Speak Out

Voting for Judges: It Can Be a Matter of Life and Death

 

By Anne Swanson
Federal and State Budgets Team Leader

How do you vote for judges? Look at the names and pick someone who sounds good? Do you ever think to ask friends who might be lawyers their opinions about the judges before the election?

Researching the judicial candidates is the same no matter what circuit you are in. I am writing from the perspective of the 18th Judicial Circuit, which is a single county circuit, in DuPage County.

Here are some guidelines on how to research your judicial candidates.

What’s the difference between an associate judge and a full circuit judge?

Both associate and full circuit judges sit on the bench and conduct the business of the courtroom from motions to trials. Associate judges are appointed by the circuit judges. Circuit judges may hear any case assigned to them by the Chief Judge. Associate judges may not preside over criminal cases in which the defendant is charged with an offense punishable by imprisonment for one year or more (felonies).

Who’s elected?

Supreme court, appellate court, and circuit judges are elected. The circuit judges elect one judge from among them to be the Chief Judge of the circuit. Elected judges may seek to retain their position. When you see a name in parentheses for a judicial position, it is the name of the judge whose position is being filled. That judge is leaving that position.

How to research a judge’s record

The best place to research those running for judge is the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) website. The ISBA provides public information about the qualifications of judicial candidates and judges seeking retention. This year, the evaluations will be available after February 23. Here is a portion of what the ISBA website explains.

Judicial vacancies  

The office of a judge is vacant upon death, resignation, retirement, removal, or upon conclusion of their term without retention in office. Supreme and Appellate Court judges are elected by voters in their Judicial District. Circuit Court judges are elected by voters in their Judicial Circuit or county. Supreme and Appellate Court judges serve ten-year terms, while Circuit Court judges serve six-year terms. At the end of their term, each are required to file for retention to serve longer.

Voting for judicial retention 

At the end of the term of Supreme, Appellate, and Circuit judges, each may file a declaration of candidacy to succeed themselves. The names of the judges seeking retention are submitted to eligible voters in the appropriate Supreme and Appellate Court Districts and in the appropriate Judicial Circuits or counties for retention of Circuit judges. Judges seeking retention are listed on the ballot separately and without party designation. Voters are asked the sole question of whether each judge should be retained in office for another term. An affirmative vote of three-fifths (60%) of the electors voting on the question elects the judge to the office for another term.

Judicial evaluations

Candidates who are seeking election to Appellate or Supreme Court judicial vacancies and judges seeking retention to their Appellate or Supreme Court positions are reviewed in a comprehensive evaluation process called Judicial Evaluations. This involves a detailed background investigation by members of the ISBA Judicial Evaluations Committee, followed by an in-person interview of the candidate or judge. The committee then decides how to rate the candidate or judge. Ratings for candidates seeking election to the Appellate or Supreme Court are rated Qualified, Highly Qualified, or Not Qualified. Judges seeking retention are rated Recommended or Not Recommended. The Judicial Evaluations Ratings express the opinion of the Illinois State Bar Association.

In counties outside of Cook, ISBA conducts an advisory poll. The poll is conducted by mail and is sent to all ISBA members in the circuit or district from which a candidate seeks election or a judge seeks retention. Licensed attorneys who are not members of ISBA, or any attorney outside the circuit or district, may also request a ballot. Participants of the poll are asked to evaluate each candidate only if they have professional knowledge of the candidate(s) that enables them to make an informed evaluation. Ballots are confidential and returned inside a ballot envelope, which is mailed in a teller envelope. A certification slip stating that the participant read and understood the instructions of the poll is signed for the ballot to be counted.

Candidates and judges are rated “recommended” or “not recommended” based on whether respondents agree that the candidate “meets acceptable requirements for the office.” Those receiving 65 percent or more “yes” responses to that question are rated “recommended,” and those receiving less than 65 percent are rated “not recommended.” Opinions expressed in the poll are of those attorneys who chose to respond and do not reflect the opinion of the Illinois State Bar Association or the opinion of all Illinois attorneys.

Following are the questions asked on the poll. Please note that questions on “Temperament and Court Management” differ for those seeking a judicial vacancy and those seeking retention. Clarification of those differences are noted below.

Meets Requirements of Office

(Recommendation) Considering the qualifications of the candidate, do you believe this candidate meets acceptable requirements for the office?

Integrity

Adhere to the high standards of integrity and ethical conduct required of the office?

Impartiality

Act and rule impartially and free of any predisposition or improper influence?

Legal Ability

Have adequate legal experience, knowledge, and ability?

Temperament

for a judicial vacancy:
 Exercise appropriate temperament with courtesy, consideration, firmness, fairness, patience, and dignity?

for judicial retention:
 Exercise the judicial temperament to serve with appropriate courtesy, consideration, firmness, fairness, patience, and dignity?

Court Management

for a judicial vacancy:
 Attends to all professional responsibilities including the management of cases/clients, and completes work in a prompt and skillful manner?

for judicial retention:
 Diligently and promptly attends to the duties of the office and assures the steady progress of court business?

Health

Have the physical, mental and emotional health, stamina, and stability needed to perform judicial duties?

Sensitivity to Diversity and Bias

Conducts self and deals with others appropriately to reduce or eliminate conduct or words which manifest bias based on race, gender, national origin, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status against parties, witnesses, counsel or others?

As in any election, it is important to do your homework. Judges do matter. Sometimes it can be a matter of life or death.

 

Sources

Information taken from the Illinois State Constitution and the Illinois State Bar Association website.


ACE Federal and State Budgets Team Leader Anne Swanson practiced law in DuPage County for 25 years. She also served as the DuPage County Arbitration Administrator.  She is now retired and is happily selling books at Anderson’s Book Shop in Naperville.

 

 

 

The Human Cost of the #GOPTaxScam

By Lauren Underwood

Candidate for Congress, IL-14, registered nurse, and health policy expert

 

Senate Republicans have passed their tax bill, and the President has dubbed it an historic moment. Here are words I never imagined I’d say: He’s right. Because this is a historically bad bill: not just the most unpopular tax legislation in forty years, not just the most brazen federal boon to billionaires in modern memory, but the first ever so-called tax bill to strip 13 million Americans of their health insurance.

Currently, the GOP’s stealth attack on Obamacare appears only in the Senate bill, not in the one passed by the House. In coming weeks, the House and the Senate will combine their bills into a version they both agree on. If Republicans in Congress manage to jam repeal into this final bill, history won’t just be made, it will be repeated. The President and his party will throw the country back into a time when too many Americans could not access the medical treatment that would save their lives.

We’ve been framing the tax debate as a question of economics: Should we strip the middle-class of crucial deductions to put more money in the hands of corporate investors? Should we sacrifice the future of Medicare and other essential social service programs to save the President’s family business a few (million) bucks? Should we blow up the federal deficit and trigger catastrophic spending cuts? (The GOP’s response: yes, absolutely, and sure, why not?)

Here’s the question we should be asking: If this bill passes, will it be harder for me to protect my health and the health of the people I love?

The answer: another resounding yes. The Republicans in congress have smuggled a time bomb into their bill, and when it goes off, it will explode our individual health insurance system.

Back in July, the Senate voted down a “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act. The centerpiece of that effort was the elimination of the “individual mandate,” a requirement that anyone who can afford to purchase insurance does so. This may sound like a minor change. It would in fact be catastrophic.

As a policy advisor in Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services, I helped roll out many of the reforms within the ACA. In the process, I came to understand that a stable market depends on both the sick and the healthy buying insurance ,  which means without the mandate, the whole system falls apart. There’s good reason the American Medical Association, the AARP, the American Cancer Society Action Network, and a bipartisan group of governors all rallied against skinny repeal. They believed it would put millions of Americans at risk.

They were right.

Senate Republicans have tried again and again to repeal Obamacare. Again, and again, they’ve failed. They failed because we, the people they represent, want affordable access to health care, and we made our voices heard. Now congressional Republicans have resurrected skinny repeal from the dead and slapped a new name on it. Under the guise of a tax bill, they’re trying yet again to abolish the individual mandate, hoping this time, no one will notice.

They think they can get away with this because the mandate itself isn’t popular. No one likes being told what to do, much less what to buy. But when healthy people aren’t required to buy insurance, fewer of them do. This leaves behind a higher percentage of sick people in the insurance market ,  which raises costs for the insurance companies. So, insurers shift these costs to consumers, and everyone’s rates rise. When they do, this drives even more people out of the market, and the market edges closer to collapse. Here comes the GOP’s favorite part: The fewer people who can afford to buy even subsidized insurance, the less money the government must pay out.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that one year after repeal, 4 million fewer people would have health insurance. By 2027, that number rises to 13 million. Those remaining on the individual market will pay 10% higher rates every year — and that’s in the lucky state markets that survive. Meanwhile, the government nets $338 billion to pay for its corporate tax cuts. Or, I should say, to pay for a fraction of its corporate tax cuts, keeping their cost to a mere $1.5 trillion.

To be clear: The GOP isn’t denying this. They’re counting on it. If 13 million people don’t lose access to health care, congressional Republicans don’t get their $338 billion.

You don’t have to be on the individual insurance market to bear the burden of its destruction. When uninsured people get sick, they’re legally entitled to emergency care — and someone must pay for it. A portion of that cost falls on hospitals, which could be forced to close their doors. A portion of the cost falls on insurers, who could compensate by raising your rates. And the remaining billions of that cost will fall directly on the American taxpayer — you.

Then, of course, there’s the human cost. As a registered nurse, I know all too well what happens when a cancer patient can’t afford chemotherapy, when a cardiac patient can’t afford a new defibrillator battery, when a diabetic patient can’t afford insulin. For many Americans, this tax bill could be a death sentence — and that’s a higher cost than any of us should be willing to pay.

The Republicans in congress can call it whatever they’d like, but this is not tax reform. This is health care repeal. This is a stealthy slashing of the social safety net. And this is all for the sake of income redistribution — shifting ever more money from the poor and middle-class to the rich. It’s fiscally irresponsible and morally bankrupt.

Affordable health care can still be saved — but only if enough House Republicans stand up to their party, their President, and their wealthy donors. Unfortunately, congressional Republicans don’t seem to mind that their constituents hate this bill, as long as those donors love it.

The billionaires who fund the Republican Party have made themselves clear: give us our tax break, or the donations dry up. By supporting this bill, our representatives have in turn sent us a very straightforward message: We don’t care about you, unless you’re in the top 1%. We don’t care that the ballooning deficit could trigger billions in automatic cuts to programs like Medicare, the Student Loan Administration, and the Military Retirement Fund. We don’t care that your taxes might actually go up, or that your state and local budgets might be gutted. And we certainly don’t care about your health.

A vote for this bill says: We only care about the wealthy donors who fund our campaigns. We only represent them.

Anyone willing to say that should lose their privilege to represent us.


Lauren Underwood is a registered nurse, health policy expert and former Senior Policy Advisor in the US Department of Health and Human Services. She’s running for Congress in Illinois’s 14th Congressional District against Tea Party Republican, Randy Hultgren, who voted to support the House Tax Plan.

The #MeToo Movement and the ERA

By Beverly George

ACE Leader

There has been a cacophony of “Me, too!” cries recently from scores of women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted in the workplace by men in power.

On October 5th, Harvey Weinstein began the long parade of powerful men in business, entertainment, and politics losing their jobs, with more men getting their marching orders every day. The range of odious behavior directed to women begins with inappropriate, rude, or crude comments or actions, and extends to lewd or criminal behavior.

While I am pleased to see the spotlight shine on these heinous acts, I have some nagging thoughts.

First, what about the victims of sexual harassment or assault from a less famous employer, such as the manager of the local corner store, restaurant, manufacturing plant, or car dealership? Will these victims have the courage to tell their stories, or will they fear losing the jobs they desperately need? Will these men be held accountable?

Second, I’ve read about the standing procedure for making a complaint of sexual abuse in the Congress and in other high offices. In the past, victims have received financial settlements, but at the very high personal price of signing non-disclosure agreements so ironclad, the offenders’ names can never be disclosed, enabling them to continue their illicit behavior. I resent mightily that my tax dollars are used to pay the settlements and keep the cloak of secrecy in place while the wheels of these crimes roll over additional victims.

 

‘I resent mightily that my tax dollars are used to pay the settlements and keep the cloak of secrecy in place while the wheels of these crimes roll over additional victims.’

 

Third, the repercussions for an assailant in business is immediate and severe as it should be, but politicians spend a lot of time denying (even with multiple, credible victims) and then dithering. They seem to get a pass if they can ride out the 72-hour news cycle that immediately follows. And when they deny strongly and continuously, many of their female supporters join their cheerleading squad! When I see Alabama women support Roy Moore in spite of the numerous accusers, I am completely dumbstruck. Moore’s incongruous support from women makes me brace for a backlash after the initial, wide support for victims.

Fourth, I worry the emphasis in the media will shift from the deep and enduring harm done to the victims by these predators, to the perceived-as-too-harsh penalties paid by them. Could we hear this statement in the not-so-distant future? “He lost his job, his business, his reputation, his family, his position in the community.” This could backlash into silencing the victims again. And if one, just one, woman’s story is found to be false, the backlash to women will be immediate and acute, and all future testimonies will be discredited with doubt and a suspected “woman scorned” motivation.

I’ve heard TV pundits say we need to keep the conversation going and try to find the elements in our culture that have promoted, or at least allowed, the prevalence of sexual abuse by men in power to grow.

I believe America has a very real caste system. It is a part of American society or culture that people of color and people of lower economic income are valued less than their white or wealthier neighbors. I see it in the prosecution of our laws, differences in public education systems, low minimum wage, investments in community infrastructure, and recent legislative efforts to lessen or remove critical social services from those most in need.

Does this devaluation of some American lives extend to women in America? The evidence indicates it does. American women workers still earn $0.80 on the dollar for the same work done by men. Recent GOP efforts to repeal and replace the ACA had men writing the legislation to determine and limit reproductive health choices for women. The legislation they wrote without any women’s voices effectively categorized women as chattel. The sexual abuse of women in the workplace is just another symptom of the inequality of women.

 

‘Would passing the ERA change the status of women?’

 

Would passing the Equal Rights Amendment change the status of women? I’m a realist, as well as a feminist, and I believe positive outcomes from adding the ERA to the U.S. Constitution would evolve through the courts, albeit slowly. However, passing the ERA would immediately raise hope, raise voices, and give power to women, and the men who support them, to secure their equal rights under the Constitution. The ERA would have a greater and more lasting effect on women’s lives than any single or multiple pieces of legislation, too often diluted by subsequent efforts to repeal, to revise, or to interpret differently from the original intent.

Passing the ERA into Constitutional law is long overdue. When women are securely equal to men under the Constitution, more of them will be empowered to advocate for themselves in the workplace and not just on the subject of salary.

May the chorus of #MeToo play on.

 


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.

Thanksgiving Week, 2017

By Beverly George

ACE Leader

The first Thanksgiving can be traced either to 1607 in Virginia, or to the Plymouth Plantation in 1621, where English settlers, the first immigrants, held a feast with welcoming natives to offer thanks for a successful harvest.

Now it’s our turn, so in this extraordinary year, 2017, I’m giving thanks for the following.

  • The friend who called a year ago to ask, “Do you want to march with me in January?” and also for the men and women to whom we extended the invitation who answered, “Count me in!” without a pause;
  • Family members who held down the fort, ordered the takeout, fed and walked the dog, cheered the marchers from home, and recorded the TV coverage, so we could later see the global energy of that day;
  • The men and women we’ve encountered this year who have shown the energy that can’t and won’t be held back, a “Yes, we can!” attitude so palpable and hopeful that remembering it lifts us again and again;
  • New friendships we’ve made in the network of common purpose–embracing, celebrating, and saving the institutions and services vital to our democracy;
  • The intelligent, capable, passionate speakers, who informed and engaged us at meetings and rallies;
  • Sister organizations with whom we’ve joined to build a louder and stronger political voice;
  • Community members who have opened their doors in friendship so that none of us is a stranger here;
  • Elected representatives who listen to constituents, who have tried to find solutions to benefit all of us;
  • The candidates who choose to leave their comfortable professions and homes to run for public office and make a difference in our communities; and
  • The Virginia voters who showed us how to flip seats to create a more accurate, more diverse, and stronger representation for the 21st century.

For these and so much more, I am thankful.

 


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.

Republican Tax Bill Up for Vote Any Day Now

By Janice Podolski
ACE Health, Education, and Welfare Team Member

 

Here we go again. The Republicans passed their budget resolution that cut $1.5 Billion from Medicare and Medicaid, dealing a blow to the elderly, the poor, and the sickest. Now they plan to pass their tax reform bill, officially called the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” using the “Reconciliation” process that will only require fifty-one votes in the Senate. Vice President Mike Pence will be the tie-breaking vote.

Sound familiar?

It’s the same process the GOP used to try to pass their “Better Health Care Act,” which was meant to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act earlier this year, but, this time, they may actually win.

The House and Senate both are working on their own versions of the Tax Bill. Reportedly, House Speaker Paul Ryan believes he has the 218 votes needed to pass the House version of the Tax Bill, and he plans to bring it to the floor for a vote possibly on Thursday, November 16. If it passes, and the Senate approves their version of the bill, they will use a committee to reconcile the two bills into a single “Reconciliation” bill. If a reconciled bill passes both the Senate and House, it will move onto the president for his signature. President Trump wants this done before Christmas as his gift to his base and doesn’t seem to care what is really in it.

The House version eliminates the Major Medical Expense deduction, which allows taxpayers to deduct their unreimbursed allowable medical care expenses that exceed 10% of their adjusted gross income. The bill limits the deduction for property taxes to a maximum of $10,000 and on a primary home only. Only the interest on the first $500,000 borrowed to purchase a primary home would be deductible, and the bill eliminates deductions for interest on mortgages for second homes and home equity loans.

It also ends the deductions for income or sales taxes, as well as deductions for the interest on student loans. Teachers would no longer be able to deduct the cost of supplies they buy for their classrooms. The deduction for losses from floods, fires, or tornadoes that exceed 10% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income would be repealed. And there are many, many more cuts, eliminations, and repeals of deductions.

This bill hits the middle class hard.

Interestingly, the House Ways and Means Committee, which is the step before a bill goes to the House floor for a vote, approved a provision in this Tax Bill to do away with the “Johnson Amendment” of 1954 that forbids non-profit charities [501(c)(3)s], including churches, from endorsing political candidates.

Just think—when you open your next church bulletin or solicitation for your favorite charity you could see a line urging you to vote for Peter Roskam or other candidate(s).

The Senate is still “marking up” its version. And there are many differences, but you get the gist. Just today, the Senate has decided to include a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that requires everyone to have health insurance.

They keep trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act bit by bit even if they have to try to hide it in a Tax Cut Bill. The plan is for the House Republicans to go first to try to push their version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act through the House. Then the Senate will get their version through the Senate Finance Committee, which is the step before it goes to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

And so, the rollercoaster ride begins anew. Let’s hope it is at least that and not a slam-dunk that hurts the poor, the elderly, and the middle class while benefitting only the very wealthy and corporations.

We learned during the Reagan administration that “trickle-down economics” just does not work. Guess the Republicans didn’t get that memo.

Call your Congressmembers, whether Republican or Democrat, and voice your concerns regarding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Bill. And it is not too soon to voice encouragement for Senators Durbin (202-224-2152) and Duckworth (202-224-2854) to stand up for the people of Illinois in this fight.

 

Sources: The Washington Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, Politico, MSN News, and The Hill.

 


ACE Health, Education, and Welfare Team Member Janice Podolski is a retired faculty member from the Department of Pharmacology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. She was a registered nurse for fifty years and has a master’s degree in Nursing and Ph.D. in Physiology. She volunteers at Loaves & Fishes Community Services and with PADS in DuPage County.