On the November 2020 election ballot, voters in Illinois’ Third Judicial District will decide whether to retain Justice Thomas Kilbride as a justice of the Supreme Court of Illinois, an office to which he was elected in 2000 and retained in 2010. This is not a contested election. Rather, under the Illinois Constitution, justices of the Supreme Court must stand for retention every 10 years.
I understand various political special interest groups, relying largely on money from anonymous contributors, actively are opposing Justice Kilbride’s retention. But Justice Kilbride’s credentials are unquestioned, and he is a capable and competent member of our Supreme Court — as evidenced by the immense support he has received from Republicans, Democrats and independents alike, including judges, other United States attorneys, state’s attorneys, former governors, General Assembly members, sheriffs, mayors and county board members. For those reasons, I am happy to endorse his retention.
During my career, I am honored to have served in various roles in state and federal government — for example, former President Ronald Reagan appointed me United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and former Illinois Governor James R. Thompson appointed me head of the Illinois Department of Law Enforcement, now known as the Illinois State Police. I also have had the honor to serve as a special prosecutor numerous times for the local and federal government. I have argued in the Supreme Court of Illinois, too.
These experiences have provided me the opportunity to interact with the Supreme Court of Illinois with some frequency. It also has left me with a great amount of respect and admiration for the court as an important institution serving the people of Illinois.
My personal viewpoints and the interests of the clients I represent have not always prevailed in the Supreme Court or, indeed, in any court. In a contested case, though, only one side ever does. I always have understood that, and what I always have sought is a fair decision based on a court’s best interpretation of the law and facts. I know, from experience, my clients always have received that from Justice Kilbride and his colleagues on the Supreme Court of Illinois.
To ensure we all remain confident in the fairness of our courts, it is important we are confident in the independence of our judiciary. Judges should work to follow the law regardless of the special interests of any group and without consideration of political consequences. Targeted political campaigns opposing the retention of capable and competent members of our courts, such as Justice Kilbride, undermine that confidence.
We should make clear — to special interest groups and the political parties on both sides — we won’t allow that. Voting “Yes” for Justice Kilbride’s retention will help to send that message.