Associate judge ratings released by ISBA in advance of reappointment process

By Ann Maher | May 20, 2015

Only one associate judge seeking reappointment in Madison and St. Clair counties failed to garner enough confidence among attorney evaluators to be recommended to another four-year term.

While 12 of her fellow associate judges in the 20th Judicial Circuit scored well above the minimum threshold of 65 necessary to be "recommended" as "meeting requirements of office," Laninya Cason scored well below that minimum with a score of 45.83 in a judicial evaluation poll conducted by the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA).

Cason, who has served as associate judge since 2003, has fallen in and out of favor with the local bar through the years.

When she was evaluated in 2007 prior to her first reappointment, she was not recommended, having received a 62.2 rating.

In 2011, at her second reappointment, she was recommended with a 71.58 rating.

In 2012, Cason sought a full circuit court seat. However, she had a falling out with Democrat party leaders and switched political affiliation from Democrat to Republican. In the ISBA poll preceding that election, in which Cason ran against and lost to Democrat Zina Cruse, Cason was not recommended with a 41.20 rating.

Results of the poll, which also evaluate integrity, impartiality, legal ability, temperament, court management, health and sensitivity, were posted on the ISBA site on Tuesday.

The ISBA stated it was releasing the results, "because all judges are public officials and the opinions of their professional colleagues about their performance is of public interest."

In the 3rd Judicial Circuit (Madison and Bond counties), results show that all 13 associate judges met requirements of office as judged by the lawyers evaluating them, however, Duane Bailey and Ben Beyers were just narrowly recommended.

Beyers, first appointed in 2011, was rated 65.36. Bailey, first appointed in 2007, was rated 71.93.

Other judges in the Third Circuit rated notably lower than their peers in the "meets requirements of office" category were Donald M. Flack with a rating of 79.64 and Elizabeth Levy with a rating of 76.28.

Flack has served since 2012 and Levy since 2009.

While lawyers are the judges in the ISBA poll, it is the elected circuit judges who cast the ballots that really matter - they vote, secretly, for or against the associate judges seeking additional four year terms.

To be reappointed, candidates must receive votes that tally at least three-fifths, or 60 percent in their favor. Voting will be finished no later than in June, prior to the beginning of the new terms that begin July 1.

The ISBA's release included ratings for all associate judges in the state's 23 judicial circuits, except for Cook County. Of the 244 who were evaluated, only two others besides Cason received "not recommended" ratings - Judge Richard Klaus in the 6th Circuit with a 58.12 rating and Robert Bearderstadt in the 22nd Circuit with a 61.40 rating.

Aside from their not recommended rating, Cason was rated lowest in the legal ability category with a 49.12 score. Klaus was rated lowest in the temperament category with a 46.61 score and Bearderstadt was rated lowest in the impartiality category with a 60.87 score.

Recommended judge ratings in local courts

Ratings for the other recommended associate judges in the 3rd Circuit in the category "meets requirements of office" are:

Philip Alfeld: 97.89
Thomas Chapman: 85.00
David Grounds: 81.76
Clarence Harrison: 93.69
Janet Heflin: 91.24
Martin Mengarelli: 96.97
Neil Schroeder: 93.81
Ronald Slemer: 90.84
Stephen Stobbs: 94.38

Ratings for the other recommended associate judges in the 20th Circuit n the category "meets requirements of office" are::

Richard Aguirre: 84.91
Walter Brandon: 86.82
Thomas Cannady: 96.71
Ellen Dauber: 90.63
Julia Gomric: 97.42
Eugene Gross: 99.15
Julie Katz: 98.92
Randall Kelley: 92.47
Patricia Kievlan: 91.60
Christopher Kolker: 98.92
Stephen Rice: 97.25
Heinz Rudolf: 95.91

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