Illinois is one of 39 states that elect their judges. In these states, voters have marginal knowledge of the judges they elect. The efforts of bar associations like the Chicago Council of lawyers, attempts to provide voters with basic information for election and retention votes for judges, that most voters could not discover on their own.
Unfortunately, judicial elections have become races that are attracting ever growing levels of campaign contributions. Periodic judicial elections cannot insure that judges will not be compromised by the campaign contributions that they are solictiting and receiving to gain and maintain their judicial office.
Nationwide citizens are losing confidence in their judges because of the belief that the growing tide of campaign money for judicial elections, can comprimise the impatiality of judges receiving these funds. Judicial Elections lose their marginal impact on accountability, once the judge is in office.
The Brennan's Center report, "Promoting Fair and Impartial Courts through Recusal Reform ", argues that what is needed at this point are clearly defined and effective rules for judicial recusal from certain cases, either by judges themselves or by a decision by a third party. Also, in order to provide the basis for making judgement on judicial recusal, "state courts should adopt rules requiring disclosure of campaign contribution data from judges and litigants and their counsel."
So while we as citizens do have a responsibility to take advantage of the judicial evaluations produced by groups like the Chicago Council of lawyers. Much more citizen involvement is needed to lobby for and achive Recusal Reform in our state.
As of August 2011, "...nine states — Arizona, California, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, Utah, and Washington — adopted rules that, to varying degrees, address money on the judicial campaign trail. And very promising new rules are pending in Georgia and Tennessee."
As the opening quote from the Brennan Center's report, by Retired Texas Chief Justice, Thomas R. Philips, states," [N]ow as never before, reinvigorating recusal is truly necessary to preserve the court system that Chief Justice Rehnquist called the “crown jewel” of our American experiment."