Elizabeth Rochford: Illinois Supreme Court Candidate In 2nd District

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LAKE FOREST, IL — Ahead of Illinois’ June 23 primary elections, Patch distributed questionnaires to candidates running in contested races in the Democratic and Republican parties, including the seven candidates seeking a 10-year term on the Illinois Supreme Court from the newly redistricted 2nd Judicial District.

Four Republicans and three Democrats will be on the ballot in their respective party primaries after a Cook County judge overruled an Illinois State Election Board ruling tossing three of them off the ballot due to a dispute over the minimum number of signatures.

Voters in DeKalb, Kane, Kendall, Lake and McHenry counties will be voting on candidates for the new seat.

Find out what’s happening in Crystal Lake-Carywith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Once Illinois Supreme Court justices are elected or appointed to the court, they do not face challengers. Instead, they face retention elections where they need only 60 percent of those who vote in the race to say "yes" instead of "no".

The first candidate to submit a response to the Patch questionnaire was Lake County Associate Judge Elizabeth Rochford. Her answers are presented below in their entirety.

Find out what’s happening in Crystal Lake-Carywith free, real-time updates from Patch.

What county do you live in?
Lake

City or town of residence
Lake Forest

Office sought
Illinois Supreme Court District 2 which includes Lake, Kane, McHenry, and DeKalb and Kendall Counties.

Party affiliation
Democrat

Education/Experience
I grew up in Chicago. My father was a police officer and my mother was a special education teacher. I earned my B.A. in English from Loyola University of Chicago and my J.D. from Loyola University School of Law, Chicago. I started my legal career as an Assistant State’s Attorney, and then opened my own law office, where I practiced full-time and specialized in trusts and estates, and real estate, until I became a judge. I served as a Commissioner of the Court of Claims (1990- 2012) and an Administrative Law Hearing Officer for the municipalities including Lincolnwood, Skokie, Morton Grove and Glenview (2005-2012). I was appointed to the bench in Lake County in 2012, and have heard criminal matters, family law matters and I now sit in probate presiding over decedent’s estates and guardianships of minors and disabled adults.

Occupation
I am a trial court judge in the 19th Judicial Circuit of the State of Illinois (Lake County) and I am in my 10th year on the bench.

Family
I am married to my husband of 34 years, Mike Striedl, and we have two wonderful adult daughters.

Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
No.

Age
61

Previous public office, appointive or elective

I am currently appointed to the bench as an Associate Judge. I was appointed as a Commissioner of the Court of Claims in 1990, a position I held until 2012. I was named Hearing Officer for Skokie, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove and Glenview.

Why are you seeking this office?

Throughout my 35 years as an attorney and judge, I have consistently witnessed people struggling to navigate a complicated and intimidating legal system, especially in family law where everything they care about is most at risk- their children, homes, and finances.

As an attorney, I took the initiative of creating the first of its kind in Lake County Guardianship Help Desk to assist people in establishing guardianships for minor children. The Help Desk has been in operation from 2010 until the present, and we met the challenges of the pandemic by leveraging technology.

As a judge on the bench, it was evident to me that the need to make justice accessible to ordinary people was growing increasingly urgent. In family court, 50 percent of case filings are made by self-represented litigants [SRLs]. In 2017, I took the lead in developing a family law courtroom dedicated to serving SRLs. We opened our doors in 2018 with resources, signage, processes, and forms designed to meet the needs of SRLs and the courtroom continues to evolve under its current presiding judge and serves as a model for other jurisdictions.

People must understand the work of the court in order to respect its rulings. Improving the public’s understanding is at the core of my work towards access to justice. I’m running for the Illinois Supreme Court to serve at a higher level to impact more people and to fulfill the court’s vision: "To be trusted and open to all by being fair, innovative, diverse, and responsive to changing needs."

Please complete this statement: The single most pressing issue facing my constituents is ___, and this is what I intend to do about it.

The single most pressing issue facing my constituents is access to justice for all people in Illinois, and this is what I intend to do about it: The Illinois Supreme Court, through its legal decisions, rules, and its supervisory authority over all state courts, has a tremendous influence on Illinois law and on how the court system actually works for the people.

Meaningful access to justice requires the courts to address the barriers of limited English proficiency, implicit bias, overly complex forms, unhelpful signage, prohibitory fees, and needless court appearances. The law must be fair to everyone and everyone should have equal access to justice. I believe the courts can do so much by simply paying attention to the issue of access to justice and fairness for all Illinoisans. As a member of the Illinois Supreme Court, I plan to lead the way.

What are the major differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?

I am the only Democratic candidate for the Illinois Supreme Court who was found Highly Recommended by the Illinois State Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluation Committee.

I have been a judge on the bench, and I believe that that experience in courtrooms is essential. Throughout my judicial career, I have been blessed to receive outstanding approval ratings and recognitions. My focus has been on improving the courts and serving the poor navigating our complicated legal system, promoting literacy, fostering diversity, and reducing hunger. For example, I spearheaded an effort to create a volunteer-staffed help desk in Lake County for self-represented persons and I opened the first dedicated courtroom in Lake County’s family court especially for self-represented litigants.

In my life, I have made it my mission to serve and lead my community and the legal system in leadership roles throughout the state, like the President of the Lake County Bar Association, and the President of the Illinois Judges Foundation, and the Secretary to the 28,000-member Illinois State Bar Association, and Secretary of the Illinois Judges Association (representing all judges in Illinois).

I want to make certain that our courts work for all of us, and that access to justice for everyone – regardless of personal circumstance – is a priority for the entire Illinois court system. The work of the Illinois Supreme Court is vast. Experience in the courts, leadership in the legal Community, and service in courts and community are all essential to serving in our state’s highest court. The resume must match the position, and mine does.

If you are challenging an incumbent, how would you perform differently if elected?

This is an open seat.

What other issues do you intend to address during your campaign?

Inclusion of all people is a priority in my work and personal life every day. I am a past Chair of the LCBA Community Outreach & Diversity Committee and I continue to be an active member. Addressing bias in the courthouse and the community is a lifelong journey of self-examination and improvement. My experience includes co-chairing an Illinois Judges Association initiative called "Building Confidence in the Legal System," an educational series focusing on racial and other inequities in and around the courthouse.

I serve on the Supreme Court Justice for All Advisory Committee and the Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission Court Guidance and Training Committee. These focus on promoting access for family court participants and SRLs and limited English proficient, an important issue facing the courts.

I am also developing a task force to connect litigants in the courthouse with mental health resources available in the community to reduce stigma and raise awareness.

Finally, the pandemic proved that the court system can accommodate remote and hybrid appearances. These tools of technology can reduce the costs of litigation and make meaningful participation in court hearings accessible to many who would not otherwise be able to be heard, especially in family cases. The courts should continue to invest in these resources and if elected, I would ensure that they do.

What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?

• Experience as a sitting judge on the bench in a courtroom, where I have consistently earned the highest ratings and evaluations, including being the only candidate in this race, the Democratic primary, to have been found "HIGHLY RECOMMENDED" by the 28,000 member Illinois State Bar Association.

• Leadership in the legal community, including serving as the President of the Lake County Bar Association, and the President of the Illinois Judges Foundation, and the Secretary to the 28,000-member Illinois State Bar Association, and Secretary of the Illinois Judges Association (representing all judges in Illinois).

• Service in courts and community, including serving on the Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission Court Guidance and Training Committee and on the Supreme Court Justice for All Advisory Committee, leading the establishment of the Guardianship Help Desk in Lake County, for which I was recognized with the 19th Judicial Circuit Liberty Bell Award on behalf of the Guardianship Help Desk (2012), and spearheading the founding of Lake County’s first dedicated family courtroom for self-represented litigants, with resources, signage, processes, and forms designed to meet the needs of SRLs, for which I was awarded the Lake County Bar Association’s Access to Justice Award in 2019.

What was your first paying job, and what did you learn from it?

I worked as an Andy Frain usherette at various events around the Chicago area. I learned to be a member of a team, and how to serve and communicate effectively with people from a broad scope of backgrounds and life circumstances. I loved it!

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Rather than speaking words of advice, my mother lived a beautiful model of intelligence, grace and kindness, observing her was a most powerful guide on how to navigate life’s journey. I was greatly influenced by her instinct to use words, especially in personal notes, to encourage and celebrate everyone she knew.

Is there anything else you would like voters to know about yourself and your positions?

This election is crucial. For the first time in many years, our area, the 2d District, has the opportunity to elect a new supreme court justice. In my life, I have made it my mission to serve and lead my community and the legal system throughout the state. In my career on the bench, I have been blessed to receive outstanding approval ratings and recognitions. I’m running because I want to make certain that our courts work for all of us, and that access to justice for everyone – regardless of personal circumstance – is a priority for the entire Illinois court system.

via Crystal Lake-Cary, IL Patch

May 25, 2022 at 04:42PM

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