A Word on Burke & Slating Judges

25 01 2011

Commenter Pete asks:

Ramsin, the Tribune points out today that Judges Hoffman and Hall were both originally “slated” by Ed Burke’s party committee. What does slating typically entail? Just making someone the nominee? Or is there financial backing as well?

Slating is the process whereby the Cook County Democratic Organization selects candidates to endorse for elective positions. Typically a person is slated through sponsorship by committeeperson, and then approved by the organization in slating sessions. Typically the County organization then gives cash or in-kind support to slated candidates if they’re in tough fights. For judges, this usually means inclusion on official literature and palm cards. Thanks for the question Pete.

I’d like to say this: I have no patience for innuendos about the integrity of the appellate judges who rendered the majority decision to exclude Emanuel from the ballot. I’m not naive and I don’t think it would be beyond the machinations of experienced political operators like Ald. Ed Burke (14th) to exert influence on the judicial or any other process. But without evidence, the guilt-by-insinuation that is going on right now is execrable. Because Burke slated the two judges does not necessarily mean they would flout their sworn duties and render a politically favorable decision, and if pro-Emanuel operators are moving that message without evidence, they should be ashamed of themselves, and, hopefully, they will get it back in spades. Emanuel’s campaign is drowning in cash from Wall Street and real estate developers–should we assume every single one of his positions and opinions is animated by that support? Shall we question his integrity because of his supporters? The Tribune could very well endorse Emanuel, and presumably they do not believe he will be a lapdog to the interests that support him and make decisions based on his loyalty to them rather than on his best judgment.

The Tribune reporter, David Kidwell, provides an even-handed story, so this isn’t about his reporting, but rather the innuendos he mentions and that can be found in comments and social media that because these judges were slated by the CCDO their integrity should be questioned.

Was their decision politically motivated? Maybe. Personally I find the dissent more and more convincing despite its tone. But the fact that they were slated by Burke is not enough to condemn them, and the “Well, inquiring minds want to know,” canard which keeps the innuendo in people’s minds is disingenuous and unfair. I don’t know what’s in their soul, and neither do you.

These judges swore an oath. I won’t impute motives to them that would imply they flagrantly violated their oath unless I have compelling evidence to do so. Anachronistic stereotypes of the “Chicago Machine” are not compelling evidence. I’m much less afraid of Ed Burke’s aging patronage army than I am of the enormous financial concerns that are handing over millions of dollars to the candidates, and you should be too.

Stop the play pretend narrative bullshit. We’re grown ups.


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