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Proviso Probe

Thursday, January 12, 2006

M06, Thomas "TJ" Loftus, countywide judicial candidate [COOK]

I invited Thomas "TJ" Loftus, a candidate for judge to take questions from Friday noon until Monday noon.

He's not going to be online the whole time, but he has offered to answer questions asked before Monday noon.

Here's the short version of his bio:
Thomas “TJ” Loftus is the son of a police officer and a school teacher. TJ learned from his parents the values of hard work and fair play and to never give up fighting for what is right. As an Assistant State’s Attorney, TJ has fought to protect children, parents and those abandoned by the system when no else would help.

TJ, who is legally blind, mentors visually impaired children. He inspires them to overcome the obstacles they face and work hard toward a better future.

TJ knows how to get things done in the complex County Courts and never forgets the importance fairness should play in the justice system. As a Circuit Court Judge, TJ will use his experience and expertise to ensure that everyone who comes before the court will receive a fair and just hearing. We all need someone like Thomas Loftus fighting for us, because true justice is always blind.


  • What are the limits on the kind of questions judicial candidates can answer?

    Did Alito abuse these restrictions to avoid answering questions he really could have answered?

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 11:32 PM, January 12, 2006  

  • What should seeing people know about the visually impaired?

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 11:33 PM, January 12, 2006  

  • Why are you a Democrat?

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 11:34 PM, January 12, 2006  

  • Before answering this question, I feel it is important to look at some of the judicial cannons that guide judges and judicial candidates. Specifically, cannon 67 speaks to the types of issues that candidates should not address. I have included some of the other cannons to give a flavor of what is expected of judicial candidates. I hope that these other cannons will provide the reader with some context and background.

    According to Cannon 61, an independent and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society. A judge should participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing, and should personally observe, high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved. The provisions of this Code should be construed and applied to further that objective.

    According to cannon 62A, A judge should respect and comply with the law and should conduct himself or herself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
    B. A judge should not allow the judge's family, social or other relationships to influence the judge's judicial conduct or judgment. A judge should not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of others; nor should a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. A judge should not testify voluntarily as a character witness.

    According to Cannon 63 C(1)(a)
    A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances where:
    the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party's lawyer, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding;

    According to Cannon 67, a Judge or Judicial candidate shall Refrain from Inappropriate Political Activity
    A. All Judges and Candidates.
    (1) Except as authorized in subsections B (1)(b) and B (3), a judge or a candidate for election to judicial office shall not:
    (a) act as a leader or hold an office in a political organization;
    (b) publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for public office;
    (c) make speeches on behalf of a political organization;
    (d) solicit funds for, or pay an assessment to a political organization or candidate.
    (3) A candidate for a judicial office:
    (a) shall maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office and act in a manner consistent with the integrity and independence of the judiciary, and shall encourage members of the candidate's family to adhere to the same standards of political conduct in support of the candidate as apply to the candidate
    (d) shall not:
    (i) make statements that commit or appear to commit the candidate with respect to cases, controversies or issues within cases that are likely to come before the court;

    Cannon 67A(d)(3)(i), prohibits candidates from making statements that commit or “appear” to commit the candidate to controversies or issues that are “likely” to come before the court. The whole purpose of our judicial process is to have a fair, independent, and impartial referee. Judges are required to follow the law, notwithstanding their personal view on a particular issue. Thus, their views on a particular issue should be irrelevant.

    Even if a candidate commented on an issue, with a statement that his or her comments are not intended to make any statements as to how he or she might rule if the issue came before the court, it still might appear to commit the candidate to a viewpoint. I see at least two problems that could occur. First, the candidate’s comments might be misinterpreted because those hearing the message may choose to disregard a candidate’s statement that he or she does not intend the comments to be indicatative of how he or she might rule in the future. The second potential problem is that people may expect the candidate to rule on a similar issue, with distinguishing facts, the exact same way as prior comments about the issue. This could cause the candidate/judge to loose credibility because, in the people’s eyes,” the judge didn’t rule the same way as he commented when he was a candidate.

    In sum, the questions judicial candidates can answer are controlled by cannon 67. Although some people think this cannon does not prohibit one from making statements on the hot button issues, these same people do caution that it might not be the best idea. See above. Whether it is technically prohibited or not, I think to comment on these issues tends to fly in the face of the notion that we have a fair and impartial judiciary. I think the more important question to answer is whether the candidate, as a judge, has the integrity and ability to keep personal views and opinions separate from his or her duty to follow the law. As a Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney, I took an oath to advocate for justice. This means that I am obligated to prosecute offenders regardless of whether I agree with the law they broke. This also means that I am duty bound to dismiss cases that I cannot prove, even if it means a criminal gets away with a crime.

    As for Alito, I must confess that with my own campaign I have not followed his comments as closely as I would have liked. I am not about to second guess what he said or did not say when I am not sure exactly how he answered the questions posed to him. Additionally, although the rules are probably similar to the cannons that obligate Illinois judicial candidates, I am not familiar with the rules that apply to U.S. Supreme Court Justices.

    By Anonymous Thomas "TJ" Loftus, at 3:36 PM, January 21, 2006  

  • What should seeing people know about the visually imparied?

    We are just like other people, but we have to adapt our lives in numerous ways to keep up with those with regular sight. Basically, society is set up for those who can see. The printed text of the newspaper, text books, street signs, and an address on a building are just a few examples things designed for people with regular sight. Okay, so what do those with visual impairments do to read these things.

    Back in school, I had my books on tape, i.e., a person would read my book onto a tape cassette. I would then listen to them as apposed to reading the printed text. With the advent of computers and voice synthesizers, it is now much easier for us to read newspapers and other printed media now available on the internet.

    As for street signs and numbers on buildings, not fun. I learned early that you should try to know where you are going before you start. Further, many visually impaired people creat maps in their heads of where they need to go.

    One way to describe living with a visual impairment is for someone to imagine that he or she is in a foreign country and he or she does not speak the language. If you want to survive, you quickly will have to adapt. You would probably want to start to establish a familiar base of knowledge. Maybe you have a map. Now you could show people where you want to go. You might get a english/X language dictionary. You might get familiar with a neighborhood and then expand the area as you get more comfortable. You might even find a friend.

    Basically, we can feel and experience the same things as sighted people, we just do it in a little bit different way. We all travel down a path through life, some of us see what is ahead, and some of have to feel our way. We both eventually get there, however.

    By Blogger TJ Loftus, at 4:34 PM, January 21, 2006  

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