Thursday, December 15, 2005

Judicial Filing Follies

Every square inch of Illinois is in one and only state legislative district, one and only one state Senate district, and one and only one Congressional district. Illinoisans have only one governor. Judicial offices work a little differently. You may live in a circuit with several openings, and maybe you also have one or more subcircuit seats to fill. You could be voting on as many as 11 circuit court openings, if you live in the right area (the 12th Subcircuit in Cook County). Some judicial aspirants see that not as confusion but as opportunity.

Judicial candidates can and regularly do file to run for more than one judicial seat. Some candidates this week filed for as many as four offices. These double-, triple-, and quadruple-dippers have a few extra days to decide which seat they really want to run for, and they will have to selectively withdraw until they are running in no more than one contest.

This year, judicial filing may be even more complicated than usual. There are three vacancies in the 19th Circuit and another two in the newly-created 22nd Circuit, for which a total of 8 candidates filed to date and maybe more to come before the filing deadline on Monday. (the 22nd Circuit was carved out of the 19th last year). The Board is accepting petitions for those seats but also notes that Speaker Madigan and Senate President Jones have told the State Board of Elections that “a bill will be called in January” which will eliminate these seats. There’s apparently a disagreement over staffing the new subcircuits in those circuits.

Judicial candidates who don’t find a race to their liking will get another crack at filing. The Board will hold a second, Special Judicial Filing Period from January 3-10. That filing period is for the dozen or so vacancies created too late to give candidates time to circulate petitions for the December period, but in time to put those seats on the March ballot. Don’t be surprised if some of those who file this week come back in January looking for just the right contest.

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