Ed Murnane Mar. 12, 2014, 7:57am

Although it is not on the ballot and not pending before any Illinois General Assembly Committee, here is the Illinois Civil Justice League's proposal for selection of judges in Illinois.  It was initially proposed to the General Assembly several years ago but there has been minimal follow-up.

If enacted, it would only affect judicial selections when current terms of judges expire.  It would not apply to judicial retention, so sitting judges would be able to remain in office if retained by voters.

1.  A Judicial Candidate Screening Committee would be created in each judicial district.  The committee would consist of eight members, two each selected by the Republican and Democrat leaders of the Illinois Senate and Illinois House of Representatives.  The two appointees by each legislative leader would be one attorney and one non-attorney.

2.  Thus the Judicial Candidate Screening Committee for each judicial district would have an eight member committee consisting of four Democrat appointees and four Republican appointees.  Half would be attorneys and half would not be attorneys.

3.  Panels in each district would screen each candidate for a judicial vacancy and could recommend as many qualified candidates as the panel chose BUT each candidate would be required to get six favorable votes from the eight-member panel, thus insuring bi-partisan approval and lawyer/non-lawyer approval.

4. Candidates recommended by the Panel would be so-designated on the General Election ballot.

5. Prospective candidates who did NOT win the approval of the Judicial Candidate Screening Committee could seek election but would be required to collect a designated number of petition signatures to be placed on the ballot.

6.  Similar Screening Committees would be established in Appellate (and coterminous  Supreme Court) Districts and the same procedure would apply.  Circuit Court panel members would not be prohibited from serving on a Supreme or Appellate Court panel.

7.  Under such a system, Illinois could (should) consider a public financing system for judicial elections and candidates would be prohibited from raising or spending an amount in excess of a limit determined by the General Assembly.  Candidates NOT approved by the Judicial Candidate Screening Committee would be prohibited from spending funds in excess of the amount approved for screening committee-approved candidates.

And What About Changing Date Of Judicial Elections?

The ICJL has a second, separate proposal for judicial election reform in Illinois: change the judicial election date from the November General Election to the Spring Local Government and School Board elections.  Judicial elections currently are at the bottom of the ballot and judicial candidates must compete with contests for state offices (as is the case in Illinois in 2014), legislative offices, congressional offices and many county offices -- and of course, Presidential elections every four years.

Unless there is a major judicial election, little attention is paid to unknown candidates.  Elections in the Spring would enable the judicial candidates to get more attention and would not be dragged along by partisan labels. Voters would have a better chance to know who the judicial candidates are.

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Organizations in this Story

Illinois General Assembly
301 S 2nd Street
Springfield, IL 62707

Illinois House of Representatives
301 S 2nd Street
Springfield, IL 62707

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