Of the two local bar groups that have been doing judicial evaluations the longest–the 22,000-member Chicago Bar Association and the 1,200-member Chicago Council of Lawyers–the CCL is more demanding.

The CCL draws more distinctions among the judges, ranking them highly qualified, well qualified, qualified, or not qualified. The CBA and other bar groups simply rate judges either recommended or not. The CCL usually finds about twice as many judges unqualified for retention as does the CBA; this year the CCL has deemed seven not qualified, and the CBA has rated just four “not recommended.”

The only problem with the CCL’s ratings is that voters don’t heed them–or not enough voters anyway. This isn’t just a recent phenomenon. In 1984, amid almost daily headlines about judicial corruption in Cook County stemming from the federal Greylord probe, the CCL saw a golden opportunity to slice some rotten wood off the county bench. It recommended the removal of 9 of the 35 circuit judges up for retention that year. Its president, George Galland, said unseating these judges would “send a message, both to the other sitting judges and those who selected them, that the public will no longer tolerate corruption, favoritism, intemperate behavior, or incompetence on the bench.” Galland added that because of Greylord, the chances were “substantial” that all 35 of the retention judges would be defeated. He was off by 35. The voters’ response to corruption, favoritism, intemperate behavior, and incompetence was to increase the average percentage by which they approved of judges from 73 in the previous election to 77–well above the required 60 percent.

The CBA recommended against the retention of only one judge in 1984, and among the judges it endorsed was Thomas Maloney. The CCL found Maloney unqualified, after which Maloney called the CCL members “barely competent and incompetent misfits and malcontents.” The voters easily gave Maloney another six years to transact business in his courtroom–which, it turned out, included agreeing to acquit murder defendants for thousands of dollars. The CCL misfits had the last laugh: since 1994 Maloney has been serving a sentence of 15 years and nine months in federal prison. The group has declined to add a “fixer” category to its rankings.

This year, the CCL has found these judges not qualified:

Dorothy F. Jones

Susan Jeanine McDunn

William D. O’Neal

Melvin J. Cole

Arnette R. Hubbard

Leida J. Gonzalez Santiago

Edna M. Turkington

The CBA has found Jones, McDunn, and O’Neal not recommended, along with Dennis James Morrissey.

Every member of the Alliance of Bar Associations, which includes the CCL and seven small bar groups, recommends against the retention of Jones and McDunn.

McDunn also struck out with the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization. She’s one of only two judges the group recommends not be retained, the other being Richard J. Billik Jr. Jones is among the 24 judges who didn’t seek the group’s endorsement; another 10 were given a neutral “no recommendation.” The IVI-IPO endorses 34 judges for retention. Unlike the bar groups, it asks the candidates for their views on controversial judicial issues, including mandatory minimum sentences, the trial of juveniles as adults, and parental notice for abortion.

More on the groups’ ratings can be found on their Web sites.

CCL: www.chicagocouncil.org

CBA: www.chicagobar.org

Alliance of Bar Associations: www.voteforjudges.org

IVI-IPO: www.iviipo.org

Three appellate judges–Mary Jane Wendt Theis, Thomas E. Hoffman, and Sheila O’Brien–are also up for retention this year. All of the bar groups endorse their retention, as does the IVI-IPO.