Vote for Judges

When you vote on Tuesday, one of the things you’ll presented with is a loooong list of judges. It’s all too easy to glaze over and just skip the list, or vote yes for all of them, or something. Which is why even terrible judges are rarely booted out. collects judge evaluations from ten different Cook County Bar Associations to help you make an informed choice on judge retention. There’s a lot of information on the site, but the summary is pretty easy: out of 70 judges up for election or retention, only three got less than an 80% combined retention recommendation:

Cynthia Brim, 50% — “[S]he has demonstrated too often a lack of a good grasp of the law.”
Robert Kowalski, 0% — “It is reported that he has made offensive remarks in open court based on gender and national origin – about litigants, court employees, and other judges.”
Amanda Toney, 60% — “First, some lawyers complain that she does not move cases expeditiously, a serious matter in a high volume court call. Second, there were many concerns raised about her temperament. She can be short-tempered and sometimes exhibits a lack of respect for lawyers appearing before her.”

And, hey, if your excuse for not voting is “I can’t vote for none-of-the-above,” well, here you can. What’s more sticking-it-to-the-man than voting to get rid of a judge?

8 Comments so far

  1. E (unregistered) on November 2nd, 2006 @ 9:22 pm

    Generally, I always vote not to retain to all of the judges. It never hurts to stir things up a bit…

  2. LOL (unregistered) on November 9th, 2006 @ 2:16 pm

    Funny how one woman who is pissed off for one reason or another…starts a whole bunch of lies regarding Judge Kowalski. I am personally affected by the situation and feel that those of you that don’t know the whole story should stay out of it. Do you know Judge Kowalski? Have you ever met or been in his court room? I didn’t think so. Mind your own business and find something better to do with yourselves than sit in front of the computer and blog. What do the associations do their evaluations on anyway? The fact that Judge Kowalski did not want to participate in their evaluations. That is a damn good reason to degrade his charachter.

  3. Fuzzy (unregistered) on November 9th, 2006 @ 2:36 pm

    Yeah, we should mind our own business. Who are we to think that we might participate in the democratic process or care about the justice system in Chicago?

    Oh wait, I remember who I am, I’m an American citizen and a resident of Chicago. And as such it’s my duty to be as informed of a voter as I can be, and then to exercise that vote.

    Also, I completely reject the notion that I have to be personally involved in a situation to have an opinion on and cast a vote regarding it. The government and the justice system serves us, not the other way around.

  4. LM (unregistered) on November 13th, 2006 @ 8:13 am

    What is your opinion on Judge Kowalski based on? Do you know him? Do you know someone that knows him? I was just wondering since you felt that it was important enough to tell everyone not to vote for him…You must have some hard evidence that he is a horrible judge. And not just the info that the different groups are stating. Which by the way they probably don’t know him either. And by the way, it obviously takes more than just some people saying bad things about him to not have him retained. He obviously is very qualified and educated otherwise he wouldn’t be a judge in the first place. Good try…

  5. Fuzzy (unregistered) on November 13th, 2006 @ 10:53 am

    Are you serious? Do you personally know every politician you vote for or against? No, I’ve never met Judge Kowalski, or any of the other judges on the retention ballot. I’ve also never met any of the candidates for Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller, Treasurer, U.S. Representative, etc., etc. And yet I voted in all of those elections, and I’m guessing you did as well. My opinions on them on based on news reports, their own positions and statements, discussing it with friends and family, etc.

    Also, I re-read what I wrote to make sure: I never told anyone not to vote for Judge Kowalski. I simply urged people to do their own research and presented some examples of judges who scored low on the Alliance of Bar Associations Judicial Screening.

    “He obviously is very qualified and educated otherwise he wouldn’t be a judge in the first place.” — Nope, that doesn’t fly at all. Maybe in a banana republic, but in America, simply having attained an office doesn’t give you the right to stay in it forever. Even U.S. Supreme Court Justices can be impeached*.

    Anyway, why all the complaining about my little Get Out the Vote effort? You won. Judge Kowalski was retained by 319,349 to 129,954 (71/29%). These complaints about my post might be understandable if he had been removed, but since he wasn’t it all feels, frankly, somewhat petty. If you don’t want anyone to ever say anything bad about you, maybe public office in the United States is not the best place for you.

    * Only one ever has, and he was aquitted.

  6. Fuzzy (unregistered) on November 13th, 2006 @ 11:00 am

    OK, I did say “What’s more sticking-it-to-the-man than voting to get rid of a judge?” which is something of a call to action, so I’ll take that one.

    And I misspelled acquitted.

  7. Fuzzy (unregistered) on November 13th, 2006 @ 11:04 am

    And here’s a Sun-Times article on Judge Kowalski where he presents his side of the story.

  8. LM (unregistered) on November 17th, 2006 @ 9:22 pm

    Excellent judge

    Publication: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
    Date: November 7, 2006
    Author: Robert J. Kowalski The Chicago Sun-Times
    Section: Editorials/Letters
    Edition: Final
    Page: 38
    Word Count: 301

    [We are] practicing attorneys in the northwest and west suburbs in support of Judge Robert Kowalski. We represent cases as both prosecutors and defense counsel; all of us have appeared before him daily for many years. We were saddened by your unfair and untruthful story about him [”Judge on the hot seat,” news story, Oct 6]. Apparently, the Alliance of Bar Associations chose to find him unqualified to be retained as a sitting judge, with only vague reasons. They mentioned that their findings were from information too ”confidential to mention.” Curiously, no one from your newspaper, nor the Alliance, ever took the necessary care to interview those who have practiced in Kowalski’s court for the past 17 years.

    In this jurist’s great career, he has been evaluated often and always has come forth as qualified and a man of high integrity with great understanding and application of the law. Those findings square with our own extensive court appearances before him.

    We agree with the Chicago Bar Association’s most recent assessment: ”Judge Kowalski manages his court call in a diligent and orderly manner. He is well-respected for his knowledge of the law, even temperament and work ethic.”

    Kowalski makes right decisions for right reasons, without any bias for or against any group. It is ridiculous to label him as indifferent to minorities, inasmuch as he was the sole judge who stood for minorities by bringing racial profiling cases in his court to the attention of the suburban police departments. He went so far as to offer to serve as a witness in one such case on behalf of a Hispanic man’s federal suit against a police department.

    We ask that the truth be reported, and challenge you to tell the complete story of an honorable man.

    Lawyers for Judge

    Robert J. Kowalski

    (signed by 51 attorneys)

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