Mary Alice Melchor
Democratic candidate for Cook County Circuit (5th Subcircuit (Washington 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 practiced law since 1992, receiving my law degree after a successful career as an educator. I have served the public as a teacher in the local school system, worked in my community through my church for the past 42 years, and have been employed in various service related professions for the majority of my adult life. However, I became a lawyer because I saw an opportunity to provide legal service to minorities and women who seemed to be floundering in our system.
I currently serve as the Inspector General for the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court and I have held this position since 2005. I conduct investigations as well as detect/prevent fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement of the operations of the Clerk's Office.
I conduct investigations related to complaints against the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court or its employees regarding fraud, theft, customer service, discrimination. I supervise the Investigations staff on the completion of investigations of complaints of sexual harassment, workplace violence, and discrimination for the entire Clerk's Office and the associated 1800 employees.
My past legal experience includes: Associate Attorney, Hammond & Flynn Law Offices, 1992-1993 (insurance defense); Senior Attorney, Chicago Housing Authority, 1994-1998 (Torts Department); Associate Attorney, Meacham-Spahr-Postel & Cozzi Law Firm, 1998-2000 (Complex Commercial Litigation); Chief Deputy Clerk of Clerk of the Circuit Court at Maywood Courthouse, 2002-2003 (Clerk's Office Operations); Associate Clerk of Clerk of the Circuit Court, covering Chancery, County, Law and Probate Divisions, R.J. Daley Center, 2003-2005 (Clerk's Office Operations of four divisions); Private attorney specializing in real estate law, family law, and probate law (1993-94; 2000-02).
I have worked with government agencies and the private sector, but found, in both areas, that there is a need to make sure that all citizens are treated equitably in the legal arena, despite their race, ethnicity, religion, sex or sexual preference. I believe that judges can play a role in insuring that diversity is addressed in the courtroom.
Minimally, judges have to make sure that the parties before them receive equal treatment under the law related to their respective court cases. I believe that the judiciary should go one step further and promote diversity in the legal profession and on the bench by "owning" or taking a personal stand on diversity in their courtrooms and in group settings involving other persons in the legal profession. Silent agreement or acceptance is not sufficient: the judges should not allow others in their courtrooms to violate anyone's civil rights with open or subtle discrimination.
A judge should have a well-managed courtroom which could be accomplished by the following: having a thorough knowledge of the area of law involved in his or her courtroom; having a system of organizing assigned cases/files that he or she communicates to the courtroom personnel and uses consistently; having excellent time management skills: starting court calls on time, allowing sufficient time for the activities of the court and equitable time to the litigants to present their positions; following case management schedules; and having patience, yet firmness, in conducting his/her courtroom and taking charge of the courtroom, ensuring that there are no distractions that deter the prompt disposition of the business of the court.
My legal experience includes these management skills. My current position involves investigation of abuses to the court-related systems that exist to assist litigants in obtaining a fair legal disposition.
As a judge, I believe that I will bring fairness and integrity to the judiciary as evidenced by twenty-five years of legal experience in addition to my life experiences dealing with the public. My previous trial experience was significant and I continue to keep abreast of legal issues with continuing legal education courses.
I believe that I can offer a sound judicial temperament that will afford each person that comes before me his/her "day in court".
Tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you.
I am currently the treasurer for five not-for-profit or legal organizations. I have been a member of my church for 42 years and have served on its board of directors for 32 years.