Michael A. Forti
Democratic candidate for Cook County Circuit (8th Subcircuit (Liu 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.
March 2018 marks two significant milestones for me. I will have served 18 months as a Circuit Court Judge, and I will have the opportunity to make my case to the voters in the Democratic Primary.
Being elected is obviously important to me, but more than that I believe it is critical to the people of the 8th Judicial Subcircuit. They may not always know the names of their judges, but they know that they need a sympathetic judge who will listen to their concerns and treat them fairly and compassionately while always following the law. I believe that I have shown that I am that judge. And finally, I believe my election is significant to the Chicago Tribune.
You champion good government, and I seek your endorsement because I believe that an intelligent and fair judiciary, which includes electing people like me, is a vital part of that goal. My initial assignment was in the Traffic Division of the First Municipal District.
Because I had a very heavy case load, I gained extensive experience presiding over countless "DUI" misdemeanor trials. Subsequently, I was transferred to my own court call devoted to cases brought under the Illinois Forcible Entry and Detention Act.
Again, the case load was very heavy, but I believe I mastered a new area of the law and presided over scores of trials and settlement conferences involving landlord-tenant disputes. In many cases, the litigants could not afford lawyers and represented themselves. Since the summer of 2017, I have been a trial judge assigned to the Domestic Relations Division, a challenging but rewarding assignment. Litigants in Domestic Relations courtrooms are typically at a low point in their lives, hoping to find a judge who dispenses not only justice but compassion.
I believe I have been that judge. Even if they don't prevail in court, people must believe that they were heard by a neutral party and treated fairly. I recognize the fundamental importance of "procedural fairness" in our judicial system, and I believe I have the temperament and judgment to adhere to that mantra.
Prior to my appointment in 2016, I hoped that one day I would become a judge. I first ran in 2012 to fill the "Simpson" vacancy in a county-wide race. Undaunted by the loss, I later became a finalist for an Associate Judge position in 2014. However, it was not until 2016 when Justice Freeman and the Illinois Supreme Court appointed me.
I trust the Court recognized my deep commitment to public service and my 35-plus years of experience in both civil and criminal law. I believe that the breadth of that experience makes me uniquely qualified to be a Circuit Court Judge.
The past 18 months have confirmed that judgment. From the first time that the Chicago Bar Association and the 11 members of the Alliance of Bar Associations reviewed my qualifications in 2011 until the present, I have been found "Highly Qualified," "Highly Recommended," "Recommended" or "Qualified."
I am particularly proud of the fact that the Chicago Council of Lawyers recently found me "Qualified" for the Circuit Court, stating: As a judge, he continues to receive very positive marks. He has demonstrated his ability to handle a high volume call and is praised for his handling of pro se litigants — respectful and informative without going beyond the role of judge. The Chicago Bar Association also has acknowledged my "experience in both the private sector and government. Mr. Forti is an experienced lawyer well regarded for his judgment, fine demeanor and temperament."
I respectfully submit that my experience, first in private practice for 14 years at a large Loop law firm, and later, in government, as a Deputy Corporation Counsel in the City of Chicago Law Department and as the Chief Counsel of the Illinois Department of Transportation, makes me uniquely qualified for the position of Circuit Court Judge. Unlike the other candidates running in the "Liu" vacancy race, I am the only one with extensive litigation experience in civil and criminal matters, credentials that have been burnished since serving as a Circuit Court Judge. I began my legal career at Bell, Boyd & Lloyd (now K&L Gates, LLP).
There, I learned my craft as a litigator and handled complex contract litigation, civil and criminal antitrust counseling, mergers and acquisitions, accounting malpractice and federal securities, to name a few. Although I had become a partner at the firm, I was drawn to public service and joined the City's Law Department. The financial sacrifice I made when switching from the private sector to government was more than offset by having the opportunity to serve as a lead counsel on some of the most interesting and challenging cases pulled from the headlines of the Chicago Tribune. I gained a wealth of courtroom experience in cases involving the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, civil rights, affirmative action, contracts and zoning.
I believe the breadth of this experience has made me well prepared to handle any new area of the law that I now encounter. Based on my experience prior to my appointment and since being on the Circuit Court, I submit that I am qualified to remain a Cook County Circuit Court Judge.
Tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you.
During a recent trip to Italy, I searched in vain for my mother's relatives in the hill country surrounding Naples. As a proud second-generation Italian-American, I have become increasingly interested in learning more about my Italian ancestry on both my mother's and father's sides of the family. Although I was unsuccessful in locating my mother's relatives on this trip, I am already planning a second trip, this time to Sicily to track down my father's relatives, some of whom may still live in Isnello, Sicily, a small town approximately 40 miles from Palermo. This is the ancestral town where my "Forti" relatives lived until many of them left Sicily in the early 20th century seeking a new and better life in upstate New York. In preparation for the trip, I have decided to take Italian language lessons to fully experience my Italian heritage. Ciao!