President Felice's Letter to the Editor and Statement in response to Gov. Rauner

ISBA President Richard D. Felice issued a Letter to the Editor distributed throughout the state and a statement responding to Gov. Rauner's comments on Tuesday critical of the Illinois judiciary.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:  _________________

This week, Gov. Rauner pointedly and unfairly attacked the integrity of the Illinois Supreme Court and Illinois’ entire justice system. He labeled the system “corrupt” and said he did not “trust the Supreme Court to be rational” in its decisions.

As lawyers, we know Gov. Rauner’s attack is without foundation. We read the opinions authored by the Supreme and Appellate courts. We know they are decided without bias, based on the facts and evidence presented and the applicable law. We respect them as intelligent, well-reasoned decisions even when we don’t agree with them.

We also know the hard work judges do every day on behalf of those who seek access to justice. We see the difficult cases they decide. We know Illinois’ judicial system is not corrupt and that judicial decisions are rational.   

As lawyers, we can appreciate the Governor’s interest in the justice system and the election of judges. It is a legitimate topic of debate. In fact, since the early 1980s, the Illinois State Bar Association has worked with political leaders on both sides of the aisle to promote merit selection and retention of judges and public financing of judicial elections. That makes it all the more disappointing that the Governor has launched an irresponsible attack without merit on the integrity of the entire judicial system. Instead, he should engage in constructive dialogue or propose legislation to work on these issues.

Richard D. Felice,
Illinois State Bar Association

Statement of the Illinois State Bar Association

It is most unfortunate that Governor Rauner has chosen to impugn the integrity of the Supreme Court of Illinois and the rest of the trial and appellate judges in our state by labeling them as part of a corrupt system.

Americans of every possible political persuasion participate in judicial campaigns, and their ability to participate in those elections is cherished and protected by the courts and Constitution. Currently, the Code of Judicial Conduct governs the ethical conduct of judges that includes whether a judge should recuse or be disqualified from hearing a specific case.

Since the early 1980s, the Illinois State Bar Association, working with Governor James R. Thompson and Senator Dawn Clark Netsch, has supported the concepts of merit selection of judges, merit retention of judges, and the public financing of judicial elections. We would hope that Governor Rauner might show the same kind of leadership and respect for our system of government as Governor Thompson did by proposing constructive legislation as opposed to issuing gratuitous, personal attacks that undermine the rule of law.

Posted on April 9, 2015 by Chris Bonjean
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Member Comments (23)

Thank you so much, Rick, for standing up for our colleagues. It's mind boggling that this governor had the nerve to make such outrageous, baseless comments. You are probably also well aware of the fact that Governor Rauner would like to tax legal services, which would hurt our clients, not us! I am honored to be an attorney and so proud of you and this great bar association for your statements!

Mary Petruchius

This a comment from a wealthy guy who bought his election. There have been far more Illinois governors jailed on corruption charges than judges; and there have been and are many more judges. So his uninformed views are silly and irresponsible designed to deflect his actions of late that are unconstitutional.

What did the State Bar EXPECT from a "businessman" whose closeness to the powers that be throughout the State and whose primary goal is taking benefits away from those who earned them and spreading more wealth to his kind?

I've argued cases before the Illinois Supreme Court, and the Appellate Courts of this State for nearly 4 decades and yes all Judges make mistakes but "the land of Lincoln" and these great United States ALWAYS provides a method to allow judges to reconsider through the process of our judicial system.

I've had judges make obvious errors (Judges are human and most often OVER worked) and when given the chance by virtue of a properly and timely filed petition for rehearing or a petition for reconsideration, I have found that the error was almost always corrected.

Of course there is SOME SMALL AMOUNTS of corruption in the system, but operation grey lord did a lot to correct that. Our system of justice is every vigilant for those who overstep their bounds or are tempted towards corruption by greed or personal weakness but it is my experience that JUSTICE almost ALWAYS prevails in the long run and usually in what most would call the "short run".

My message to Governor Rauner is: Don't be so quick to condemn and instead work with those who TRULY know the legal system to make it better so that the vast majority of the citizens of Illinois will be the better for it!

I'm sorry. I usually leave personal lives out of arguments; but sometimes personal lives of public officials become relevant in substantial ways. And I would question the integrity of anyone on the Supreme Court married to Chicago Alderman and Finance Committee Chairperson Ed Burke. His reputation is well-known, and it's not a good one at that. Men with better reputations have served time in federal prison.

Anne Burke is not guilty of any crime in a court of law, but I would find her guilty in the court of public opinion, which is what Governor Rauner's remark is really about.

Sorry guys. But who we marry still says something about who we are.

This is outrageous and offensive, Mr. Jenkins. "Who we marry still says something about we are..."? Now, that's really an enlightening comment. You owe Justice Burke an apology. And, if you have a spouse, I sure hope you have some explaining to do when you get home. Marrying the person you love is supposed to be the rule. Marrying to make a statement about who you are is sad, very sad.

Mr. Katz, Love is the best thing in the world. But it doesn't justify looking the other way, and isn't a good excuse for defending crooks. Everyone knows about Burke's "manufactured" law practice, as well as Cullerton and Madigan's. It's a racket, and a rather expensive one at that. And this is public knowledge.

"Ed Burke has a bad reputation. Anne Burke is his wife. Anne Burke is a Supreme Court Justice. Anne Burke is undeserving of her post. Therefore, all Supreme Court Justices are corrupt."

Really David? Wow. Wouldn't want you on a jury. Whole neighborhoods would go to jail with that logic

Mr. O'Neal, I expressly said "court of public opinion." Therefore, I don't see the relevance of your analogy to a court proceeding. And there's a difference between speaking about justiciability, and speaking about the politics of courts, especially a panel of judges who are elected, in Illinois, no less. The level of political abuse and corruption tendered by Mr. Burke is no small affair, and his practice and elected work are heavily in conflict, in a way that is notorious and open for all to see. And much has been made of this fact, while he and his Supreme Court wife have grown wealthier as a result of this conflict. If you'd like to submit something to a jury, how about that conflict of interest?

Your comment is an accusation without any facts to support it, guilt by association is foolish. It is a comment I would expect from a running dog of the governor. How is that for guilt by association. Have as good a day as you deserve.

I agree that the majority of the bench and bar do their best to provide the members of our society the best system of justice they are able to provide.
However, it just might be that the chief executive officer that has been elected by the majority of the voters might not be alone in his opinion that working since 1980 to provide a method other than we presently have that gives the voter a list of candidates so long that even lawyers cannot intelligently select from it.
There is a case that says three generations are enough...maybe three score is also too long.

I had the pleasure of meeting and attending night school at Chicago-Kent College of Law with now Justice Burke. Both she and her husband, Alderman Edward Burke, have been public figures for some time. In the case of her husband, for many, many decades. Bruce Rauner has up until recently been a private person who has never had to withstand the media scrutiny that the Burkes have had to withstand for decades and decades. That is why we know precious little of Bruce Rauner. However, I am reasonably sure his honeymoon with the media will be over in due course and we will learn a whole lot about Bruce Rauner than we know right now. How he measures up to that remains to be seen. Corruption is not limited to the public sector, and it would do us all good to wait and see how his actions measure up to his campaign contributions. If he is a typical business radical backed by the insurance industry and the Chamber of Commerce, we should expect him to come out little by little to stand against our Constitutional right to jury trials in civil cases, among other things.

The bar, including the ISBA, has frequently criticized our system that requires would-be judges and judges running for retention to raise large campaign funds. I don't agree with the Governor's comments about the whole system being corrupt but it is in need of improvement. Counter-attacking Rauner is just the same old politics that solves nothing.

When I read the story about Rauner's comments on our judiciary, my first thoughts were, they come from a typically uninformed politician with gobs of money. And he is not even a lawyer or schooled in the law himself. His observations about those that preside in our state in all sorts of tribunals misleads the public over our system and its judges that proudly and tirelessly serve. Yes, there is a "bad apple" or two on occasion, and certainly we can harken back to the days of Operation Greylord in Cook County. But Governor Rauner, how many of your ilk in the securities/hedge fund markets have literally robbed investors of $millions. So, we could equally say, you are as corrupt an individual in your profession as you claim ALL judges are because of an occasional errant one or two. So, why don't you just issue an official apology to the citizens of the State of Illinois and to all that serve proudly wearing the black robe? Better yet, why don't those lawyers that supported your campaign (my respected colleague, Manny Sanchez, who aired commercials for Rauner immediately pops up) come forward who are members of the state bar and stand with with brothers and sisters at the bar and counter your ill-informed and reckless choice of words about judges who do and have served in our state?

The child in me is compelled to state a variation of the old adage in response to Mr. Rauner's (when he begins acting like a governer I'll give him the respect of the proper title) comments: "It takes one to [think he] know[s] one".

It is unrelenting political pandering to debase the integrity of the Illinois Supreme Court Justices in glib statements to a press which is generally disinterested in genuine analysis and instead focussed on the sound bites of the kind that Mr. Rauner provides. I no longer have any respect for Mr. Rauner and will not until he proves he is worthy of it. I want my home state to be a place where people and businesses want to live and thrive. A half-cocked cheap shot at its highest court, and by inference at those of us who toil to resolve the irresolvables that clients bring us, is a very bad start.

I was born and raised in Missouri, a state having its own new age issues. But the state motto is appropos for Mr. Rauner. If you want to lead us Bruce, you're going to have to SHOW ME.

His comments were unwarranted. However, I agree with the point that judges should not be elected. I also agree that Illinois has its fair share of corruption within the judiciary as a result of an elected judiciary. It is not fair, however, to point the finger at the Supreme Court. While Mr. Rauner may disagree with their ruling on the pension plan, I think most legal minds agree that it was the correct ruling.

Now that we have that all out of our system....The real question here, it seems to me is are we for or against the merit selection of judges. If we are, what are the creative/positive ways to get there.

I was admitted to practice in 1966. I heard about the concept, but haven't heard much of anything done about.

I served on the Review Board of the ARDC during Graylord. I can certainly tell you I saw a lot of things that made me question the process of how judges are appointed. Enough for now.

Thanks for listening.

Herb Bell

Respect can only be earned, not commanded. The Governor's remarks are harsh, but, sadly, I hear similar sentiments expressed by lawyers and clients all the time. The ISBA's longtime (but doomed) support for merit selection concedes that the present judicial selection methods are deeply flawed. Mr. Felice's world of only 'intelligent, well-reasoned decisions' remains aspirational. Public criticism, even of the judiciary and its work, is an honorable part of the democratic process. The many good judges will not be bothered by such utterances. I urge the ISBA and other bar associations to lead these kinds of discussions, rather than too often advocate for the status quo to protect lawyers' incomes.

A review of the Supreme Court's decision in the Emmanuel case
decided by Judge Hoffman in the 1st District Appellate Court would
give some credence to Gov. Rauner's comments. However, his
comments do tend toward the extreme which militates against their
credibility and fairness.

The use of a merit system in Illinois is highly suspect given the
nature of Illinois politics. The candidates, for the most part, would
probably be well qualified, However, allowing the governor or the
Illinois legislature make the selection would be catastrophic.

If a merit system were to be established, candidates, vetted by and
approved by the ARDC, should only then be considered by an independent,
apolitical committee appointed by the Supreme Court. This would seem
to be the only reasonably safe alternative.

Shades of Baby Richard debacle where the political lesson learned was that he Supreme Court loses in a public sparring contest in large part because courts have professional rules that limit their public comments. It is not a fair fight. The Governor's comments raises the question of why is he now is concerned with the judiciary and particularly the Supreme Court. If the Governor truly believes our judiciary is so concerning, then I'm sure he will make a proposal soon to increase funding for legal services for the poor and bring our State's Public Defender system into parity with their counterparts. Since the election of Judges was introduced as a measure to stop the corruption of judges that was perceived to exist with the appointment process, I assume that he probably has a fresh idea -- perhaps the hybrid election and merit proposal introduced recently in the legislature. Thank you Richard for pushing back.

Thank you Rick!

As you know I have had the opportunity to be involved with court system since high school and I have seen many a judge; some better than others. I have seen clerks become attorneys, attorneys become judges, and I have even seen a few go from clerk to attorney to Judge. Additionally, I have seen judges move on from Associate to Circuit to Appellate and beyond to Supreme Court Justice and Federal Court Judges. I also have had my share of dealing with elected officials and their plugging for positive voter opinion.

I personally have experienced the integrity of the judiciary both on and off the bench and I can't agree more with what you have said.

Thank you again!

A loss of "trust" is an unintended consequence of the nation's judiciary creating the perception that it is usurping the Peoples' right and power to legislate their deeply held personal beliefs.This is not to say that there is anything wrong with what it is doing.

Thank you, Rick, for speaking out and addressing unwarranted and irresponsible criticism of the justice system. Your leadership is one of the many reasons why I am proud to be a member of the ISBA. The printed word bickering that I've just read, however, saddens me. Over the past several years, the ISBA has taken positions on some pretty controversial issues, and I have disagreed with many of them. Recently, it seems that the more accepting and diverse we become, the less tolerant we are of opinions other than our own. While I disagree with Mr. Jenkins' position, I am more offended by the personal attacks he has sustained here for expressing them.

Rauner's comments might have been overreaching and exaggerated, but none of the comments posted here (almost exclusively by liberal anti-Rauner sympathizers, of course) reaches the obvious conflict of interest involved in fundraising for judicial elections. No matter which justices we've met or know, and how honest they seem at events (especially the fundraising ones), overcome the appearance of impropriety this conflict creates.

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