1st Subcircuit — Hopkins Vacancy – Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

In the days leading up to early voting in the Nov. 8 general election, the Daily Law Bulletin will publish responses to questionnaires sent to candidates in all contested Cook County judicial races. If a candidate did not respond to a request for an updated questionnaire for the general election, the responses provided by the same candidate during the primary election will be used. Campaign finance information comes from Illinois State Board of Elections reports. All responses will be available to subscribers and non-subscribers at chicagolawbulletin.com.

Name: Maryam Ahmad

Party: Independent write-in candidate

Current residence: South Side of Chicago

Current position: Cook County Circuit Court judge

Past legal experience with years of each job: Corporate and civil litigator, three years; criminal defense lawyer, 5½ years; criminal prosecutor, six years; sexual harassment officer/workplace violence investigator; circuit court judge, nearly two years

Campaign funds available, July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016: No reports filed with the State Board of Elections

Campaign funds available, July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016: No reports filed with the State Board of Elections

Chicago Bar Association finding: Qualified

Law school: DePaul University College of Law, 2000

Campaign website: Facebook @ Elect Judge Maryam Ahmad

Family: An 18-year-old son

Hobbies/interests: Fitness competitions, martial arts, fishing, sewing and filmmaking

Have you ever run for office before?

This is my second election.

Why should voters support your candidacy?

Prior to becoming a lawyer, I worked in higher education for 15 years. Consequently, I am dedicated to educating the public about the legal system and their rights. For this reason, I participate in many legal education forums. A courtroom should not be the first place members of the public meet a judge.

Additionally, as a lawyer I possessed substantial experience as a corporate and civil litigator (representing plaintiffs and defendants) and a criminal lawyer (representing defendants and serving as a prosecutor). Few judges in Cook County possess the breadth of legal experience I bring to the bench; it was for this reason the Illinois Supreme Court appointed me judge. I am also one of the few judges who can comfortably preside in either civil or criminal court

Why do you want to be a judge?

I believe I am qualified to remain a judge to the circuit court of Cook County based upon my work as a circuit court judge, a lawyer and an academic administrator.

I have served as a judge of the circuit court of Cook County, by appointment of the Illinois Supreme Court, for nearly two years. During this time, I have presided over criminal misdemeanor bench and jury trials, felony preliminary hearings and minor traffic cases in the 1st Municipal Division in the city of Chicago.

Further, I have presided over civil motion hearings and small-claims court disputes in the 1st Municipal Division (Chicago). I am presently presiding in misdemeanor and felony bond court in Cook County’s 4th Division (Maywood) and periodically preside over misdemeanor, felony and felony preliminary hearings also. I have amassed substantial experience efficiently managing high-volume courtrooms and skillfully presiding over all types of criminal and civil cases.

Prior to ascending the bench, I practiced law for 15 years. As a corporate and civil litigation attorney, I handled employment, intellectual property, contract and wrongful death cases. I left civil law practice and worked as a full-time volunteer attorney at First Defense Legal Aid, representing indigent persons facing custodial interrogation at Chicago police stations. I subsequently became a Cook County assistant public defender, representing indigent defendants charged with misdemeanor and felony offenses.

I moved on to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and represented the interests of victims of abuse and neglect and felony and misdemeanor crimes. As a Cook County public defender and assistant state’s attorney, my courtroom assignments included 26th Street, Markham Courthouse, Felony Review, Child Protection Court, Delinquency Court and the Daley Center. I am one of a few attorneys in Cook County who has first served Cook County as an assistant public defender and, subsequently, as a Cook County assistant state’s attorney.

Before becoming a lawyer, I worked as a senior academic administrator. My positions included director of minority recruitment at Yale University; associate dean of affirmative action and community relations at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and special assistant to the president on diversity at DePaul University.

Moreover, I placed my credentials for review before every bar association that reviews judicial candidates in Cook County; I received the following bar association ratings: Chicago Bar Association, qualified; Chicago Council of Lawyers, qualified; Asian American Bar Association, recommended; Black Women’s Lawyers Association, recommended; Cook County Bar Association, qualified; Decalogue Society of Lawyers, recommended; Hellenic Bar Association, highly qualified; Hispanic Lawyers Association, qualified; Illinois State Bar Association, recommended; Lesbian and Gay Bar Association, highly qualified; Puerto Rican Bar Association; recommended, Women’s Bar of Illinois, recommended.

Outside of the courtroom, I serve as a mentor and board member for Women Inspiring Success and Hope in Girls (WISHING) girls mentoring program. I am also a sponsor of the Move Me Soul youth dance group. Lastly, I am a member of the Illinois Judicial Council, Illinois Judges Association, Cook County Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Association.

What was the most interesting case you handled as a lawyer?

The majority of the cases I handled as a lawyer involved some type of harm to a person, as the majority of the cases involved criminal defense or criminal prosecution. Thus, I am resistant to the phrase “most interesting.” Instead, I can say that I found the child abuse and neglect cases that I prosecuted in child protection court uniquely important because I was representing the interests of society’s most vulnerable who were victims of physical and sexual abuse, neglect and sometimes torture.

What would you consider your greatest career accomplishment?

Being appointed circuit court judge by the Supreme Court of Illinois

What qualities do you plan to bring to the bench?

I presently bring the following qualities to the bench: I live in the heart of Chicago’s South Side. Many people who are court-involved look like me. I treat the parties who come before me like I would want my family, friends or neighbors treated. I believe in justice — equal justice.

I work hard to ensure that anyone who comes into my courtroom and steps before me receives it. I am meticulous in reviewing complaints; I believe in, and enforce, the protections afforded to each individual under the United States Constitution and the Illinois Constitution. I thoughtfully render decisions based on the law and with compassion. I am respectful of everyone’s time, so I move my court call with purpose.

Name: Rhonda Crawford

Age: 44

Party: Democratic

Current residence: Calumet City

Current position: [Editor’s note: Unknown. Crawford has not returned multiple requests for comment since she was fired from her job as a Cook County Circuit Court law clerk for allegedly masquerading as a judge.]

Past legal experience: Private practice, civil, health care and employment litigation, six years; personal-injury attorney, medical malpractice, construction negligence, wrongful deaths, one year; assistant state’s attorney, criminal appeals, one year; staff attorney, Cook County Circuit Court, 4½ years

Campaign funds available, July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016: $30,826.16

Campaign funds spent, July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016: $30,596.16

Chicago Bar Association finding: Did not participate in evaluation process, automatically considered Not Recommended.

Law school: IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, 2003

Campaign website: rhondacrawfordforjudge.com

Family: Single, no children

Hobbies/interests: Running, music, reading

Have you ever run for office before?


Why should voters support your candidacy?

I will be fair to everyone appearing before me regardless of where they live or their education or income status. I spent most of my childhood in the Englewood neighborhood and also lived in South Deering, South Shore and Roseland before moving to Calumet City almost 20 years ago — so when people who are like me come into the courtroom, they will be treated the same as everyone else.

Why do you want to be a judge?

The decisions that are made in our court system have a tremendous effect on the people in my community and require that we have someone who is from the community and of the community. I will be that much-needed voice.

What was the most interesting case you handled as a lawyer?

As a former registered nurse, I was always interested in the details of the medical cases, but the case that meant the most to me was a sexual harassment case involving a young female client. I could see that she was having a difficult time emotionally during a hearing, so I reached under the table and grabbed her hand, which she said meant the world to her. Another lawyer who saw what I did told me to never lose my compassion, and I plan to use that to bring justice to victims and inspire offenders.

What would you consider your greatest career accomplishment?

My greatest career accomplishment was getting my law license because at times it seemed like an impossible task. I put myself through college, purchased my home three years later and one year after the purchase I gave up my nursing career to go to law school full time. I graduated in three years, passed the bar exam the first time and have owned my house for 17 years in April.

What qualities do you plan to bring to the bench?

Integrity, fairness, compassion, empathy, humility and the ability to problem-solve and make rational decisions under pressure.

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