Judicial Candidate Questions Contributions from Lawyers

By Kimberly, James | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), February 22, 1998 | Go to article overview

Judicial Candidate Questions Contributions from Lawyers


Kimberly, James, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: James Kimberly Daily Herald Staff Writer

Campaigning to move from Kane County associate judge to a seat on the 16th Judicial Circuit bench, Donald Fabian has the support of a number of Fox Valley attorneys.

Arthur Allan - Fabian's opponent in the March 17 Republican primary - said such familial relationships between a member of the county judiciary and the civil bar appear improper at the very least. At their worst, they offer the potential for corruption, Allan has charged.

"I'm not saying Donald Fabian has done anything wrong," Allan said during a recent interview with the Daily Herald editorial board. "I am saying that the appearance of impropriety is here."

Fabian, 50, of Aurora, said the attorneys supporting his campaign are friends he has made while practicing law in Kane County for 20 years. Fabian also said he has someone else keep track of campaign donations to avoid the appearance of influence peddling.

And even Allan, 56, of Elgin, knows a thing or two about the help of friends. While he is financing his own campaign, Allan admits he is receiving plenty of help from friends.

The issues being raised in the race to replace retiring Kane County Judge Melvin E. Dunn are the same arguments made against the idea of electing judges at all.

Both the Illinois and the American bar associations advocate the appointment of judges by committee rather than by general election.

"Maybe electing judges is counterproductive to some of the qualities we want to encourage in our judiciary," said Luke Bierman, director of the American Bar Association's judicial division. "Everybody recognizes there is an appearance that we would rather avoid. Judges going on TV, some of these things may or may not be the way we want our judiciary to appear."

But messy campaigns are not the only reason a majority of attorneys would rather see judges appointed by a panel rather than subject to the whims of political winds.

Judges should not have to fear a wave of unfavorable public opinion when enforcing the law. Yet, an upstart Kane County political organization two years ago showed just how vulnerable sitting judges can be at election time.

An organization calling itself the Non-Partisan Coalition for Good Government began a campaign to unseat six judges running un-opposed for re-election just days before the November 1996 election. By doing little else but flooding the three counties with signs urging the public to "Vote No on Judicial Retention" the group swayed the results of the election.

Where judges in other counties received the support of 70 percent of voters, the six judges running in the 16th Judicial Circuit were re-elected by much narrower margins. Judges must receive 60 percent of the vote to keep their seats in such retention elections. The six Fox Valley judges seeking re-election in 1996 saw returns as low as 61 percent in some cases and no higher than 64 percent.

South Elgin resident Elmer Hansen said he spearheaded the campaign to unseat the judges, not because of their individual qualifications, but to send a message to the system.

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