Eight appointed judges get second chances at judicial vacancies

Eight appointed Cook County judges who lost their primary electoral bids for longer-term seats on the bench last month may get another chance at one of 17 vacant judicial seats this spring. The former candidates were picked out of 248 applicants as finalists for associate judgeships by a nominating committee, according to Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans.

One additional sitting judge, John Fotopolous, was named as a finalist. He did not run for an elected seat last month. A total of 34 candidates are finalists for the associate judge positions.

The eight currently sitting nominees are: Marina E. Ammendola, Charles “Charlie” Beach, Gerald V. Cleary, Myron “Mike” Mackoff, Stephanie K. Miller, Travis Richardson, Robin D. Shoffner and Patrick T. Stanton. They are among 16 sitting judges who were appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to the bench but lost their seats in the March primary election. A total of 31 appointed judges ran last month.

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Pat Milhizer, a spokesman for Evans, said that while the eight finalists did not win primary races, all the nominees have across-the-board positive ratings from local bar associations and were also approved for the bench by the Supreme Court.

Because many talented judicial candidates vie for electoral seats, “the committee does not necessarily view an election loss as a reason somebody should be disqualified from consideration for associate judge,” Milhizer said.

Some of the “best and brightest” candidates have come to the bench through this process, Milhizer said, and are approved by the circuit court.

Associate judges are chosen, based on merit, by sitting Cook County Circuit Court judges and serve four-year terms.

All 34 nominees for associate judge were rated positively by local bar associations. By contrast, 40 percent of the 110 candidates running for judge in March had at least one negative rating from the three major local bar associations: the Chicago Council of Lawyers, the Chicago Bar Association, and the Illinois State Bar Association. Nine of those negatively rated candidates won their primary races.

Directors for two bar associations said the associate judge nomination process produces more qualified judges than elections do. Terrence Murphy, executive director of the Chicago Bar Association, cited the more extensive vetting process of the nominations as reason for that: “They’ve been vetted multiple times not just by different bar associations but by a sitting group of judges.”

Malcolm Rich, director of the Chicago Council of Lawyers, said “few, if any” unqualified candidates are appointed associate judges, and said the nomination process helps increase quality and diversity on the bench.

Two of the sitting judges have past blemishes. Travis Richardson was censured in 2008 by the Illinois Supreme Court after a fee dispute with a client. And Robin Shoffner received a negative rating from the Chicago Bar Association in 2016. The bar group wrote that lawyers were concerned with her “knowledge of the law, work ethic, fairness, and judicial temperament and demeanor.” Both received positive ratings from bar groups this year.

A full list of the finalists:

  • Amee Elizabeth Alonso
  • Marina E. Ammendola
  • Charles Stanley Beach
  • Lloyd James Brooks
  • Joel David Buikema
  • Jeffery George Chrones
  • Gerald Vernon Patrick Cleary III
  • John S. Fotopoulos
  • Jean Mary Golden
  • Sanju Oommen Green
  • James Edward Hanlon Jr.
  • Michael James Hogan Jr.
  • Nathalina A. Hudson
  • Joan Marie G. Kubalanza
  • Myron Franklin Mackoff
  • Celestia Laurene Mays
  • Stephanie Kathryn Miller
  • Lisette Catherine Mojica
  • Tisa Lynne Morris
  • Margaret Mary Ogarek
  • Diane Marie Pezanoski
  • Leo Steven Rakowski
  • Travis Richardson
  • Lori Michele Rosen
  • Curtis Bennett Ross
  • Robin Denise Shoffner
  • Levander Smith Jr.
  • Trina Smith
  • Patrick Thomas Stanton
  • Lisa M. Taylor
  • Daniel Alexander Trevino
  • Lynn Karyl Weaver Boyle
  • James Adolph Wright
  • William Yu