Saturday, January 05, 2008

DFA Endorses North Side Candidates for States Attorney – Suffredin Challenged by Moderator, Among Others.

A Long-Winded Opinion with Respect: I agree to disagree with Suffredin’s Candidacy.

Last Thursday, I attended the DFA's States Attorney Candidate forum at Reza's. The organizers within DFA deserve tremendous credit for bringing five of six candidates into one room at a known Restaurant. The DFA is Howard Dean’s not for profit political group, which has diversified. The Group’s mantra is that it stands for change. What change, where, and how detrimental or effective the alterations will be is another issue worth exploration after the first term, hopefully sooner. In pipedreams, we trust? Pick your puff daddy!

Some in DFA share my sentiments that Larry Suffredin can do much more good on the Cook County Board, then as its States Attorney. Perhaps, Larry should be honing his legislative skills, make an endorsement, and back the candidate to the hilt. Brewer and Suffredin are North Siders, but Brewer is not viable, even if he may make an interesting Deputy Assistant to rival Judge Kenneth Gillis’ commitment. Yet, this is the North Side DFA, and whatever Larry wants, Larry gets. Debra Shore , a good friend of his, and another Suffredin staffer are regulars at DFA Meetings.

You cannot vote at DFA Dean Events unless you show up to three meetings and complete a sufficient amount of political work. This means that even if you can vote in an election, you are an outsider until you show up to three meetings. This makes sense, because DFA decides the endorsement at these meetings, as well. To DFA’s credit, newcomers are given the floor, which is certainly worth its weight in gold to some. I endorse the three meeting rule.

To Larry Suffredin's credit, he gave DFA a Steppenwolf performance, but it lacked sufficient foresight. He won my Jefferson Award for political entertainment. What he wants to do can be undertaken from his position as Board Commissioner. If he cannot get funding for the States Attorney’s Office as a Commissioner, then its not happening when he becomes States Attorney. This position looks like a Suffredin stepping stone to higher aspirations.

If the DFA and the Board want more Minorities as States Attorneys, then it must advocate for and encourage Toddler to raise salaries as well as the quality of the SAO’s Human Resources Department. Brewer and Suffredin cannot blame Milan and Alvarez for the County’s inability to attract minorities; Larry is already responsible for lobbying to approve funding to Agencies like the States Attorneys Office! Why can't Suffredin propose funding to beef up training and staff at the SAO’s Human Resources Office, so it can learn how to best recruit minorities and from where?

Experience Differential and the Tom Allen Factor: Suffredin v. Alvarez, Brewer, Brookins, or Milan

Suffredin and his supporters insist that experience as a civil attorney, lobbyist, and former adjunct professor is enough. His Staff never challenged concern about whether Larry ever prosecuted a criminal case to verdict in his career. Has he? Yet, the States Attorney’s primary job is criminal prosecution. It is vital that a career prosecutor or one who once had a career in prosecution be considered. Jack O’Malley met his match in Richard Devine for all the right reasons. Why Suffredin cloaks his Public Defender experience seems lame; there is no shame!

Milan and Alvarez did well with their presentations and pamphlets, but were unfairly ignored as serious candidates. Some in the room understand and can bolster their campaigns. Each was unreasonably baited with the re-raked decades old Burge incidents that did not happen on their watch. The fact that they work for the present administration, which is the status quo, meant that they were somehow disqualified from DFA consideration.

Alvarez and Milan do not control all policy; Devine is the States Attorney. Some issues about those convicted under Burge, but may remain jailed can be targets for delayed and pitifully underfunded but proposed County investigations. Yet, grants are successfully secured. I detected significant North Side prejudice. Yet, I have lived on the North side my entire life.

A few portray candidate Tom Allen as a boogey man capable of a Lyndon LaRouche-style upset like Fairchild and Hart. They fear Alvarez and Milan are unknowns and spoilers that will create an Allen upset. Tom Allen gets one DFA members badge of scorn for 'allegedly' put something on his website that demonstrated poor judgment. Some in the DFA crowd ended up persecuting the prosecutors simply for prosecuting or for past frustration in public. This made little sense to me, because they reasonably answered every question. Those opposed to Alvarez and Milan focused on red herring issues that sounded good, but lacked a viable foundation for realistic change and concern.

The Battle for the SAO’s Budget: Doesn’t the Board Hold the Purse Strings?

Ultimately, the most capable candidate, Robert Milan, who seriously and politely considered the most unsubstantiated question of the night, was overlooked for endorsement. Robert appears he cares and he seems to have given full disclosure. The DFA wants prosecutors to prosecute civil Environmental cases in spite of legendary staffing shortages. The SAO has an ever increasing criminal docket of felony offenses and cold case indictments. The unrecorded population changes in Cook County arguably due to census inaccuracy and oversights were experienced at our household, as well.

The Cook County Board has repeatedly cut or froze the SAO budget, which fails to keep up with the cost of living. This is not unusual to the legal practice as a whole, which has its elite ten percent, no doubt. Yet, ASA commitment to Richard Devine, a prosecution legacy, is at an all time high. This was totally lost on the DFA Chapter. No chief prosecutor in many decades other than Devine has ever taken the time to show States Attorneys how prosecution is done right! Milan has done it extra crispy, as well with the Browns Chicken Murders!

A few in the crowd are DFA regulars who want to place the blame for crime, punishment, and law enforcement oversights squarely on the shoulders of prosecutors, not commissioners or legislators. Who are judges or juries? What are their roles? What is the burden of proof? What happens when prosecutors waste time on a publicity driven “heater” cases? How can the public and its legislators support the States Attorney and the Public Defender to get diversified and better equipped to do justice? Civil servants are tired of hearing people whine about taxes, yet complain about County Services.

Is it all that surprising to see a reasonable judge dismiss cases because the burden of proof is unmet as a matter of law? What happens when the public pressures prosecutors to waste valuable underfunded time on pet projects? How can prosecutors better calm, liaison, and quell opportunistic politicians with an agenda when they encourage journalists and the masses to prematurely perceive someone as a bad apple worth lynching or persecuting? Does anyone remember Richard Jewell, Twanna Brawley or the Duke University stripper with the media and political persecutions that followed? "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?" Wasn’t that Rodney King's line?

Well, that was not considered, nor was the improving quality of the criminal defense bar, either. We also need to improve prosecutor’s and defender’s quality of life. The Democratic Party has yet to better acknowledge and reward career prosecutors and public defenders with appropriate endorsements and challenge cronyism. Instead, ASAs and PDs are both feared and loathed, because prosecutors can indict and PDs are overwhelmed. Thus, we witness this balance of justice that at times seems imbalanced, but may best be approached by the U. S. Department of Justice due to both budget constraints as well as possible inappropriate and subtle pressure.

Experience continues to hemorrhage from the States Attorney and Public Defenders Offices due to periodic cronyism and subtle pressure. How can you deal with the Judge’s children, who just passed the bar or want a paid summer job? What about the big firm that wants assistance? Some ASAs save their money and move on as Judges. There are also fiscal cut backs by the County Commissioners, not Richard Devine. Now, Suffredin wants to 'expand' the SAO’s office to fight civil woes that he will not fund as a Commissioner! How? Do I hear Clara Peller screaming, “Where’s the beef” from her grave?

The North Siders: What Makes an Effective Leader? Experience and a Track Record

The outspoken few want change. Perhaps they unconsciously want continued North Side control of the SAO’s Office. Devine is a North Sider. Perhaps, the DFA will unconsciously encourage numerous resignations of extremely accomplished prosecutors. In its place, will a new SAO encourage the promotion of inexperienced, yet idealistic new attorneys just out of law school, perhaps, politician's children or campaign workers? A good externship without pay is the best way to learn about the SAO’s Office, not clout. Milan, like me, worked his way into the office without clout. Supporting Milan is the progressive, not the digressive route. We should endorse Milan’s incredible twenty one year rise from externship to candidate for the top chair.

Larry’s Plan to Act as the Environmental Litigator of Cook County: Usurped by Federal Law and Without Funds.

Suffredin wants to turn the chief prosecutor's office into more of a civil litigation machine. A larger bureaucracy funded by money from future lawsuits. He seems to count his chickens before they are hatched. Major litigation often takes years. Anyone who worked on the Microsoft and IBM cases know that it took more than one administration. In the former, the George Bush Junior Microsoft settlement did little to bust the Microsoft trust. Yet, Federal jurisdiction will pose extreme and costly challenges to County jurisdiction; the right to abate an environmental nuisance, pollution, depends upon whether Federal law already regulates it.

Environmental issues have repeatedly been found to fall under the control of the EPA by Congressional Act. I watched painfully as one of these brilliant efforts self-destruct at the asset forfeiture unit under Judge Bakakos. Instead, Larry struggles for a Constitutional basis. Perhaps, he should hire his fellow Professors Gorby or Seng at John Marshall Law School as outside consultants.

It makes me appreciate that this comes off like a pedantic exercise in puffy politics. Perhaps, Larry aims at an electorate under-educated in the economics of practicing law. Yet, for at least two seasoned attorneys to reasonably challenge the DFA monolith that supported Suffredin seemed ackward, since there were other issues that Larry left unanswered.

To a trained skeptic, Suffredin may start a legal money pit that needs seed money. I just don't see Todd Strodger starring as Suffredin's sugar daddy! Will Larry somehow manage to float a sugar loan for the SAO’s Office without Todd’s blessing? Suffredin wants to emulate a New York prosecutor , Eliot Spitzer, who made headlines before becoming Governor. However, victory and settlement does not quickly translate into hard currency. Public good has no price tag, but chasing after windmills does little to eliminate a deficit and subsequent neglect toward law and order.

What Larry proposes is lofty, but he does not have to wait to become a States Attorney to do it. He is a Commissioner, who still has standing to vote. If Suffredin is savvy as a lobbyist, then why can’t he convince his own Board or Illinois Legislators to more reasonably fund the States Attorneys Office? Why doesn’t he encourage collective bargaining for seasoned prosecutors at the Illinois Legislature? Why can’t he encourage legislation that confirms that Attorneys are NOT managers as a matter of law? Politics! There are not enough votes and no one wants to compromise! We live in the 'age of gridlock;' Aquarius was spiked ten feet deep, somewhere in the endzone, where Jupiter aligns with Mars.

Perhaps, Larry does not have the Board votes, well, he should admit it. As a capable advocate, he can bamboozle the electorate just as well as George Bush Junior can do it. Some at the DFA agree with me that Suffredin should remain on the Cook County Board and aspire to become its President, among other political options. Perhaps, this may upset Forest Claypool’s aspirations.

How to Approach Laymen About the Legal System without Looking like a Condescending: Prosecution, not Pollution!

Attorneys' run the risk of turning people off, because we appreciate how important it is to defend a position. Attorneys may have read or witnessed failed legal arguments, firsthand. I consider appeals and have filed in the Seventh Circuit. I litigated close jurisdictional issues in the Northern Illinois District. My area requires a firm grasp of Federal Jurisdiction, because it is extremely limited or non-existent in some areas. But some may mumble, “who am I to question Suffredin’s master plan?” I appear as a DFA outsider, even if I did serious time on campaigns in past decades for Cranston, Hart, and Charlie Hayes, among others.

I guess the Godzilla faced off with ‘a few DFA members’ who may have launched their Suffredin biplanes with pea shooters at the opposition. Jefferson Airplane . . . it was not to DFA’s credit! What I felt were members rational skepticism was ignored. I think that many hoped that some candidate would outperform all with their legal lyrics and prose. To me, one too many DFA members ‘red baited’ or ignored the prosecutors simply because they were prosecutors, not merely politicians with theatrical polish. The SAO is an agency whose primary responsibility is handling prosecution, not pollution.

Candidate Alvarez grew up in Pilsen at a time when 18th Street had a history of criminal challenges during the seventies and eighties. I was doing my undergrad at Halsted and Harrison and was active in the dSA, so I should know. [Kugler and Sadlowski were fond of the lower case “d” for democratic]. Much of this was overlooked by DFA’s Andersonville Chapter.

Milan is from Beverly, but has done significant justice for this County and earned his non-elected position at the number two post. Robert Milan got an in house appointment for a position often handed out as a political favor. That is a significant milestone and demonstrates credibility that has been missing for years from the SAO.

Why Do Silk Stocking Law Firms find Larry Suffredin Appealing? Ulterior Motives?

Suffredin is a North Sider. He stands to reap the largest campaign war chest by rigorously soliciting Attorneys who work in silk stocking law firms. Why would silk stocking law firms find Larry so appealing? Many in the crowd want a North Sider to run as States Attorney, even if the most experience prosecutor is currently on the South Side. Why?

Constitutional arguments over environmental lawsuits require a bit of work to put it mildly in my legal opinion. They also require a defendant who must be represented usually by a more respected silk stocking firm. That also translates into serious hard hours at attorney wages at the SAO. Well, big Government at work, business at usual? Let's first hire the world and if we can't afford it, layoff, and outsource to a big firm. What next, get more bank loans and bill the taxpayers for our errors of judgment and the mea culpa to follow. Dealers choice as to which law firm gets the job! Is that what Chicagoans must tolerate? Must we litigate to bankruptcy or can we advocate, zone, negotiate, protest, and legislate for change?

If either Alvarez or Milan loses, then each will likely depart the States Attorneys Office to the private sector of the criminal defense bar. They have reached their pinnacle. Each will likely be demoted or replaced for Larry’s people, so they will not stick around for the resignation request. However, if or when Larry loses a re-election after the first term fallout, then Lucky Larry will still have a job at that big law firm and a shot at a bigger home on Evanston’s Lakefront, among other places. He may continue to do his lobbying work in different confines. Perhaps, he may bring a few contracts to Shefsky and Froelich or head to greener fields in another firm.

Conflicts of Interest, Anyone?

How can anyone continue to represent that they work for any law firm and work as a Commissioner or any other position? Isn’t there a conflict of interest for these paid politicians’ time and effort? Is there “double dipping” among some candidates? Is there ever Public outsourcing of legal work to private law firms that is carefully courted by Shefsky and Froelich? Well, it may be against the public trust. However, a few DFA members grilled Alderman Brookins, a forty something African American candidate about his challenges with rent for his underfunded private practice. Yet, the DFA expressed concern about racism in the States Attorney’s Office and how Brewer and Suffredin somehow understood best. Is there a conflict of interest against the public trust when a politician promotes his or her firm or splits his time and effort? Is this going on?

Frankly, Brookins needs to concentrate on being an Alderman just like Suffredin should concentrate on being a Commissioner. Perhaps, he could get more work done for the Cook County Board if he focuses in on his stated goals. Does Larry focus on his work in the Board or does he have three legal mistresses, that is, (1) the Cook County Board, (2) Shefsky, and (3) his campaign? Does anyone know? Does Suffredin still lobby in Springfield? If so, for whom?

Some in the DFA crowd admitted that they work for Larry. That was noble, but they should not vote. To do otherwise, seems like a conflict of interest against independent thought. Many admitted that they were friends with each other. They go to the movies and think sweet political thoughts, together, or challenge each other. That sounds worthwhile, but in the process some may drop their guard for a friend with a political agenda supporting a politician for public office. Frankly, mens rea or the personal motives of those who publicly endorse politicians are often a closely held deck possible unaffected in the shuffle.

The DFA and Change: What is Change? Who Can Best Make Effective and Efficient Legal Changes for the SAO and From Where?

The DFA crowd repeatedly claims, we want change, we want change. Yet, the DFA ignores Suffredin's work for the tobacco lobby, among others clients with questionable public health agendas. Furthermore, there is no shame in serving at the Public Defenders Office. Why hasn't Suffredin promoted this aspect of his experience. That seems to make no difference to the some, but not all. It is a lame political move to suppress his experience as a PD in my opinion. If Suffredin is such a brilliant and moral lobbyist, then did he reasonably support regulation on the public advertising of paycheck advance loan programs that sap money from the irresponsible or poor?

What happened to the Paycheck loan protests that won Larry friends and influenced campaign workers? The Payday loans are still in business. In fact, changes in Bankruptcy laws eliminate legal rights and create worse tragedies. Many of us want Larry to focus on his position at the Board.

Larry's loyalists still spin, Suffredin can change the laws; they chant, “Larry is a lobbyist! Larry is a lobbyist!” [Okay, I exaggerate; they push those emotional buttons by foisting this seductive little socially responsible kitten in our faces and tell us to vote for him]. However, the legislators who tried to increase the legal age of an adult to eighteen, failed, and so did Larry in the mix.

I fail to see why a brilliant Democratic lobbyist cannot start a 501(c)(3) to convince the Illinois Delegation and Legislature to raise the age to eighteen if this is his goal. This is a State wide challenge that hurts the poor in some Southern Illinois counties, as well. Suffredin need not have to be the Cook County States Attorney. He simply has to work with Richard Devine and Suffredin, I fear is too busy to do it effectively. I see no difference if he becomes States Attorney in Cook County.

I agreed that fewer should be tarnished for life from foolish experimenting with drugs in High School. The grassroots to mount these challenges were overlooked. It seemed like the States Attorney alone had the power to mount this challenge, not those who have been wronged and rejected. The effort has to come from DFA-ers' willing to March on Springfield with the victims, not a lobbyist or a States Attorney, alone.

The McCarthy-like Ultimatum at a Progressive Meeting: An Oxymoron?

One member challenges all of the candidates that those who worked with Burge still work in the States Attorney's Office and must be fired. The devoted DFA member claims that he can "names names" of those who helped Burge. Milan gives the inquirer who appears to me to seeth like a McCarthyite chewing Birch logs at a John Society meeting, his direct telephone line.

Milan tells the members that if anyone can give him the name of one person directly involved with the infected Burge torture cases, he will fire him. The guy stands down. Later, the same member made a profound statement and regained credibility in my opinion. I sincerely appreciated the member’s presence, since he got Milan to speak up to both of their credit. It was the approach that was a bit tasteless. A resolution that can be easily researched may give some solace to victims, but should a cash strapped Board spend time grandstanding resolutions, rather than simply signing a letter to the U.S. Attorney's Office for action and publishing it?

Someone else claims that the States Attorney and all under him is to blame for Springfield not requiring video cameras in every interrogation room sooner. Each candidate wants to set their own unique agenda to build their credibility. In an agency that must prosecute crime, oversights are made, but there are nearly a thousand prosecutors in that office from what we were told. In the end, the in-person vote to endorse a candidate creates a stalemate between Brewer and Suffredin, who are both from Evanston.

Foresight or Overeaction? Larry Bloom’s Run. Human Resource Efforts for Minority ASAs Require Fiscal Commitment, not Contrition!

With big silk stocking firms hosting Suffredin's fundraisers, one can only wonder if their criminal defense and civil units will have boom times with white collar crime indictments and more civil litigation against their clients.

Of course, Cook County will pay the bill and the silk stockings firms will seduce voters through funding Larry's campaign. Once in office, they may wrap rings around Suffredin's collars with hot tempting legal flourishes. Perhaps, in four years a Republican will emerge from the wreckage.

Does anyone remember when Larry Bloom ran for States Attorney? Does anyone remember what happened to that infamous reformer/alderman/lobbyist? It was a tragedy!

The States Attorney needs to stick with what it knows and voters appreciate; law and order. Otherwise, it runs the risk of outsourcing complicated civil legal work at a tremendous cost to taxpayers. Perhaps, to the benefit of some of Suffredin's law firm sponsors.

Trying to hire qualified African American Attorneys away from the big firms is a tough battle. I suggest that a few Idealistic DFA members who are Human Resource people apply for Personnel Department jobs at the SAO's office. Perhaps, they should apply with or without Suffredin’s support, now! When you have trouble recruiting reasonably qualified minorities away from competing private law firms at law school career nights, then report back to the Commish with your ideas! Will he listen?

The County needs more funds! Brewer and Brookins provoke thought, but staffing issues are more complicated. If you cannot pay extremely innovative and talented HR folks, then this is more questionable rhetoric from politicians. If you cannot question political authority, then our current apathy prevails. Few wanted to challenge Suffredin, as Socrates, after all was said and done.

The successes of this world, of every complexion, often want what every graduating law student in the top ten percent desires, which is excellent training, recognition, and a reasonable salary. Promoting the fact that the SAO is one of the known entities for prosecutor continuing legal education is significant. Promoting these jobs to diversify the SAO requires vision, financial, and personal commitment by the public, as well. Yet, it seems like many who could fill those jobs are painting, elsewhere, or may be affected by cronyism that may hord administrative positions at the SAO's Office.
Sometimes, County or public praise can be difficult to get as a productive second or third chair at 26th and California, among other Units. Former African American prosecutors like Aaron Iverson may go elsewhere because they feel under appreciated, frustrated with the system, or simply choose other paths. These feelings are by no means limited by race. This may be the reason why both Alvarez and Milan want to run for office to put more of their ideas to work. Yet, it seems like many who could fill those jobs are painting, elsewhere.


Robert Milan’s and Anita Alvarez’ focus on prosecution and Agency challenges, which are the primary responsibilities of the States Attorney. If Suffredin wants an expanded civil legal department, then he can subsidize it with Board seed money and new taxes, now! He should not delay or simply claim he will pay for it by getting judgments. Judgments are only good if the defendant pays, not simply appeals. Sending good money after judgment-proof defendants (those who will make you litigate and still negotiate to bankruptcy) is unwise. Many will make public precedent only to file for reorganization under bankruptcy, which can prove fiscally irresponsible for a public official.

The DFA claims that it wants change, but was unable to appreciate that change may mean fiscal chaos and layoffs with poor fiscal responsibility. A civil division can go out of control chasing windmills like Don Quixote. Suffredin looked more like the Man from LaMancha better known as Cervantes -Hidalgo Don Quixote.

Suffredin needs to fight the good fight at the Cook County Board rather than hopping from one political office to another. News in two to three years; will the layoffs 'hit the fan' due to hard hours overextended on unjustified and politically motivated Federal appeals. A successful acceptance of a writ of certiorari with a delayed decision may save Suffredin’s backside from extreme tarnish.

In conclusion, fixating the campaign on the ethnic, gender, orientation, and racial diversity factors will not solve recruiting challenges. The States Attorney needs a well-staffed and well-trained Human Resources Department funded by Cook County. A significant salary divide between public and silk stocking practices without the Board’s Expenditure simply won't attract minorities with better options. Frankly, you need to encourage parents to educate local kids, before law schools can educate future prosecutors. The concerns of Tommy Brewer are reasonable, but the causes track back to recruiting competition, who holds the purse strings, and what the SAO can do with limited funds.


Craig Gernhardt said...

Did anyone care to ask these candidates who currently hold a office the question about who would inherit their current political seat they currently sit in, if they did win?

Say, if Larry wins, who would he anoint his County Commissioner Seat to?

lafew said...

One member of the DFA, who did not want to be identified, claims that they know the answer. They claim that the person is qualified, etc. Obviously, all politicians when touting a future candidate as a suitable replacement will do this. It was not Mr. Suffredin.

The person withheld the exact information. If I were playing poker, then it appeared the person was in the room. Perhaps, 'the tell' was mistaken for shared knowledge between two people in the room.

Hugh said...

"Does Suffredin still lobby in Springfield?"


The most definitive way to answer this question using public sources is to check Suffredin's own filings with the state. State law requires lobbyist to register.

Illinois Secretary of State,
Lobbyist Division,
Lobbyist List

lafew said...

There were a few additional facts added to the post, but the message is the same. We need a prosecutor. Suffredin is a politician, who may view the position as an Eliot Spitzer stepping stone to future aspirations. We cannot allow any politician to leave the SAOs Office in financial shambles, even if his intentions appear good.

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