It’s election season, and that means bar groups broke out their grading pens.
Eighty-eight of the 105 hopefuls — that’s 55 of the 61 judges seeking retention and 33 of the 44 candidates seeking judgeships — received the unanimous support of The Chicago Bar Association and the 11 bar groups that make up the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening.
The Daily Law Bulletin reached out to each of the 17 judges and judicial candidates who didn’t come through the evaluation entirely unscathed. Their responses are included below.
For the full table of bar group recommendations and some background on the evaluation process, read the Law Bulletin’s report.
This list will be should more responses arrive.
Kathy M. Flanagan
Circuit Judge Kathy M. Flanagan, who serves as supervising judge of the Law Division’s Motions Section, was rated as “not qualified” for retention by Chicago Council of Lawyers due to concerns about her temperament.
The CCL said while some consider Flanagan “tough, fair and efficient,” others said she can be “unduly harsh, overbearing and sometimes disrespectfully aggressive with litigants with deadlines too often set without any input from litigants.”
Flanagan said the judicial evaluation process is flawed because the rating doesn’t tell voters the nature of the groups’ concerns.
“You could have positives on nine factors, but if you get dinged by someone on one, and your whole job evaluation is riding on it. It could be some decision you made … maybe there’s someone in divorce division who got a bad result on a trial,” Flanagan said. “If something is going to focus on that — to negate the entire performance of the judge — it really seems to be skewed.”
She also implied there was an element of sexism in the complaints on her temperament.
“In a man’s world, some judges can be tough and run a tight ship,” Flanagan said. “But if a woman judge does the same thing as a man judge, the man judge will be judged differently. A woman judge will be regarded as ‘harsh,’ ‘shrill,’ ‘scolding.’
Karla Marie Fiaoni
Karla Marie Fiaoni, a Homewood attorney, was given negative ratings by the Decalogue Society of Lawyers, the Hispanic Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association and the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago. She is running as a Republican for the 15th Judicial Subcircuit; her opponent is Democratic candidate Scott McKenna, a partner at Best Vanderlaan & Harrington.
The ISBA faulted Fiaoni for her lack of experience handling complex cases and “over reports that at times cases lingered too long unnecessarily.” It also said she gave incomplete and inadequate answers on her questionnaire to the alliance.
Fiaoni in an interview said she cannot rely on any law clerks to compile her paperwork as a sole practitioner and cited several family-related difficulties she had at the time.
Fiaoni argued her negative bar ratings were due to her running as a Republican in this election. She said when she ran for judge in 2010 as a Democrat, she was rated as “Qualified” or “Recommended” by each of the Alliance bar associations that evaluated her.
She also accused an unidentified attorney from an Alliance group of calling her references and “attempting to get [them] to say negative things about you.”
“They didn’t like that my references weren’t going to give negative feedback on me,” Fiaoni said.
Daniel Patrick Fitzgerald
Daniel Patrick Fitzgerald, a senior counsel at Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., was “not recommended” for election by The Chicago Bar Association. He is running as a Republican for the 13th Subcircuit — Zelezinski vacancy.
“He does not possess the depth and breadth of legal knowledge and practice to effectively serve as a circuit court judge,” the CBA wrote in its findings on Fitzgerald
In a statement to the Daily Law Bulletin, Fitzgerald emphasized the positive ratings he received from the Cook County Bar Association and the ISBA. He also said his Democratic opponent, Schaumburg attorney Shannon P. O’Malley, has “received negative ratings from every single bar association.”
That’s because O’Malley did not participate in any bar association’s judicial evaluations. Candidates who don’t participate are automatically “not recommended” for office.
Peter Michael Gonzalez
Circuit Judge Peter Michael Gonzalez, a Democrat running unopposed for the McGinnis vacancy, was deemed “Not Qualified” by the CCL. He declined to comment.
Other judges not recommended for retention
In addition to Flanagan, the CCL did not recommend retaining Circuit Judges Maura Slattery Boyle and Matthew E. Coghlan, even after listing several positive qualities about the two.
The council said it received multiple reports that Boyle is “insensitive” to criminal defendants; additionally, Boyle imposes much harsher sentences on defendants when compared to her colleagues, the council found.
The council cited two cases in which the 1st District Appellate Court remanded Boyle’s decisions back to the circuit court with orders to use a different judge after parties raised issues with Boyle’s statements and behavior.
In June 2016, the appellate court criticized Boyle for ignoring evidence and placing too high of a burden on the claims of Armando Serrano and Jose Montanez, two men who said they were framed for a 1993 murder by Chicago police officers and Cook County prosecutors — including Coghlan, then an assistant state’s attorney. They were later freed from prison.
In August 2017, the 1st District pulled Boyle from another case after she refused to allow a criminal defendant to present exculpatory evidence in his criminal trial.
The council wrote it “must balance concerns over these issues with positive reports from some lawyers.”
Coghlan, meanwhile, “represents a difficult case,” the council wrote. It has received complaints that Coghlan is “condescending and otherwise disrespectful” toward nonwhite lawyers and defendants and is biased toward prosecutors.
Coghlan is named as a defendant in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Serrano and Montanez. CCL referenced the outstanding lawsuit against Coghlan in its determination, stating while it was “concerned” about his record as a prosecutor, “these actions involve allegations not yet proven.”
Circuit Judge Lisa Ann Marino was not recommended for retention by the CBA due to “significant concerns” about her work ethic, punctuality, diligence and legal knowledge.
Circuit Judge James M. Varga was not recommended for retention by the ISBA and LAGBAC. Circuit Judge Lionel Jean-Baptiste was not recommended for retention by the ISBA.
Other candidates not recommended for election
Beatriz A. Frausto-Sandoval, a Democrat running unopposed in the Garcia vacancy of the 14th Subcircuit, was deemed not recommended or not qualified by nearly every bar association who issued a rating. Only the Hispanic Bar Association and the Puerto Rican Bar Association issued positive ratings on her candidacy.
In their respective decisions, the CBA, the CCL and the ISBA all took issue with Frausto-Sandoval’s lack of legal experience. The bar groups found that she has only been a lawyer since 2005, she has focused exclusively on immigration law, has little experience in state court, and according to the ISBA, has never litigated a jury.
Christine Svenson, a Chicago lawyer running as a Republican for the Lawrence vacancy in the 13th Subcircuit, received negative ratings from the CBA, the Cook County Bar Association, LAGBAC and the PRBA.
The CBA said Svenson was chastised by the Illinois appellate court for not following the court’s rules in a recent case; the CBA did not cite the case caption in its narrative. The ruling, according to the CBA, raised concerns about Svenson’s “knowledge of the law, legal ability and practice experience.”
Svenson is squaring off against Circuit Judge Samuel J. Betar III, who was given positive ratings by all the bar associations.
The CBA did not recommend Circuit Judge Marian Emily Perkins, a Democrat running unopposed for the Jones vacancy in the 5th Subcircuit, for judicial office after finding “concerns about the depth of her legal knowledge and judicial ability.” The bar group praised Perkins for her integrity and temperament.
The ISBA and LAGBAC found Cook County Assistant Public Defender Linda Perez, a Democrat running unopposed for the Lopez Cepero vacancy in the 6th Subcircuit, to be not qualified for judicial office. Although the ISBA called her a “zealous advocate” for her clients, the bar group faulted her lack of experience in both recent litigation and complex litigation.
Thomas F. McGuire, a Park Ridge attorney running unopposed as a Democrat for the Dunford vacancy on the bench, was given a negative rating by LAGBAC.
Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Elizabeth Ciaccia-Lezza, a Democrat running unopposed for the Riley vacancy in the 4th Subcircuit, was given negative ratings by LAGBAC and the CCBA.
Cook County Assistant Public Defender Arthur Wesley Willis declined to participate in the CBA’s judicial evaluation; as a result, the bar association automatically gave him a negative rating for office.