Wednesday, January 16, 2008

All Politics is Local

In Illinois, we elect our state court judges. That puts a tremendous amount of responsibility in the hands of voters. I am not implying that judges are somehow beyond the capability of voter evaluation. The problem is more one of volume. Most voters cannot make a meaningful choice between the hundreds of candidates running for judge. The major newspapers give scant attention to judicial elections and the Chicago Bar Association judicial evaluation results are not yet out and who knows how well distributed they will be. So, judicial elections unfortunately often turn on ballot position, the ethnicity of surnames (more on that below), and gender.

That is why I want to let Cook County voters know about my friend Mike Hyman who was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to fill a judicial vacancy and is now running to keep the seat. Mike is the candidate endorsed by the Democratic Party for the position. The Chicago Bar Association has called him "Highly Qualified" for the job and the Chicago Council of Lawyers called him "Well Qualified." Before becoming a judge, Mike was one of the premier litigators of complex fraud and class action law suits in the country. He was also President of the Chicago Bar Association and the Decalogue Society of Lawyers.

I have known Mike for at least 10 years while we served together on the Editorial Board of the Chicago Bar Association putting out the Bar's magazine, The Record. I have never known anyone to take on more responsibility and produce more results than Mike. He does everything with energy, enthusiasm, and the grace to listen to and understand every side in a discussion. Mike writes beautifully and has a wide and deep knowledge of the law, history, and literature that informs all of his decisions. In short, Mike is exactly the kind of person the voters in Illinois should want on the bench. Consequently, I am asking my friends and colleagues who live in Cook County to Punch 100 on your ballot to elect Mike Hyman to the Circuit Court of Cook County, Nowicki vacancy.

My Bar colleague Jack Leyhane has posted some of Mike's writing on the judiciary to his blog, For What It's Worth. I encourage you to read it.

One last thing: The surname issue in Cook County is worthy of scrutiny by anthropologists and sociologists. The practice of voting for Irish names is so well ingrained in this City that non-Irish candidates have--in the past--legally changed their names as part of a campaign strategy. This produces candidates with names like Esther Bernstein O'Rourke and Leon Jefferson O'Malley. Given the number of candidates involved and the lack of real coverage of judicial elections, it is understandable that voters latch on to something quick and familiar when casting a vote. Unfortunately, this leads to other problems. I am told that there has not been a Jewish candidate elected judge in Cook County in 12 years. It has, again I am told, been 18 years since there were two judges with Jewish surnames elected in Cook County. Given the high representation of Jews in the practice of law, this is an unfortunate set of statistics. The judiciary should represent the community and the legal profession when without compromising the quality of judges.

Electing Michael Hyman to the bench (really retaining him), adds to diversity in the court. But, far and away more important than that, electing Mike keeps an eminently qualified lawyer and judge on the bench serving the people of the County.

Punch 100 for Michael B. Hyman.

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