Illinois legal experts urge voters to ignore TV ads focused on election of judges

Legal experts on Tuesday urged Illinois voters to disregard the unprecedented blizzard of advertising focused on next month's election of judges.

"We are so concerned about the reckless, sometimes ruthless number of politically motivated attacks that have been occurring on our judiciary," said Timothy Tomasik of the Chicago Bar Association.

Most of the ad spending focuses on two seats on the Illinois state Supreme Court that are on this fall's ballot. If Republicans win just one of them, GOP judges would control the court for the first time in many decades.

However, leaders of lawyer groups and the judges’ association say that's the wrong way to look at this election.


"Judges should be evaluated based upon how they do their job, how they render decisions. Are those decisions based upon the law and the facts?" said Judge Eileen O’Neill burke of the Illinois Judges Association.

With unions, business groups and both sides of the abortion debate spending record amounts of money on the campaigns for the two state Supreme Court seats, some believe $10 million or more may be expended. The fight is especially intense in the third district where Judge Michael Burke, the Republican nominee, faces Mary Kay O'Brien, the Democrat. Her supporters have labeled Burke a foe of abortion rights. Burke says he's never taken a public position on the issue, though he has attended pro-life events.

The third district includes DuPage, Bureau, La Salle, Grundy, Will, Kankakee and Iroquois counties.

The Chicago and Illinois Bar Associations are urging voters to consult their evaluations of the candidates, which claim to be non-partisan.

"They are not asked are you Republican or Democrat, do you like the current president or the past president, do you believe in the death penalty or not believe in the death penalty — there is nothing political about the judicial evaluation process," Tomasik said.

A leader of the pro-abortion rights group, Personal PAC, pushed back. Terry Cosgrove said television advertising focused on what a judge has said or done about the abortion issue, including outside the courtroom, is appropriate.