Kathryn Maloney Vahey
Democratic candidate for Cook County Circuit (Brewer 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 have worked for the whole of my legal career as an Assistant Public Defender in Cook County. For 19 years I have represented clients through motions, trials, pleas, as well as diversion and treatment programs.
Over my career I have tried hundreds of cases from DUIs to homicides to judges and juries. Everyday I am in courtrooms and I watch judges handle cases and run their court calls. I am qualified to be a judge in Cook County because of my extensive courtroom and litigation experience.
Evaluating bar associations have reviewed my qualifications and have given me positive ratings. I believe that courtrooms are places where all people should be treated equally and with respect. I want to be a judge so that I can do exactly that for everyone who appears before me.
As an Assistant Public Defender, I have been assigned to Traffic Court, Maywood, Juvenile Delinquency, the Leighton Criminal Courts Building, and now Bridgeview. I learned how to handle cases by watching other lawyers and by doing the work myself.
As my trial skills grew I moved from handling traffic cases to misdemeanor cases. I would take cases to trial if the state couldn't prove their case against my client. On other cases I would negotiate a fair resolution for my client. I moved on to handle more complex juvenile cases. I filed Fourth Amendment motions to challenge the constitutionality of police stops. At the Leighton Criminal Courts Building I represented, clients charged with serious felony offenses who needed to be advised of their rights and be given a professional opinion of how to proceed. I filed pretrial motions and tried cases before judges and juries.
zI learned how to work more complicated cases in preparation for trial. I also learned how to work up mitigation to get the best possible sentence for clients who wanted to plead guilty. Now, in the Bridgeview Courthouse, I continue my felony work in both suburban and Chicago courtrooms.
A few years ago I also eagerly volunteered to work in the Problem Solving Courts, Drug Treatment Court and Veterans Treatment Court. Problem Solving Courts are courtrooms where specially trained judges and attorneys work as a team to help provide intensive monitoring and services to repeat non violent offenders. This court oversight assists clients to become sober, stable and ultimately return to be contributing members of the community.
Problem Solving Courtrooms dramatically decrease the rate of recidivism. I watched clients work to become sober and then ultimately graduate from the program full of their own promise, transformed from whom they had been when we met. Working in those courts was profoundly satisfying and energizing.
A good judge must be experienced and knowledgeable. But equally important is to have a good temperament and to listen carefully to everyone who comes before them. I have spent 19 years working in criminal courtrooms on a daily basis. I recognize well run courtrooms where judges run their court call conscientiously with respect for all parties.
As a public defender my role requires me to sit with appointed clients and patiently address their questions and concerns about the charges against them. I believe that this experience has prepared me well to take on the role of judge. I have learned so much over the years appearing before scores of judges and watching them handle their court calls day after day.
I have watched judges act with decorum when dealing with difficult parties and unexpected frustrations. I have a deep respect for the impact that judges have on the lives of the people that appear in front of them. I have been privileged to see judges that have been thoughtful, conscientious and compassionate. I hope to have the opportunity to bring all my experiences to bear on being a circuit court judge. I know that I will be the kind of judge that people would like to see when they walk into a courtroom.
For further information about my candidacy for judge please visit vaheyforjudge.com.
Tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you.
As a young child I lived in Guadalajara, Mexico. In fact, my first memories are of those years in Guadalajara where Spanish was my first language.
When I was a toddler, my family packed up and moved to Guadalajara so that my father could attend medical school there. What I remember most fondly and clearly from those years was the time that I spent with a woman who took care of me, Chavela. She would take me with her to the local market regularly where we would do the daily shopping. We would walk around the neighborhood and speak with all the neighbors. I still have a picture of me sitting on Chavela's lap with a sugar cane in my hand smiling in the sunshine. I think back on that time with great fondness. We returned to Brooklyn but those memories always left me wishing that I had continued to speak Spanish. I am convinced that those early years of Spanish in Mexico stayed with me. I started studying Spanish again in high school.
I really liked learning Spanish, but I had a lot to learn. I continued to study Spanish in college, and I spent a summer teaching English to children and living with a Spanish family in Oviedo, Spain. I loved Spain and especially loved living in a Spanish speaking country again. I returned to Spain again, spending a semester abroad in Valencia, and then going to graduate school in Madrid. Although I am not bilingual, I am fluent in Spanish and I continue to have a love affair with all things Spanish and Mexican. Living as an adult in Spain gave me an appreciation of how difficult it is to adapt to a new language and culture.