James "Jamie" Shapiro
Democratic candidate for Cook County Circuit (8th Subcircuit (Fabri 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.
I am running to return to the bench because of my judicial, legal, and community experience. I have been a resident of the 8th Subcircuit for 33 years. I am a former judge with more than five years of experience on the bench.
I am also a former Assistant United States Attorney, for six and a half years, and a private practitioner for more than 20 years. I have experience in federal and state court, civil and criminal litigation, plaintiff and defendant, prosecution and defense. Of the six candidates in my race, I have the most judicial experience and an extensive, diverse legal background, making me well qualified to serve as a judge once again.
I am running because I am qualified and because I was a respected judge in the five-plus years I served. I earned a reputation for being fair, diligent, and of good temperament. I knew the law and how to manage a courtroom. I received, and still receive, positive feedback from those who appeared before me. I always had favorable bar ratings, including from the CBA and Chicago Council of Lawyers. I am awaiting my new evaluation from the CBA but have been found qualified or recommended by each member of the Alliance Bar Associations for Judicial Screening, including the Chicago Council of Lawyers, which said: "As a practitioner, he has had substantial litigation experience in both civil and criminal law matters, and in both trial and appellate court matters. He received praise from practitioners for his legal ability and for his diligence both as a practitioner and as a judge. He is also reported to have a professional demeanor in both capacities."
I was also found highly qualified by two other members of the Alliance thus far. In addition to my experience on the bench, I have had a great deal of quasi-judicial experience. Before being appointed to the bench in 2007, I was a Hearing Board Officer at the ARDC for eleven years, and a Chair for nine of them. As a Chair, I ruled on objections at disciplinary hearings, pretrial motions, and discovery issues, particularly work-product privilege issues.
I also had a lot of quasi-judicial experience as a chair-qualified arbitrator with the Cook County Mandatory Arbitration Program. I chaired hundreds of arbitrations in the decade I served, together with the many I have heard since leaving the bench.
As chair, I ruled on objections that frequently came up during the arbitrations, and forged consensus with the panel of arbitrators. In addition, I have tried to take on as many pro bono cases as my small firm practice permitted. Before I was on the bench, I handled pro bono cases for the Center for Disability and Elder Law, where I obtained a $750,000 verdict for the niece of a then-deceased elderly woman who had been swindled out of her own home and then evicted from it by the swindlers.
I also volunteered my time almost every Monday in my old neighborhood near the old Cabrini Green. I would advise indigent residents on legal issues and often represent them in landlord/tenant, criminal, and other matters. Since leaving the bench, I have volunteered my time once a month at the Amicus Polonaie legal clinic at the Polish National Alliance, and represented many indigent litigants from that clinic in the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court.
I am also active in my community through my work as a National Commissioner and Regional Board member of the Anti-Defamation League, and as a Board Member of the Rosecrance Foundation, a substance abuse recovery organization. In 2015, I was a Board Member of Southport Neighbors Association.
I am seeking this position once again because we need good judges. I never viewed the bench as a nine-to-five job. I miss the ability to help people. I will never forget the time a DUI defendant actually thanked me for putting him in custodial treatment at the Cook County Jail for 90 days.
What I thought may have been punitive turned out to be genuinely rehabilitative, and helped turn his life around. A good judge needs to know the law, possess effective courtroom management skills, and know how to treat everyone with respect and dignity. A good judge has to be fair and honest. I was and hope to again be that good judge.
Tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you.
I speak several foreign languages, Spanish, German, and French. I have even picked up a few words of Polish and Mandarin. I regularly officiate weddings in Spanish and was recently retained for my first French wedding. I traveled to the Dominican Republic over the holidays, and the local folks positively lit up when I spoke their language, especially a particular expression unique to Dominican Spanish ("Que lo que?" Roughly translated as "What's up?").