A conservative judge running for a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court says the state bar association has threatened him with a “Not Recommended” rating if he doesn’t fill out its “political” questionnaire on diversity and LGBT issues.
Judge John A. Noverini was elected to the16th Circuit Court in Illinois in 2008. In 2014, the Illinois State Bar Association gave him a “Recommended” rating, but now it is threatening to publicly announce he is “Not Recommended” if he fails to fill out the group’s questionnaire to evaluate judicial candidates.
Judge Noverini told the association he won’t be participating in its review this year because it presents a conflict of interest to have an endorsement from a group that represents lawyers. He also said threatening judges into participating in the questionnaire — or else get a “Not Recommended” rating — is a form of “bullying.”
“In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that the judicial evaluation process has become politicized,” he said in a letter to the Illinois State Bar Association last month.
As a result, the group notified Judge Noverini it would make his rating public on May 6.
“Since you chose not to participate in the judicial evaluation process, the Judicial Evaluations Committee of the Illinois State Bar Association rated you ‘Not Recommended’ for the office of Justice of the Supreme Court,” reads an April 29 email from an association official to the judge.
According to the questionnaire shared with The Washington Times, the Illinois State Bar Association reviews candidates for the Illinois Supreme Court and Illinois Appellate Court. It will release the ratings to the public ahead of elections.
This year’s primary election is scheduled for June 28, and Republicans have a chance of winning the majority on the state’s highest court — four of the seven seats.
Judge Noverini objected to filling out the form, saying several questions appear to have a political agenda.
The questions at issue include:
• “Do you belong to any business or social clubs, organizations, unions or associations which use race, gender, sexual orientation or national origin as a basis for determining memberships or the privileges of membership?”
• “How important is it to you to have inclusion from people of a different race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, physical or mental disability, military status, or sexual orientation than you as a lawyer and/or judge in the legal profession?
• “What efforts, if any, have you made in your community to include people of a different race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, physical or mental disability, military status, or sexual orientation than you as a lawyer and/or judge in the legal profession?”
Judge Noverini told The Washington Times that the Illinois State Bar Association has turned the judicial evaluation process into a “political exercise.”
“The left-leaning ISBA has a vested interest in who sits on the Supreme Court. Accepting endorsements or ratings from organizations that represent attorneys crosses the line and brings into question the fairness and impartiality of our judicial system. Labeling a candidate as ‘not recommended’ for choosing not to participate in the evaluation process is a veiled threat and a subtle way of bullying. Participating in the judicial evaluation is inappropriate and it’s why I respectfully declined to engage with the evaluation and requested that my name not be associated with this process,” he said.
A spokesperson from the Illinois State Bar Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.