Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Final Report on Judicial Fundraising -- Primary 2012

Uninteresting as our Lake County judicial primaries were, one of the most interesting aspects of elections is often the fundraising. The quarterly campaign finance reports for the first quarter of 2012 – the key period leading up to the primary – are now in and, well, they’re pretty boring, too. But they are summarized here just the same. To help spice things up a bit, I’ll also include the First District Supreme Court primary, which featured expenditures in excess of $1 million by the eventual Democratic nominee, incumbent Justice Mary Jane Theis.

Illinois Supreme Court – First District

Joy V. Cunningham - D

      Raised in quarter - $335,900
      On hand at end - $5,284

Thomas W. Flannigan - D

      No committee

Aurelia Pucinski - D

      Raised in quarter - $64,733
      On hand at end - $2,079

Mary Jane Theis - D

      Raised in quarter - $526,238
      On hand at end - $15,886

James G. Riley - R

      Raised in quarter - $30,445
      On hand at end - $43,334

Illinois Appellate Court – Second District

Joe Birkett - R

      Raised in quarter - $1,000
      On hand at end - $13,438

Nineteenth Circuit, Second Subcircuit – Judgeship A

Patricia Fix - D

      Raised in quarter - $900
      On hand at end - $841

Luis A. Berrones - R

      Raised in quarter - $0
      On hand at end - $19,224

Nineteenth Circuit, Third Subcircuit – Judgeship A

Jeffrey S. Braiman - D

      No committee.

Daniel B. Shanes - R

      Raised in quarter - $250
      On hand at end - $88,009

Nineteenth Circuit, Third Subcircuit – Judgeship B

Nancy Waites - D

      Raised in quarter - $2,650
      On hand at end - $11,262

Thomas Schippers - R

      Raised in quarter - $250
      On hand at end - $20,098

Monday, April 16, 2012

Another Cost of a Bad Economy

"Nothing makes conditions more unbearable than the knowledge that no effort of ours can change them; and even if we should never have the strength of mind to make the necessary sacrifice, the knowledge that we could escape if we only strove hard enough makes many otherwise intolerable positions bearable."

~ Friedrich A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, 1994 edition

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Overcoming Process Fetishism

Lawyers love process. By "process," I refer broadly to the predetermined steps necessary to achieve an objective. For example, there is a process to be followed in civil litigation that includes pleadings, pleading motions, discovery, dispositive motions, and so forth. Process is so important to lawyers that it is even enshrined in the United States Constitution, which calls for procedural and substantive due process. Yes, that’s right, lawyers have managed to raise the concept of "process" out of the realm of mere procedure and into substance.

Many lawyers – especially litigators and those who work in government bureaucracies – have developed what I refer to as a "process fetish." That is, they become so engulfed in following the familiar process that they lose sight of the ultimate goal that the process was created to achieve. Sometimes, in extreme cases, they even forget that there is an ultimate goal aside from following the process. That happens most often to bureaucratic lawyers because even the most process-obsessed private attorneys usually have a strong economic incentive (also known as clients) to keep the goal in mind, but that incentive is mostly missing from the bureaucratic world, where process fetishism can become a way of life.

Process is extremely useful when it is a path to achieve an objective. But it can become wasteful when following the process is allowed to become more important than achieving the goal. The lawyer owes it to his or her client to periodically step back from robotically following the process to analyze whether the client’s ultimate best interest is being served by the process or whether the lawyer is following the process because it is the most comfortable path or, even worse, because it is profitable for the lawyer but not helpful to the client.

I am thinking of this now because I am involved tangentially with a lawyer who is probably not so much a process fetishist as a plain old jerk, but the two can be difficult to distinguish. He insists upon burrowing into every conceivable rabbit hole to the most extreme degree. Sometimes newer lawyers do this because they don’t have the judgment to determine early on which paths are likely to lead to something of eventual benefit to the client and they are afraid of missing something important.

But the attorney who I have in mind is too experienced for that. Instead, I think he uses process because it is profitable for him and because he is a generally nasty and abrasive human being. More process means more work and more conflict, which equals more legal fees. But it does not necessarily result in greater benefits to the client.

Regardless of why lawyers follow the process – whether out of inexperience, venality, process fetishism, or some combination of the three – it is the lawyer’s obligation to stop and ask whether process is serving the client’s best interest as the most efficient avenue to achieving the client’s goal. Due process is a Constitutional right but the process cannot become more important than the goal at the end of the process.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Today's Cuppy Thought for the Day

"Aristotle was famous for knowing everything. He taught that the brain exists merely to cool the blood and is not involved in the process of thinking. This is true only of certain persons."

~ Will Cuppy, The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, 1950

Friday, April 13, 2012

ISBA Solo & Small Firm Conference

The Illinois State Bar Association’s Annual Solo & Small Firm Conference is only five months away! So save the dates.

The conference will be held from Thursday, September 13, 2012, through Saturday, September 15, 2012, at the Westin Northwest Chicago in Itasca, Illinois.

I am on the conference planning committee and I can promise you two things. One, the Westin is the nicest conference venue we have ever had. Two, this year’s conference will be the biggest and best ever. More details are coming soon.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Today's Cuppy Thought for the Day

"The Ancient Egyptians considered it good luck to meet a swarm of Bees on the road. What they considered bad luck I couldn’t say."

~ Will Cuppy, How to Attract the Wombat, 1949

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Art and the Conquest

I have just read (or re-read after many years, I think) Bertrand Russell’s book The Conquest of Happiness (Horace Liveright, Inc. 1930). Russell attempts to approach the realization of personal happiness from an intellectual perspective. Many consider the book a classic. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it has a number of insights that I found useful and thought-provoking.

For those who are looking for a little less intellectual prescription for achieving happiness, I would also recommend the very popular book The Art of Happiness, by the Dalai Lama (Doubleday 2009). The perspective is Buddhist, as one might expect, but the book itself does not delve deeply into Buddhist philosophy.

After having read both of them, I am even more convinced that Abraham Lincoln summed it all up in only fourteen words: "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Of course, modern scholars believe that Lincoln suffered from chronic depression. I wonder whether that had anything to do with his being a lawyer?