Mike McHale and Mary Colleen Roberts certainly have a lot in common: They are both proud members of the GLBT community, they both attended the DePaul University School of Law—and they will both be Cook County judges after the Nov. 7 election ( they are running unopposed ) .
Since they share so many similarities, it would make sense that they would answer similar questions, which Windy City Times asked them ( in separate interviews ) .
Windy City Times: After litigating hundreds of cases, do you tend to remember your wins or your losses?
Mike McHale: The prosecutor's office is not interested in prosecuting people who may be innocent, so we get really strong cases. However, I've certainly had my tough wins. However, to answer your question, it's both. You really remember your losses because you take them hard, but you also remember your great victories.
Mary Colleen Roberts: What I remember most are the people who I came in contact with regarding each individual case—concerning the impact the case had on their life as well as mine; I had one case where I had to prosecute someone who I had taken care of as a ward of the state. I remember those tragedies but I also remember the successes.
WCT: When did you know that you wanted to be a judge? Not every attorney wants to be a judge.
MM: It's hard to pinpoint the exact date, but it was a few years ago. You always think about it. You wonder what it would be like to be the guy making the decisions. It's true, though—not every attorney wants to be a judge. Some make a lot more money being attorneys than a lot of judges. Others wouldn't want the stress of making those tough decisions. But I love the courtroom environment. I've done it for 16 years as a State's Attorney and I'm really excited to be doing it as a judge in the near future.
MCR: Becoming a judge is a key feature in your life. Probably seven years out of law school, I was appointed to be a hearing officer over juvenile court, where I presided over evidentiary hearings regarding wards of the court. I would hear evidence and make recommendations to the judge who was presiding over the call, and that was [ openly gay ] Judge Sebastian Patti. I think that was the experience that made me really look hard at the job of being judge, which is actually not glamorous and can be pretty lonely. By contrast, a job as state's attorney [ involves ] a lot of camaraderie. Ultimately, you need to set good boundaries as a judge.
WCT: Will you be involved with the organizations that you're involved with now?
MM: Well, it's somewhat different. I will be restricted by the judicial code of conduct. I can't be politically active like I have been in the past. I'm allowed to purchase tickets to events and support organizations that I wish, but I have to pull back quite a bit from my activist involvement.
WCT: In which court will you start?
MM: My best guess is that I'll start in traffic court, which is where a lot of former prosecutors go. I'm excited by it—the heavy court calls will be a good way to get used to it. Eventually, I'd like to go to 26th and California to handle felony cases. To me, that's a very exciting environment; it's very serious and there's a lot at stake for both sides.
MCR: It'll probably be traffic court for me [ as well ] . Then, there'll be a gradual progression. I could end up at 26th and California, in chancery court or even divorce court. There's no particular area that I prefer; there's always something new to learn.
WCT: Do you think it'd be harder to judge a case where sexual orientation is a factor [ such as a hate-crime case ] ?
MM: Of course, I would recuse myself if I felt I wouldn't be fair. Although that type of case may affect me on a personal level, I would try to put that out of my mind and do the right thing. I would still hold the prosecution to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. I would be able to separate the personal from the professional.
MCR: I think that my job as an assistant state's attorney is to do justice, and I've always felt that my job [ involves ] justice. When the evidence proves the elements of the offense that is charged, it is incumbent upon me to put on that evidence to prove the case; if there's [ insufficient ] evidence and that person is wrongfully charged, then I need to have the case dismissed without prosecution.
That's how I would approach a hate-crime case. I mean, I'm sure I would have feelings but I think that's where the boundaries come in. I'm going to be asked to be an objective trier of fact and see if the prosecutor has proven the case or if the defense attorney has poked enough holes in the state's case to show that the evidence isn't there.
WCT: What does it mean to you to be a member of the GLBT community who is sitting on the bench?
MM: I'm proud. Only about 3 percent of Cook County judges are gay or lesbian; I hope that this opens the door for more people to run. I'm also proud of our community. We put together such a strong campaign for my race that we scared off the competition in the primary. That's a tribute to this community and the political power we've amassed.
MCR: Becoming a judge [ in itself ] is very surreal; only a small group of people is elected. Without expressing any political view, it makes me really proud to be a lesbian and to be a member of the bench. I am so proud of the community. I'm also proud of my family and friends, and I'm proud that society did not make [ sexual orientation ] an issue.
See www.mchaleforjudge.com and www.marycolleenrobertsforjudge.com .