How a Corrupt Political System Chooses Its Judges to Work For Their Special Interests Over The People of Illinois

Operation Greylord was largely successful in exposing the corruption of the insider political machine that operates and rules the judiciary in Illinois. Despite the investigation’s vast scale, the political machine run by corrupt politicians remained intact and still operates today.

Burke Corruption Release

The Political/Judicial Cesspool with the Burke Family at the epicenter

Ed Burke is the longest serving alderman in Chicago history. He and his father have held the seat since 1953. Burke has accrued immense power over the course of his more than 50 years in office, including as chair of the finance committee of the Chicago City Council, Burke dominated the judicial nominating committee.

Burke charged with attempted extortion

An endorsement from Ed Burke was tantamount to a golden ticket to a judgeship. As a result, hundreds of judges “owed” Burke for their positions.

Burke’s influence over the system was instrumental in his wife Anne’s ascension in the IL court system. Chief Justice Anne Burke was appointed in 1987 to IL Court of Claims, a court with a history of being a patronage job clearinghouse for the Machine.

In 1995, Anne Burke was appointed to the Illinois Appellate Court without having ever served as a Circuit Court Judge. The Chicago Council Of Lawyers said Burke was “Not Qualified” for the seat, saying “She did not have enough experience in complex litigation.” 1

That did not stop Ed Burke and the Machine from ensuring her appointment and election to the court. Anne Burke ran unopposed in the Democratic Primary for a full term on the Appellate Court after a member of former Alderman Ed Vrdolyak’s law firm filed to run against her, but then withdrew after the filing deadline. With the Machine’s backing, no one could run against her.

By 2006, with the support and clout of her husband, Justice Mary Ann McMorrow retired prior to the end of her term clearing the way for Anne Burke’s appointment to the IL Supreme Court.

In 2019, just after Alderman Ed Burke was charged with attempted extortion for allegedly using his political office to drive business for his law firm by the FBI, Justice Anne Burke was selected as the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.

  1. Leon Pitt, “Lawyers Groups Split on 2 Judges,” Chicago Sun Times, 3/12/96

Packing the Court

Packing the Court With Favorable Judges

The Biggest Factor In Whether A Judge Wins Their Election Is Not Their Legal Ability, But Whether They Are Part of the Insider Machine: Slating Committees Value Party Loyalty Over Legal Competence

“Each lawyer tried to outdo the others in professing party loyalty. ‘I could tell you I've handled thousands of cases as a judge and a lawyer, but I don't think that's important -- I've been a loyal Democrat all my life,’ Mitchell Ware told Democratic ward bosses who were slating candidates for judge in 1999.” 1 ?

The way the corrupt cesspool operates is simple: The Democrat Party Machine endorses and “slates” candidates in upcoming judicial elections to pack the court with favorable judges.

The biggest factor in whether a judge is slated or endorsed is not their legal ability or experience, but whether they are loyal to the machine.

  1. In 2005, the Chicago Sun Times reported that candidates needed to have a history of working to elect Democratic candidates to have a chance at being slated by the Cook County Democratic Party. ?
  2. In 2007, slating candidate Paula Lingo noted that she had worked on or contributed to the campaigns of House Speaker Mike Madigan 2
  3. In 2011, The Chicago Tribune reported that one of the most reliable ways to be appointed a Cook County Circuit Court Associate Judge was to be recommended by Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan to Slating Committee Chairman Ed Burke. 3 ?
  4. In 2013, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that judicial candidates appearing before the Cook County Democratic Slating Committee were careful to mention their status as party loyalists before their legal qualifications.
  5. In 2021, the slating process continues as leaders in the Chicago Machine grill candidates who had a history of running against the Democratic Party’s slated candidates. And, if you are chosen to be slated, candidates are required to contribute $40,000 to the party. 4

Once the judges are chosen, the Democrat Machine bestows the necessary support to ensure the successful election and retention of their candidates. And since the corrupt Machine controls who becomes a judge, they then can control which judges are elevated to higher posts, such as the state Supreme Court.

In 2003, a study conducted with the Chicago Council of Lawyers found that candidates who were not slated by the Democrat Party stood only a 5.8% chance of winning. Even as recently as 2020, 9 of 13 Cook County Democrat slated candidates for the Circuit Court were elected.

judges rejected by voters at polls

Each election cycle in which this corrupt slating process takes place infects the judicial system with corruption for decades. Once elected, a Circuit Court Judge serves for 6 years. After that term, the judge merely needs to receive a vote of retention (simple yes or no vote) in order to remain on the bench. Machine and party officials ensure sufficient resources are spent to retain their hand-picked judges, and even if these judges are rejected for retention, the Machine still finds a way to keep them on the bench.

Political Insider Candidates Are Appointed To Be Judges Even AFTER They Are Rejected By The Voters

The Chicago Machine has made it clear that their goal is to install their loyalists in the judiciary to protect the interests of their political allies. This goal often comes at the expense of the democratic will of the people of Illinois.

Over the last several decades, the Machine has routinely elevated and re-appointed judges to the bench who voters have rejected. The will of the people means nothing to the Machine, only preserving and growing their own control over the system.

Between 2000-2011, the Illinois Supreme Court had reappointed 18 judges – many of them politically-active Democrats – after they were rejected by the voters at the polls. ?

  1. Chicago Sun Times
  2. Abdon M. Pallasch, “'If We Slate You, Brother, You're In',” Chicago Sun Times, 9/17/07
  3. Jeff Coen And Todd Lighty, “Madigan's List,” Chicago Tribune, 4/17/11
  4. Maya Dukmasova and Chloe Hilles, “Judicial hopefuls seek Cook County Democratic Party’s endorsement for 2022 primary, Injustice Watch, 10/15/21

Favorable Decisions

By Packing the Court, the Machine Gets Favorable Decisions To Protect Their Power

The Illinois Supreme Court is meant to be a non-partisan institution that is meant to act as a check on the Executive and Legislative branch of government. In reality, the Illinois Supreme court has become a partisan institution that enables the corruption of the Executive and Legislative branch.

For years, Machine insiders have received judgments favorable to their positions and to the institutions that help them maintain their stranglehold on Illinois governance. From the most local level to the Supreme Court, the courts have ruled in favor of the Machine to the detriment of the people of Illinois.

Redistricting Reform and Remap – Enabling Corrupt Politicians to pick their voters and not the voters to pick their politicians

Illinois Voters Overwhelmingly Support Redistricting Reform. Its 2020 annual poll, the Paul Simon public policy institute found that 64 percent of Illinois voters support the creation of an independent redistricting commission, while only 22 percent oppose it. Support for redistricting reform extends across geographic and political boundaries, with large majorities of Chicago, suburban and downstate voters in support, as well as large majorities of democrats, republicans, and independents.

When the people of Illinois introduced an effort for redistricting reform, they ran into the partisan will of the Illinois Supreme Court.

supreme court overuled will of the people

In 2016, the Illinois Supreme Court blocked a proposal from the 2016 general election ballot that asked voters to amend the Illinois constitution to reform the state’s redistricting process. More than half a million Illinois voters had signed petitions to place the amendment on the ballot. This proposal would have taken redistricting out of the hands of the legislature and instead have new districts drawn by an independent board.

In a 4-3 decision, the court’s Democrats ruled that the amendment could not be placed on the ballot through a citizen initiative because it did not solely affect the “structure and procedure” of the legislative article of the Illinois constitution. Three Justices dissented, with Justice Thomas writing that Kilbride’s decision should “include a bright orange warning sticker for readers to paste over” the citizen-initiative section of the constitution that reads “out of service.” ?

Not only were Justices on the Supreme Court outraged, but reporters across the state were quick to point out that this was the work of corrupt politicians and their ability to influence the court.

Rockford Register Star’s Chuck Sweeny: “If anyone doubted house speaker Michael Madigan’s total control of the state of Illinois, Thursday’s state supreme court decision throwing the independent map amendment off the Nov. 8 ballot should erase that doubt.”

The Chicago Tribune blasted the decision in an editorial, declaring “once again, machine politics won. Voters lost.” “It’s no secret what killed this remap amendment: a political machine fueled by self-interest.” “Justices Thomas Kilbride, Charles Freeman, Anne Burke and Mary Jane Theis – each of them helped along in their political careers by the democratic party – offered only limited, astringent reasoning for the nullification…”

illinois supreme court and taxpayers billions

Daily Gazette Editorial: Kilbride “centered the court’s argument on an extremely narrow interpretation of the citizen initiative portion of the Illinois constitution.”

Some of these politicians who helped ensure Fair Maps were struck down are currently under investigation, including Mike Madigan, Ed Burke, and their allies.

The lawsuit challenging the redistricting reform amendment was filed by a coalition of Madigan-tied businessmen calling themselves “people’s map,” and the lawyer who represented them was longtime Madigan attorney Mike Kasper. The Chairman of People’s Map was former Comed lobbyist John Hooker. In November 2020, Hooker and three other Comed lobbyists and executives were indicted in federal court and accused of funneling money and do-nothing jobs to Madigan loyalists in exchange for Madigan’s help in passing legislation friendly to Comed.

Pensions – The Illinois Supreme Court has a history of enabling Springfield’s terrible policy decisions that benefit corrupt insiders at the expense of our state’s fiscal health. The most disastrous decisions issued by the Illinois Supreme Court relate to the pension liability

The Supreme Court struck down state pension reform legislation that would have saved taxpayers $160 Billion while approving loopholes for special interest insiders

  1. In 2013, the General Assembly passed legislation to overhaul and reform Illinois’ Pension Systems. ?
  2. In 2015, the Illinois Supreme Court, in a partisan vote, struck down the 2013 pension reforms – ruling that they violated the Illinois State Constitution’s Pension Protection Clause.
  3. In 2019, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that a former teachers union lobbyist (David Piccoli) who served as a substitute teacher for one day should be allowed to keep a public teachers pension valued at $35k/year. ?
supreme court job is not to make law

Medical Malpractices

Illinois has been a hotbed for frivolous lawsuits that line the pockets of trial lawyers at the expense of IL consumers. Repeated attempts to enact reforms have been struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court. With millions of dollars being spent by special interest insiders to corrupt politicians and their judicial candidate friends, IL continues to struggle to keep Malpractice costs in line.

  1. In 2005, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation capping “pain and suffering” damages in Medical Malpractice lawsuits. ?
  2. In 2010, a divided Illinois Supreme Court ruled that caps on Medical Malpractice awards violated the state’s Constitution. ?
  • Chuck Sweeny, “Chuck Sweeny: Democratic Supreme Court sides with Michael Madigan front group. Surprised?” Rockford Register Star, 08/27/16
  • The Editorial Board, “Remap: Illinois reformers can keep losing to the Democratic machine. Or ...” Chicago Tribune, 09/02/2016
  • The Sauk, “What We Think: Victory came 1 vote short; don’t give up on redistricting” Shaw Local News Network, 08/29/2016

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Justice Ware was slated, elected and served on Cook County Circuit Court until his retirement in 2003

Winnebago County Associate Judge Steven Vecchio allegedly intervened in a number of matters involving police action on behalf of his personal friends and acquaintances, using his position as judge to affect or influence police conduct. 7 Complaint dismissed by the Illinois Courts Commission with no consequences imposed.

In a case of ghost payrolling from the bench, St. Clair County Circuit Judge Roger Scrivner was charged with paying jurors for days when they did not attend court or deliberate merely because they were voters. When asked about his motive, Scrivner simply responded: ‘You know, to put your best foot forward in front of these jurors. These are your voters out there.’8 Complaint dismissed by the Illinois Courts Commission with no consequences imposed.

A complaint charged that Cook County Associate Judge Charles A. Alfano assaulted a police officer issuing a traffic citation to his son. The judge first tried to convince the officer not to issue a citation to his son, and after he was unsuccessful, he became angry and verbally abused and is alleged to have physically assaulted the officer.9 Complaint dismissed by the Illinois Courts Commission with no consequences imposed.

Cook County Judge Arthur Rosenblum allegedly used his position as a judge to improperly influence criminal proceedings against a former tenant in a building he owned, and when prosecutors said jurors would not be told he was a judge if the case went to trial, the judge specifically stated that he hoped the jury would know he was a judge before the jury decided the defendant’s fate.10 Complaint dismissed by the Illinois Courts Commission with no consequences imposed.

Cook County Circuit Judge Michael Close allegedly derided multiple nationalities, be it those ‘limey Britishers’ or Yugoslavians, whom he called ‘not (the) greatest citizens in the United States.’ Danish women, the judge suggested, are easy. In dismissing a home-invasion charge, he said he could believe that a woman of Danish heritage would have invited the defendant home and demanded sex.11 Complaint dismissed by the Illinois Courts Commission with no consequences imposed.

  1. Summaries of Complaints Filed with the Courts Commission, Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board Website, Accessed 5/6/21
  2. Ken Armstrong, “Spare The Rod, Spoil The Judge, Critics Argue,” Chicago Tribune, 6/23/96
  3. Summaries of Complaints Filed with the Courts Commission, Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board Website, Accessed 5/6/21
  4. Summaries of Complaints Filed with the Courts Commission, Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board Website, Accessed 5/6/21
  5. Ken Armstrong, “Spare The Rod, Spoil The Judge, Critics Argue,” Chicago Tribune, 6/23/96

a. Stating: “But the process at its core remains a political one in which proven loyalty to the party outweighs legal credentials.” 1

  1. Abdon M. Pallasch, “Making The Slate: Proven Loyalty To The Party Outweighs Lofty Credentials For Judge Candidates,” Chicago Sun Times, 11/27/05

a. From 2003 to 2011, Madigan recommended 37 lawyers to be appointed associate judges and 25 were selected.
b. Half of the lawyers recommended by Madigan had contributed to his daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

  • In 2009, the Supreme Court reappointed four Cook County judges who had lost in the 2008 Democratic Primary. Among them was the uncle of two other sitting judges, the wife of a former Appellate Court Judge, and a frequent Democratic Party donor.
  • In 2010, the Supreme Court reappointed seven Cook County judges who had lost elections in prior years, including the son of a sitting judge and Alfred Swanson – a generous Democratic Party donor – to the Cook County Circuit Court and then reappointed him in late 2012 despite Swanson losing his election.
  • Lauretta Higgins Wolfson – who was the wife of a former Appellate Judge and supported by House Speaker Mike Madigan – was first appointed a judge in 2006 and repeatedly reappointed despite being rejected by the voters.
    • Madigan backed her for an associate judge position in 2008, but lost when she ran for the bench that same year. The court issued ‘recall’ orders in 2008 and 2009 to keep her on the bench through late 2012. Then, in 2012, the court gave her a new appointment that lasted until Dec. 1, 2014.
  • A politically active former Public Defender, Kenneth Fletcher has been reappointed to the bench multiple times after losing.
  • Diann Marsalek – A party-backed candidate and Democratic donor – lost her 2010 primary but was appointed in September 2011 despite a “Not Qualified” finding from the Chicago Council Of Lawyers.
  • Politically connected lawyer and Democrat donor Sheldon Harris was first appointed to the Cook County Circuit Court by the Supreme Court in 2000, and was repeatedly reappointed for the next ten years despite being rejected by the voters.


  • “The Illinois constitution is meant to prevent tyranny, not to enshrine it. Today…four members of our court have delivered, as a fait accompli, nothing less than the nullification of a critical component of the Illinois Constitution of 1970.”
  • “Today a muzzle has been placed on the people of this state, and their voices supplanted with judicial fiat. The whimper you hear is democracy stifled.”

a. The changes approved by the legislature were projected to save the state $160 Billion over 30 years and erase a $100 Billion pension shortfall.
b. The pension legislation raised the retirement age for some employees, capped pensionable salaries, and limited cost-of-living increases.
c. “Unions representing current and retired employees sued, arguing that the changes violated the state's pension clause…”

a. “The decision, written by Justice Anne Burke, rejected a lower court’s ruling that found the 2007 law violated the Illinois Constitution’s prohibition against special legislation.”
b. At issue in the case was a law passed in 2006 that allowed union officials to count their union service towards a state teachers pension, but only if they had obtained teaching certificates and worked in a classroom before the bill was signed into law.

  • After the legislation was passed, a teachers union lobbyist assured fellow employees that he would attempt to slow down the signing of the bill into law to allow more people to serve their day as a substitute teacher.

a. The caps were passed on a bipartisan basis and signed by a Democratic Governor due to concerns that skyrocketing malpractice insurance costs were driving doctors out of Illinois.

a. “The Court said the legislature’s caps violate the separation of powers by infringing on the judiciary.”
b. The ruling represented the Court’s third rejection of malpractice caps and struck down the entirety of the 2005 law.
c. Justices Karmeier and Garman dissented from the opinion, writing that the Supreme Court’s job was to “do justice under the law, not to make the law. Formulating statutory solutions to social problems is the prerogative of the legislature. Whether there is a solution to the health-care crisis is anyone’s guess. I am certain, however, that if such a solution can be found, it will not come from the judicial branch. It is critical, therefore, that the courts not stand as an obstacle to legitimate efforts by the legislature and others to find an answer.”

1. In 2014, LaSalle County Circuit Judge Joseph Hettel Pled Guilty To DUI2
2. In 2009, Peoria County Associate Judge Albert Purham Jr. Pled Guilty To DUI3
3. In 2008, Cook County Judge Sheila McGinnis Was Arrested For DUI4
4. In 2006, Associate Judge Steven Nordquist Pled Guilty To DUI5
5. In 2006, St. Clair Judge Patrick Young Was Charged With DUI6
6. In 1998, LaSalle County Circuit Judge Cynthia Raccuglia Was Arrested For DUI7
7. In 1998, Cook County Associate Judge Edwin Gausselin Was Arrested For DUI8
8. In 1990, Sangamon County Associate Judge George Ray Was Reprimanded – The Lowest Possible Punishment – For DUI9
9. In 1980, Appellate Judge John Karns Jr. Was Arrested For DUI10
10. In 1975, Cook County Associate Judge Robert Sweeney Was Reprimanded – The Lowest Possible Punishment – For DUI11
11. In 1973, Stephenson County Circuit Court Judge Robert Law Was Censured, But Not Removed From Office, For DUI Three Times12

  1. Tom Collins, “Judge Pleads Guilty To DUI Charge,” News Tribune, 5/20/14
  2. “Peoria County Judge Pleads Guilty To DUI,” The Associated Press, 9/5/09
  3. Kim Jannsen, “Judge Found Guilty Of DUI Still Banking $150,000 Pay,” Chicago Sun Times, 1/25/09
  4. “Judge Gets $2,300 Fine, Supervision For DUI,” The Associated Press, 7/27/06
  5. Jim Suhr, “Police Say Judge Refused Sobriety Test After Car Wreck While Another Judge Ditched Beer,” The Associated Press, 12/8/06
  6. Decision, In re Circuit Judge Cynthia Raccuglia, Illinois Courts Commission, No. 99 CC 2, 10/9/01
  7. Decision, In re: Associate Judge Edwin A. Gausselin, Illinois Courts Commission, No. 99-CC-1, 11/18/99
  8. Summaries of Complaints Filed with the Courts Commission, Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board Website, Accessed 5/6/21
  9. Summaries of Complaints Filed with the Courts Commission, Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board Website, Accessed 5/6/21
  10. Summaries of Complaints Filed with the Courts Commission, Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board Website, Accessed 5/6/21
  11. Summaries of Complaints Filed with the Courts Commission, Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board Website, Accessed 5/6/21