Myron "Mike" Mackoff
Democratic candidate for Cook County Circuit (8th Subcircuit (Pethers 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 believe I am an excellent judge for three reasons: my experience, my ability and my temperament.
My twenty-three (23+) years of practice prior to my appointment to the bench was exclusively in litigation and courtroom work, but over that time, I experienced a varied and diverse range of cases, clients and courtrooms. My first years in the Attorney General's Office, Environmental Division saw me in the Circuit Courts of Northern Illinois arguing motions for injunctions and trying cases against attorneys from some of the top firms in the State.
After leaving the Attorney General's Office I began working for Don Hubert in private practice. My practice under Mr. Hubert gave me experience with commercial litigation, criminal defense, personal injury cases and the representation of attorneys and judges accused of professional misconduct. My work on cases involving ethical violations made me much more aware of the circumstances where issues of attorney conflict and judicial temperament become problematic.
Mr. Hubert's practice also exposed me to high-profile cases where race was a central issue such as the Jeremiah Mearday police brutality case and a case dealing with allegations of racial red-lining at an automobile dealership. Mr. Hubert took me under his wing, and under his tutelage I learned the importance of giving back to the Bar and pro bono work. Mr. Hubert led by example, and I fully credited his influence when I was awarded the Northern District of Illinois' Award for Excellence in Pro Bono Work in 2008. He taught me compassion for clients who have found themselves in tough situations and that doing justice was more important than making money.
I have tried to continue to live up to Mr. Hubert's example by regularly involving myself in community activities such as teaching constitutional law to 7th grade students as a member of the Constitutional Rights Foundation of Chicago. As for my legal abilities, I have won praise from judges and colleagues for my courtroom skills.
I am prepared, knowledgeable, well-spoken and respectful. My legal ability was recognized in the 2005 40 Attorneys Under 40 to Watch and my peers had identified me as a Super Lawyer for a number of years. In 2010 I began teaching as an adjunct professor at Northwestern University School of Law for the introduction to Trial Advocacy class, a nationally top-ranked trial advocacy program.
Throughout my career in practice, I had the opportunity to observe what qualities make a good judge. I believe that among these abilities are patience, respect for all litigants and the ability to listen to all the facts. I was required to use all of these abilities in the work I did on the Fontanez v. Khoushaba case for which I won the Pro Bono Award.
In that case, I was the seventh attorney appointed to represent Mr. Fontanez, a pro se plaintiff in a false arrest civil rights case. Mr. Fontanez was mistrustful of the legal system, unpredictable (by court order, he had to be escorted by federal marshals in the courthouse) and had an almost paranoid fear of the government. Instead of abandoning Mr. Fontanez, as his previous six attorneys did, I sat with him, patiently listened to his concerns and had an honest discussion with him about his case and what he could reasonably expect from a court or a jury.
By the time we were ready to negotiate a settlement, Mr. Fontanez trusted me enough that he was prepared to take the settlement that we finally negotiated with the City. A good judge also has to have an exemplary temperament. I am fortunate in my life to have my father, retired Cook County Judge, Benjamin Mackoff, as a fine example of judicial temperament.
My father taught me that the best judges lead by example, with patience and integrity and command a courtroom with respect. Like my father, I am even tempered, I rarely raise my voice and have never spoken intemperately in any courtroom. I treat attorneys, parties and courtroom personnel with respect and courtesy. I truly believe that civility is an art that needs to be practiced on a regular basis. Finally, I need to touch on my current work as a sitting judge.
In 2016 I was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to fill the vacancy of retired judge, Cheryl Pethers. I worked in traffic court for two months and was then assigned to the Domestic Relations Division where I sit today. Since that time almost a year ago, I have heard trials, motions, uncontested divorces and requests for protective orders. I believe I have conducted myself with integrity, with professionalism and with skill. I prepare written opinions whenever possible and do my own research. I listen to both sides and allow the attorneys to make their arguments.
I resolve most of the trials sent to me with a realization that many of the parties are dealing with raw emotion and that they need to be led back to rational reasoning. I make sure that every party that comes before me, win or lose, (there are no real winners in divorce) feels that they have been treated fairly and had their side of the case heard and considered.
I am especially pleased to note that my candidacy has been endorsed by a large bipartisan group of many of our city's leading lawyers including Newton Minow, the honorary chairman of my campaign, and former US Attorneys Dan Webb and Anton Valukas as well as numerous public officials and the Democratic party. A full list is on my website, electjudgemackoff.com
Tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you.
Every other weekend for the last 23 years, you will find me at the Shedd Aquarium volunteering in the Oceanarium, helping the animal trainers with the beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters, sea lions and penguins. I clean habitats, prepare food and assist in the training and husbandry. I am the longest serving volunteer in the Oceanarium having provided more than 3100 volunteer hours.