Thank you to all of our candidates for running!
For a number of years, NDFA has produced a Judicial Ratings Voting Guide. We combine the rankings of the various Bar Associations, highlight the ones with negatives from 80% or more of the Bar Associations, and encourage voters to make up their own minds on who to vote for. We put our sources for the rankings on the sheet, so if voters wish to follow up they may -- often the Bar Associations will give the reasons for their rankings on their websites.
After an early attempt, NDFA has long had a policy of not endorsing judges: we don't attempt to evaluate the candidates ourselves, nor do we hear from judicial candidates at our meetings. Judicial candidates are welcome to come and talk to members informally during our social hour.
This time, the Judicial Guide has stirred up some controversy. At least two members have emailed me with their surprise over the rankings of one of the candidates. One stated:
"One of the candidates for judge in the 8th Subcircuit (Cole vacancy) is progressive legend, former State Rep. Ellis Levin (full disclosure, I am his campaign manager). Every progressive cherishes Levin's record as a legislator, he sponsored: The Citizen's Utility Board Act, which created CUB; the Illinois Hate Crimes Act, which strengthened penalties for attacks against LGBTs and ethnic and religous minorities; the Homestead Exemption Act, which saves homeowners money; the Order of Protection Act, which makes it easier for women in abusice relationships to get orders of protection; andThe Illinois Parental Leave Act, which allows parents time off from work to attend parent-teacher conferences.
He also revised the Illinois Pharmacutical Assistance Act, which made prescription medication more available to low-income families; as well as the revising the Illinois Condominium Act to give condo owners more rights.
I won't even go into the class action lawsuits he was involved with, except to mention he was the first attorney to successfully challenge a rate hike by a utility. And I won't go into the fact that Ellis was the legislative leader on getting Illinois to deal with the AIDS crisis, providing information and medical treatment. And I won't go into the fact the Ellis Levin was the first politician to march in the Chicago Gay Pride Parade.
There aren't five people in Illinois who have done more to advance progressive policy or values in the last fifty years. And yet, the NDFA endorsement sheet puts Ellis' name in bold as someone progressives should avoid voting for - the only candidate in his race so treated.
There is no mystery how this came about: as a progressive leader, Ellis has challenged the perogatives of the Machine.
A quick note about the Bar Association Ratings. The Chicago Bar Association is by far the largest organization and they do a very rigorous evaluation guided by the mission of maintaining a high quality legal system. They of course, rated Ellis qualified and said, "Mr. Levin is highly regarded for his integrity and knowledge of the law."
The Alliance, the collective name for the various sub-associations, is much smaller, more political and cliquish - and more easily controlled by political factions. Although it seems like Ellis has been rejected by twenty or so different bar associations, truthfully no more than five people have any objection to him. That is why the language is exactly the same for each sub-association."
I think that he is probably right: the Bar Association rankings can be very flawed, and without knowing the internal politics of each one, we don't really know why they rank the way they do.
On the other hand, no one has invented a better system that I'm aware for ranking the judicial candidates.
Discuss. Is there a better way to get information about judicial candidates to the general public? Does the current system work overall, despite the flaws inherent in the system? Should NDFA continue to put together the judicial guide?