* June 7th…
Cara Smith, a veteran policy adviser to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and a registered attorney, has been named to serve as a county judge.
The Illinois Supreme Court appointed Smith to fill a vacant judgeship in the county’s seventh subcircuit, according to an order filed this week.
Smith will replace retiring Judge Marianne Jackson, who was appointed to the subcircuit post in 2014.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, the spouse of indicted Chicago Ald. Edward Burke, nominated Smith for the position.
* June 11th…
Diversity concerns have prompted a battle over an appointment to a West Side judicial seat after Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke nominated a white attorney to fill a spot held by a retiring African American judge. […]
“We challenge Justice Anne Burke’s decision to replace Justice Marianne Jackson with someone who is not from our community,” said Rev. Marshall Hatch, New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, speaking to a group of community leaders from the west side gathered in the Austin community with concerns about judicial diversity. […]
“To find that she’s been replaced by someone that’s not from our community is a travesty, I think it’s a slap in the face to the residents of the West Side of Chicago,” said 28th Ward Alderman Jason Ervin. […]
“That basically says that there is no qualified African Americans on the West Side of Chicago that are able to take that seat, and I find that highly offensive,” [Ervin] said.
* Also June 11th…
“We don’t know who she is, never seen her at any events on the West Side of Chicago and for her to be representing us as a judicial appointment is a slap in the face to residents of the West Side,” Ervin said. […]
“The subcircuit back in the 1990s was designed to bring more African-Americans and Latinos to the bench. And clearly, that person does not fit either one of those characteristics,” Ervin said.
Smith’s appointment runs through December 2020. Ald. Ervin is already vowing to challenge her with a candidate from the West Side who he supports in next year’s elections.
* Justice Burke sent out a rare press release yesterday…
On Oct, 29, 2018, Ald. Jason Ervin came to my office and asked me to appoint Pamela Reaves- Harris to an upcoming 7th Subcircuit vacancy. I let Ald. Ervin know that Ms. Harris was welcome to apply and that she would need to be reviewed by my Judicial Selection Committee. […]
Pamela Reaves-Harris submitted an application which included an evaluation by The Chicago Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Committee. The evaluation, executed by then President Patricia Brown Holmes, found Ms. Harris to be “Not Recommended” for the office of Circuit Court Judge and stated, in part, that while Ms. Harris was “a dedicated, busy and hardworking public servant,” her “limited practice and court experience would make it difficult for her to effectively serve as a Circuit Court Judge.” My Judicial Selection Committee similarly concluded that Ms. Reaves-Harris was not a qualified candidate. Cara LeFevour Smith was found “Highly Qualified” by both the Chicago Bar Association and my Judicial Screening Committee. The Supreme Court unanimously voted to appointment Cara LeFevour Smith to the 7th Subcircuit vacancy.
Having qualified judges is in the best interests of public safety and promotes confidence in the justice system.
* Background on Reaves-Harris…
Derrick Smith was appointed to a vacancy in the Illinois House of Representatives in March 2011. In March 2012, just a week before the Democratic primary, Smith was arrested on federal charges. An informant caught Smith on tape accepting a $7,000 bribe to promote a grant to a day care center. On tape, Rep. Smith can be overheard telling the man passing the money to just ‘leave it in the envelope.’ […]
Well, Smith won the primary with Democratic Party support (he was running against a one-time Republican operative for the Democratic nomination), but got booted out of the House thereafter. Despite his expulsion, Smith stayed on the ballot, beating a “Unity Party” candidate who was recruited and endorsed by the Democratic Party in Smith’s stead.
Smith could not be expelled from the House a second time for the same offense — and his case hadn’t gone to trial by the time the 2014 primary rolled around. So the party put up Pamela Reaves-Harris to oppose him. She won. (Smith was convicted in June 2014.)
Reaves-Harris did not run for reelection. As a result, Melissa Conyears-Ervin, the wife of Ald. Jason Ervin, wound up unopposed in the Democratic Primary and won that seat, holding it until her recent election as City Treasurer.
Ald. Ervin raises some valid questions about diversity. But he should’ve backed a more qualified candidate so as not to give Justice Burke such an easy way out.