Jefferson calls for black judge appointment

State Rep. Chuck Jefferson (D-Rockford) stood before the Winnebago County Board Oct. 12 to push for the appointment of a black associate judge in the 17th Circuit Court. While only judges of the circuit court can make such an appointment, Jefferson urged the board to use its influence to remedy what he called an unfulfilled promise.

“Some time ago, prior to the 1 percent sales tax referendum, Paul Logli visited the black community,” Jefferson explained, “to say that if, in fact, we would get behind this 1 percent sales tax for the jail, that he would guarantee that he could help us to get an African-American judge appointed.”

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Paul Logli, who was not at the meeting, said he is in favor of the appointment of a black judge. “I have worked in support of a particular candidate who is well qualified for the bench, and I will continue to support him as allowed by current procedural rules.” Logli said he shares in Jefferson’s disappointment it hasn’t happened yet.

Jefferson referred to the high number of blacks in the jail and said it’s time to have black representation in the circuit court. Jefferson is a known supporter of Democrat circuit judge candidate Gwyn Gulley. However, if Gulley, who’s African-American, is defeated by Republican Ed Prochaska in the Nov. 7 election, a spot will be open for an associate judge.

“If you are African-American and you come before an African-American judge, maybe someday you would aspire to be like that individual who you can relate to,” Jefferson added. “You can’t use the excuse anymore that there aren’t any qualified candidates.”

Democratic Central Committeeman John Nelson also went before the county board to echo Jefferson’s sentiments.

“Many years ago, in 1989, Zeke Giorgi said Rockford isn’t ready for a black mayor, and he was wrong,” Nelson said. “It seems as if there’s a feeling that Rockford isn’t ready for an African-American judge, and that’s wrong.”

Nelson told the board the next appointed judge should be black, even if that candidate happens to be a Republican.

Jefferson agreed the appointment is long overdue. “I’m hoping the county board can use their influence with the judicial system to say that it’s time,” he said.

From the Oct. 18-24, 2006, issue

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