A candidate for Cook County circuit judge has resigned as Democratic committeeman for Palatine Township, one week after Injustice Watch reported that he appeared to be violating judicial ethics rules by holding a political office while running for judge.
The candidate, Matt Flamm, denied Thursday that his resignation had anything to do with the likely ethics violation. Instead, he said that he was too busy to serve as committeeman while also running his campaign for the 13th judicial subcircuit, and that he would have to resign anyway if he wins the March 17 Democratic primary.
The policy against judicial candidates holding political office is part of the Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct, which sets ethical standards for judges and judicial candidates.
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Flamm had initially told Injustice Watch that his lawyers advised that he did not have to give up his political seat unless and until he had won the primary battle for the judgeship. That advice conflicted with what judicial ethics experts told Injustice Watch, noting that the rule is designed to reduce political influence in the judicial system.
Illinois Supreme Court Rule 67, the judicial policy in question, helps to minimize political influence in the judiciary in light of the fact that judges are elected in partisan elections, experts say. That judicial canon states that absent special circumstances that did not apply in this case, a judicial candidate “shall not act as a leader or hold an office in a political organization.”
Flamm, a business and real-estate attorney, maintains his interpretation of the rule.
“I am more convinced than ever that Paragraph A(1) of Canon 7 does not apply to a candidate for nomination,” Flamm wrote in a statement to Injustice Watch. “Canon 7 is designed to reduce partisanship in judicial elections, but a party primary is inherently partisan.”
James Alfini, the former dean of law schools in Illinois and Texas, disagreed with Flamm’s argument, countering that a distinction between the primary and general election would be “meaningless” in this case.
“He’s a candidate for a judicial position, even if it’s the primary,” Alfini said.“It’s still mixing him, as a candidate for a judicial position, into politics, and it gives an appearance that he’s not going to be independent or impartial when he gets on [the] bench.”
A spokesperson for the Cook County Democratic Party confirmed that Flamm resigned from his political position on February 6, one week after the Injustice Watch article appeared.
Maria Galo will take over as interim Democratic committeeman for Palatine Township until the Cook County Democratic Party votes on a long-term replacement in April, according to the Greater Palatine Area Democrats website.
Flamm is one of five candidates in the March 17 Democratic primary for a seat on the 13th subcircuit, which covers northwestern Cook County communities of Barrington, Hanover, Palatine, Schaumberg, and parts of Wheeling.
The seat is temporarily held by Judge Michael Gerber, who the Illinois Supreme Court appointed to fill the position last year until the election. Gerber had run unsuccessfully for the seat in the 2018 Republican primary. Also running in the race are prosecutor Susanne Groebner, divorce lawyer Michael Minton, and recently retired public defender Joe Gump.