Out of 73 Cook County judges whose names will be up for retention in the November 4th general election, the Chicago Council of Lawyers has deemed all but one as qualified to hold on to their offices.
The only exception: Judge Ann O’Donnell, who the CCL says is “not qualified” to retain her current judgeship in Cook County Criminal Court.
Judge O’Donnell currently presides over the Preliminary Hearing Call for criminal cases. But according to the CCL’s “Evaluation Report [of] Judges Seeking Retention in the November 2014 General Election and Judicial Candidates Seeking to Fill Judicial Vacancies,” released today, “lawyers report that [O’Donnell] has the legal ability and knowledge necessary for her current assignment,” but “many lawyers … criticize her judicial temperament as being unduly flip, sarcastic and rude.”
Read the entire 33 page report, which includes brief biographies of each judicial candidate, and the criteria by which the candidates were judged.
The report says that “Judge O’Donnell was criticized by some lawyers for a recent practice (within the past year) of refusing to appoint an Assistant Public Defender to a number of indigent defendants in the belief that family members should have been paying for a private lawyer…. More egregiously, she required certain of those defendants to return to her courtroom the next day with a private attorney, and continued to order these defendants to return each and every day until they were represented by private counsel. This sometimes went on for weeks, and was described by many as an abusive practice.”
The report on O’Donnell concludes: “The Council must weigh the positive comments we heard against the negative comments regarding [O’Donnell’s] temperament and her recent actions regarding the appointment of counsel. The Council finds her Not Qualified for retention.”
All other judges seeking retention on the November ballot received ratings of “qualified,” “well qualified, “ or the group’s highest endorsement: “highly qualified,” although a few judges were not ranked at all because they did not submit the information required for a CCL evaluation.
In addition, the CCL evaluated candidates who are seeking to fill 29 circuit, sub-circuit, and appellate vacant judgeships. All but four candidates were considered qualified or better.
Three of those “not qualified” candidates are running unopposed for open judgeships: Kristal Rivers, Diana Rosario, and Terrence J. McGuire.
The CCL said that Rivers, who is running unopposed for a vacant Cook County Circuit Court judgeship, “has good legal ability and temperament. But the Council is concerned that her litigation experience lacks sufficient depth and breadth. Additionally, some lawyers in recent cases have questioned her litigation skills and diligence.”
In the case of Diana Rosario, who is running unopposed for another Cook County Circuit Court vacancy, the CCL says “she is praised for her knowledge of intergovernmental agreements and other issues related to her current position [as in-house Counsel for the City of Chicago Department of Family and Support Services]. … The Council is concerned, however, that while she is respected in her current position, she does not have recent litigation experience in more complex matters.”
Terrence J. McGuire is running unopposed for judge in the 3rd Subcircuit. The CCL says McGuire “…is reported to have a good temperament as an administrative law judge … and his opinions are praised as being well-founded.” Although McGuire “has the potential to be a good Circuit Judge,” according to the report, “the Council is concerned … that Mr. McGuire has little litigation experience as a lawyer in more complex matters.”
A fourth candidate deemed “not qualified” by the CCL is James Paul Pieczonka, a Republican. He is running for judge in the 12th Subcircuit against Democrat James L. Kaplan, who according to the CCL is “qualified.”
According to the report, Pieczonka has spent most of his career as a sole practitioner involved in real estate development, and he has done work as an Administrative Law Judge for the Illinois Department of Revenue in the Hearings Division. “Mr. Pieczonka has limited litigation experience. Some question his litigation skills .. The Council finds him Not Qualified for the Circuit Court.”