2 Illinois Supreme Court Races to Decide Partisan Makeup of State’s Highest Court


This election cycle, Illinois has not one but two Supreme Court seats on the ballot, with the partisan makeup of the court hanging in the balance.

The Illinois Supreme Court has seven total seats: three from the First District, which is Cook County alone, and one each from the four other districts across the state. After winning their first elections, Supreme Court justices serve 10-year terms and are up for retention votes to win any additional 10-year terms thereafter.

Democrats have long held a 4-3 majority on the court. The three justices from Cook County are all Democrats, including Justice Mary Jane Theis, who is up for a retention vote this year. The justices from the Fourth District (central and western Illinois) and Fifth District (largely downstate) are both Republicans, with two seats now to be decided in November.

2020 was a pivotal year for the court: voters chose not to retain Democratic Justice Thomas Kilbride in a rare loss following a massively expensive, ad-heavy race. Republican Justice Robert Thomas also announced his retirement, and the U.S. Census paved the way for the state’s judicial map to be redistricted. That all led to two vacancies on the ballot this year for the newly drawn Second and Third Districts in Chicago’s suburban counties.

The Second District includes Lake, McHenry, DeKalb, Kane and Kendall counties. The two candidates running there are Republican Mark Curran and Democrat Elizabeth “Liz” Rochford.

Curran is an attorney who most recently ran for U.S. Senate in 2020, earning 38% of the vote as Sen. Dick Durbin cruised to another term. A former prosecutor and private attorney, he first entered politics when he was elected Lake County Sheriff in 2006 as a Democrat before switching parties in 2008. He served as sheriff through his defeat in 2018. Curran has never served as a judge and is rated as “not recommended” by the Illinois State Bar Association.

Rochford has been an associate judge in Lake County’s 19th Circuit Court since her appointment in 2012. Previously she also worked as a prosecutor and in private practice. The Illinois State Bar Association rated her as “highly recommended.”

The Third District includes DuPage, Will, Kankakee, Iroquois, Grundy, LaSalle and Bureau counties. The candidates there are Republican Michael J. Burke and Democrat Mary K. O’Brien.

Burke was appointed in 2020 to fill Thomas’ Second District vacancy but is now running in the Third District following the redistricting of the court. Also a former prosecutor, Burke was an associate judge beginning in 1992, then a circuit judge in the Eighteenth Circuit before serving most recently on the 2nd Appellate District Court prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court. He is “highly recommended” by the Illinois State Bar Association.

O’Brien was previously a private attorney and a state legislator from 1997 to 2003 when she was appointed to the 3rd Appellate District Court where she has served since. The Illinois State Bar Association has rated her as “recommended.”

Looming large over both races in particular is the issue of abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, sending the issue back to the states.

As dozens of states across the U.S. have restricted access or implemented near-total bans, abortion has remained largely legally protected in Illinois – bringing an influx of patients from outside the state and featuring prominently in political ads for races up and down the ballot.

As Illinois’ highest court, the Supreme Court could potentially rule on cases related to abortion access or any other major issues like civil rights, gun regulations, voting laws, criminal justice reforms and more.

Region: Chicago,Local,City: Chicago

via Local – NBC Chicago https://ift.tt/ghzDtAF

October 25, 2022 at 05:27PM

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