2018 Cook County judicial voting guide: 8th subcircuit

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In the 8th subcircuit, which includes neighborhoods along Lake Michigan from the South Loop north to Rogers Park, 12 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 8th subcircuit? Try using this handy map to find out. Go back to the countywide races here or learn more about our guide below.


Fabri vacancy 
Democratic primary:

John C. Benson

Name: John C. Benson (D)
Running for: 8th subcircuit: Fabri vacancy
Bio: Benson is a solo practitioner representing clients in criminal defense and civil rights cases. He also serves as a Guardian Ad Litem. Benson has worked as the director of criminal defense for Cabrini Green Legal Aid, according to his campaign website. He also spent 14 years as a Cook County assistant public defender.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CBA, ISBA, and CCL all found Benson qualified. The CBA’s rating noted his extensive practice experience.
Notable: Benson was on the legal team representing four wrongly convicted men, known as the “Englewood Four,” who were recently awarded a $31 million settlement from the city of Chicago. He also represented Charles Norwood, a man who sued the city of Chicago and Chicago police officer Nelson Stewart after the officer offered Norwood release from police lockup in exchange for sex. The city settled for $50,000.
Survey Response: In response to an Injustice Watch questionnaire, Benson wrote that his prior work has helped him to understand how “daunting” navigating the mental health care, child welfare, and criminal justice systems are when individuals have mental health conditions. (Full survey)

Stephen J. Feldman

Name: Stephen J. Feldman (D)
Running for: 8th subcircuit: Fabri Vacancy
Bio: Feldman has run his own criminal defense law firm, with a focus on defending DUI charges, since 2003. He prosecuted traffic and administrative offenses at the City of Chicago Law Department before starting his private practice, and he has heard more than 1,000 cases as a hearing officer, mainly over whether residents should get their driver’s licenses reinstated. He also teaches trial advocacy at John Marshall Law School. This is his second bid for the bench.
Bar association ratings: Mixed
This year: The ISBA and CBA found him qualified. The CCL found Feldman not qualified, citing an earlier evaluation that said, “[T]his is a close call in light of his substantial experience, but at this point in his career, Mr. Feldman does not have substantial experience in sophisticated matters.”
“There’s no valid reason for any bar association to not find me qualified, period,” Feldman told Injustice Watch.
Past: When Feldman ran for judge in 2014, he was rated negatively by the CCL and CBA for lacking more varied and sophisticated legal experience.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Bonnie C. McGrath

Name: Bonnie C. McGrath (D)
Running for: 8th subcircuit: Fabri vacancy
Bio: McGrath is a private attorney who has been practicing since 1993. She first ran for judge in 1998 and gained national media attention for running as Bonnie Fitzgerald McGrath that year to gain votes as an Irish-sounding candidate. In a written statement to Injustice Watch, McGrath said she has prosecuted municipal violations for the City of Chicago and, as a private attorney, has practiced in every division of Cook County Circuit Court. McGrath is a former journalist and remains a vocal blogger, writing about city life and politics. She also ran for judge in 2000, 2010, and 2016.
Bar association ratings: Negative
This year: The CCL, CBA, and ISBA rated McGrath not recommended because she did not participate in the evaluations process. In an emailed statement, McGrath called the process “totally arbitrary” and wrote that she does not have confidence in the strength of the investigations. She said, “While my background may be different, there is no reason to select cookie cutter backgrounds. The bench needs diversity—and the legal backgrounds of the judges are just as important as anything else when it comes to diversity.”
Past: In 2010, the CBA and CCL found McGrath not qualified. The CCL cited her lack of experience with complex legal matters. She declined to participate in the 2016 evaluations, resulting in negative ratings.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

James A. Shapiro

Name: James A. Shapiro (D)
Running for: 8th subcircuit: Fabri vacancy
Bio: Shapiro has practiced law for more than 30 years and served as an appointed Cook County judge for five years. He was a federal prosecutor in Chicago for five years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and he now runs a criminal defense practice and works as an arbitrator. Shapiro was appointed as a judge in 2007, but lost his 2008 judicial campaign. He was re-appointed in 2009 by the Illinois Supreme Court and served until 2012, hearing both criminal and civil cases. Shapiro also ran for judge in 1998, 2008, and 2012.
Bar association ratings: Positive
This year: The CBA found Shapiro highly qualified, writing that he has “extensive practice experience and is highly regarded for his knowledge of civil and criminal law.” The CCL and ISBA found him qualified.
Past: When Shapiro first ran for judge in 1998, he was rated not qualified by the CBA, but he has since been rated positively. The CCL noted in a 2008 evaluation of his judgeship that he was qualified but could work on his temper.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Robin D. Shoffner

Name: Robin D. Shoffner (D)
Running for: 8th subcircuit: Fabri vacancy
Bio: Shoffner was appointed to the bench by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2016 and is running to keep that seat. She previously was appointed to a seat on the bench in the 5th subcircuit and ran there unsuccessfully in 2016. Shoffner has been licensed to practice law since 1990, and she spent several years working in commercial litigation. Before becoming a judge she spent six years in the City of Chicago Law Department, defending the city and police department in civil rights cases.
Bar association ratings: Positive
This year: The CBA found Shoffner qualified, writing, “Judge Shoffner possesses the requisite legal ability to serve as a Circuit Court Judge and is working to address concerns about her legal knowledge and temperament.” The ISBA and CCL also found her qualified; the CCL wrote she “is reported to have a low-key, professional demeanor” and has varied experience.
Past: In her 2016 campaign she was rated negatively by the CBA, which noted that lawyers were concerned with her “knowledge of the law, work ethic, fairness, and judicial temperament and demeanor.”
Notable: At the Law Department, Shoffner had a brief stint defending the city in a high-profile lawsuit over the mass arrest in 2003 of Chicago residents protesting the Iraq War. The city settled that case in 2012 for $6.2 million. Shoffner is endorsed by the Cook County Democratic Party committeemen in the 8th subcircuit.
Survey Responses: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Republican primary:

There are no Republican candidates running for this seat.


Liu vacancy
Democratic primary:

Athena A. Farmakis

Name: Athena A. Farmakis (D)
Running for: 8th subcircuit: Liu vacancy
Bio: Farmakis has spent 23 years as a Cook County assistant state’s attorney, and she is currently a preliminary hearings unit supervisor in the criminal prosecutions unit, according to her campaign website. She worked for several years in the juvenile justice division.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CBA, ISBA, and CCL found Farmakis qualified. The CBA noted her extensive trial experience, writing she is “well regarded for her work ethic, knowledge of the law, and legal ability.”
Notable: In 2016, Farmakis prosecuted Donnell Flora on charges of murder and attempted murder after the state contended he provided his 14-year-old niece with a handgun that she later used to kill 14-year-old Endia Martin. Flora was convicted and sentenced to 100 years in prison. The Chicago chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed Farmakis.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Michael A. Forti

Name: Michael A. Forti (D)
Running for: 8th subcircuit: Liu vacancy
Bio: Forti is currently a judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County’s domestic relations division. He was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to fill a vacancy beginning in September 2016. Before that, he was chief counsel for the Illinois Department of Transportation. He also spent 17 years with the City of Chicago Law Department, serving as deputy corporation counsel for several of those years. This is Forti’s second judicial bid.
Bar association ratings: Positive
This year: The CBA, ISBA, and CCL found Forti qualified. The CCL noted his ability to handle a heavy caseload and wrote he is “praised for his handling of pro-se litigants — respectful and informative without going beyond the role of judge.”
Past: In 2012, Forti received positive reviews from the CCL. The CBA found Forti highly qualified for a judgeship that year.
Notable: While at the City of Chicago Law Department, Forti handled several high-profile cases, including one in which city attorneys—after nearly a decade—reversed their position by no longer fighting defendant Andrew Wilson’s torture claims against notorious former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and others, while still arguing that some of the judgement in the case should not be paid by the city. Forti was also lead counsel for a case brought against the city of Chicago over its handgun ownership ban. The U.S. Supreme Court later struck down the ban. The Cook County Democratic Party committeemen in the 8th subcircuit endorsed Forti as their favored candidate in this race.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Cyrus K. Hosseini

Name: Cyrus K. Hosseini (D)
Running for: 8th subcircuit: Liu vacancy
Bio: Hosseini is an attorney with the Cyrus Law Group in Evanston, specializing in a variety of areas of law including real estate law, immigration, and foreclosure defense. He has been licensed to practice law in Illinois since May 2012. According to his campaign website, Hosseini has represented more than 600 clients in foreclosure cases and has handled 300 bench trials. Hosseini, 32, is one of the younger judicial candidates in the primary elections.
Bar association ratings: Negative
The CCL, CBA, and ISBA rated Hosseini not recommended because he did not participate in the evaluations process. Hosseini told Injustice Watch that he did not participate because he knew he would be rated negatively because he does not yet have the 10 years of legal experience required for a positive rating. “I know that for sure, no matter what I tried, how brilliant I would have written something, I would automatically get a not recommended based on time in the profession,” he said.
Notable: In a 2012 case, Hosseini was sanctioned by the Circuit Court of Cook County after filing a reconsideration motion based on arguments that the Illinois Appellate Court later wrote “were contradicted by the record and could not have been made in good faith.” Hosseini was fined $500 for filing the reconsideration motion after the court denied his request for a temporary restraining order against a debt collector, then dismissed the complaint.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Lindsay Hugé

Name: Lindsay C. Hugé (D)
Running for: 8th subcircuit: Liu vacancy
Bio: Hugé has been a Cook County assistant public defender since 1989. He is also an adjunct history and law professor at Columbia College in Chicago. According to his campaign website, Hugé has handled thousands of cases ranging from traffic matters to murder charges.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CBA, ISBA and CCL found Hugé qualified. The CBA wrote that Hugé “possesses a fine demeanor and temperament” and a wide variety of criminal trial experience.
Survey Response: In an Injustice Watch questionnaire, Hugé wrote he is ready to have a new impact on the law, and that 27 years as a public defender taught him “resourcefulness, patience and compassion,” which will help him on the bench. (Full survey)

Republican primary:

There are no Republican candidates running for this seat.


Pethers vacancy
Democratic primary:

Rishi Agrawal

Name: Rishi Agrawal (D)
Running for: 8th subcircuit: Pethers vacancy
Bio: Agrawal, who opened his own law firm in 2007, specializes in commercial, criminal, and family law. Agrawal spent time as a Will County assistant public defender. He helped to restart the pro bono legal clinic at the Indo-American Center, according to his campaign website.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CBA, ISBA, and CCL found Agrawal qualified. The CCL wrote he “is considered to be a solid, hard-working practitioner with substantial litigation experience.”
Notable: Agrawal made news recently when he was interviewed by Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens about the conduct of Michigan judge Rosemarie Aquilina in the sentencing of convicted child molester Larry Nassar.
Survey Response: In response to an Injustice Watch questionnaire question about issues facing the justice system, Agrawal wrote that “we need to work harder to make sure that defendants are not stuck in jail just because they do not have the funds to pay bond when they otherwise do not pose an immediate threat to society.” (Full survey)

Myron Mackoff

Name: Myron “Mike” Mackoff
Running for: 8th subcircuit: Pethers vacancy
Bio: Mackoff has served as a Cook County circuit court judge since he was appointed to an 8th subcircuit vacancy by the Illinois Supreme Court in December 2016. He started in traffic court and now works in the domestic relations division. Before joining the bench, Mackoff was co-owner of the Richardson & Mackoff firm, specializing in civil and criminal trial advocacy. Before that, he worked at a firm where he focused on corporate litigation and personal injury. He currently teaches as an adjunct at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The CBA, ISBA, and CCL found Mackoff qualified. The CBA wrote Mackoff is well regarded for his “even temperament” and knowledge of civil and criminal law. The ISBA wrote, “He is considered to be always prepared, diligent and very competent.”
Notable: Mackoff is endorsed by the Democratic Party committeemen in his subcircuit. His former law partner Travis Richardson is also a judicial appointee and judicial candidate. Mackoff’s father, Benjamin Mackoff, also served as a Cook County judge.
Survey Response: The candidate did not return answers to an Injustice Watch questionnaire.

Jeanne M. Wrenn

Name: Jeanne M. Wrenn (D)
Running for: 8th subcircuit: Pethers vacancy
Bio: Wrenn was appointed last month to a different judicial vacancy in the 8th subcircuit and has been presiding over traffic court since then. Before the appointment, she was general counsel for the National Safety Council, a non-profit organization. She is a former prosecutor at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, working in the narcotics and traffic divisions and as a legislative supervisor.
Bar association ratings: Positive
The ISBA and CBA found Wrenn qualified. The CCL also found her qualified and wrote that in doing so, “The Council balances [her] relatively limited litigation experience against other experiences that demonstrate strong analytic thinking.”
Notable: Wrenn is endorsed by the Chicago chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. In 2008, she was featured in a Chicago Tribune story because, as a single mother, she had to bartend to supplement her public sector paycheck. According to her campaign website, Wrenn helped draft legislation including a bill about human-trafficking and a bill that made it easier for victims of stalking to obtain restraining orders.
Survey Response: In response to an Injustice Watch questionnaire, Wrenn emphasized her civil, criminal, and legislative experience and expressed concern about the “disparate number of people of color and people from under resourced areas adversely impacted by the system.” (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.