In the 14th subcircuit, which covers parts of Chicago’s Southwest Side and southwest suburban Cook County, two 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.
Name: Marina E. Ammendola (D)
Running for: 14th subcircuit: Garcia vacancy
Bio: Ammendola is currently a Cook County circuit court judge serving in the municipal department’s traffic section. She was appointed to a vacancy in February 2017 and has presided over jury and non-jury DUI cases and contract cases. Before her appointment, she was a solo practitioner working on wrongful death and personal injury cases. She was also often appointed as a Guardian Ad Litem for disabled adults and minors. In addition to her 27 years practicing law, she spent five years as a teacher.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CBA rated Ammendola highly qualified, noting her extensive trial experience and advocacy skills. The CCL and ISBA rated her qualified. The ISBA wrote, “She received high praise from other attorneys for her legal knowledge, her ability to handle complex matters, and her integrity.”
Notable: In 1999, Ammendola represented Edmund Burke and Anne Burke in the well-publicized custody case of their foster child “Baby T.”
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.
Name: Beatriz Frausto-Sandoval (D)
Running for: 14th subcircuit: Garcia vacancy
Bio: Frausto-Sandoval has spent 12 years as an immigration lawyer in Cook County, six of those as a solo practitioner. She also volunteers to provide legal advice and “know your rights” presentations to immigrants. She has additional experience in real estate, family, traffic, bankruptcy, and labor law.
Bar association ratings: Negative
The ISBA found Frausto-Sandoval not qualified because she is mainly experienced in immigration law, writing, “While she is considered to be very knowledgeable and passionate in her area and to have a good temperament, she has never litigated a jury and has very little experience in state court or with state law.” The CCL also found her not qualified, and the CBA found her not recommended, also citing an insufficient breadth of practice experience. Frausto-Sandoval said she respects the evaluations process, but also believes investigators may not have understood how her immigration court experience might help her be a judge. “I think that a lot of attorneys don’t grasp the importance of immigration court, the seriousness of immigration court. Things function on a very similar level,” she said.
Notable: Frausto-Sandoval is running on a slate with prominent Cook County Commissioner and congressional candidate Jesús “Chuy” García. Her campaign has received donations from Friends of Chuy Garcia.
Survey Response: Responding to an Injustice Watch survey, Frausto-Sandoval acknowledged that the mainstream bar associations may not find her qualified because she has not tried a jury trial in a state court. But she wrote she is qualified because of her experience with a high-volume caseload, and that “[t]oo many of our judges come from a homogeneous pool of individuals who are not necessarily in touch with the mainstream, working class people of Cook County.” (Full survey)
There are no Republican candidates running for this seat.
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.