Democratic candidate for Cook County Circuit (McGinnis Vacancy district)
Responses to our questions
Please submit an essay that explains your legal background, why you are qualified for this position and why you seek this position.
Judges play a vital role in any civilized society. Often one person — a judge — makes life-altering decisions about our rights and responsibilities. Those decisions include who goes to jail, whose home is lost in a foreclosure, zoning issues, parenting rights, whether a business contract should be upheld, whether a grandparent needs a guardian, and many other important issues.
I believe I am qualified to serve as judge because of the depth and breadth of my legal background. All bar associations also have evaluated me favorably. I have over 17 years of litigation experience in multiple areas of the law, including domestic relations, domestic violence, chancery, probate, criminal, and appeals.
Before opening my own practice in 2003, I worked for the City of Chicago's Law Department, defending tort claims. I also worked for the Legal Assistance Foundation, representing low-income clients in civil litigation, including housing, social security benefits, domestic relations, bankruptcy, and unemployment benefits.
I currently serve as adjunct faculty in The John Marshall Law School's Family Law Clinic where I both teach litigation skills and best practices to students, and supervise those working on Clinic cases. I also volunteer at First Defense Legal Aid, providing initial legal representation to people in Chicago Police custody.
In addition to direct legal services, I have contributed to the field of law outside the courtroom. From 2012-2015 I served on the board of directors of the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women's Network, a collaborative membership organization dedicated to improving the lives of those impacted by domestic violence through education, public policy and legal advocacy. The Network also operates a court-watch program that evaluates Cook County's Domestic Violence Court. I also served as the Network's President from 2014-15.
In addition, I helped found and served for four years on the board of directors of A New Direction Beverly Morgan Park, a non-profit domestic violence victim services agency. In 2011, I co-authored a book chapter on legal issues facing same-sex couples for the Illinois State Bar Association's Family Law Handbook, a guide used by practitioners throughout Illinois.
Before practicing law, I earned a Master's degree in Human Development Counseling. For nearly 10 years I worked with disadvantaged populations, including minority teen mothers, the elderly, and people with terminal illnesses. I also served as a grant monitor for the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. In this capacity, I monitored over $1 million in crime prevention and victim assistance grants, conducted site visits of service programs throughout Illinois, and trained State's Attorneys about the Violence Against Women Act and Victims of Crime Act.
While many judicial candidates have excellent legal experience, judges need additional qualities to be successful on the bench. Judges also need patience, resilience, humility, and, most of all, a commitment to justice. I believe I have those qualities.
As a young, gay man in the 1980s, I worked for LGBTQ rights and services when it was not only unpopular, but also dangerous, to be openly gay. In those endeavors, I learned to have confidence in my convictions, even in the face of hostility, as well as to accept that people have views opposite from my own.
As a beginning social worker, trying to help people very different from me, especially minority teen mothers and the indigent, I learned the value of listening more and talking less. As an attorney, representing hundreds of poor and ethnic minority victims of domestic violence, and as a volunteer with First Defense Legal Aid, working with those in police custody, I am continually reminded that one's race, socioeconomic status, and native language, even today, still affects whether justice is truly served.
This has taught me to be vigilant to ensure that the vulnerable are not revictimized in the judicial system. These personal and professional experiences have prepared me well to serve as a Cook County judge.
Tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you.
I have played and managed amateur softball teams for nearly 30 years. I have participated in tournaments in over 26 US cities and two countries.