James Crawley has been an attorney for 30 years working for both the government and in private practice where he represented plaintiffs and defendants on a variety of cases.
Crawley, an openly gay candidate, is running for the Cook County Circuit Court countywide Roti vacancy in the March 17 Democratic primary. He has been rated qualified or recommended by every bar association that rates judicial candidates.
Windy City Times: Why did you decide to run again? I see that you were a candidate in 2014.
James Crawley: I have been before judges four or five days a week for nearly the last 30 years and over that time I have come to recognize the traits and characteristics required to be a judge. Everyone who comes to a courtroom wants to be treated fairly. They want to leave knowing they were heard and the judge followed the law.
I know that I will bring the dedication, integrity and compassion required for the job. I think I would be an excellent judge.
WCT: How has the campaign gone so far?
JC: It is very personal because you are asking strangers for their vote. You are asking people to look at your past career and the life that you have led and make a decision based on that information alone. You are asking them to put trust in what you will do but as a judicial candidate it is difficult because you are prohibited from sharing your political positions. When you say that you cannot talk about your positions people think you are not being forthright.
WCT: You were appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to serve on the court's Judicial Performance and Evaluation Committee. What does that entail and will you be able to do it if you become a judge?
JC: Yes, I will still be able to do this work and actually most of the members of the committee are judges from around the state. I am one of two people who are not sitting judges.
Courts and judges actually rate one another and attorneys rate judges who are sitting on the bench. The Judicial Performance and Evaluation committee informs judges about what their peers and attorney's think. This is all confidential and a way for judges to improve their performance and their peers to be honest without any retribution. Most people do not know this very important committee exists.
WCT: What sets you apart from your two Democratic primary challengers: Lorraine Murphy and Araceli Reyes De La Cruz?
JC: I commend both of them for wanting to go into public service. I do not know them personally but I recognize the sacrifice it takes to run for judge.
The truth is I have far more experience than either of them. One of them has been in administrative positions the last ten years and has not practiced law in a courtroom for some time. She is also very politically connected which I find concerning for a judicial candidate.
My other opponent has been a prosecutor her entire career. I think it is very difficult for prosecutors to take off that hat when they become judges. You have to be impartial and I do not feel that former prosecutors can do that as judges. I think we need to be cognizant that there are entire communities in Cook County that feel the justice system is stacked against them. Putting another prosecutor on the bench will not instill trust and confidence for people in those communities.
The truth is [that] I have far more experience than either of my challengers and both have been found not qualified by at least one bar association in recent years.
WCT: Why do you think it is important to have LGBTQ judges like yourself on the bench?
JC: In the 30 years I have been a lawyer, it is kind of amazing that when I first started out Tom Chiola ran for judge and it was groundbreaking. That an out gay man like myself would run for judge was unheard of and there is an enormous amount of pride in that because at the time we were at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. There was still a lot of discrimination against the LGBTQ community and once that door opened it paved the way for other gay, lesbian and bisexual lawyers to become judges.
I think a diverse judiciary is important because people want to see people like them on the bench so they get a fair shake at justice. When LGBTQ people are in public life it enhances the community and shows that we are more than stereotypes. It is important that we continue to expand our role and be as open as possible about who we are.
WCT: Are there any endorsements you want to highlight?
JC: Personal PAC, National Organization for Women, IVI-IPO, IBEW, Northwest Side Progressive Democrats and Advocates Society
WCT: Is there anything else you want the voters to know about you?
JC: The most important thing I want known, especially for LGBTQ voters, is my extensive career work for the community going back to the late 1980s including at one of the first AIDS legal clinics in the country. We had a case come before the federal court that was a landmark decision forcing states to pay for AIDS medication.
I was on the first boards of directors of AIDS Care of Chicago, one of the first residential facilities in the city for people living with AIDS. I have done a lot of pro-bono work for Lambda Legal, ACLU and other organizations that promote LGBTQ rights.
I have also been with my husband, Daniel Ingram, for 20 years.
See CrawleyForJudge.com .