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Thursday, March 1, 2012 06:22 pm

Fourth District appellate judge rated ‘highly qualified’

Carol Pope of Petersburg gets top marks in state bar poll

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Illinois Appellate Court Justice Carol Pope

The Illinois State Bar Association has evaluated Illinois Appellate Court Justice Carol Pope as “highly qualified” in its judicial advisory poll and evaluations.

Justice Pope of Petersburg, a Republican nominee running unopposed in the Fourth Judicial Appellate Court District which includes Sangamon County, is one of three Illinois justices who received the rating of “highly qualified.”

In the fourth appellate district, 2,117 ballots/advisory polls were mailed out with 720 ballots returned.

Judy Cates and Stephen McGlynn, who are both running for the vacancy in the Fifth District Appellate Court, also received the evaluation of “highly qualified.”

The ISBA judicial advisory poll rates all Illinois judicial candidates for the March 20 primary election.

The ISBA’s process for determining, or rating, judicial candidates is divided into two processes which are based on where the candidates’ district is located.

In Sangamon County or counties outside of Cook County, an advisory poll is sent by mail to each lawyer in the circuit or district from which a candidate seeks election. Licensed lawyers who are not members of the ISBA may also request a ballot by contacting the ISBA.

The advisory poll, used in Sangamon County, consists of eight yes or no questions that factor in a judicial candidate’s integrity, impartiality, legal ability, temperament, court management, health, sensitivity to diversity and bias. Lawyer are then asked whether or not they believe “this candidate meets acceptable requirements for the office?”

Additionally, the ballot has an introductory question asking whether or not the lawyer filling out the ballot has sufficient knowledge of the qualifications of the particular candidate in that district. If the lawyer marks “no” the returned ballot is discarded.

Candidates must receive at least 65 percent “yes” response to the question regarding “meets requirements of office” in order to be recommended for office.

John Locallo, president of the Illinois State Bar Association, said that by releasing the advisory poll information it allows Illinois voters to make a more informed decision about the judicial candidates.

“Through these polls and evaluations, voters are provided the opportunity and responsibility of selecting qualified individuals to serve as judges to assure effective administration of our system of justice,” Locallo said. “I encourage voters to consider these poll results when deciding how to vote on March 20.”

Locallo said that after all the questionnaires or polls are collected, various ISBA subcommittees come together to form a full committee that decides an opinion of the candidates. There are three opinions possible, which include “highly qualified,” “qualified,” and “not recommended at this time.”

In Cook County, an ISBA Judicial Evaluations committee uses the results of a questionnaire and interviews to rate candidates for all judicial offices. Candidates for the Appellate Court outside Cook County are also evaluated.

Locallo said the reason the ISBA uses different methods for justices in Cook County and the rest of Illinois is primarily attributed to the large number of justices that run for judicial office in Cook County.

“It’s a little different for Cook County because of the geography and the sheer number of judges that run in Cook County,” Locallo said. “It’s a better system for us. Instead     of doing the judicial advisory polls, we do evaluations for each of the judges. If you’re a candidate running to be a judge (in Cook County), you have the option to go in front of the Illinois State Bar Association.”

Locallo, of Chicago, said that while the judicial ratings or polls are important in determining candidates’ evaluations, they do not represent the official opinion of the ISBA.

“These ratings or opinions are really the opinions of the lawyers who have chosen to take part in the process,” Locallo said. “The beauty of this process is that it serves as a mechanism that rates the judiciary and they (candidates) are held somewhat accountable to the people who are on the bench in front of them.”

A complete list of Illinois district polling results is available at www.isba.org/YouBeTheJudge.

The ISBA is a 33,000-member organization with offices in Springfield and Chicago that provides professional services to Illinois lawyers, and education and services to the public.

Contact Neil Schneider at nschneider@illinoistimes.com.

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