Madison - St. Clair Record

Friday, August 23, 2019

Cook suit seeks judicial review of Elections Board decision in favor of judges

By The Madison County Record | Jan 25, 2016


SPRINGFIELD – Dallas Cook, whose objection to the ballot status of St. Clair County judges failed at the Illinois election board, seeks court orders against the judges.

He petitioned the Sangamon County court for judicial review on Jan. 25, five days after the election board denied his objection by a vote of four to four.

“There is no process in the Illinois Constitution for a judge to succeed oneself by re-election,” wrote his lawyer, Aaron Weishaar of St. Louis.

Cook claims the Constitution requires chief judge John Baricevic, circuit judge Robert Haida and circuit judgeRobert LeChien to stand for retention.

They announced last year that instead of standing for retention, they would resign and run in the March 15 Democrat primary like new candidates.

Retention requires 60 percent, while election requires a simple majority.

Retention ballots don’t identify a judge’s party, while election ballots identify a judicial candidate’s party.

Cook’s court petition declares that Baricevic, Haida and LeChien would undermine the nonpartisan nature of the judiciary.

Weishaar wrote that nothing in the Constitution “gives a sitting judge the choice of deciding what percentage of the electorate he feels is necessary for him to stay in office.”

He wrote that each judge made his desire to remain in office a partisan issue, “attempting to win a self created vacancy by a simple majority rather than running on his own record.”

He also challenged a proxy vote that Casandra Watson, aChicago Democrat, cast for William McGuffage, also a Chicago Democrat.

“If a quorum is present at a meeting of the board, one of the members present may vote for the absent member pursuant to a written proxy signed by the absent member," Weishaar wrote.

“In violation of the procedure set out in statute, there was no written proxy signed by the absent member.

"No such proxy was presented at the hearing or otherwise made available to the petitioner.”

At the meeting, in Chicago, board members treated the proxy as a joke.

Chairman Charles Scholz, a Democrat from Quincy, voted as McGuffage’s proxy for the first case on the agenda.

Casandra Watson, a Democrat from Chicago, joined the meeting late by video from Springfield and said she had McGuffage’s proxy. 

Scholz said, “I thought I did,” and board members laughed. 

After the board heard Cook’s objections, four Republicans in the meeting voted for him and three in the meeting voted for the judges. 

Watson tied the vote with McGuffage’s proxy. 

Scholz then asked Watson to declare for the record that she would have cast McGuffage’s vote the way he did on the first case. 

Watson so declared.

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