Select a State:

State of Illinois

History of Reform Efforts: Illinois

Unsuccessful Reform Efforts

A constitutional convention was convened in 1969 to draft a new constitution. The question of judicial selection was submitted to voters as a separate proposition. Voters were given the choice between Proposition 2A, calling for the partisan election of judges, or Proposition 2B, calling for judicial merit selection. Although Proposition 2B carried in several counties, including Cook County, it was defeated statewide by 146,000 votes. The placement of merit selection on the ballot was the result of nearly two decades of advocacy by the Illinois State Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Association. These organizations have continued to support merit selection of judges.

In 1971, a coalition of civic organizations, including the ISBA, the CBA, the League of Women Voters of Illinois, and others, formed a committee on courts and justice with the sole purpose of sponsoring a merit selection resolution in each two-year session of the legislature. The committee did so from 1973 to 1986. Only twice, in 1973 and 1982, was the resolution put to a floor vote, and both times it failed.

In the wake of judicial corruption scandals in the mid-1980s, Governor Thompson appointed a task force on judicial selection, but the task force's proposal died in committee.

Two judicial selection reform measures were defeated on the senate floor. The first called for gubernatorial appointment of supreme court justices with senate consent and for merit selection of Cook County circuit judges. The second called for merit selection of judges of the appellate court and circuit court. A measure to require circuit court judges to be at least 35 years old and have ten years of legal experience failed in the house.