Cook County’s circuit judges will fill 15 vacant associate judge positions from among 30 finalists that the supervisory judges have chosen, Chief Judge Timothy Evans announced Tuesday.
The candidates include eight candidates who are currently sitting temporarily as circuit judges, having been appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to fill vacancies created on the circuit court since the 2018 election.
Associate judges are elected by the 252 circuit judges to serve four-year terms, and are paid slightly less than circuit judges, who serve six-year terms and are chosen by election of the voters, either countywide or by subcircuit.
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The 30 finalists include five county prosecutors, one current and one former public defender, two members of the city’s law department, a lawyer for the CTA, and several lawyers in private practice.
Several have run for circuit or associate judge in the past.
With only 252 voters making the decision, every vote counts. The candidates will meet with circuit court judges in person next week and lobby for favor. Circuit judges will also lobby each other to vote for candidates they believe stand out from the field.
The process is a delicate balance for candidates, one circuit judge said, given that any excuse not to vote for a candidate can be fatal.
All of the finalists received positive ratings from the bar associations that evaluated them, and several judges said Tuesday that most of the candidates appear well qualified.
Some finalists stand out for their political connections.
Marina E. Ammendola, an appointed circuit judge, represented Edmund and Anne Burke – alderman and state Supreme Court chief justice, respectively – in their well-publicized custody case of their foster child in 1999. She was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to fill judicial vacancies in 2017 and 2018, and was a former 2018 associate finalist.
Fredrick Hayze Bates, a Municipal Department judge, was endorsed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Bates’s ex-fiance declared publicly in 2016 that he shouldn’t be a judge after he bit the engagement ring off her finger and hit her in an altercation. Bates was charged with felony assault, though the judge reduced it to a misdemeanor. The woman won a $10,000 civil suit against him, according to Fox 32 Chicago.
Attorney Amee Elizabeth Alonso is married to U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Luis Alonso.
Several of the candidates already were taking steps to run for circuit court seats next year, and it was unclear Tuesday what those candidates would do if chosen by the circuit judges for associate judge posts before the March primary.
Four of the associate judge finalists are running with the endorsement of the Democratic party, and have committed $40,000 to the party in return for that endorsement.
Associate judge finalists:
Amee Elizabeth Alonso
Marina E. Ammendola
Frank John Andreou
Fredrick Hayze Bates
Lloyd James Brooks
Jennifer Frances Coleman
John Abbrey Fairman
Michael Angelo Forti
John S. Fotopoulos
Ruth Isabel Gudino
Michael James Hogan Jr.
Edward James Maloney
Celestia Laurene Mays
Katherine Angela O’Dell
Monique Lenee Patterson
Jennifer Joyce Payne
Diane Marie Pezanoski
Paul William Plotnick
Leo Steven Rakowski
Geri Pinzur Rosenberg
Curtis Bennett Ross
Eric Michael Sauceda
Rouhy J. Shalabi
John Anthony Simon
Levander Smith Jr.
Theresa Marie Smith
Daniel Owen Tiernan
Tyria Beatrice Walton
(Additional reporting by Injustice Watch staff members Abigail Blachman, Adeshina Emmanuel, Emily Hoerner, Jonah Shai Newman, Alecia Richards and Rick Tulsky)