Backlash against Justice Anne Burke for appointing white Cook County judge

Political and community leaders on the West Side are turning up the heat on Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, who is the wife of powerful Chicago Alderman Ed Burke.

The leaders say they are angry because Anne Burke appointed a white woman to fill a judicial post traditionally held by African Americans.

Justice burke, though, says she is not backing down.

"This is an absolute insult. This actually spits in the face of residents of the west side," said community activist Eric Russell.

There were heated words from protesters at the state Supreme Court offices in Chicago Friday as they tried and failed to go upstairs to confront Justice Anne Burke. They're demanding Burke rescind her appointment of Cara Smith -- who is a lawyer and policy advisor for Sheriff Tom Dart -- to an open judicial seat in the seventh subcircuit on the west side, which is a seat they say was carved out for African American judges.

"The face of justice clearly matters. The cultural experience of one who sits on the bench often determines the measure of justice that we can expect," said Reverend Marshall Hatch of New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church.

In a statement, Justice Burke says Smith was the most qualified candidate: "Having qualified judges is in the best interests of public safety and promotes confidence in the justice system."

But one attorney who applied for the job months ago says it's a fix.

"I was qualified by the Chicago Bar Association and by most of the other bars. I did not get a call. I did not get an interview," said attorney Patrick Dankwa John.

Justice Burke is married to indicted Chicago Alderman Ed Burke, who for decades handpicked judges for the Democratic party.

"We will not sit idly by and allow the Burkes to once again disrespect our community," said Ira Acree of the Leadership Network.

Smith's appointment is set to take effect Monday.