From Ken Ditkowsky–worried about the integrity of the Bench

This article does nothing but raise the question, why are these people giving tens of thousands of dollars, if not over $100,000 to get judgeships?  And why is one man in Chicago funneling them-Ald. Eddie Burke and his wife is on the Supreme Court! and then when Ken Ditkowsky and Lanre Amu expose corruption in the courts, and that is verified by Crain’s Chicago business (Judge Lynn Egan), the clients kick her off their boards and apologize, but Lynn Egan is still on the bench and Ken and Lanre are on the outs?
What kind of justice is this and just who or whom is in charge–Eddie Burke and take a look at his Wiki page and articles on him.  While not indicted for corruption (yet), he seems to be at the hub of the center and a maze of it, making Chicago look like a laughingstock of corruption. The wolves are clearing running the hen house, the sheep field, and the cow barn!
Benchmark contributions
Primary winners in contests for Cook County court
seats solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars through their
campaign committees. Should we worry about their independence?
by John Flynn Rooney
March 2000--primary winners Marvin Leavitt shelled out more than $280,000 of his own money in an unsuccessful bid last spring to win a Cook County circuit court seat. Though Leavitt’s tab was notably steep, it reflects a trend. While the high-profile Illinois Supreme Court primary races earlier this year garnered attention as big-bucks affairs, candidates in some less-visible Cook County trial court races spent more than $100,000 too.

In the race to fill the countywide vacancy created by the 1999 death of Judge Joan M. Corboy, Leavitt and three competitors spent about $460,000, which is believed to be a record amount for a circuit court contest. Ironically, the winner of that race, Chicago lawyer Joyce M. Murphy, spent nearly $39,000, while the second-place finisher, Leavitt, a circuit court judge sitting by temporary appointment, forked out almost $284,000, with much of that cash coming through loans from himself. (Leavitt says he wound up financing much of his own campaign and won’t hold any more fundraisers.)
The level of total spending in that race differs only in degree from other campaigns for seats on the Cook County bench. The 20 candidates who won March 21 primary races raised — and spent — more than $600,000, campaign disclosure reports filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections show. The Illinois Election Code does not limit how much a candidate can receive or spend, and the campaigns for the circuit seats encompassing Chicago and suburban Cook County doled out a total of $619,291 for staff salaries, consultants’ fees, media advertising, campaign literature and fundraising receptions.
While some judicial candidates say they don’t like their campaigns raising money, they say it is nonetheless necessary with an elected judiciary. But critics charge such fundraising can lead to the appearance of a conflict of interest because most of the contributions come from lawyers.
“The problem is [that] to spend the money, you have to raise it,” says Marlene Arnold Nicholson, a DePaul University law professor who has written about the funding of Cook County circuit court races. “That means [candidates’ committees] go to attorneys, which at least has the appearance of a possible conflict of interest, or they have to use their own money.”
The victors in races for circuit and subcircuit seats, which represent smaller geographic areas than those elected countywide, spent about $30,000 on average, with one candidate spending only $3,200. Of the 19 circuit court seats that appeared on the primary ballot, 12 involved countywide races, while the other seven contests occurred in subcircuits, districts created by the legislature to boost minority and Republican representation on the bench in Cook County.
18 | October 2000 Illinois Issues

“The average spent by winners [in judicial races] at least in comparison to other big states — $30,000 per victor — is not a startling average,” says Patrick M. McFadden, a Loyola University law professor who has followed judicial campaign financing. “You start to get startled when the total campaign expenditures become multiples of the annual [judicial] salary.”
Cook County circuit judges are paid $132,184 annually and are elected to six-year terms. Judges elected countywide and from the subcircuits serve all county residents and typically hear matters ranging from traffic tickets to high-stakes personal-injury cases and constitutional issues.
Illinois’ judicial ethics rules prevent candidates from personally soliciting or accepting campaign contributions. But the candidates can establish campaign committees to conduct fundraising. And the dollars for last spring’s races arrived from several sources, with most coming by way of contributions from lawyers and other individuals. Labor unions, business executives and relatives of candidates also supplied cash.
Sources of campaign funds can raise questions of propriety. For example, should candidates accept contributions from attorneys who may later argue a case in their courtroom?
“I do not think judges or judicial candidates should have to solicit money, primarily from lawyers, to finance their campaigns,” argues J. Timothy Eaton, a Chicago lawyer and president-elect of the Illinois State Bar Association. “Whether or not those lawyers ever actually appear before the judges, it certainly gives the public the appearance of impropriety.”
Campaign filings reflect more than the rising level of spending in circuit races. They highlight the often- personal relationships between contributors and candidates. Reports show, for instance, that the largest individual contribution to a winning candidate in the Cook County circuit races was $7,000 from the late Judge Joan Corboy’s father, powerhouse Chicago personal-injury lawyer Philip H. Corboy, to her widower, James R. Epstein, for his race in the 9th Subcircuit. Richard J. Holland, director of investments for CIBC Oppenheimer Corp., gave $5,000 to Paul A. Karkula’s judicial campaign, representing the biggest contribution to a winning candidate by a nonlawyer. Karkula is a judge sitting by interim appointment who worked as an associate for Chicago lawyer Edward R. Vrdolyak’s firm before joining the bench.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Fire Fighters Union Political Committee kicked $3,000 into the coffers of Matthew E. Coghlan’s circuit court campaign. Coghlan, a Chicago firefighter and part-time assistant Cook County state’s attorney, won a primary race for a countywide seat after spending $25,829.
The cash can flow both ways, though. The Cook County Democratic Party endorsed candidates in each of the dozen countywide vacancies, and most of those candidates transferred $13,607 from their war chests or contributed to the party organization, while the remainder transferred smaller amounts, records show. The party requires all slated candidates, including those in nonjudicial races, to contribute funds toward the printing and mailing of campaign literature, says Thomas G. Lyons, the party’s county chairman.
Historically, Democratic candidates prevail in those races, and no Republicans ran in the March primary races for the countywide spots. A lone contested circuit court race — for a seat in the 15th Subcircuit — is expected to appear on the November ballot.
So intense was the drive to spend on judicial primary campaigns that personal loans from the candidates played a big part. At least 10 primary winners loaned their campaigns approximately $115,000, ranging in amounts from $1,000 to $30,000, records show.
In fact, these loans put a new twist on long-standing concerns about the sources of contributions to judicial campaigns, says Seth Andersen, director of the Elmo B. Hunter Citizens Center for Judicial Selection, a branch of the American Judicature Society. “Obviously, someone who is spending most of their money on their own campaign is not going to be seen as being beholden to their own contributors,” Andersen says. “But I think the concern instead is that the system is evolving so that only those who can afford that kind of personal outlay can run for the bench.”
Yet even personal wealth offers no guarantee of victory. Leavitt was defeated by Murphy, who loaned her campaign $5,500, money she considers “well spent.” Murphy’s personal outlay of cash approximates the $5,000 last-place finisher Thomas J. Lawler, an assistant Chicago corporation counsel, estimates his campaign spent altogether.
While Leavitt received the backing of the Democratic Party, he says he later determined that some committeemen weren’t going to support him, prompting him to pump $216,100 in loans into his campaign in the two months before March 17. He also kicked in $38,500 for “in-kind” contributions to pay consultants and printing costs for campaign literature.
In-kind contributions, services or materials that are provided, are not included in the total expenditures of campaign contribution reports.
“When I learned that certain of the committeemen had indicated they weren’t going to endorse me even though I was the slated candidate, I felt compelled to publish literature that I could distribute into the community to demonstrate that I was found highly qualified by almost every bar association and [was] superior to the other candidates in the race,” Leavitt says.
Further, Leavitt, who received nearly $25,000 in individual contributions, says he chipped in so much of his own money for the race because when he ran unsuccessfully for the Illinois appellate court two years ago, he raised some funds from supporters.
19 | October 2000 Illinois Issues

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