2018 Cook County judicial voting guide: 5th subcircuit

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In the 5th subcircuit, which covers parts of Chicago’s South and Southwest Sides, 10 candidates are vying for three 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 5th subcircuit? Try using this handy map to find out. Go back to the countywide races here or learn more about our guide below.


Banks vacancy
Democratic primary:

Name: Gwendolyn D. Anderson (D)
Running for: 5th subcircuit: Banks vacancy
Bio: Anderson, who was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1977, began her career as a public defender. Five years later she started her own law practice, concentrating on criminal defense work but also handling some civil cases. In a written statement, Anderson told Injustice Watch she has also worked as a federal defender and a hearing officer for the Board of Elections.
Bar association ratings: Negative
The CCL, ISBA and CBA rated Anderson not recommended because she did not participate in the evaluations process. Anderson told Injustice Watch that she was not invited to participate because she did not respond to invitations to interview for the 2016 primary evaluations (she missed relevant letters because of a death in her family, she said). She had filed to run but was removed from the ballot after her nominating petitions were found to have insufficient signatures. The ISBA confirmed that it did not invite Anderson to be evaluated this year because she did not respond two years ago, but the CBA said that it did contact Anderson for this year’s evaluations.
Notable: In 2001, Anderson was suspended from practicing law for 18 months after she was found to have committed misconduct in five different cases over a decade. Injustice Watch wrote about her case and other candidates who have been disciplined by the Illinois Supreme Court. Read the full story.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Gino Betts

Name: Gino Betts
Running for: 5th subcircuit: Banks vacancy
Bio: Betts is an attorney for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, investigating misconduct allegations in the Chicago Police Department. Previously, he spent a year as the Special Assistant for Legal Affairs at the Cook County Department of Homeland Security, working on local policy issues. He was a prosecutor for six years in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and a past regional director of the National Black Prosecutors Association. He teaches as an adjunct professor at the DePaul School of Law.
Bar association ratings: Negative
The CCL, ISBA, and CCL rated Betts not recommended because he did not participate in the evaluations process. Betts told Injustice Watch that though he respects the bar groups’ work, he didn’t participate because he is in his ninth year of practice and most bar groups require 10 years for a positive rating. “I think if it was based on the quality of my resume, without a doubt I would love to sit down and discuss the quality of my resume,” he said. “My resume is extremely diverse.”
Survey Response: Betts did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Cook County judicial candidate H. Yvonne Coleman

H. Yvonne Coleman

Name: H. Yvonne Coleman
Running for: 5th subcircuit: Banks vacancy
Bio: Coleman was appointed to the bench in March 2017 and is running to keep the seat. She presides over a non-jury courtroom and hears breach of contract and tort cases. Previously, Coleman ran her own practice focusing on employment discrimination and labor law, worked in the civil rights division of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, conducted hearings in the State of Illinois over unemployment benefits, directed a Chicago-based legal aid organization, and served as general counsel for the Independent Police Review Authority. Coleman has been practicing law since 1988.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CBA, ISBA and CCL found Coleman qualified. “She is reported to be a good lawyer who is exceptionally active in community affairs,” the CCL wrote.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Rhonda Sallee

Name: Rhonda Sallee (D)
Running for: 5th subcircuit: Banks vacancy
Bio: Sallee is a solo attorney specializing in family law and an adjunct professor at the John Marshall Law School. She also works as an administrative law judge for the City of Chicago, hearing and making decisions on municipal code violations. Sallee ran for judge in 2012.
Bar association ratings: Negative
This year: Sallee was given not recommended ratings by the major bar groups this year because she declined to participate in the evaluations. Sallee told Injustice Watch that she declined to participate because “it’s not what I consider to be fair, it’s not objective. In criminal court you get a chance to confront your accuser. [Here] you don’t get to confront it.”
Past: In 2012, the CBA and CCL found Sallee not recommended for a judicial seat, noting she was early in her career and needed more experience. The CCL also wrote that the evaluation had raised questions about her temperament, noting that others reported her to be “overzealous” and “overly aggressive” in representing clients.
Survey Response: Responding to a questionnaire from Injustice Watch, Sallee wrote that as an administrative law judge, she takes care to make sure litigants not represented by attorneys understand the process and know that they are being heard. (Full survey)

Republican primary:

There are no Republican candidates running for this seat.


Jones vacancy
Democratic primary:

David L. Kelly

Name: David L. Kelly (D)
Running for: 5th subcircuit: Jones vacancy
Bio: Kelly has worked as a solo practitioner in Bronzeville for the past 10 years, specializing in criminal defense and real estate law. Prior to running his own practice, Kelly spent roughly six years as an assistant state’s attorney in Cook County.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CCL, CBA and ISBA found Kelly qualified. The CCL wrote Kelly is “praised for his litigation skills and for his integrity.”
Survey Response: Kelly did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Jenetia Marshall

Name: Jenetia Marshall (D)
Running for: 5th subcircuit: Jones vacancy
Bio: Marshall works as an attorney with the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian, and has been with the office for 14 years. Marshall has been licensed to practice law since 2004. Prior to her law career, Marshall spent several years in social work.
Bar association ratings: Negative
The CCL, CBA and ISBA rated Marshall negatively because she did not participate in the evaluations process. Marshall told Injustice Watch that she did not participate because she did not believe the process would be fair.
Survey Response: Responding to an Injustice Watch questionnaire, Marshall highlighted her history of advocacy and stated that it will give her the ability to “care beyond the surface” of cases. (Full survey)

Marian E. Perkins

Name: Marian E. Perkins (D)
Running for: 5th subcircuit: Jones vacancy
Bio: Perkins was appointed to the bench in July 2017. She has spent much of her nearly 30 years as an attorney working in criminal law. Perkins has worked as an assistant appellate defender for the State of Illinois, an assistant Cook County state’s attorney and as a staff attorney for the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation. Perkins also worked in private practice, specializing in criminal defense, family law and expungement.  Perkins also worked as an associate professor at Chicago State University.
Bar association ratings: Mixed
The CCL and ISBA found Perkins qualified. The CCL wrote Perkins was “praised for her trial skills as well as for her civic activities.” The CBA, however, found Perkins not qualified; the group praised her temperament and integrity but said it had “concerns about the depth of her legal knowledge and judicial ability.” Perkins told Injustice Watch that she is not sure why the CBA made that recommendation. She defended the breadth of her experience and said she hopes voters know she is qualified to be judge, especially since she was appointed to the bench and since other bar associations found her 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.


Washington vacancy
Democratic primary:

Shay T. Allen

Name: Shay T. Allen (D)
Running for: 5th subcircuit: Washington vacancy
Bio: Allen currently runs a private law firm, where his primary areas of practice are civil rights, criminal defense, and personal injury law. Before that, Allen was a litigation specialist at a private practice firm, where he focused on criminal defense and civil litigation. Allen spent more than five years as a prosecutor with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. He also served as an administrative law judge in the southern suburbs.
Bar association ratings: Negative
The CBA, ISBA, and CCL gave Allen negative ratings. The CCL praised Allen’s ability but noted his short career and brief experience in complex litigation matters. The CBA said Allen “needs to address concerns about his punctuality and tardiness.” Allen declined to comment on his ratings.
Notable: Allen is the only candidate with a pending disciplinary case before the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC). The case will not go to the ARDC’s version of trial until after the 2018 primary election. Allen, who has never been sanctioned by the Illinois Supreme Court, is charged by the ARDC with making false statements to a court.
Survey Response: He did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Robert F. Harris

Name: Robert F. Harris (D)
Running for: 5th subcircuit: Washington vacancy
Bio: Harris, appointed to the bench in September 2017 by the Illinois Supreme Court, currently presides over traffic court. Harris spent his entire law career in the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian. At the time of his appointment, Harris was the acting Cook County Public Guardian, a position he held for 13 years. As the public guardian, he represented children, the elderly and adults with disabilities.
Bar association ratings: Positive
Harris was found qualified by the CCL and ISBA and highly qualified by the CBA. The CBA  wrote Harris is “highly regarded for his dedication to public service, work ethic, integrity, and outstanding demeanor and temperament.”
Notable: As public guardian in 2015, Harris testified in front of a U.S. Congressional subcommittee about fighting fraud against the elderly, discussing the more than $40 million in stolen assets the Office of the Public Guardian has recovered for its clients, according to his campaign website.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Mary A. Melchor

Name: Mary A. Melchor (D)
Running for: 5th subcircuit: Washington vacancy
Bio: Since 2002, Melchor has worked for the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and has served as the Clerk’s Inspector General  – in charge of investigating the office – since 2005. Melchor also worked for four years as a senior attorney for the Chicago Housing Authority and worked in private practice. This is Melchor’s second attempt be elected to the bench.
Bar association ratings: Negative
This year: The CCL and ISBA found Melchor not qualified and the CBA found her not recommended. “She does not have substantial experience in complex litigation matters,” the CCL wrote. The ISBA noted “her minimal trial experience dates to the 1990’s. While she is considered to be even-tempered, she has no recent courtroom experience.” Melchor shared an appeal with Injustice Watch that she submitted to the CCL requesting a rating reconsideration. Melchor wrote that despite her inability to practice law in the Cook County courts as an inspector general, it should not take away from her prior legal experience or “cloud” the CCL’s view of her credentials. Furthermore, she wrote “the results of my investigations are used as evidence in lawsuits filed against the Clerk’s Office or other complex litigation.”
Past: Melchor received negative ratings from bar groups in her past effort to become a judge. In 2014, the CCL and CBA both cited her lack of experience with complex legal matters.
Notable: Last year Melchor received a $500 campaign donation from her boss, Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, who is currently under federal investigation for corruption. Melchor’s name was not listed among several state and federal agencies announcing a guilty plea made by an employee with the Clerk’s office resulting from that ongoing investigation in 2016.
Survey Response: Responding to a questionnaire from Injustice Watch, Melchor wrote that her current post—investigating court-related abuses to ensure fair court processes—will help to make her an effective judge. (Full survey)

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.