The story of a Cook County law clerk winning an election as a real judge last week, despite being caught posing as a judge, is raising issues with how Illinois voters select circuit judges.
Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (ILAW) Executive Director Travis Akin said the case of Rhonda Crawford is problematic. She was elected a Cook County judge last week, even after being charged for presiding over traffic cases as a law clerk and the Illinois Supreme Court barring her from taking the bench.
Akin said there needs to be a better and more independent vetting process.
“And not just blindly vote for political parties or vote for people they may have heard of before. They should make sure they understand the significance of these races,” Akin said.
Gov. Bruce Rauner has questioned whether judges should be elected, saying there’s a conflict of interest when political contributions from personal-injury attorneys go to judicial candidates.
Akin said that’s definitely an issue, but that it doesn’t guarantee a particular outcome.
Missouri has a merit process in which a panel picks three candidates, with that state’s governor making the appointment, Akin said. That’s not fair to voters, he said.
“I’d like to see some kind of hybrid system of the Illinois model and the Missouri model, but ultimately give the voters the ability to make the decision.”
In Illinois, state circuit court judges are elected to six-year terms, with retention votes thereafter.
–Illinois News Network