To judge and be judged

U. S. Senator Dick Durbin (D)

Once elected a judge in Illinois, the position is yours unless you really mess up. Other than standing for “retention” at six-year intervals where it is extremely rare for a judge to be fired, the election is the one opportunity for voters to determine who is most worthy of sitting in judgment on the rest of us. Two attorneys are seeking the position vacated by the retirement of David Hultgren in the Ninth Judicial Circuit — which includes Knox, Warren, Fulton, McDonough, Henderson and Hancock Counties. Former Knox County State’s Attorney Paul Mangieri was appointed the interim judge and he is being opposed by Monmouth attorney James Standard. Of all the choices on the ballot, this is the one that we must live with the longest.



Jim Standard: “It's all about character”


by Mike Kroll


While judges and judicial candidates prefer to be seen as above traditional politics the fact that they obtain that job through election makes them politicians nonetheless. However, judicial ethics and tradition does limit the manner in which a candidate for circuit judge may campaign for that job. A judicial candidate can promise to be “tough on crime” but they can't really campaign on specific political “issues” and thus forced to run very personal campaigns comparing themselves to the opponent. “The choice for judge must boil down to the character, integrity, legal background and impartiality of the candidates,” said Jim Standard, candidate for Ninth Judicial Circuit Judge.

A Monmouth attorney since 1970 (“I was practicing law in western Illinois before my opponent was in high school.”) has been in private practice all that time. He graduated from Chicago's John Marshall Law School in 1969 after growing up in southern Illinois and the suburbs of St. Louis. His initial job working as a hearing officer for the Illinois Commerce Commission is what initially brought him to this area where he chose to practice after one year with the ICC (“I soon discovered that it was an incredibly narrow area of the law and not how I wanted to spend my career.”). Like most area lawyers Standard has a general practice  with many of his cases in Warren, Henderson, Mercer and Hancock counties where most cases fall under family law.

But he says over 38-plus years he as done a little of almost everything that comes up in western Illinois legal disputes. He has served as assistant State's Attorney and public defender in Warren County and he twice ran for State's Attorney, once in Warren and once in Henderson counties. This is Standard's second attempt to be elected as a circuit judge.

Standard admits to be surprised at the lack of interest among Republicans in this judicial race, unlike his opponent Paul Mangieri he was unopposed in the primary, but he understands that many area lawyers recognized the political realities of Mangieri's appointment to the bench and the politically sympathetic assignments Mangieri has had.

“Paul Mangieri is a very political animal and his blatantly political relationships have everything to do with his position in this race. His political sponsors [House Speaker] Mike Madigan and [Senate Majority Leader] Emil Jones arranged for his appointment following his failed bid to become State Treasurer. Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride even had to delay the appointment of Mangieri until he could pay a fine to the Illinois Election Commission for campaign financing violations in that Treasurer's campaign.”

“Just recently it was announced that an investigation into Mangieri's conduct as Knox County State's Attorney found insufficient grounds for criminal prosecution without releasing any of the specifics of the investigation. The allegations in that instance as well as Mangieri's professional conduct as State's Attorney present very real issues of integrity and character. The voters must understand that simply avoiding criminal prosecution is not the same as living up to the high standard of integrity and ethical conduct we must expect from our judges. This race is all about character and Mangieri is shrouded in a cloud of character questions. His history is one of ongoing ethical and judgmental questions.”

Standard points out that even in this judicial race Mangieri accepted a campaign contribution of $40,000 from a Peoria-based union. “Why in the world would a union outside of this circuit give a judicial candidate a contribution of that magnitude? The public perception of a judge's independence, integrity and impartiality are key to their belief in the integrity and fairness of our legal system. Huge contributions present at least the appearance of potential conflict of interest that can color the public's perception of judicial independence.”

 “There is and must be a much higher more stringent standard for ethical or appropriate conduct by our judges than merely escaping criminal prosecution. I believe my legal ability and experience, personal and ethical conduct, and fairness and impartiality as reflected by the opinion of my legal peers in the Bar poll is a testament to the stark differences between myself and Mr. Mangieri. I believe that serving as a judge should be the high point of an attorney's legal career. I look forward to serving the citizens of the Ninth Judicial Circuit as  judge and I remind the voters that character really does matter.”


Paul Mangieri: “It's all about the people”

by Norm Winick


Paul Mangieri is a well-known political figure in Knox County and the State of Illinois. He was the first Democrat elected to be Knox County State’s Attorney since the Civil War and later ran unsuccessfully for State Senator and State Treasurer. Those were expensive and wide-ranging campaigns in which he was assisted by professional consultants.

This time, he’s back to his roots, running a retail campaign by meeting people and discussing his judicial philosophy. “I would say that this has been one of the most enjoyable campaigns I have participated in. I have reached that stage in my life where I now realize that the most important thing is meeting the people. I’ve spent more time in one-on-one conversations, door-to-door, than I have in a campaign since my first one. It’s back to the basics. It’s the type of campaign I’ve always enjoyed. I am in charge of my own campaign for judge. There are no paid consultants; there is nobody on a campaign payroll; there is nobody from outside the area involved.”

Mangieri would break another barrier should he win. It isn’t often that a circuit judge position becomes open; the last one elected was James Stewart. And, no Democrat has ever been elected circuit-wide. “Things have changed since the last race,” adds Mangieri. “Knox County is much more Democratic than it used to be.” While not very long ago, all the judges in the circuit were Republicans, there are now four Democrats. Knox County elected Scott Shipplett as its resident judge. Fulton County elected two Democrats, and Paul Mangieri is holding the interim position. “I can honestly say that there is a collegiality among all of the judges that goes beyond any partisan issues. In a way, it’s like a think tank. Each one of us brings our own different knowledge and experience to the court and we consult with each other on matters of law but not necessarily specifics of cases frequently.”

“As I meet people in the courtrooms in all the counties and as I visit them in coffee shops and their homes, I have learned that there are differences among them. There is a criminal element in Knox County unseen in the other five counties. It may be because of the larger population but I think it’s also because of the accessibility. Knox is easier to get to and from major metropolitan areas. ” “

There is a huge difference in serving the people as their State’s Attorney and being a private attorney. Any attorney who thinks their private practice experience as an advocate for one client prepares them to represent the more than 100,000 residents of the circuit as a judge is mistaken.” “As State’s Attorney, I made some unpopular decisions. I know as judge I will, too, and you have to be prepared to justify those calls to the public — not just to one client.

Public opinion cannot be the deciding factor.” Even though Mangieri only dealt with criminal cases as State’s Attorney, he says his previous private practice exposed him to much more. “There are no areas of law that come before me as a circuit judge with which I am unfamiliar. I have heard cases on medical malpractice, wills and probate, and more foreclosures than I ever anticipated.” “Listening is the most important thing. My experience so far has taught me that if you are patient as a judge and let all the questions get asked and answered the litigants will have a clear understanding of what the ruling will likely be; they might not agree with it but they will understand it.

Many times, people know they are wrong but they want to get heard. They want their day in court. I let them have it.” “I also have learned that there are many people charged with criminal offenses who are ill in one way or another. I have talked about this with other judges and they have come to that same realization as well. While we are not mental health professionals, it is our obligation to temper punishment with a sense of justice and try to get help for people. It is often part of the conditions.”

“I think I am a very fair and compassionate judge who demonstrates a great deal of understanding toward the people who are in front of me. Part of ‘understanding’ is being tough when the circumstances warrant it and flexible when that is appropriate as well.”