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Why was Rotering given “Not Recommended” rating by the state bar?

Wednesday, May 25, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I pulled up the Illinois State Bar Association’s judicial evaluations today to check on some things, and I noticed that the “Narrative” section was blank next to the ISBA’s “Not Recommended” rating of Illinois Supreme Court Democratic candidate Nancy Rotering. So, I asked the Bar Association to explain why Rotering received such low marks…

When there is no explanation accompanying a “Not Recommended” rating that means that the candidate did participate in the evaluation process, but that the Committee rated him/her “Not Recommended” based on its investigations and interview. The basis of the Committee’s “Not Recommended” rating is confidential.


Judge Liz Rochford was the only Democratic candidate to receive a “Highly Recommended” rating. Republicans Susan Hutchinson and Daniel B. Shanes also received that rating. The worry among some Democrats is that if Rotering wins the primary, she could have real problems in the general if one of those two highly rated Republicans is victorious.

Rotering has reported raising a bit over $180K this year, with about half of that in loans to herself.

Rochford has raised $137K just since the current quarter began last month. She started this quarter with $246K in the bank, and reported $89K in debt from two 2021 loans. That isn’t a ton of cash for a district which includes DeKalb, Kane, Kendall, Lake and McHenry counties.

The race has attracted very little news media attention.

* There’s a similar worry in the 3rd Appellate District where Democrat Sonni Choi Williams is rated as “Not Recommended” (and also went through the evaluation process), but the lone Republican candidate, Liam Christopher Brennan, is “Highly Recommended.” Another Democrat, James Murphy, is rated as “Recommended.”

* In the 5th Appellate District, Judge Mike McHaney was rated as “Not Recommended.” McHaney was the judge who gave Darren Bailey a court win back in 2020. He infamously yakked from the bench about his constitutional right to fish. McHaney participated in the evaluation process. Republican Barry Vaughan was the only candidate in the race to receive a “Recommended” rating. Democrat Brian Roberts submitted his information to the ISBA late and received a “Not Recommended” rating. Maybe Roberts can get his act together for the fall campaign, but it not matter, considering the district.



  1. - Amalia - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 12:08 pm:

    wow. that is interesting. I would have thought it meant that she did not participate. guess some of Rotering’s supporters had influence. the big blank is wrong. both in that the big blank does not inform us of the why, and the big blank herself, Rotering, is deemed not recommended by lawyers. and no, it’s not a poll, it ’s an actual evaluation, so this is big.

  2. - Larry Bowa Jr. - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 12:16 pm:

    I’m a lawyer and I cannot imagine caring about ISBA’s evaluations. Robes aside, these are politicians running for political jobs and consequently they should be evaluated in light of their politics first and foremost.
    Lawyer self-interest aside, legal process isn’t that mystifying that the public needs a professional shaman to evaluate these races for them. I get why ISBA would want people to believe otherwise, but I think it’s absurd that their opinion would be given significant weight.

  3. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 12:17 pm:

    ===evaluated in light of their politics first and foremost===

    And how would you do that when they aren’t allowed to talk about issues like guns and abortion?

  4. - Ron Burgundy - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 12:32 pm:

    Since we elect judges and they are restricted in what they can say about hot button issues, bar groups are a helpful way and possibly the best way to evaluate candidates. In places like Cook County there are just too many for people to possibly educate themselves on. These groups at least make the effort to talk to the candidates and more importantly to the lawyers and judges they have interacted with in their careers to get a sense of who they are and if they have good qualities to be a judge. That said, I agree that a rating without an explanation is not helpful.

  5. - MisterJayEm - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 12:33 pm:

    “And how would you do that when they aren’t allowed to talk about issues like guns and abortion?”

    Vibes, maaaaaaan…

    – MrJM

  6. - Keyrock - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 12:34 pm:

    The ISBA undercuts the value of its evaluations by not stating the reason for its result. Other bar groups - notably the Chicago Council of Lawyers and the Chicago Bar Association - do provide reasons. Those reasons help voters evaluate the candidates. They also help voters (and editorial boards and other groups) evaluate the reliability of the bar group making the rating.

    Voters are entitled to know whether the ISBA thinks a candidate is unqualified because of lack of experience, temperament, lack of judgment, demonstrated racism or other bias, or some other reason.

    Thanks, Rich, for highlighting this weakness in the ISBA’s rating system. This is especially important since the ISBA ratings are the principal bar ratings available for much of the state.

  7. - Big Dipper - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 12:34 pm:

    == guess some of Rotering’s supporters had influence==


  8. - NonAFSCMEStateEmployeeFromChatham - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 12:40 pm:

    ==The ISBA undercuts the value of its evaluations by not stating the reason for its result.==

    I wonder if they are claiming Attorney Client Privilege in not explaining their evaluation ratings.

  9. - Larry Bowa Jr. - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 12:51 pm:

    “how would you do that when they aren’t allowed to talk about issues like guns and abortion?”

    Party affiliation is going to answer those two particular questions to my satisfaction.
    I don’t even know what percentage of lawyers in this state belong to ISBA since it’s a voluntary bar, however only ISBA members are polled for these responses. Who made this ISBA committee the Gods of Determining Judicial Quality? Their conclusions are based on polling members by mail rather than doing any meaningful legal analysis, and I expect their results are going to be heavily weighted in favor of people with a) excess time on their hands, or b) an axe to grind.

    And they ask abjectly ridiculous questions like this about candidates:
    “Have the physical, mental and emotional health, stamina and stability needed to perform judicial duties?”
    There are people I’ve been dealing with for 15 years whose “mental and emotional health, stamina and stability” I’m not qualified to assess, let alone in regard to a task as poorly defined and nebulous as “judicial duties.”

  10. - Kane County Cougar - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 1:09 pm:

    I think this is simple and really the cause of the non-recommended rating - she has very limited experience as an Attorney and NO experience as a judge. She IS a politician who has run for multiple offices to try and move up and has not been successful.

  11. - Chicagonk - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 1:11 pm:

    I can’t imagine the ISBA recommendations have that much impact

  12. - well... - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 1:12 pm:

    Rotering hasn’t practiced law since 1998. I’m guessing that’s a big part of why she wasn’t recommended.

    Same way someone who hasn’t played baseball since high school doesn’t immediately go to the Major Leagues.

  13. - Ron Burgundy - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 1:14 pm:

    -she has very limited experience as an Attorney and NO experience as a judge.-

    Those are sound reasons for such a rating. They should have just said it, if those were the reasons.

  14. - Original Rambler - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 1:18 pm:

    Is it that much of a surprise that a judicial candidate who has spent much of her recent past running for positions in the executive branch of government was found not qualified for the highest judicial position in the State?

    I agree that some explanation for a not recommended rating would be beneficial to the electorate.

    I believe that for most lawyers out there, they would prefer that a reviewing justice have legal (not political) experience and the requisite knowledge of how to apply the law to the facts of the case at hand rather than have a stated position on abortion or similar such political issue.

  15. - Amalia - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 2:02 pm:

    service as a judge and on the Supreme Court of Illinois is not a political job. it is a job that you must run for because our laws on that are nuts. but the job of a judge and especially a justice is extremely serious, not supposed to be political, and any attorney should know that and want that to be the case. the person elected to the Illinois Supreme Court will be making serious judgments in exacting written ways. You want someone who is serious about the work and who has the experience to serve in that role. I’m glad the bar association has weighed in despite their deficient explanation.

  16. - watchdog - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 2:06 pm:

    I thought the only Dem running for the Supreme Court nomination in the 3rd Dist. was former State. Rep. and current Appellate Justice Mary Kay O’Brien?

  17. - SaulGoodman - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 2:26 pm:

    **I thought the only Dem running for the Supreme Court nomination in the 3rd Dist. was former State. Rep. and current Appellate Justice Mary Kay O’Brien?**

    I don’t believe that this post or the comments mention the 3rd Supreme Court district at all.

  18. - South side cubs fan - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 2:27 pm:

    Sonni Williams is a good example of how bar polls are misleading. She ran in Peoria and got, I believe, around a 31% positive rating. This time, it looks like she did her best to improve her score by asking her friends to request bar poll ballots and return them with high scores. Look at the number of returned ballots compared to other, and more well known, candidates- sky high. She doubled her score, but still not enough for a positive rating. Oh, and by the way, she is VP of the ISBA. Do you think it is embarrassing for ISBA to give its own VP a negative rating, or negative commentary?

  19. - Ron Burgundy - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 2:49 pm:

    -bar polls are misleading-

    I agree they can be. The bar association committee I worked with doesn’t use them. They do ask for members to submit comments good or bad generally, but they are not quantified. At best they provide areas of inquiry for the committee. Instead, the candidate must provide the names of references, which must include adversaries in recent matters, and judges before whom they have appeared. They can’t just load it up with friends. Investigators are also trained to ask references they interview for the names of other people they should be talking to. If a candidate is caught fudging such references, such as omitting cases, etc. it can and will be held against them.

  20. - Sue - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 3:22 pm:

    Why- maybe because Nancy has practiced law like for 3 or 4 years before stopping to raise her family and that was 30 plus years ago. Then she has been a HP council member then mayor. She literally is the least qualified person to attempt becoming a S CT Justice since Bush 43 tried to get Harriet Myers into the US S Ct. Nancy is a nice person- has done a fine job as mayor of a town with 30 thousand residents but suggesting she has the experience to become an appellate judge-LOL

  21. - Amalia - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 3:28 pm:

    Ron Burgundy, the ISBA has a VERY extensive process and questionnaire for their evaluation. and there is a bar poll, but that is not the basis of this evaluation. Sue is right, Nancy Rotering is the Harriet Myers of Illinois, a blank space.

  22. - Vader - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 3:35 pm:

    I think the Bar Association was being kind by not stating a reason. As others have mentioned, Rotering is in no way qualified to serve on the SC. There should be minimum qualifications for the SC, which should include having served as a judge in some capacity.

  23. - Shytown - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 3:53 pm:

    This is a very important point of contrast for voters to understand. ISBA is the organization of record representing the legal community and their process is pretty darn rigorous, even if they leave out the specificity as to why they are not recommending. I mean, I think we can take their recommendation to the bank either way.

    Looking at the fundraising thus far, if you take out roughly $90k in loans that both Rotering and Rochford have each given themselves, rochford has raised about $462,000 to Rotering‘s $200,000. So far this quarter, as Rich points out, Rochford has raised about $137,000 vs $0 for Rotering. The momentum in this race is clearly swinging in one direction.

  24. - Anon - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 3:55 pm:

    Sue is exactly right. Rotering is completely unqualified. She practiced law for four years, apparently couldn’t cut it, and has zero judicial experience. Who knows when the last time she even read a legal brief is?

    Also, it’s not that complicated - she’s not going to get good bar ratings because those are largely based on legal experience, which she has basically none. It’s honestly embarrassing that she’s running.

  25. - Shytown - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 4:03 pm:

    == I can’t imagine the ISBA recommendations have that much impact ==

    It matters if a candidate has the money to advertise to voters that they did receive it; and it also matters if a candidate has the funds to can communicate to voters that their opponent didn’t get it.

  26. - South side cubs fan - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 5:00 pm:

    I think the Bar polls have very little direct impact. But, lazy places like the tribune will typically base their endorsements largely, if not entirely, on the bar polls.

  27. - MisterJayEm - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 5:19 pm:

    “the job of a judge and especially a justice is extremely serious, not supposed to be political”

    Not only has that ship sailed, it has circumnavigated the globe.


    – MrJM

  28. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, May 25, 22 @ 5:34 pm:

    ===on the bar polls===

    The polls and the ratings are different things. Got a lotta obfuscators in here today.

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