To the editor:

Ben Joravsky’s slash and burn attack against both judicial subcircuits and the IVI-IPO endorsement process for them [Neighborhood News, March 11] raises some questions, a rational discussion of which could benefit the public.

On judicial subcircuits: If you took the Democratic ballot in the eighth subcircuit, you faced a choice of 101 candidates for 17 judgeships. This was far too many. Eighty-five of those candidates, however, were for the 14 judicial seats elected countywide. The interested citizen has an outside chance of understanding the race in his subcircuit and casting an informed ballot; this is not true for the old process.

The other objections Joravsky cites to the election are true of the circuit court election itself. Candidates run for vacancies instead of all against all; and there is, consequently, much multiple filing and jockeying for position. When Mr. Meites says: “The only thing I think everyone agrees on is that the subdistricts are madness,” he merely demonstrates his profound ano-cubital discrimination deficit.

What subcircuit races lack is a commitment by the community, social, and media institutions to make them work. When there were 12 candidates for 48th Ward Alderman in ’87, there were scores of forums for the voters to attend and make their selection. Only the IVI-IPO brought the candidates of the subdistrict together, and an endorsement session has one format and a forum has another.

On the IVI-IPO endorsement process: Every candidate who ever lost anyone’s endorsement has criticized the process. Joravsky doesn’t mention, however, what a competent reporter would have emphasized: Chiola and Schleifer entered the endorsement session with the same position, a large plurality–but less than a majority–supporting them. The difference is that the discussion persuaded others to support Chiola, but the discussion persuaded most of those who came without a commitment to her to reject Schleifer.

Chiola’s opponent can argue reasonably, if self-servingly, that people coming into the session committed to Chiola besmirches the ultimate endorsement. Schleifer’s campaign coordinator can argue reasonably, if self-servingly, that the plurality coming into the session committed to Schleifer means that she deserves the endorsement. What no reasonable person can do is to echo Joravsky’s acceptance of both arguments.

Both the IVI-IPO reports and the Chicago Bar Association assessment finding Schleifer unqualified were based on confidential reports of other attorneys who had appeared against (or, possibly, with) her. The difference is that Schleifer had a chance to respond to the reports at IVI-IPO and her supporters had a chance again at the Board meeting. There is no response at the CBA.

IVI-IPO endorsements are made by people, not angels. They may, like sausages, taste better when you don’t know how they are made. They are, however, the best guides available to select all those judges we hope never to appear before.

Frank Palmer

W. Argyle