ISBA poll snubs Republican judicial candidates

Ann Knef Feb. 22, 2006, 6:59am

Stephen McGlynn

William Norton

Paul Evans

Republican judicial candidates running for election in sharply contested races in the Metro-East were trounced in a poll of attorneys conducted by the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA).

The findings released Wednesday show that 5th Appellate Court Judge Stephen McGlynn, who was appointed to his position by the Illinois Supreme Court in July, received a "not recommended" rating in the survey.

According to the ISBA, "Poll results reflect the opinion of the attorneys who chose to respond and not the opinion of the Illinois State Bar Association."

Justice Lloyd Karmeier, a Republican from Washington County, recommended McGlynn's appointment.

Only 56.74 percent of the poll's attorney respondents indicated McGlynn meets the requirements of office. In order to receive a "recommended" rating, candidates must receive 65 percent or more "yes" responses to that question.

"I don't think it's a particularly valid poll," McGlynn said. "It was clear that a group of lawyers that don't like the balance and reform that I bring to the court --or Judge Don Weber for that matter-- so they went out of their way to generate a very negative review."

The advisory poll is conducted by mail and is sent to all ISBA members in the circuit or district from which a candidate seeks election. The survey also asks seven other questions that measure such qualities as legal ability, integrity, impartialty, judicial temperament and health.

In the 5th judicial circuit, 1,824 ballots were mailed; 853 were returned.

"There were some problems with the ballots," McGlynn said. "There were two mailings. Some didn't get their ballots. There were substantial ballots not counted."

McGlynn said he was confident that lawyers who have practiced before him rated him favorably.

"There's no question in my mind that lawyers in my court think I am fair, well prepared, ask the right questions, am polite, do my best and do what is right," he said.

His Democratic rivals squaring off in the March 21 primary election, Bill Berry and Bruce Stewart, both received "recommended" ratings.

According to the survey, Berry earned 79.51 percent "meets requirements of office" rating and Stewart earned 93.96 percent.

The ISBA's 42-member Judicial Evaluations Committee, which issues a separate rating of appellate court candidates, gave Stewart a "highly qualified" rating. McGlynn and Berry received "qualified" ratings.

"Committee investigators use the questionnaire and other sources to check the background of each candidate," according to an ISBA press release. "Committee members then interview each candidate before recommending a rating to the full committee."

Weber v. Hylla; Hackett v. Crowder

Another Karmeier selectee, Madison County Circuit Judge Don Weber, a Republican, also received a "not recommended" rating in the survey of 3rd Circuit lawyers.

In the category "meets requirements of office" Weber received just 35.54 percent of the "yes" vote--the fourth lowest tally of all circuit judges in the state in the 2006 poll. His opponent, Edwardsville personal injury attorney Dave Hylla, a Democrat, received a recommended rating of 91.85 percent.

Godfrey attorney and banker Tom Long, Weber's campaign manager, said that voters should reject the results of the polls on judicial qualifications by the ISBA because of the influence of personal prejudices and politics in the responses.

"In the poll that really counts – the one by voters on Election Day in November – I think the voters will remember that Don Weber's first concern has always been the law – not the lawyers," Long said in a prepared statement. "He's always been dedicated to representing the people of Madison County – not the bar association."

Less than 50 percent of the ballots sent out to ISBA members in the 3rd Circuit were returned: 580 ballots were mailed; 242 were returned.

By contrast, Madison County Circuit Judge George Moran Jr., who abruptly retired from the bench after 28 years in office two weeks ago, received 78.05 percent "recommended" rating in the survey taken in 2000. Moran also scored good marks for integrity, health and temperanment.

Moran's departure set up a contest between Madison County Associate Judges James Hackett and Barbara Crowder.

Hackett, a Republican, fared better in the ISBA survey than his Democratic opponent Crowder. Hackett received a 95.06 percent "yes" vote on the question of meeting requirements of office, to Crowder's 90.78 percent.

St. Clair County

In the 20th Circuit, only 49.63 percent of respondents said Republican candidate for circuit judge Paul Evans met the requirements of office. Of the 659 ballots sent out in the 20th Circuit, 345 were returned.

Evans is a general practitioner from O'Fallon.

His counterpart, Circuit Judge Lloyd A. Cueto, received a 89.57 percent recommendation in the survey.

The Evans-Cueto contest was set up after Cueto decided to run for election to his position rather than running for retention in November. To earn retention a judge must receive at least 60 percent of the electorate's "yes" vote. In a general election a candidate only needs 51 percent of the vote.

Evans dismissed the poll stating it has little bearing on the campaign.

"Basically, the only poll that really matters is the one where tens of thousands of voters vote in November, not a poll of 135 attorneys."

In a press release, Evans pointed out that nearly half of the 659 eligible attorneys did not return the survey, and of those that did return the survey, a majority of those, over 200, voted "no opinion" on all of the questions regarding him.

"I find it difficult to believe that after 18 years of practicing law that most attorneys would have no opinion of me on nearly every question," Evans said. "I suspect that many were unwilling to be involved, a person risks a lot to go against the system in St. Clair County."

Republican William C. Norton, who was appointed circuit judge in the 20th Judicial Circuit last year, faces a challenge by Democrat William A. Schuwerk, Jr.

Norton, tapped by Karmeier, received a 76.62 percent recommended rating; Schuwerk received a 91.01 percent rating.

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