To the Editor:
The cover story on the IVI-IPO [November 7] contains numerous factual errors that beg correction, but I will limit myself to the most important--that the current leadership has overturned long-standing endorsement procedures and that IVI-IPO judicial endorsements are no longer credible.
In 1978, when I was first elected to the board, IVI-IPO did not have a judicial evaluation committee. Circuit court candidates were not interviewed at all. We would invite a representative from the Chicago Council of Lawyers to share their evaluations with IVI-IPO, and the board usually would vote to endorse candidates with the highest CCL ratings.
In 1990 Jerry Meites resurrected the judicial evaluation committee (I think it had met last in the 1960s). Letters were sent to all IVI-IPO members who were attorneys, inviting them to join the committee or, if unable to attend meetings, to submit in writing any information they had about judicial candidates. Although given the option of anonymity, most members signed their responses. Invitations were not extended to nonattorneys, although any member who knew of the existence of the committee was allowed to serve. I was a member in 1990 and 1992.
Jerry wrote a detailed questionnaire that candidates were asked to return along with a copy of their Chicago Bar Association questionnaire. The entire committee read all of the responses, committee members who had knowledge of the candidates shared what they knew, and the written responses from other lawyers were read aloud. After deliberations, the committee voted on whom to recommend in each race for endorsement by the board of directors. Only when no one present had any firsthand knowledge of the candidates and when there was no written information from IVI-IPO members did the committee engage in the extensive independent peer review that Jerry claims always has been a part of the process.
With the creation of judicial subcircuits in 1992, the responsibility of making endorsement recommendations passed to the members residing in each subcircuit, who deliberated after conducting interview sessions with the candidates and reviewing their questionnaires.
In 1994 the judicial committee attempted to implement peer review in all races. An "investigator" was appointed to contact attorneys listed on the candidate's CBA questionnaire and report back to the committee the opinions of the attorneys contacted. Neither I nor any other board member objected to this. We welcomed this as a way to garner additional information and make more informed decisions. This independent peer review remains part of the IVI-IPO endorsement process today.
Our objections were to the unprecendented innovation of issuing ratings to the candidates stating whether each was qualified, highly qualified, or unqualified. We also objected to the unprecedented use of written reports, which often included anonymous and unproven claims that some candidates did not have sufficient knowledge of the law, lacked integrity, obtained judgeships through political clout or family ties, etc. While these are factors we want to include in our deliberations, we felt they must be presented by someone who has firsthand knowledge to back up the allegations and answer questions that may arise.
Anyone who has information about a judicial candidate can bring it to the committee, to the board, or in the case of subcircuits, to the membership. The standing rule governing the judicial committee does not forbid the consideration of opinions; it does forbid the reporting of such opinions as fact. It is unfair and unjust to allow hearsay to be anonymously distributed and deprive candidates of the opportunity to question their accusers and defend themselves against the charges. The board recognized this and restored the process IVI-IPO followed in 1992, adding the extended peer review improvements of 1994.
IVI-IPO's judicial review committee for the 1998 primary is already in formation. It includes attorneys and laypeople, women and men, and people of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Some have served previously on the committee and some are volunteering for the first time. Some of the attorneys have experience with bar associations' evaluation committees. All are dedicated to a thorough, fair, and independent process that will generate credible endorsements on which the voting public can rely.
Watch for our sample ballot in March!
Aviva Miriam Patt
IVI-IPO Political Action Chair