2018 Cook County judicial voting guide: 12th subcircuit

In the 12th subcircuit, which covers some of north suburban Cook County, five candidates are vying for one judicial seat.

Once elected, there is no difference in responsibility of the countywide judges and subcircuit judges. All voters will have the chance to vote for all countywide candidates, but voters only vote for subcircuit candidates in their own area.

Maki vacancy
Democratic primary: 

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Joel Chupack

Name: Joel Chupack (D)
Running for: 12th subcircuit: Maki vacancy
Bio: Chupack, a partner at Heinrich & Kramer, P.C., and a lawyer for 35 years, currently focuses on real estate law and general commercial litigation. He is the vice chair of the CBA’s Real Property Law Committee and a former chair of the ISBA’s Real Estate Law Section. He has experience representing clients in a wide variety of cases, including personal injury, guardianship, and eviction, according to his campaign Facebook page. He has also been a commercial arbitrator for 20 years.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CBA found Chupack highly qualified, noting his “extensive practice experience” and “excellent temperament.” The ISBA and the CCL also found him qualified, with the CCL writing that he “is reported to be very knowledgeable about his areas of practice” and “is praised for his work as an arbitrator.”
Survey response: Responding to an Injustice Watch survey, Chupack highlighted his experience with firms of all sizes and said he supports “the recent efforts to move away from financial bail for less serious crimes.” (Full survey)

Thomas R. Molitor

Name: Thomas Raymond Molitor (D)
Running for: 12th subcircuit: Maki vacancy
Bio: Molitor has worked at his own law practice since he was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1985. His practice includes wills, trust, and real estate law, but he has litigated in every division of the Cook County court system, according to his campaign Facebook page. The page also notes that he is a consultant to “judges and elected officials” and that he received a Fraternal Order of Police Certificate of Appreciation. Molitor founded the Northfield Bar Association.
Bar association ratings: Mixed
This year: The ISBA found Molitor not qualified, writing, “He is considered to be professional, knowledgeable, courteous and always friendly. Concerns were raised over his lack of recent and complex litigation.” The CBA found him not recommended because he did not participate in the process. The CCL found him qualified, however, writing, “He has substantial litigation experience and is reported to have good trial skills. He was censured in 2001 for failing to effectuate service on a defendant in a personal injury case. But this is a minor blemish in an otherwise respected career.” Molitor did not respond to requests for comment on his ratings.
Past: When Molitor ran for judge in 1998, he was found unqualified by most bar groups because he did not yet have sufficient legal experience.
Notable: In 2001, Molitor was censured after he failed to properly serve a lawsuit on behalf of his client, and then repeatedly misled her into thinking the case was moving forward for nearly two years. Read the Injustice Watch story about his case and other candidates who have been disciplined by the Illinois Supreme Court here.
Survey response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Carmine Trombetta

Name: Carmine Trombetta (D)
Running for: 12th subcircuit: Maki vacancy
Bio: Trombetta, who runs his own law practice in Schaumburg, has been an attorney for 34 years. According to his LinkedIn page, he handles criminal and civil matters including personal injury cases, landlord-tenant disputes, and bankruptcy.
Bar association ratings: Mixed
The ISBA and the CCL found Trombetta qualified. The CCL cited his “good legal ability and temperament” and his “substantial litigation experience.” However, the CBA rated him not recommended, saying he “does not possess the requisite depth and breadth of legal knowledge and experience.” Trombetta did not respond to Injustice Watch’s request for comment on his ratings.
Survey response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Republican primary:

Alan M. Jacob

Name: Alan M. Jacob (R)
Running for: 12th subcircuit: Maki vacancy
Bio: Jacob, a licensed lawyer since 2007, runs his own law practice, and is also general counsel for a church in Glenview on a pro bono basis. According to his website, he has experience in “nearly every area of law,” and his biography on the Avvo lawyer directory site highlights his experience defending clients with DUI charges. Before becoming a lawyer, Jacob served in the Marine Corps and worked in various law enforcement positions, including as a Cook County deputy sheriff and a police officer in North Chicago.
Bar association ratings: Negative
The CCL, CBA, and ISBA  rated Jacob not recommended because he did not participate in the evaluations process. Jacob told Injustice Watch that he didn’t participate because he thought some of the personal information the bar associations asked for was “overreaching” and he “didn’t feel that would have given fair representation of why a candidate would be qualified.”
Survey response: In his response to an Injustice Watch survey, Jacob emphasized that his experiences have given him what he called “the most unique vantage point of the justice system—from the streets to the court.” (Full survey)

David Studenroth

Name: David Studenroth (R)
Running for: 12th subcircuit: Maki vacancy
Bio: Studenroth, a criminal and civil defense attorney who runs a solo law practice in Park Ridge, has been an attorney for 30 years. He has experience with both prosecution and criminal defense; he spent 11 years of his early career as a Cook County prosecutor. He volunteers by giving lectures to youth “about the consequences of breaking the law,” according to his website. He previously ran unsuccessfully for judge in 2016; he was unopposed in the Republican primary but lost in the general election.
Bar association ratings: Positive
This year: The CCL, CBA, and ISBA found Studenroth qualified. The ISBA wrote, “He has substantial trial experience and is considered knowledgeable with a good temperament and high character.”
Past: When Studenroth ran in 2016, he was found qualified or recommended by most bar associations. The CBA wrote, “Mr. Studenroth has extensive trial experience and is well regarded for his knowledge of the law, legal ability, diligence, and excellent temperament.”
Survey response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Injustice Watch has spent the past several months scouring the public record about the candidates. We’ve looked through everything from the candidates’ past employment to court records and campaign contributions. We’ve studied past disciplinary trouble, and we’ve collected the recommendations of the three major bar associations: the Chicago Bar Association (CBA), the Chicago Council of Lawyers (CCL) and the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA). We also offered each candidate the opportunity to complete a survey offering information detailing their experience and reasons for running. (All survey responses have been uploaded online.)

That research has led us to publish several individual articles, as well as this guide to help voters go to the polls better informed. (As a news organization, we are not endorsing any candidates, merely gathering information to help voters judge for themselves.)

Candidates file for a specific race: The candidates declare which seat they seek, and some candidates end up with no opposition at all. With the exception of a few suburban subcircuit contests, winning the Democratic primary amounts to securing the judicial post, as most candidates will face no Republican opposition in the November general election.

The candidates are running to fill openings created on the bench by a judge’s retirement, resignation, or death. Several of the candidates were given temporary appointments by the Illinois Supreme Court to fill vacancies up through the election, but each of them must compete in the elections to win a full six-year term.