Republican candidate for 22nd Circuit 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 a McHenry County Circuit Judge and 20-year-resident of McHenry County, living in Woodstock with my family. I was sworn in as Circuit Judge of the 22nd Judicial Circuit in 2017 after being appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court. Prior to being appointed circuit judge, I served as a prosecutor for over twenty-two years, as an Assistant State's Attorney with the Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office and the McHenry County State's Attorney's Office.
In my extensive career as a prosecutor, I prosecuted thousands of cases and tried over forty-five jury trials, including fifteen murder trials. I have prosecuted every type of crime, including murders, arsons, sex offenses, weapons offenses, narcotics trafficking, DUIs, home invasions, armed robberies, and property crimes. As the only career prosecutor currently serving on the bench in McHenry County, I bring a necessary background and experience to the courts, especially as violent crime continues to rise in our communities.
I also teach criminal law and criminal procedure at McHenry County College. I have served as an Adjunct Instructor in Criminal Justice since 2004, teaching students who wish to become police officers, laboratory personnel, and correctional officers. When I was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court and then sworn in as McHenry County's newest Circuit Judge, I knew I was being given an awesome opportunity and responsibility to use my experiences to serve the county where I have lived for twenty years. I work every day to live up to the trust that has been placed in me, and as a strict constructionist, I enforce the Constitution.
With my background of fighting for justice on behalf of victims, I have compassion and have learned the importance of listening and empathizing with all parties. I understand that people are in court because something is not going right in their lives, and they are relying on their judge to restore order and resolve the problem by impartially applying the law to the facts and deciding the case.
As a prosecutor, I have learned to look at the strengths and weaknesses of a case, because if the necessary elements are not there and you cannot prove the case, you do not prosecute it. On the wall just inside the door at the State's Attorney's Office where I worked for a decade, it said that the duty of a prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict.
This same principle applies to judges, as we are not to look to achieve a particular result, but rather be impartial and independent in our administration of justice. To best understand the judicial temperament that I strive for, simply look to Lady Justice. Her eyes are covered, her mouth is closed, and her ears are open — she's listening.
As judge, I am diligent about following this example, ensuring that every person in my courtroom feels like they were listened to and truly heard. I also work to ensure that people understand their options and the process, because without full access to justice and understanding of the process not everyone will be fully and equally heard. Lady Justice holds a sword, but it is lowered. It's ready to use when necessary to defend or strike, but it is lowered because she has not reached her decision and it may not be necessary to use at all.
I understand the need to be tough at times and compassionate at times, and throughout my career I have shown the ability to show compassion and empathy while being tough, providing for rehabilitation as much as possible while serving punishment and retribution when necessary.
Finally, Lady Justice holds scales that are balanced, showing us that it is always time to be fair. The sides are equal — neither side starts out with an advantage — and everything is even and fair. My courtroom is one where all who enter know they will get a fair and unbiased hearing, and that nothing other than facts and evidence will tip the scales of justice. When my service is done, I want to know that I made a difference in our community and in the lives of our citizens.
I will never forget that being a judge is about people, not process, and that every decision I make affects the lives of real people. I believe that the courthouse experience does not have to be negative one, especially not when justice is being provided and peace is being restored. I will be compassionate and tough as necessary, but fair always.
Tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you.
It was my father who inspired me to public service and my sister who motivated me to pursue a legal career to help people. Growing up, my father was in the Air Force. He taught me the importance of a love of our country and dedication to serve others.
My parents worked tirelessly to put me through college, my father becoming a car salesman after retirement and my mother opening a beauty salon. They encouraged my pursuit of a legal career, even giving me a custom-made gavel upon my graduation from law school. At my recent judicial swearing in, they gave me a new gavel with the inscription "Circuit Judge." It was my love for my sister that prompted my interest in the law.
Growing up, my sister found herself in difficult situations, and I wanted to help her so I pursued the law. I then lost my sister to a tragic act of domestic violence in 1999, which drove me to a career as a prosecutor of violent crimes, and now as a judge working to ensure justice for all. I adopted her son, my 18 month old nephew, and almost overnight became a single mother while working as a young prosecutor in McHenry County. I bring to the bench a familiarity with how our system of justice tries to assist and protect people affected by crimes as well as promote fairness. My personal and professional experiences shaped who I am as a judge.
Candidates for 22nd Circuit district)
- Joel Berg (No survey)
- Tiffany Davis