Judge Barbara Crowder and three of her colleagues on the Madison County bench will be judged by voters in the state's eighth largest county in November when they submit themselves to voter approval in the Illinois General Election.
Crowder, along with Chief Judge Ann Callis and Judges David Hylla and John Knight, must win a favorable vote from 60% of the voters who cast ballots in the retention race.
Retention of judges is usually a foregone conclusion as the judicial ballot is typically lost in an election that features a Presidential contest and elections of U.S. Senators (not in Illinois this year), Members of Congress, members of the Illinois General Assembly, and various other offices.
Most elections in Illinois in 2012 will be highly contested and highly visible as 2012 is the election year that follows redistricting of Congressional and State Legislative seats. Many candidates are expected to mount highly aggressive – and visible – campaigns as they attempt to win voter approval in newly-drawn districts.
In addition, a competitive, expensive and highly visible race for the Fifth District Appellate Court is likely to attract substantial attention in the district that includes Madison County. That race matches Judge Stephen McGlynn, a Republican, against Attorney Judy Cates, a former president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.
McGlynn ran for the appellate court in 2006 and lost to Bruce D. Stewart. He was later appointed to fill a circuit court vacancy. Cates sought the Democratic nomination for the appellate court in 2008 and lost to Appellate Justice James Wexstten.
So the judicial retention ballot won't necessarily be the center of attention for voters in Madison County. But the negative attention Madison County's judicial system attracts nationally (Madison County is often designated as a "Judicial Hellhole" by the American Tort Reform Foundation), plus the negative attention paid to the recent Crowder-Asbestos issue, is not going to help the judges seeking retention.
All of them were originally elected as Democrats and while judges seeking retention do not have a party designation next to their names, voters in Madison County will know where they came from and the county itself has been moving away from its' solid Democrat roots and image.
In 2010, former State Rep. Jay Hoffman, a Democrat, was defeated by State Rep. Dwight Kay, a Republican. Hoffman, who is seeking election in a different district this year, is a plaintiff's lawyer connected with the Lakin Law Firm and Kay, a business executive with Cassens Transport, ran in part on the issue of civil justice reform.
In his most recent legislative offering, Kay sponsored a bill (HB 4098) that would prohibit judges from hearing cases in which one of the attorneys had contributed to his or her campaign.