QA: Real Court Reform Now opposes retention

Ann Knef Nov. 2, 2006, 2:25am

The head of a grassroots group opposing the retention of Third Circuit Judges Ann Callis, Charles Romani and John Knight, explained the organization's position recently in a question-answer format.

In his responses, Real Court Reform Now organizer Bob Hulme said "real" court reform began with the election Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier in 2004 and continued with the appointment of Third Circuit Judge Don Weber.

Hulme is the former chairman of the Madison County Central Republican Committee and initiated the "Vote No on Retention" effort.

The questions and responses are:

Real Court Reform Now opposes the retention of Judges Callis, Romani and Knight. Why?

Hulme: Every six years the voters have the opportunity to approve a circuit judge's conduct. For more judges, these elections are routine and result in another term on the bench. Rarely does a judge step so far out of line as to earn the distinction of creating a "judicial hellhole." The only remedy available is to vote against retaining judges.

Judges Callis, Romani and Knight argue that they are criminal judges and are not responsible for Madison County being named a "judicial hellhole." How would you respond?

Hulme: As circuit judges they are responsible for the court's policies, practices and administration. They have presented no evidence that they ever objected to any of the activities that created the "judicial hellhole."

In fact, they willingly accepted the trial lawyer's largesse. They covered up the escapades of Judge Moran and allowed the embarrassment of Judge Byron. That they refuse to accept responsibility for their own court actions, reflects on their character and ethics. They should not be retained.

Chief Judge Callis has implemented a number of court reforms since becoming chief judge in May. How would you respond to her reform effort?

Hulme: Court reform began when the voters elected Justice Lloyd Karmeier to the Illinois Supreme Court and they refused to retain Gordon Maag on the Fifth Appellate Court (the first time an appellate judge lost retention).

Reform continued when Justice Karmeier appointed Don Weber to the Third Circuit Court. It was Judge Weber who stopped "judge shopping" (while Judge Ed Ferguson was chief), wrote the rules on sealing court files and dismissed suits which would only benefit the trial attorneys.

After you eliminate the work of others and the spin from (Democratic strategist) Bob Miner, Judge Callis has not authored any significant reforms in the courthouse.

Is it important to have a politically balanced court?

Hulme: It is important that judges hold themselves to the highest ethical and judicial standards. They must avoid the least appearance of being indebted to a particular political party of any group that comes into their court. When the judges fail in this most important deed, then the voters must use the retention election to hold the judges accountable.

Should the public have confidence that all parties are treated fairly in Madison County

Hulme: Of course they should, but it will be difficult to trust the fairness in the Madison County courts until the remnants of the judges responsible for the appellation "judicial hellhole" are gone from the court.

It must be clear to future users of the Third District Court that justice is blind and fairness is protected.

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