As former presidents of the Cook County Bar Association, we wish to inform the public of an extraordinary individual serving them who deserves another term in office.
We refer to the Honorable Timothy C. Evans, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County. By September 15, the full circuit judges of the Circuit Court must choose their chief for the next three years. We respectfully recommend renewing Judge Evans’ tenure in that office.
There are many reasons for our recommendation. Here, we focus on three.
Judge Evans has significantly increased the quality of associate (non-full circuit) judges, and opened the process by which they are selected. Not long before his arrival in this office, associate judges would simply be announced, as if by a secret writ. Indeed, each one of us knows from personal experience of judges who were selected purposely on the basis of political clout, and not for their professional and personal quality. Under Judge Evans, it is the vacancies that are announced, not the new appointees. His doing so initiates literally hundreds — sometimes as many as 300 — candidacies for the vacant judgeships. Those candidates present their credentials and undergo appropriate vetting of their merit for selection. Competition has brought out the better candidates. We have led one of the bar groups that review fitness for judicial office and we attest to the steady improvement, on average, of candidates for associate judge vacancies.
Through this process, the options for each vacancy are reduced to two. Each full circuit judge then votes for one of the two, and the winners of that polling become associate circuit judges. Obviously, this approach could not depart from the clout list era more significantly. Its result, in our view, is a far more qualified group of associate judges than in any prior period of our respective practices.
Second, in innumerable ways, Judge Evans has brought the Circuit Court into the 21st century. He has, for instance, welcomed LGBTQ judges to the bench and encouraged their forming a group to advocate for their needs. This, while seeking grant funding from sources large and small to enable the court to assist litigants without sufficient resources or knowledge for a court battle. These steps have helped youth in the system, victims of domestic violence, domestic violence offenders, those without language skills, non-custodial parents, individuals with special needs due to their mental health, adults on probation, probation officers, and others.
Most significantly, among all these initiatives, Judge Evans has worked collaboratively with other elements of the criminal justice system and the academic legal community to introduce the “Public Safety Assessment” model of determining an individual’s risk of pretrial misconduct. This scoring method at Central Bond Court provides judges and advocates with an independent and objective estimate of a particular person’s risk of new criminal activity and risk of not appearing in court. In these times of apparently random violence claiming innocent lives on our streets with all too great frequency, the PSA risk assessment includes a violence flag to indicate the likelihood of a defendant committing a violent offense if released.
This system has helped to reduce dramatically the overnight population at Cook County Jail. That means it has saved scarce taxpayer dollars and eased the Jail’s ability to address other issues related to overcrowding. Equally important, the PSA approach keeps more families together for a longer period of time, without loss of public safety. Judge Evans has found a social science basis to enable the presumption of innocence to give greater cohesion to families and communities while actually reducing public expenditures overall. This remarkable achievement alone would warrant another term as chief.
These three achievements — associate judge selection, opening the court itself to its community and significantly improving the bonding process through predictive analytics, barely begin to describe the improvements at the Circuit Court under Judge Evans. The Cook County Bar Association, which each of us has been privileged to lead, has a 20-page list of Judge Evans’ achievements at its website www.cookcountybar.org for your review.
It is true that each of us counts Judge Evans as a friend. We make this public declaration, however, based on much more than mere friendship. Our decades of searching after justice in Cook County have taught us that search can be quite challenging. But each of us can say that Judge Evans has done more to smooth our path and, thus, that of the average litigant seeking adjudication of their claims, than we have seen before his taking office. Because of this record, and our expectation of another three years of such leadership, we endorse Judge Evans for another term as Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County and urge his selection by the full circuit judges.
Very truly yours,
Larry R. Rogers, Sr.
Justice John O. Steele, Retired
Anne L. Fredd
James D. Montgomery
Lewis Powell III
Larry R. Rogers Jr.
Hon. Thomas R. Sumner
Marian E. Perkins