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Sunday, February 16

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The Mechanics
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Cook County Tue Sep 22 2009

To Judge How To Be A Judge

Sun-Times reporter Abdon Pallasch has a beautifully written and deeply researched piece on the slating of Cook County Judges. The slating process--or "ballot management"--is a practice sacred to the County political bosses. The authority of slating is where they generate much of their political capital. Not only from the people they choose, but from the legions of people who serve the Party loyally in hopes of one day being slated--or of having a big enough name to get somebody else slated. Pallasch mentions a judge named William Haddad--Haddad's experiences gave me the idea to write the piece on ballot management I posted in 2004. It was an off the record conversation with Haddad about his endorsement by the Party that gave me some of the background ideas. That piece of course was based on casual hearsay conversations with various political hacks and precinct workers I would never call "journalism". Pallasch's piece refers to that 2004 Haddad campaign and really gets into how slating looks and works.

There is something to be said for this process--for all the horse-trading and political hackery involved, a society where the courts harden into a clubbish aristocracy is not what we want, either. There is a middle road in there somewhere.

My favorite bit, but, really, read the whole thing:

Here's who wins judicial elections in Cook County: Women with Irish names. For whatever reason in this county where roughly half the residents are women and 17 percent claim Irish ancestry, women lawyers with Irish names win more than 50 percent of all countywide judicial elections.

That's why lawyers of Jewish or other ancestry often legally adopt Irish names to run for judge here. That's why when party leaders slate men without Irish names, such as William Haddad, who would have been the first Arab-American full-circuit judge in Cook County, the party must recruit Irish women lawyers to run as "ringers" or "stalking horses" to flood the ballot and fracture the Irish-woman vote.

 
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