The Chicago and county judicial ballots are long, and it is hard to know how judges are performing. The Judicial Performance Commission Pilot Project aims to assess the qualifications of judges seeking retention in the November 2010 election. The commission is made up of lawyer and non-lawyer community leaders who will create a comprehensive judicial evaluation process that includes both mail surveys and personal interviews. The guide, produced by this commission, will educate voters and help prepare a judicial performance improvement plan for judges and their supervisors.
The Judicial Performance Commission Pilot Project is a joint effort by the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, a research and advocacy organization focusing on criminal justice reform, judicial election and selection reform, and government effectiveness and the Chicago Council of Lawyers, a public interest bar association dedicated to improving the quality of the legal system by advocating for fair and efficient administration of justice in Chicago.
The two organizations often work together to further our mutual goals of reform, accountability and justice. Together, Chicago Appleseed and the Council comprise a public interest partnership working together through joint projects and publications including:
- The 2009 edition of the Legal Services Directory of free and low cost legal services is now on the website, www.chicagoappleseed.org, and is available in a hard copy edition. We have been publishing this listing and description of free and low cost legal services since 1982.
- A brochure on consumer fraud, Consumer Rights in Illinois, a full-color brochure that includes state and citywide information for Illinois residents to use when reporting complaints. This brochure is printed in English and Spanish, and is distributed free of charge.
- A new edition of the Judicial Directory containing the Chicago Council of Lawyers’ judicial evaluations of all judges sitting in Cook County through March 2009. The Directory is published both on the website and in hard copy.
- And the soon to be published, 2010 edition of the Tenant-Landlord Handbook, a discussion of rights and obligations for Chicago tenants and landlords that has been publishing for more than 25 years.
Chicago Appleseed’s comprehensive examination of Chicago’s felony trial courtrooms, supported by the Chicago Community Trust, has led to these changes:
- Successfully negotiated the end of videoconferencing in bond court.
- Created an ongoing court watching program at the Criminal Courts Building.
- The addition of five judges assigned to the Criminal Courts Building at 26th and California.
Chicago Appleseed works with the national Appleseed organization and its pro bono partners, Latham & Watkins LLC and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, on immigration reform and issues. They produced a comprehensive report on the immigration courts, Assembly Line Injustice. The Chicago Appleseed and Chicago Council are working with the Chicago Kent College of Law to operate a court watching program for the immigration courts in Chicago, and working with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago on self-help materials for immigrants appearing pro se (represent yourself) immigration courts.