McDONOUGH COUNTY — In an ideal election year, Judge Emily Sutton would be going door-to-door and meeting with voters, but the COVID-19 pandemic has other plans.
To reduce the risk of spreading the virus, Sutton has been reluctant to hold in-person campaign events. She said that minimizing exposure has also been a practice in her courtroom, where many defendants have appeared via Zoom. This process increases efficiency with the high volume of cases, according to Sutton, who said that it also helps her prepare for future challenges.
“This has been a great lesson in adaptability and flexibility,” Sutton told The Voice. “We are learning and adapting on an ongoing basis.”
But, Sutton, who was appointed and not yet elected to her position of circuit judge, recognizes the importance of reaching enough people and making her qualifications known.
She points toward her 16 years of experience where she has seen cases ranging from drug offenses to child abuse to murder, as a cornerstone of her candidacy. She rejects the notion that her opponent, Andrew Doyle, has more valuable experience.
“He’s (Doyle) implying that his experience as a prosecutor is the only kind of experience that matters,” Sutton said. “I have experience in criminal matters, but when he says only criminal experience matters, that’s just not reality.”
A poll conducted by the Illinois State Bar Association, which showed a higher score on integrity for Sutton than for Doyle, is also a gratifying achievement for Sutton. She said that the attorneys who participated in the poll have diverse viewpoints and are all familiar with her professionally.
“They want good judges on the bench and so I think that poll really reflects that,” she said.
Having to declare a party affiliation on the ballot adds to the complexity of the job since judges are supposed to remain neutral politically. Sutton, who appears as a Democrat on the ballot, said that she is committed to keeping partisan politics out of the courtroom.
“I took an oath to uphold the constitution. It doesn’t matter how I feel on a particular issue, I have to apply the law as it exists today,” Sutton said. “I can’t make decisions based on party affiliation and I don’t want to make decisions based on party affiliation. I think people should elect judges based on experience and character and not on party.”
She also spoke about how critical it is to have a unique understanding of each case.
“I think I do have a good sense of when it is time for compassion and when it is time for consequences. Every case is different and every defendant is different. One of the judge’s jobs is to use judgment to recognize those circumstances and to know what an appropriate position is in each case,” Sutton said.
Win or lose on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Sutton believes that she has established herself as the strongest candidate in the race. She recalls trading a “robust” private practice for a seat in the Ninth Judicial Circuit and never looking back.
“I think I’m doing the job that I was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to do really well and I feel like this is the right place for me,” she said.
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October 5, 2020 at 03:26PM