Judges will be on the Feb. 2 primary ballot. Oak Park and River Forest residents will vote to fill three appellate court seats and eight circuit court (trial court) seats. Oak Parkers will vote to fill an additional trial court vacancy in the 13th subcircuit.

Guidance on the candidates’ qualifications is available from several reliable sources. The Alliance of Bar Associations and the Chicago Bar Association conduct comprehensive evaluations of the candidates’ educational, professional and personal backgrounds. The purpose is to assess the candidates’ integrity, their knowledge of the law and litigation practice, and their ability to manage their case loads and courtrooms evenhandedly and effectively.

Both groups publish reports and sample ballots that voters can study in advance and take into the voting booth. The Alliance of Bar Associations – which is a consortium of the Illinois State Bar Association, the Chicago Council of Lawyers and eight affinity bar associations – publishes its materials at the Web site of the Illinois State Bar Association (www.isba.org, select “public,” then “judicial evaluations”) and the Chicago Council of Lawyers (www.chicagocouncil.org, select “state judicial evaluations”). The Chicago Bar Association, which has been conducting judicial candidate reviews since the 19th century, publishes its materials with background information at www.chicagobar.org (click on “services,” then “Judicial Evaluation Committee”). These materials are routinely published in local and regional newspapers, which in some cases also make their own endorsements. All results, as well as an explanation of the process, can also be found at the Web site for the judicial evaluation program of the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, www.voteforjudges.org.

The reports and recommendations of the Alliance of Bar Associations and Chicago Bar Association are the results of scores of lawyers investing hundreds of hours in investigation and deliberation. Their goal is to create a judiciary that will competently and fairly judge the merits of their clients’ cases and instill public confidence in the court system. There are, in the case of some candidates, differences in the recommendations, but for the most part the process results in consistent results.

The League of Women Voters of Oak Park and River Forest, a nonpartisan political organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, urges voters to spend the time to educate themselves about judicial candidates. The decisions of our judges affect individual litigants, families, communities and society as a whole. In Illinois, a competent judiciary starts with informed voters at the ballot box.

This letter was submitted by three leaders from the League of Women Voters of Oak Park and River Forest: Angelika Kuehn (vice president), Ann Courter (co-president) and Theresa Amato (also co-president).

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