These recommendations come from dozens of lawyers practicing in tenants and housing law, criminal defense, civil rights, consumer law and a other areas of public interest law.
Most of their clients are poor, working class and people of color and the recommendations are based on whether they feel their clients can get a fair trial in front of these judges.
Q: How is the list compiled?
A: A number of individuals in the progressive Chicago legal community solicit recommendations from trusted lawyers known through their personal and professional networks. The lawyers are encouraged to respond based on their actual experience with the judge in the court room and that judge’s rulings.
Some lawyers simply respond with “Yes” or “No” for judges they are familiar with, while others provide detailed information and opinions about the judges, at times referencing specific instances or cases.
Q: Why is the recommendation section blank for some judges?
A: That means that the judges who contributed to the list did not have any experience with those judges or input to add.
Q: What does it mean if it says “Mixed”?
A: That means that some of the lawyers responded with a “yes” recommendation and others responded with “no.”
Some lawyers may express ambivalence about a particular judge, stating some positive characteristics, along with negative ones. If the only feedback on a particular judge is ambivalent, they may be listed as “Mixed.”
Q: Why is this list not attributed to specific individuals or organizations?
A: Most of the lawyers who contribute their input for this list appear before these judges regularly. If a lawyer is perceived as making a negative recommendation of a judge, that judge could hold it against the lawyer and their clients. For that reason, the sources of the input and their affiliations are kept anonymous.
Q: What’s wrong with the recommendations from the various bar associations?
A: There is nothing wrong with those recommendations. The attorneys who contribute to this list just have a particular perspective and a more discriminating analysis.
The bar associations generally establish whether someone is qualified to be a judge. This means that they are knowledgeable about the law, have a reasonable temperament, are experienced, demonstrate integrity, etc.
This means, for example, that a judge in criminal court could consistently show a pro-prosecution/pro-police bias and still be “Qualified” or “Recommended” by the bar associations, so long as their rulings are legally sound and they don’t express their bias in an explicit or hostile manner. In contrast, that same judge would be listed as “No” on this list, based on the input from public defenders and private criminal defense attorneys. The same is true of judges who are biased toward landlords over tenants or corporations over poor individual litigants.