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Illinois Supreme Court, Democratic Primary

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The questions

All candidates were invited to respond to questionnaires, although not all chose to participate. Click on a candidate's name to see the unedited response to each question.

Biographical information & experience
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    Cunningham
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    Flannigan
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    Pucinski
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    Theis
Cunningham
Birthdate: 10/29/1951
Occupation: Appellate Court Justice of the First District Second Division
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Reserve

Education:

See attached resume.

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

See attached resume.

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

I was appointed as an Associate Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County in 1997. I was elected to the Illinois Appellate Court in 2006.

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

See attached resume. No members of my immediate family have had government contracts or jobs.

Flannigan
Birthdate: 8/31/1952
Occupation: Law Offices of Thomas Flannigan
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Ellen L. Flannigan

Education:

Mount Carmel High School 1970
Boston College BA 1974
University of Chicago MA 1979
DePaul Law 1983

I have taken at least 2000 hours of classroom instruction in the Japanese language between 1981 and the present, and worked in two Tokyo law firms in the Japanese language.

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Founder, Midwest Chapter, Travelers Century Club
Illinois Bar Association

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

Law Clerk, Justice William G. Clark, Illinois Supreme Court, 1983-84

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

Wife, Ellen L. Flannigan, elected judge for Circuit Court of Cook County, 12th Judicial Subcircuit, 2006-present.

I worked for the US Social Security Administration 1975-1979.

Pucinski
Birthdate: 4/2/1947
Occupation: Justice, Illinois Appellate Court, Cook County
Marital status: divorced
Spouse:

Education:

Alvernia HS., Chicago; O'Connell HS,Arlington, VA; Notre Dame HS for Girls, Chicago; Western HS, Washington, DC,; Immaculata HS, Washington DC; Catholic University of America, Washington DC, BA History, cum laude, l968; DePaul College of Law, Chicago, JD, l975

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Chicago Bar Association, Advocate's Society, Norwood Park Historical Society, Old Edgebrook Historical Society, Park Ridge VFW Auxiliary, Polish Women's Alliance, Polish Museum of America, Polish Women's Civic Club, German American Police Association, Polish American Police Association

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

1980 Carter Delegate to the Democratic Convention
1984-88 Commissioner, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
1988-2000 Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County
2004-2010 Judge of the Circuit Court, Cook County
2010 - Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court, Cook County

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

see above, plus 1980-83, Regional Counsel, Small Business Administration
2002, Director, Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, 2002-2004, Assistant to the Director, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

Theis
Birthdate: 2/27/1949
Occupation: Supreme Court Justice/ State of Illinois
Marital status: Married
Spouse: John Theis

Education:

Loyola University Chicago- Bachelor's Degree
University of San Francisco- Law Degree

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Chicago Bar Association
Illinois State Bar Association
Women's Bar Association
Illinois Judges Association
Illinois Judges Foundation
Appellate Lawyers Association

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

1983-1988 Associate Judge, Circuit Court Cook County
1988-1993 Circuit Court Judge Cook County
1993-2010 Appellate Court Judge, First District
2010-Present Supreme Court Justice, First District

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

1983-1988 Associate Judge, Circuit Court Cook County
1988-1993 Circuit Court Judge Cook County
1993-2010 Appellate Court Judge, First District
2010-Present Supreme Court Justice, First District

My son Jack is a lawyer with the United States Department of Justice.

Campaign information
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Cunningham

Campaign headquarters: P.O. Box 64935, Chicago, IL 60664
Website: www.joycunninghamforjustice.com
Campaign manager: Vance du Revage
Campaign budget: As you know campaign budgets are always in flux, but we are confident we will continue to have the resources necessary to win this race.
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
As a judicial candidate, I am not privy to the information related to contributions to my campaign.  However, my staff has been complying with all legal reporting requirements, and, that information is available through the Illinois Board of Elections.

Flannigan

Campaign headquarters: 70 W. Madison STE 5750 Chicago, IL 60602
Website: www.tomforjudge.com
Campaign manager: Me
Campaign budget: Substantially less than $3000.
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
I am not taking any campaign contributions.

Pucinski

Campaign headquarters: 5644 N. Nagle, Chicago, IL 60646
Website: www.pucinski.org
Campaign manager: Rebecca Keithley
Campaign budget: $150,000
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
I have not had any fundraising to date. I have self limited contributions to no more than $75.00 from any attorney, no more than $500.00 from any law firm or group of attorneys, NO money from any attorney or firm doing appellate work, and no more than $500.00 from any other individual, organization or business. I am horrified by the notion of multi-million dollar judicial campaigns and believe that we need to set an entirely different standard. A downstate campaign recently cost more than $9 MILLION dollars! In Cook County it is estimated that one of the supreme court campaigns will raise and spend more than $1 MILLION dollars. I believe this is unacceptable.

Theis

Campaign headquarters: 29 S. Lasalle #936
Website: www.theisforjustice.com
Campaign manager: Brendan O'Sullivan
Campaign budget: I believe I will have adequate resources to reach all voters.
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
My campaign contributions are listed on the Illinois State Board of Elections. Illinois campaign law now states that any contribution over $1000 must be reported within five business days of being deposited. Individual contributions are limited to $5000. This is a first for judicial campaigns in Illinois.

Is too much money being spent on the races for the Illinois Supreme Court? If so, what can be done to address that? Does the rising level of funding for judicial campaigns undermine judicial independence?
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Cunningham

As is the case with all political campaigns, we are witnessing more and more money flowing into judicial races, either directly through campaigns or via independent sources.  While the influx and need for contributions always raises questions about the integrity and independence of those elected, nowhere should those questions be taken more seriously than in the judiciary.

Illinois recently passed campaign finance reform in an attempt to reduce the influence of money on the political system.  Some people have advocated further restrictions while others favor public financing.  To ensure greater independence in the judiciary, I would welcome further debate and evaluation of such proposals.  Until then, candidates who are supported by special interest and powerful individuals will always have an unfair advantage, regardless of qualifications and credentials.

Flannigan

I think too much money is being spent and it can cause many problems. One way to deal with this is give the rare candidate who will not take contributions a chance.

Pucinski

Million dollar campaigns are ridiculous. Attorneys who want to be judges should develop their name recognition and reputation by serving their community and developing strong ties with their neighborhoods. It makes us better judges to be free from the appearance -- or worse, from the reality -- that big contributions cloud our independence or judgment. An independent judiciary is critical if we are to continue to have a fully functioning democracy. Judges cannot ever be in a position of owning loyalty to contributors -- or for that matter -- bowing to public pressure. Judges have to weigh the facts, apply thge law and make an independent decision. How can citizens believe that judges are independent when tens of thousands of dollars are being funneled into their campaigns by big firms and big donors?

Theis

Political campaigns are expensive, especially in a large metropolitan area like Chicago. This has been true for some time. The last contested Supreme Court election in Cook County took place in 2000, and two of the candidates each raised approximately one million dollars. Without public financing of judicial elections, candidates will need to raise funds to communicate their qualifications.

This year campaign financing has changed because the Legislature passed a law that limits contributions from individuals to $5000. A few wealthy people will no longer be able to influence the selection of a judge.

However a new and more disturbing trend has emerged more recently. In judicial races across the country, special interest groups are spending their own funds to defeat candidates. These groups are not bound by the campaign limits law or the Code of Judicial Conduct, and the judicial candidate cannot control them. The vicious, unfair attack ads we saw in Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride's retention election are the most recent examples in Illinois.

I do believe these "third-party" campaigns undermine the public's confidence in the integrity of the judiciary. As a current member of the Supreme Court, I am committed to reform of Supreme Court Rule 67, the rule concerning conduct of judicial candidates.

Are current rules sufficient to ensure that justices will recuse themselves in cases involving donors to their campaigns?
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Cunningham

As I understand the current rules, a justice may or may not know who has donated to his or her campaign.  Without a firewall in place, there is no systematic check in place to guarantee a justice will recuse him or herself when appropriate.

In my view, it would be useful to establish a specific protocol designed to address this issue in an objective fashion in order ensure public confidence in the independence of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Flannigan

No.

Pucinski

No.

Theis

During my 28 years on the bench, I have taught many classes in Judicial Ethics for judges, including a seminar specifically on campaign ethics. Supreme Court Rule 63(C) provides that a judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might be reasonably be questioned.

The issue of when a judge should step away from a case is a very difficult one. The judge must balance the public's perception of the integrity of the judiciary with the very real political reality that campaigns are costly. Supreme Court Rule 67 provides that a judge cannot solicit or receive a financial contributions. A candidate must form a committee to conduct fund-raising. These rules have been in place for over 25 years, and I believe they have worked well. But judicial elections have changed. When a party to a case contributes to the judge's campaign or when special interest groups spend unlimited money funds in a campaign against a judge's opponent, then the balance between the people's trust and campaigns is different. In this new environment, we need to review these Rules.

Should Illinois move toward nonpartisan elections for the Supreme Court? Are there steps you could take as a state Supreme Court justice to make judicial elections in Illinois less partisan? What role do you think political party slating should play? Do you favor eliminating elections and having a merit selection process?
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Cunningham

Maintaining the independence of the Judiciary is of paramount importance.  I believe that the political slating process runs contrary to independence.  And that is the very reason why both in 2006 and in this current election, I chose to continue with my campaign despite not being slated by the Cook County Democratic Party.  

I believe the voters rewarded me for demonstrating my independence by electing me to the Appellate Court in 2006, and I am confident they will stand behind me in this election, as well.

I have carved my own path over the course of my career and that has led me from being a patient transporter in a New York hospital to being a candidate rated “highly qualified” for the Illinois Supreme Court.  The perspective that I can offer the people of Illinois is unique and would bring much-needed diversity of experience to the bench.  If voters were only presented with candidates with similar backgrounds, hand-picked by political insiders, the integrity of our entire judicial process would be threatened.

To better ensure judicial independence, I would be open to discussing and examining a more non-partisan process, including an open primary system.

Flannigan

I am in favor of judicial elections and opposed to non-partisan elections. A sitting Supreme Court Judge can not do much to make elections less partisan except to refrain from negative campaigning.

Pucinski

I have strongly recommended non-partisan election of judges, in fact, theSun Times covered my remarks. Judges cannot and should not be campaigning on partisan platforms. Weneed to be independent of political "leaders" and their money and influence and endorsements, all of which just fuel citizen cynicism. I am the only woman candidate who did not seek thge endorsement of the democratic party,and in fact I did not pledge my loyalty to the democratic party or tout my previous loyalty. It is important, though, for judges to be face election because otherwise it would be too easy to sit in an "ivory tower" pondering abstract legal theories and forget that in every case there are real people with real problems. We need to get out to be connected to people and neighborhoods. We are better judges for getting out and meeting people and answering their questions and concerns.

Theis

As Co-chair of the Illinois State Bar Association's Special Committee on Judicial Selection, I have studied the selection process of every state in the country. The short answer is that there is no perfect system.

With the exception of one or two states, every state in the country has some type of election process, including those that use the "merit selection" system. In Iowa, for example, judges are chosen by the governor after a nominating commission identifies qualified candidates. After one year in office, and at regular intervals, the judges must run for non-partisan retention. In November of 2011, three justices of the Iowa Supreme Court were defeated when national organizations spent large amounts of money to remove them because they had joined the unanimous decision to allow same sex marriage. The Iowa experience demonstrates that no system for choosing judges insulates the judiciary from politics.

As a candidate for a full term on the Court, I have presented my 28 year record to political groups, bar associations, community groups, and the Editorial Board of the Sun-Times. I am proud to have received support all across our community.

I believe the biggest problem with our current system is that it is very difficult for voters to get information about the candidates. People understand how important it is to choose experienced, qualified judges, but too often unqualified candidates have been elected. The efforts by the media, the bar associations, and other groups to inform voters are essential for a judiciary that inspires the trust and confidence of the public.

Many if not most of the judges on the Cook County Circuit Court got started with an appointment to a vacancy by the Supreme Court. Does this process need to be changed? How would you handle choosing appointees?
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Cunningham

It is true appointees are often selected to fill open vacancies.  In the case of the current vacancy on the Illinois Supreme Court, an interim appointee was selected by Justice Thomas Fitzgerald to fill his vacancy upon his retirement.  I would have to review available methods currently in use in selecting appointees to fill vacancies and would choose the one which presents a process which is fair.

Flannigan

The Illinois Constitution provides for this system. I would consider input from legal and non-legal organizations in making appointments.

Pucinski

I was never appointed to a judgeship, I ran for election and won. I am not a big fan of appointments, but realistically, that is the law we have. If I am elected to the Supreme Court and have the opportunity to appoint I would work with the smallbar associations -- the ones that are usually ignored -- to identify qualified, respected attorneys who would improve the diversity and experience on the bench.

Theis

I believe that Illinois is the only state in the country where the Supreme Court fills judicial vacancies rather than the executive or legislative branches. The Founders of our Constitution chose the least partisan institution, and the one with the most expertise in the law. In a sense, our system is a compromise between a commission/appointive system and a purely elective system.

During my tenure on the Illinois Supreme Court, I have made two appointments to the Circuit Court, and one to the Appellate Court. Judge Jean Rooney had been found highly qualified by the Commission created by Justice Anne Burke and headed by Justice Ben Miller. Judge Diann Marsalek had been screened by the bar associations and found qualified. Judge Stuart Palmer had been found highly qualified by the bar for assignment to the Appellate Court. I also asked that he be screened by a commission of lawyers and non-lawyers, chaired by Gino DiVito.

Moving forward, it is my intention to develop a pool of candidates who have been found qualified by the bar. When a vacancy occurs, I will assemble a commission to do a final screening.

The clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court says the reason she cannot make more court records accessible via the Internet is because of Illinois Supreme Court rules. Do you agree with that? As a Supreme Court justice, would you support making all court records that are available for inspection in-person available on-line, with only personal information such as Social Security numbers, addresses and phone numbers redacted?
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Cunningham

Several states have moved towards making court records and documents available to the public at large on the Internet.  The question refers to a statement made by the Clerk of the Circuit Court.  I am unaware of the basis upon which the statement was made.  As such, I cannot speak with knowledge of the specifics of the inquiry.

Flannigan

I am in favor of more disclosure but I realize, with the budget crisis, it would be expensive to redact millions of documents.

Pucinski

There is nothing that stops the court records from being accessible on the web and I support it --- I was the Clerk of the Court for 12 years and I can tell you that it is a complicated and expensive process for the millions of pages of papers we handle in this court system. Compared to DuPage County, where the Clerk of the Court has hired an outside vendor to handle the whole project -- Cook County would be better served to do it in house, that way we would own the source codes which would make upgrading easier and less expensive; in addition, every division in the court system should determine which documents are essential on line, since not all documents are equal: that would save some money. There is an automation fund now and a document storage fund, and they have the potential to pay for the programming, scanning, equipment and staff to do this right, remembering that auditing the indexing is critical, as is having the old fashioned paper and microfilm as the ultimate backup, since technology changes very quickly and every tech manager has horror stories about stuff that was
"computerized" ten years ago and simply cannot be read with today's equipment -- think floppy disks....this is not an easy project in a county as large and complex as cook county, but is it is doable with good leadership and qualified staff

Theis

Chief Justice Tom Kilbride has made the increased use of technology in our courtrooms a top priority, and I have worked closely with him on this project. On January 12, 2012 the Court announced an electronic filing pilot project for the Supreme Court.

In 2004 the Court adopted a policy for electronic access for circuit court records. At that time certain records were excluded including documents that contained financial information identifying account numbers, PIN numbers, trade secrets, and other confidential information. All electronic documents are available at kiosks in the Clerks office, but not online. Eight years later, the Supreme Court is currently reviewing this policy. We are looking at the PACER system, currently used in the federal courts. The federal policy also seeks to protect private information while ensuring public access.

I will continue to work with Justice Kilbride to strike a balance between transparency and privacy rights.

In criminal cases, do the accused have the right to confront and cross-examine expert witnesses who make scientific judgments on their cases? Or is it permissible for someone else to analyze the data and testify about it? The rules governing courtroom scientific evidence in Illinois have been called a mix of contractions. What, if anything, should the Supreme Court do about that?
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Cunningham

The Illinois Supreme Court has recently ruled on this very issue.  Since I believe in stare decisis, the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling is binding upon me as a judge in this state.

Flannigan

The Court should resolve any discrepancies by taking cases and deciding them.

Pucinski

Every litigant, civil or criminal, has the right to confront witnesses, including expert witnesses. If one expert is called in to offer an opinion about another expert then they both can be questioned about the basis of their opinion. Scientific evidence is still evidence. It can be subjected to questions that may clarify it, impeach it or confuse it. It is up to the judge to help make it understandable. If there are contradictions in the rules of evidence then as those become apparent the Supreme Court, through its rule-making authority, should resolve them.

Theis

I heard oral argument on this issue in People v Patrick, No. 111666, on September 14, 2011. The case is currently under advisement. This same issue is currently pending before the United States Supreme Court in People v Williams. Williams is an Illinois case decided before I joined the Supreme Court. The Court held that the expert's testimony regarding a laboratory report was not hearsay and therefore the Confrontation Clause was not implicated. The facts in the report were disclosed for the limited purpose of explaining the basis of the expert's opinion. The United States Supreme Court will determine whether that holding was correct. Because this issue is currently before me, I respectfully decline further comment.

Critics say justice is much more accessible for people with money. What role can or should the Supreme Court play in improving access to justice in Illinois for all people?
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Cunningham

One of the steps we can take to improve access to justice is to move toward greater diversity on the courts.  Diversity of our justices in terms of race, gender, and life and professional experience is a critical check and balance of our court system.  This will pave the way for a more representative, more impartial judicial system.

Flannigan

The Court should continue to receive and hear pro se motions and give reasonable accommodation for pro se litigants.

Pucinski

1) encourage faster trials -- civil trials that take 3, 5, 7 years are unacceptable
2) encourage more robust pro bono work by attorneys-- they hate to hear this but there are more than 80,000 attorneys in Illinois -- more than enough to pitch in and help out
3) review procedural and administrative rules that work against pro se litigants and litigants without scads of money
4) remember that this is a trick question because depending on how the attorney is getting paid, it might be better for him or her to have a slow case, so not all stakeholders actually want faster trials

Theis

Access to justice is the cornerstone of our system of justice, but study after study has shown that many people cannot afford legal representation. In the past this issue has centered on the unmet legal need of the poor. But I believe we are at a point in our society where many people in the middle class have the courtroom door shut to them as well.

I wrote Supreme Court Rule 756(f) which requires all Illinois lawyers to report the number of hours of free legal services they have provided each year. The purpose of the Rule is to serve as an annual reminder that pro bono legal service is an integral part of a lawyer's professionalism. Since the Rule was adopted in 2006, the number of hours of volunteer work has risen each year. Last year Illinois lawyers reported providing 2.3 million hours of free legal services.

But pro bono work and financial support for organizations that provide legal services to people of limited means are not enough to solve this problem which undermines faith in our system of justice. Many states, and many countries around the world, have an Access to Justice Commission. These groups provide helpful information to self-represented litigants and look for creative ways to reduce legal fees through limited representation agreements.

If I retain my seat on the Illinois Supreme Court, my first priority will be to create an Access to Justice Commission for Illinois.

What if anything can the Supreme Court do with regard to the mortgage foreclosure crisis?
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Cunningham

The mortgage foreclosure crisis is a national problem permeating many levels of our society.  Illinois has faced this problem along with many other states.  The Illinois Supreme Court, as an institution, does not have specific authority to address this problem.  However, I do believe the court, as a body, is mindful of various programs, which have been recently established to address certain aspects of the crisis.  

For example, the Circuit Court of Cook County, with the approval of the Illinois Supreme Court, has a mediation program in place, which provides services to homeowners facing foreclosure.  Similarly, the Chicago Legal Clinic also has a court-approved program providing representation to home owners facing foreclosure.

Flannigan

I think the Court can do very little to clean up this mess other than to decide cases before it quickly.

Pucinski

make sure the rules are fair to homeowners and banks. and that every effort is made to assure that there is good,meaningful notice to all sides in the dispute, that all required documents are available for inspection by all sides and that all programs already in place to assist homeowners renegotiate the terms of the mortgage to avoid foreclosure have been tried first

Theis

When I joined the Supreme Court in November, 2010, I asked the other members of the Court to make the mortgage foreclosure crisis a priority. A Special Supreme Court Committee was formed at my suggestion. The Committee is approaching the problem in two ways. First the Committee is preparing proposals for new Supreme Court Rules. Secondly the Committee will propose standards and best practices for loan modification mediation programs that are being adopted in counties around the state. Public hearings are anticipated in the next few months.

The mortgage foreclosure crisis impacts families, neighborhoods and the economy generally. But it has also been a serious problem for the courts of Illinois. It has been estimated that there are over 77,000 foreclosure cases pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County alone. There are currently 16 judges assigned to hear this huge caseload. We must adopt procedures that will allow homeowners who are often unable to afford lawyers to be able to have their voices heard. We must also bring these cases to final judgment. In too many cases the homeowners have left their homes vacant and the banks have not yet taken over the property. Abandoned buildings are a blight on many neighborhoods in our community. Property values fall and crime increases. The Circuit Court of Cook County has begun an expedited docket for foreclosure on vacant property. This is a very good solution for a very difficult problem.

Critics say electronic discovery and the massive amount of paperwork involved in big cases has become a barrier even for wealthy individuals and corporations, pushing them toward alternative dispute resolution. What, if anything, can the Supreme Court do about reducing the cost for parties going into litigation?
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Cunningham

There are civil procedural rules in place governing discovery.  Each case is different.  The volume of discovery needed in each case will be determined by the facts.  The Illinois Supreme Court can set the tone to encourage trial judges to enforce existing procedural rules, which if followed, should adequately govern discovery.

Flannigan

Decide cases as quickly as possible.

Pucinski

We are in a technological age and there is no going back. Companies have tons of data and paper. Some of it they will protect properly and some with mischief. Some they probably don't even know they have. All of the rules and practices are evolving, and yes, it makes big litigation very expensive. Mediation is one mechanism to hone in on the fundamental issues -- remembering that not every issue has to go to the mat! Mediation should be encouraged. In addition some states are trying a more robust pre-trial process -- tell the judge what you have, what you expect to prove, give it your best shot and get feedback to decide how you want to proceed. Maybe the case just isn't going anywhere and it would be better to know that up front.

Theis

If the poor cannot afford the court system, and the middle class cannot afford the court system, it is clear that we need to reform our system when the wealthiest cannot afford it as well. I often ask why the wealthiest of clients opt for alternative dispute resolution, and the answer is, as your question suggests, the cost of discovery. Today the most time-consuming and therefore most expensive part of litigation is e-discovery. In large cases young associates are often assigned the task of reading literally millions of emails. This is not efficient and it is not wise. We need to develop comprehensive rules for e-discovery. The Federal system has had rules since 2006, and Illinois can learn from their experience.

What can the Supreme Court do, if anything, to reduce the length of the litigation process?
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Cunningham

As with discovery, the length and pendency of each case is often governed by the facts and circumstances of the individual case.  Extensive procedural rules are in place to address these issues.  If followed, such rules adequately govern the length and pendency of a case.  Again, the Illinois Supreme Court can set the tone to encourage trial judges to enforce existing procedural rules, which, if followed, should adequately govern the length of the litigation process.

Flannigan

Decide cases as quickly as possible.

Pucinski

Push, push, push for faster discovery and depositions; required faster scheduling; assign more judges to civil litigation and fewer to those divisions where judge resources are underutilized; in Cook County compare individual calendars to team calendars to see which is more efficient; use more mediation; make sure that attorneys know that judges cannot condone unnecessary delays, and remember that in some cases one of the sides isn't in any hurry to have the case end -- especially if they will wind up paying big money.

Theis

Once again the answer is the discovery process. The Supreme Court last revised the discovery rules in 2002. The most effective change was to require the judge to hold case management conferences periodically. Judges are now able to provide more oversight of the discovery process. But abuses continue.

In the time that I have been a member of the Supreme Court, there have been amendments to the Supreme Court Rules allowing the use of electronic means for depositions. These and other uses of technology are helpful ways to reduce the burden on witnesses.

Most importantly, we must manage electronic discovery more efficiently.

Many people are concerned about the number of wrongful convictions in Illinois. What can be done to ensure that people, regardless of their means, are given a fair opportunity to defend themselves when they are charged with serious crimes?
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    Theis
Cunningham

Any instance of a wrongful conviction should be a cause for concern, and the frequency with which it has happened in Illinois has triggered an evaluation of our system.  The issue becomes even more troublesome when those wrongly convicted are consistently found to be of lower economic means.

While our constitution ensures equal access to all citizens, reality does not always conform to constitutional provisions.  Individual judges have a responsibility to treat each case coming before them equally and with the same degree of dignity and respect.

As a current member of the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Education, I would suggest regular inclusion of “equal access” to the courts’ philosophy in the portfolio of information with which the court reinforces the judicial practice of Illinois Judges.

Flannigan

Did not respond

Pucinski

1) make sure the public defender's office and the appellate defender's offices are adequately funded and properly staffed;
2) make sure that the state has in fact turned over its required discoverable evidence to the defense
3) give judges handling criminal cases more in-service training on evidence and
jury instructions
4) make sure that jurors are properly instructed
5) call on more private attorneys who handle criminal defense work to help out
6) look at the number and method of negotiated pleas to make sure the system is truly fair

Theis

I am the Supreme Court liason to the Special Committee on Capital Cases. This Committee was formed by the Supreme Court in the wake of the many cases where we learned that innocent people were on death row. The Committee wrote Rules "to minimize the occurrence of error to the maximum extent feasible and to identify and correct with due promptness any error that may occur." Since the death penalty has been abolished, the Committee has been reviewing its work to see if there are procedures that can be extended to other cases.

There has been a developing doctrine for several decades that state constitutions have separate meaning and may provide broader protections than parallel provisions in the U.S. Constitution. Do you believe that is a sound doctrine?
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    ALL
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    Cunningham
  • [ + ]
    Flannigan
  • [ + ]
    Pucinski
  • [ + ]
    Theis
Cunningham

The Lockstep Doctrine is a traditional principle.  There are those who say the state and federal constitutions are built on similar core values and principles.  Accordingly, basic rights afforded under one document should be afforded under the other.  However, each state is sovereign of federal and state constitutions.  Moreover, recognizing that each state is sovereign, judges may elect to afford parties the broadest constitutional protections allowable under either constitution.

Flannigan

Did not respond

Pucinski

Th US Constitution sets the standard for our freedom, liberty and rights. If states decide to be more liberal, fine, but no state should be more restrictrictive than the US Constitution.

Theis

The Lockstep Doctrine is an issue in Hope Clinic v Adams, No. 112704 which is currently in briefing before the Supreme Court. Therefore I respectfully decline to answer.

The race
The candidates
Joy Virginia Cunningham
Thomas W. Flannigan
Aurelia Marie Pucinski
Mary Jane Theis

Not pictured:
John P. Tully

The office

The election will fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court in the First District, caused by the 2010 retirement of Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald. There are three Supreme Court justice from the First District, which shares the same boundaries as Cook County.

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