2018 Cook County judicial voting guide: 2nd subcircuit

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In the 2nd subcircuit, which covers parts of Chicago’s Far South side and the southern suburbs, 13 candidates are vying for six judicial seats.

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.

Not sure if you live in the 2nd subcircuit? Try using this handy map to find out. Go back to the countywide races here or learn more about our guide below.


Lampkin vacancy
Democratic primary:

Cook County judicial candidate Fredrick H. Bates

Fredrick H. Bates

Name: Fredrick H. Bates (D)
Running for: 2nd subcircuit: Lampkin vacancy
Bio: Bates was appointed to a countywide judicial vacancy in November 2015. He lost the 2016 primary election for that seat, but was re-appointed to a different vacancy at the end of 2016 and currently hears cases in the Markham courthouse. Previously, he worked at various firms and as a solo practitioner since 1983, concentrating in labor and employment law. He also spent 15 years as an administrative law judge and hearing officer, and nine months as chairman of the Illinois Civil Service Commission. He has also served as general counsel to a social services nonprofit.
Bar association ratings: Positive
This year: The CCL, ISBA, and CBA found Bates qualified, with the CCL noting he is “praised for his temperament.”
Past: In 2016, the CCL, ISBA, and CBA found him qualified.
Notable: Bates has been endorsed by the Chicago chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police in the past but was not endorsed this year. In April 2017, Bates’s campaign created some controversy when it posted a photo on Facebook of a fire truck adorned with a Bates campaign ad, parked in front of the Markham courthouse where he works, seeming to toe the line separating his judicial duties from his campaign. A Bates spokesperson told the Chicago Sun-Times blamed the photo on a campaign worker’s error and said Bates had instructed the fire truck to leave the area.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Tiana E. Blakely

Name: Tiana E. Blakely (D)
Running for: 2nd subcircuit: Lampkin vacancy
Bio: Blakely has worked as an assistant public defender since she became a licensed attorney in 2004. According to her campaign website, she has worked in several divisions of the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, including child protection and felony trial, and has coached new attorneys in trial skills through the Office of the State Appellate Defender. She told the Chicago Tribune she has hosted criminal record expungement summits.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CCL, ISBA, and CBA found Blakely qualified. The CCL wrote though she has only 13 years of experience, she has “a variety of legal experiences and is considered a solid defense attorney.”
Survey response: In her response to an Injustice Watch questionnaire, Blakely highlighted her commitment to her Roseland community and noted that she considers “lack of diversity in the justice system” a significant issue. (Full survey)

Republican primary:

There are no Republican candidates running for this seat.


Laws vacancy
Democratic primary:

Cook County judicial candidate Adrienne E. Davis

Adrienne E. Davis

Name: Adrienne E. Davis (D)
Running for: 2nd subcircuit: Laws vacancy
Bio: Davis was appointed to the bench in March of 2017. She presides over misdemeanors, traffic violations, and felony preliminary hearings. Davis spent 22 years with the Cook County Public Defender’s Office where she tried 36 homicide jury trials and over 100 felony bench trials. Davis is also an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago College of Law.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CCL and ISBA found Davis qualified and the CBA found her highly qualified. The CBA wrote Davis is “passionate about the law” and has an “outstanding demeanor.”
Survey Response: In response to an Injustice Watch questionnaire, Davis cited the lack of diversity in the judiciary as the most pressing issue facing the system today. “The Illinois court system should reflect the community which the court system serves,” she wrote. (Full survey)

Cook County judicial candidate William H. Laws

William H. Laws

Name: William H. Laws (D)
Running for: 2nd subcircuit: Laws vacancy
Bio: Laws is a solo practitioner focusing on criminal defense, and has worked in this area for over 35 years. Currently, he represents criminal defendants in state and federal courts on a variety of charges including first degree murder.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CCL, ISBA, and CBA found Laws qualified. The CCL noted that in one federal case, a judge found that Laws’ prior representation of a defendant “was lacking,” but the group said it still deemed him qualified because of “a long career of being considered a solid practitioner.” Injustice Watch reported on Laws’s representation, which a federal judge deemed ineffective, in the aforementioned case.
Notable: Laws is the longtime husband of recently retired Judge Marjorie C. Laws, whose vacancy he hopes to win. According to his campaign website, Laws worked as a volunteer attorney representing a group of students from Decatur, Ill., who were expelled from school after a fight broke out in the stands of a high school football game. The case drew national attention.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Republican primary:

There are no Republican candidates running for this seat.


Rhodes vacancy
Democratic primary:

Toya Harvey

Name: Toya T. Harvey (D)
Running for: 2nd subcircuit: Rhodes vacancy
Bio: Harvey was appointed to the bench in March of 2017 and currently presides over cases in the forcible entry and detainer division in Cook County. Harvey served 21 years as a Cook County assistant public defender, where she worked in the homicide, felony trial, misdemeanor, and juvenile divisions. She also spent five years as the coordinator of the Cook County Public Defender’s Community School Outreach Program.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CCL and ISBA found Harvey qualified. The CBA found her highly qualified, noting she “does an excellent job in explaining the court process to pro se litigants.”
Survey Response: In response to an Injustice Watch questionnaire, Harvey highlighted her experience working on complex litigation and her ability to manage a heavy caseload, stating she is “equipped to be a well-balanced jurist.” (Full survey)

Tiesha Smith

Name: Tiesha L. Smith (D)
Running for: 2nd subcircuit: Rhodes vacancy
Bio: Smith has worked in the Cook County Public Defender’s Office since 2010. Before that, she practiced in insurance defense litigation and foreclosure mediation and worked as a prosecutor for Chicago Public Schools.
Bar association ratings: Negative
Smith was rated not recommended by the CCL, the ISBA, and the CBA after failing to participate in their evaluations. She did not respond to requests for comment on her ratings.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Republican primary:

There are no Republican candidates running for this seat.


Turner vacancy
Democratic primary:

Devlin Schoop

Name: Devlin Schoop (D)
Running for: 2nd subcircuit: Turner vacancy
Bio: Schoop was appointed to a vacancy in August 2015 and heard child protection cases until he lost his seat in the 2016 elections. He is now a supervising attorney in the City of Chicago Law Department, defending the city in civil rights suits. He previously spent 16 years in private practice focusing on commercial, employment and civil rights litigation. Schoop served on the Hearing Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Committee from 2008 to 2015. He has volunteered for the Cook County Bar Association Criminal Expungement Project and the Center for Elder and Disability Law.
Bar association ratings: Positive
This year: The CCL found Schoop well qualified; he is one of only five candidates to receive that rating. The CCL noted his “excellent” temperament and “unquestioned” integrity. The ISBA and CBA found him qualified.
Past: In 2016 Schoop was found qualified by the  CBA and ISBA and well qualified by the CCL.
Notable: As a partner at Laner Muchin, Schoop played a leading role in the investigations of the 2014 allegations of corruption and abuse within Cook County’s probation department. After being appointed to the bench, Schoop was criticized by the Chicago Tribune about the rigor of his investigation after Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans still had not released the investigation’s results in 2017.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Arthur Willis

Name: Arthur W. Willis (D)
Running for: 2nd subcircuit: Turner vacancy
Bio: Willis has been a public defender for over 23 years. He serves as a board member and instructor for Minority Legal Educational Resources, a bar exam training program that aims to increase bar passage rates among minority law school graduates, according to his campaign website. Willis ran for judge in 2012.
Bar association ratings: Mixed
This year: The CCL and ISBA found Willis qualified.  The CCL wrote, “He is praised by prosecutors, other defense counsel, and judges for the quality of his motion practice, research, and grasp of legal issues.” The CBA gave him a rating of not recommended because he did not complete the evaluations process. Willis did not respond to requests for comment on his Bar association ratings.
Past: In 2012, the CCL and CBA found Willis qualified.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Republican primary:

There are no Republican candidates running for this seat.


Turner, Jr. vacancy
Democratic primary:

Ieshia Gray

Name: Ieshia Gray (D)
Running for: 2nd subcircuit: Turner, Jr. vacancy
Bio: Gray has been a Cook County public defender since 2004 and has spent over ten years working in the felony trial division. She has volunteered at Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers and the Chesterfield Community Council Legal Clinic.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CCL, CBA and ISBA found Gray qualified. The CCL noted many respondents “praised her for being able to provide good legal representation in the midst of busy, competing cases in different courtrooms.”
Notable: Her campaign committee, Citizens for Ieshia Gray, was an official participating group in the Women’s March Chicago 2018.
Survey Response: In response to an Injustice Watch questionnaire, Gray wrote, “I have spent the last fifteen years inside the courtroom fighting for the rights of the voiceless, poor and working class.” (Full survey)

Travis Richardson

Travis Richardson

Name: Travis Richardson
Running for: 2nd subcircuit: Turner, Jr. vacancy
Bio: Richardson was appointed to a 2nd subcircuit vacancy in February 2017 after an unsuccessful run for judge in 2016. He is now assigned to hear traffic matters, misdemeanor trials and felony preliminary hearings. Richardson, an Illinois licensed attorney since 1997, worked with large law firms on commercial, criminal, and employment litigation before starting his own law practice. As an attorney Richardson has been appointed as a special assistant state’s attorney for Cook County and as a special corporation counsel representing the City of Chicago.
Bar association ratings: Positive
This year: Richardson was found well qualified by the CCL, one of only five candidates to receive that rating. He was found qualified by the CBA and ISBA. The CCL wrote  Richardson “is reported to be exceptionally hard-working and a zealous advocate for his clients” and “to have demonstrated his interest in improving the legal system.”
Past: In 2016 Richardson was rated well qualified by the CCL and qualified by the CBA and ISBA.
Notable: In 2008 Richardson was censured for legal misconduct; he kept money obtained during a client’s case without a written agreement, though he later returned the majority of it. Injustice Watch wrote about his case and other candidates who have been disciplined by the Illinois Supreme Court. Richardson’s campaign also drew attention when, according to the Chicago Tribune, he made a joke about receiving campaign donations while speaking at a city council meeting in Blue Island, potentially violating a rule against judicial candidates soliciting their own donations. (Richardson reiterated that it was a joke.) Richardson’s former law partner is Myron “Mike” Mackoff, another appointed judge running in this year’s primary elections.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Republican primary:

There are no Republican candidates running for this seat.


Willis vacancy
Democratic primary:

Ubi O’Neal

Name: Ubi O’Neal
Running for: 2nd subcircuit: Willis vacancy
Bio: O’Neal practices as the sole proprietor of his own firm, working in areas such as complex personal injury, commercial litigation, criminal defense, and employment discrimination. He has practiced law for 23 years. O’Neal previously ran for judge in 2004, 2008, and 2010; he was removed from the ballot before the election in 2004 and 2008.
Bar association ratings: Negative
This year: O’Neal was rated not recommended by the CCL, CBA, and ISBA because he did not participate in the evaluation process. He did not respond to requests for comment on his ratings.
Past: In 2010, the CBA found O’Neal not qualified, and wrote, “Mr. O’Neal has had two questionable incidents regarding his integrity and needs to improve his understanding and commitment to the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct.”
Notable: Injustice Watch reported on O’Neal’s history of discipline after his reinstatement to this year’s ballot, which makes him one of four candidates this year who have been disciplined by the Illinois Supreme Court.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Sheree Henry

Name: Sheree D. Henry
Running for: 2nd subcircuit: Willis vacancy
Bio: Henry has spent her 22-year law career in public service, including the past 18 years as an assistant Cook County public defender. Before that she worked in civil rights law, and as an assistant Cook County public guardian, where she spent three years representing abused or neglected children in civil court. She also volunteers to represent clients in the Markham courthouse’s drug, mental health, and veteran’s court programs.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CCL, CBA, and ISBA found Henry qualified. The ISBA wrote that “she is considered to be smart and a hard worker, with sensitivity to racial and ethnic issues, and good integrity.”
Survey Response: In response to an Injustice Watch questionnaire, Henry wrote that she has dedicated her “whole legal career to being a civil servant,” noting her commitments to public defense, civil rights law and community service. (Full survey)

Debra Seaton

Name: Debra A. Seaton
Running for: 2nd subcircuit: Willis vacancy
Bio: Seaton was appointed to the bench in May 2017, where she currently is assigned to hear traffic cases. Previously, Seaton worked as a solo practitioner defending death penalty cases for 10 years and spent 20 years as a public defender for Kane and Cook counties, seven of those years as a supervisor. She is a faculty member at the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, and has traveled with the group to Nigeria and Kenya to train attorneys.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CCL and ISBA found Seaton qualified, and the CBA found her highly qualified. The CCL wrote Seaton is “reported to be very knowledgeable, and is a zealous but highly ethical practitioner.”
Notable: Seaton was lead attorney for Corey Safford, who was convicted of attempted murder of a south suburban police officer. Safford’s appeal was a precedent-setting case which changed the standards for the admission of fingerprints into evidence in Illinois.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Republican primary:

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.