2018 Cook County Judicial Voting Guide

Search a judge by their name as it appears on the ballot, their position, or a flag.

Cook County voters will decide November 6 whether to retain 59 Circuit Court judges seeking new six-year terms.

Though in the past these races have been virtually automatic — the last time a judge lost retention in Cook County was 1990 — this year a series of occurrences makes that less certain.

The election comes amidst deep mistrust within minority communities of the criminal justice system. Several community organizations hope to generate heightened interest in the judicial elections, which historically have seen diminished participation even from those residents who show up to vote.

To keep their seats, retention judges must win more than 60 percent approval from among those who cast votes for or against them winning a new term.

Also on the ballot are candidates for open judicial seats. While retention elections are nonpartisan — the judge’s party is not even listed on the ballot — judges win their initial terms in partisan contests.

Almost all these contested races were decided at the March primary. Given the dominance of Democrats in Chicago, Republicans rarely even file for those seats, and the Democratic primary victor is running without opposition November 6. Voters residing in any of five sub-circuits in suburban Cook County will decide contested races between a Democrat and a Republican.

The Injustice Watch guide makes no recommendations; instead, it offers voters’ information based on extensive reporting of public records. The 12 bar associations — three general-interest associations, and several representing different ethnicities and heritages — each offers their own recommendations based on interviews of the judges, lawyers who appear before them and follow-up research, but not a detailed public records search.

The bar associations voted to support nearly all retention candidates. No judge received negative ratings from more than one of the three associations.

Our guide uses abbreviations in referring to the three general interest bar associations: Chicago Bar Association (CBA), the Chicago Council of Lawyers (CCL), and the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA).

For a print-friendly version of this guide, click here.

Retention Judges

The Injustice Watch examination included reviews of lawsuits, judges’ statements of economic interest, reversal rates, the sentencing practices of criminal division judges, disciplinary records, a review of newsworthy cases, the recommendations of local bar associations, and courtroom observation, as well as interviews.

That research turned up notable information about several judges. One, Matthew Coghlan, is being sued by two exonerees who contend that, as a prosecutor, he worked with a now-disgraced detective to frame them for murder. A second judge, Maura Slattery Boyle, has been reversed by the appellate courts far more often the past six years than any other judge. Michael Clancy, in bond court, has repeatedly held suspects on bail higher than they could afford, contrary to a new local court rule enacted by Chief Judge Evans last year. A fourth judge, Michael McHale, was accused by defense attorneys of holding improper private conversations with prosecutors about a pending case.

Judges are listed in ballot order.

Past Controversy Notable Reversals Negative Ratings
Harsh Sentencer Lenient Sentencer Former Prosecutor Former Public Defender


Click on a judge to learn more.
Judge Position
Kathy M. Flanagan Negative Ratings Law Division
Moshe Jacobius Chancery Division, presiding judge
Stuart F. Lubin Former Public Defender Notable Reversals Juvenile Justice Division
Martin S. Agran Former Prosecutor Third Municipal District (Rolling Meadows Courthouse)
Ronald F. Bartkowicz Law Division
E. Kenneth Wright, Jr. First Municipal District (Daley Center), presiding judge
Catherine Marie Haberkorn Lenient Sentencer Former Prosecutor Criminal Division, Second Municipal District (Skokie Courthouse)
James M. Varga Negative Ratings Former Prosecutor Law Division
Marcia Maras Law Division
Peter Flynn Notable Reversals Chancery Division
Paul A. Karkula Former Public Defender County Division
Maura Slattery Boyle Negative Ratings Notable Reversals Harsh Sentencer Former Prosecutor Criminal Division
Mary Margaret Brosnahan Former Prosecutor Criminal Division
Matthew E. Coghlan Negative Ratings Past Controversy Notable Reversals Harsh Sentencer Former Prosecutor Criminal Division
Joyce Marie Murphy Gorman Sixth Municipal District (Markham Courthouse)
Joan Margaret O'Brien Fifth Municipal District (Bridgeview Courthouse), Criminal Division
Thomas David Roti Third Municipal District (Rolling Meadows Courthouse)
Colleen F. Sheehan Former Public Defender Juvenile Justice Division
Carl Anthony Walker Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, Second Division
Daniel Patrick Brennan Chancery Division
Grace G. Dickler Domestic Relations Division, presiding judge
Ellen L. Flannigan Domestic Relations Division
Carol M. Howard Former Public Defender Criminal Division
Jill C. Marisie Former Prosecutor Third Municipal District (Rolling Meadows Courthouse), acting presiding judge
James Michael McGing Law Division
Michael McHale Past Controversy Notable Reversals Former Prosecutor Criminal Division
James Patrick Murphy Former Prosecutor Domestic Violence and Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies Divisions
Thomas W. Murphy Fifth Municipal District (Bridgeview Courthouse)
Ramon Ocasio III Former Public Defender Fourth Municipal District (Maywood Courthouse)
Mary Colleen Roberts Former Prosecutor Domestic Relations Division, Fourth Municipal District (Maywood Courthouse)
Diane M. Shelley Law Division
Celia Louise Gamrath Chancery Division
Lorna Ellen Propes Former Prosecutor Law Division
Tommy Brewer Past Controversy Sixth Municipal District (Markham Courthouse), presiding judge
Andrea M. Schleifer Negative Ratings Domestic Relations Division
Thomas R. Allen Former Public Defender Chancery Division
Erica L. Reddick Former Public Defender Criminal Division
Aicha Marie MacCarthy Probate Division
Lionel Jean-Baptiste Negative Ratings Notable Reversals Domestic Relations Division
Michael R. Clancy Past Controversy Former Prosecutor Pretrial Division
Regina Ann Scannicchio Domestic Relations Division
Diann Karen Marsalek First Municipal District (Daley Center)
Pamela M. Leeming Former Public Defender Fourth Municipal District (Maywood Courthouse)
Larry G. Axelrood Former Prosecutor Law Division
Carl B. Boyd Sixth Municipal District (Markham Courthouse), Criminal Division
Daniel R. Degnan Probate Division
John H. Ehrlich Law Division
Terry Gallagher Fifth Municipal District (Bridgeview Courthouse)
William G. Gamboney Former Prosecutor Criminal Division
Elizabeth Mary Hayes Former Public Defender Fifth Municipal District (Bridgeview Courthouse)
Martin C. Kelley Third Municipal District (Rolling Meadows Courthouse)
Kimberly D. Lewis Former Prosecutor Child Protection Division of the Juvenile Court
Edward M. Maloney First Municipal District (Branch 44 Courthouse)
Lisa Ann Marino Former Prosecutor Negative Ratings Chancery Division, First Municipal District (Daley Center)
Michael Tully Mullen Former Prosecutor Chancery Division
Karen Lynn O'Malley Former Prosecutor Probate Division
Paul S. Pavlus Former Prosecutor Second Municipal District (Skokie Courthouse)
Cynthia Ramirez Former Public Defender Juvenile Justice Division
Beatriz Santiago Past Controversy Former Public Defender Third Municipal District (Rolling Meadows Courthouse)

Contested Elections

Most candidates running to be Cook County judge, including all the countywide candidates, are uncontested in November after having won their primary elections in March. But the following primary victors are facing contested elections this fall. Many of these subcircuits are located in suburban Cook County, where candidates from both parties more commonly run for judgeships. You can only vote in the races in your county judicial subcircuit. Once elected, there is no difference in responsibility of the countywide judges and subcircuit judges. If you’re not sure which subcircuit you live in, you can check here.

Injustice Watch compiled information about these candidates, including surveys of those seeking to be judge, during the primary elections.

Click on a candidate to learn more.

12th Subcircuit - Maki vacancy
13th Subcircuit - O'Donnell vacancy
13th Subcircuit - Lawrence vacancy
13th Subcircuit - Crane vacancy
Ketki "Kay"
15th Subcircuit - Zelezinski vacancy

Divisions: For a visual representation of the Cook County court structure, click here.

Chancery Division: The term “chancery” describes lawsuits in which the plaintiff seeks to have the defendant perform or refrain from performing a specific action, rather than suing for monetary damages. This division hears injunctions, class-actions, mortgage foreclosures, declaratory judgments, contract matters, creditors’ rights, and more.

Child Protection Division of the Juvenile Court: Judges hear cases involving child abuse, child neglect, child dependency, private guardianship, termination of parental rights, and orders of protection related to child protection proceedings.

County Division: Judges hear cases involving adoption, elections, mental health proceedings, real estate taxes, municipal proceedings, and annexation of land to a tax body.

Criminal Division: Judges in the criminal division hear felony cases (cases that could result in a prison term of a year or more). The division also handles issues related to felony trials like record expungement and petitions for post-conviction relief. Criminal judges hearing Chicago cases sit at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on Chicago’s Southwest Side. Others also hear felonies in the suburban courthouses.

Domestic Relations Division: Judges hear cases involving divorce (and related matters like legal separation or dissolving a civil union), allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, child support, third-party visitation, and parentage matters.

Domestic Violence Division: Judges hear matters involving order of protections, no contact orders, and certain criminal cases related to domestic violence.

Elder Law and Miscellaneous: This division includes certain matters involving individuals aged 60 and older, including issues such as elder abuse, domestic violence, and some criminal cases.

Juvenile Justice Division: Judges conduct trials for minors charged with violations of laws or ordinances, and proceedings for minors addicted to alcohol or drugs and for runaways.

Law Division: The law division hears lawsuits for monetary damages larger than $30,000 in the city and larger than $100,000 in the suburbs. Examples include personal injury, legal malpractice, property damage, employment security, and much more.

Pretrial Division: This division includes initial proceedings in criminal cases, such as bail hearings, preliminary hearings, and applications for search warrants. This division also oversees cases referred to deferred prosecution programs. This division was created in 2017 when Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans issued an order reforming bail.

Probate Division: Judges hear matters involving wills, estates, and guardianship of minors or those with disabilities.

Municipal Departments: The municipal department is divided into six geographical districts.

First Municipal District: This district covers the City of Chicago and handles felony preliminary hearings, misdemeanor cases (except domestic violence), housing, evictions, small claims, licenses, traffic, lawsuits with damages under $30,000, marriages, and civil unions. Hearings take place at the Daley Center in downtown Chicago and at additional sites known as “branch courts” around the city.

Second through Sixth Municipal Districts: These suburban districts handle the types of cases heard by the First District, but also oversee felony criminal cases and juvenile justice cases in the district, law division tort cases in the district, orders of protection, no contact orders, specialty courts for veterans, specialty courts for mental health and drug treatment (depending on the district), civil suits with damages under $100,000, and name changes.

Second Municipal District (Skokie Courthouse): northern suburbs.

Third Municipal District (Rolling Meadows Courthouse): northwest suburbs.

Fourth Municipal District (Maywood Courthouse): western suburbs.

Fifth Municipal District (Bridgeview Courthouse): southwest suburbs.

Sixth Municipal District (Markham Courthouse): southern suburbs.

Other terms:

Administrative law judge: Lawyers hired to conduct hearings on municipal code violations. May also be called “hearing officers.”

Associate Judge: A judge elected by the circuit judges. Candidates send in applications, and finalists are chosen by a committee of the chief judge and presiding judges. Circuit judges then vote amongst the finalists. Associate judges make slightly less money than circuit judges and must be approved by the Supreme Court to hear felony cases, but otherwise have the same responsibilities. Circuit judges vote on whether to retain associate judges every four years.

Chief Judge: The chief judge is elected by the circuit court judges and is responsible for assigning all of the court’s judges and for overseeing administrative matters. The chief judge can issue orders for judges to follow—such as the new bail reform rules—and create new divisions and programs. Currently, the chief judge is Timothy C. Evans

Circuit Judge: A judge elected by the public. Cook County judicial elections take place every two years. Judges must run for retention every six years.

Office of the Cook County Public Defender: the office that represents criminal defendants who cannot afford an attorney. Attorneys in the office are known as assistant public defenders. The head of the office—known as the Cook County Public Defender, currently Amy Campanelli—is appointed by the Cook County Board.

Office of the Cook County State's Attorney: the office that prosecutes state crimes in the county, and also represents Cook County in lawsuits against it. Attorneys in the office are known as assistant state’s attorneys. The head of the office—known as the Cook County State’s Attorney, currently Kim Foxx—is elected by the pubic.

Presiding Judge: The Chief Judge of Cook County appoints a presiding judge to oversee each division and each municipal department. Presiding judges handle administrative matters in their divisions. In some divisions, presiding judges are responsible to assigning cases to judges (in other divisions, cases are assigned randomly by a computer).

Supervising Judge: A judge appointed to supervise a division within a section.