Two Black judges are on the ballot in November’s upcoming election. Voters in Illinois must gather as much information on the candidates as possible to make an informed decision. Black justices that hold a seat on the bench are vital to our community because they have a unique insight into the obstacles we face as Black Americans.
Incumbent P. Scott Neville (D) runs in the general election to retain his seat as a judge for the 1st District Illinois Supreme Court. Justice Neville was appointed to the position in May 2018 following the retirement of Justice Charles Freeman, the first black judge ever elected to the Illinois Supreme Court. Justice Neville’s appointment made him only the second black judge to hold a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court bench.
Beforehand Neville served as a judge for the Illinois Circuit Court and the 1st District Appellate Court. Justice Neville has over 20 years of experience serving as a judge and is highly respected in the legal community. In 2019, he penned a landmark opinion in People vs. Buffer stating that any minor sentenced to 40 years or more is essentially serving a life sentence, rendering such sentences unconstitutional.
Justice Cynthia Y. Cobbs (D) runs for retention of her seat as Cook County Circuit Court judge. Justice Cobbs currently also serves as a judge for the 1st District Illinois Appellate Court. Justice Cobbs was appointed to her seat on the appellate court in 2015 and has almost ten years of experience as a sitting judge. Justice Cobbs also served as Director of the Illinois Courts for over nine years and worked closely with the Illinois Supreme Court justices. She made history as both the first woman and first black woman to hold the position.
During her tenure as a judge for the appellate court, Justice Cobbs has been a champion for defendants’ rights. In 2015, she reversed a motion in People vs. Butler that denied a black defendant’s right to suppress a text message due to the warrantless search of his cell phone. Her ruling also reversed the 13-year conviction and granted the defendant a new trial.
With the past and present turmoil and injustices that Black Americans in Illinois and around the nation have faced, we must show up to the polls in unprecedented numbers. We are armed with the knowledge that our vote counts, and our voices must be heard. To find out more information on each candidate, you can visit BALLOTPEDIA. To register to vote, please visit https://ova.elections.il.gov/Step0.aspx
Paula J. Shelton is a writer living in Chicago. Follow her on social @beboldshineon