suburban Cook County, McDunn received close to 61 percent of “yes” votes and Jones received 59 percent. In the city, McDunn received 68 percent and Jones received 70 percent.
McDunn called the evaluation process “severely flawed.” She described her reelection as evidence that “the public very rightly disregarded the commission’s statements.”
But by barely clearing the election hurdle, supporters of the evaluation process contend that McDunn and her colleagues may not want to dismiss their negative evaluations too quickly.