Calls for judicial diversity after white judges appointed in minority communities

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There is a new call for diversity among judges in Illinois after two white judges were appointed to courts that serve black and Latino communities.

Jesse Ruiz took over as the Chicago Bar Association's new president, and while he represents a group of lawyers that is becoming more diverse, elected officials said diversity is not reaching the level of those who sit on the bench.

"Seventy percent of the 14th Subcircuit is Latino and only three of the 11 judges are Latino," said 22nd Ward Alderman Michael Rodriguez. "I think that is unacceptable and I don't think any competent individual would say that makes any sense whatsoever."

Ald. Rodriguez said subcircuits were created because the judiciary knew representation is important. He and other strongly criticized Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke's recent appointments of two white judges in subcircuits that are primarily black and Latino. Rodriguez accused Burke and her husband, Alderman Ed Burke, of patronage.

"The person that Justice Burke appointed gave a $1500.00 donation to Ald. Burke in November, that is the kind of pay to play patronage stuff we need to get rid of," Rodriguez said.

The elected officials are calling for more transparency in the selection process. While they said there are several qualified minority candidates, Juan Morado, Jr., the past president of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, said the key is getting those people to apply.

"I think we need to be more proactive in our approach in recruiting. I don't think we have done a good enough job at that," Morado said.

As the new CBA president, Ruiz agreed more work needs to be done so when people go to court, they see judges who look like them.

"Given the population at large there should be members from every community who aspire to be on the bench and we need to help the people get there," Ruiz said.

Ruiz said the Chicago Bar Association should make sure the organization is working to put more people of color in law school. Meantime, Latino and African-American elected officials said they will help minority judicial candidates run against Justice Burke's recent appointments in next year's Illinois primary.
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