Bar association threatens judge with ‘Not recommended’ rating for ‘political’ quiz

A conservative judge running for a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court says the state’s bar association threatened him with a ‘Not recommended’ rating if he didn’t complete his ‘political’ questionnaire on diversity and LGBT issues.

Judge John A. Noverini was elected to the 16th Circuit Court of Illinois in 2008. In 2014, the Illinois State Bar Association gave him a “Recommended” rating, but now he threatens to publicly announce that he is “Not recommended” if he fails to complete the panel’s questionnaire to assess judicial candidates.

Judge Noverini told the association that he would not participate in its review this year because he has a conflict of interest in having the endorsement of a group that represents lawyers. He also said threatening judges to take the quiz — or get a “Not Recommended” rating — is a form of “bullying.”

“In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that the judicial assessment process has become politicized,” he said in a letter to the Illinois State Bar Association last month.

As a result, the group informed Judge Noverini that it would make its memo public on May 6.

“Because you chose not to participate in the judicial evaluation process, the Illinois State Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluation Committee has rated you ‘not recommended’ for the position of judge of the Supreme Court,” reads an April 29 email from an association official to the judge.

According to the questionnaire shared with The Washington Times, the Illinois State Bar Association reviews candidates for the Illinois Supreme Court and Illinois Court of Appeals. He will publish the notes to the public before the elections.

This year’s primary election is scheduled for June 28, and Republicans have a chance of winning a majority on the state’s highest court – four of seven seats.

Judge Noverini objected to filling out the form, saying several issues appear to have a political agenda.

Issues at issue include:

• “Do you belong to any business or social clubs, organizations, unions, or associations that use race, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin as a basis for determining membership or membership privileges?”

• “How important is it to you to have the inclusion of people of one race, color, religion, gender, national origin, ancestry, of a different age, marital status, physical or mental disability, military status or sexual orientation than you as a lawyer and/or judge in the legal profession?

• “What efforts, if any, have you made in your community to include people of one race, color, religion, gender, national origin, ancestry , of a different age, marital status, physical or mental disability, military status or sexual orientation than you as a lawyer and/or judge in the legal profession?”

Judge Noverini told The Washington Times that the Illinois State Bar Association has turned the judicial review process into a “political exercise.”

“The ISBA, on the left, has every interest in knowing who sits on the Supreme Court. Accepting endorsements or ratings from organizations that represent lawyers crosses the line and calls into question the fairness and impartiality of our justice system. Labeling a candidate as “not recommended” for choosing not to participate in the assessment process is a veiled threat and a subtle way of intimidating. Participating in the forensic evaluation is inappropriate and that is why I respectfully declined to participate in the evaluation and requested that my name not be associated with this process,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Illinois State Bar Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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