Retired judge weighs in on judicial evaluations, elections

Vote. (WCCU)

This Election Day, voters get to be the judge-- but, selecting judicial candidates means making it all the way down the ballot.

“I think the voters have always been concerned that they don’t know much about our judges,” Attorney Carl Draper said.

Draper is an active member of the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), helping put out the judicial evaluations before each election.

“Digging up information about them so the public can know something about the candidates,” Draper said.

According to Draper, the evaluations give attorneys and judges the chance to review their peers running for office. The ISBA publishes it as an informational guide for voters.

“These don't ask how a person would rule, they don't ask if they have a conservative or liberal rule of justiceThey try to get at who's the person they might be voting for,” Draper said.

The evaluations and polls score the judicial candidates on integrity, impartiality, legal ability and temperament.

The ISBA’s evaluation system operates as a non-partisan grading scale that many judges appreciate.

Retired Judge Arnold Blockman said it gives voters the opportunity to pick a candidate based on more than just their political party affiliation.

"Once you get on the bench, politics means nothing,” Blockman said. “It never played a role, my colleagues sometimes laughed at me because I was the only Democrat, but it never played any role in any decision we made.”

Blockman has been on both sides of ISBA’s judicial evaluations and as such he has some advice for voters.

"The most important thing would be the legal experience,” said Blockman. “If they're going to be a judge, I want to see them have jury trial experience, I want to see them be in the court a lot.”

However, Blockman will be the first to tell you that a good score or judicial evaluation isn’t everything—something he learned firsthand on the campaign trail.

“I knock on a lady's door and I tell her, ‘I'm Arnold Blockman, I'm running for circuit judge,'” he said.

Blockman went on to tell the woman he had been recommended by the ISBA evaluation and that his opponent wasn’t recommended. But to his surprise, the woman said she'd be voting for his opponent instead.

“And I said, ‘Can I ask why, you don't even know me?’, and she said, ‘Yeah, I don't want whoever the lawyers are recommending.'"

The ISBA planned to publish the latest judicial evaluations on Oct.10, but told Fox Illinois there was a delay and they're working to get those results published as soon as possible.

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