Judge for yourself!
When I mentioned the possibility of a piece or two on how our 16th Circuit associate judges are appointed, I was convinced it would be met with a rousing chorus of yawns. But not only was there some real interest, but a couple of you asked why we’re electing a judge who’s already a judge.
That is a very good question!
So, without further ado, in what likely might be a two-parter, let’s examine the process of electing and appointing Kane County judges.
1. Full circuit and subcircuit judges
Are all ultimately elected. Full circuit judges run countywide, while the subcircuit variety run in one of the four judicial districts centered around Elgin, St. Charles, Aurora and western Kane County.
Once elected to a six-year term, circuit judges no longer face electoral opponents, but they do have to run for retention which requires a 60 percent “yes” vote. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion as I can’t remember the last time a circuit judge was booted from the bench in any county.
Should a circuit judge retire around an even-year election day, like David Akemann just did, that seat immediately goes on the ballot. If they step down between major elections, the Illinois Supreme Court appoints a replacement pending the next even-year election. Like it is with most incumbents, the appointee generally has the upper hand.
The advantages of a being a circuit judge include:
- Getting a little more money – $198k vs. $188k
- Having more say over their courtroom destiny
- They can’t be “fired” by their peers
- Voting on appointing associate judges
- They don’t necessarily have to be on call for off-hour hearings
The problem with this process is, if you get a semi-politically savvy candidate with a small power base in one of the smaller subcircuits, they can get themselves elected despite a lack of reasonable qualifications. That’s how Kane County got a bully and bigot like Judge John Dalton.
Since they only answer to the voters, circuit judges can essentially ignore the chief judge and their peers and pretty much do exactly what they want.
2. Associate judges
Are appointed by the 14 circuit judges and they serve until and unless those same folks vote them out, a very rare phenomenon. Since the late ‘90s, the only Kane County associate judge to be removed was Judge William Weir who got caught forging nominating petition signatures.
He wasn’t exactly booted either. Associate judges who’ve fallen out of favor are typically given an opportunity to “retire” before they’re voted out, which is exactly what Weir did.
Because of the aforementioned advantages, many, but not all, associate judges run for circuit seats as they become available. That’s how you get a sitting judge running for judge. Associate judges don’t have to give up their seat to run for a circuit or subcircuit position, either.
On Wednesday, we’ll discuss the associate judge appointment process and why it tends to lead to substandard choices.
I still love the ESO!
Despite a $140,000 budget deficit that’s provided the usual suspects with an opportunity to turn that organization into a political football, once again, I still love the ESO. That shortfall is basically the result of a small family foundation declining to renew a $150,000 grant.
My current favorite Facebook argument is that the Elgin Symphony Orchestra could bring in non-union musicians to cut costs. But as anyone who understands or has ever been a part of the Screen Actors Guild, Equity, or the Chicago Federation of Musicians knows that’s not the way it works.
Given the vast number of folks who want to enter the preforming arts, these unions essentially ensure that the artists are treated fairly and won’t be subjected to substandard working conditions.
They don’t begin to come close to the more fascinating laborer or public employee unions who can make it difficult to do business or balance a budget in Illinois.
Despite a certain ex-city councilman’s proclamations, the ESO has not asked Elgin for further financial support, stating that they’re mounting a fundraising effort to get back in the black, instead.
And I certainly hope they succeed because the ESO truly is a feather in Elgin’s collective cap. I’d really hate to see them disappear.
Furthermore, since coming on board in 2012, CEO Dave Bearden has done a phenomenal job of bringing that group back from the fiscal abyss at a time some folks thought the fat lady was about to sing the curtain down.
Were I an Elgin taxpayer, if the City did end up chipping in a bit, I’d be OK with it based on that great resuscitation effort. Meanwhile, if, like me, you firmly believe the ESO adds a great deal to the amazing gestalt that is Elgin, Illinois, go ahead a make a donation. That’s exactly what I’m going to do!
It was a great run!
But the Loyola Ramblers finally fell to those scurrilous Michigan Wolverines on Saturday. With the exception of the Kansas State game, the Ramblers singular tournament shortcoming was failing to put a team away when they had them down by 10 points.
But I firmly believe coach Porter Moser will be back as will the core of this fantastic Final Four team. Add an interesting incoming recruiting class and I think Loyola will be in the thick of tournament next year.
But regardless of any future possibilities, the Ramblers made this March one I’ll certainly never forget. I’ve never been so proud to be a Loyola graduate. Go maroon and gold!