Is Judge Demacopoulos seeking revenge against her critics?
Anna Helen Demacopoulos, a Cook County Judge seeking retention criticized for having the highest number of rulings reversed, is allegedly lobbying against support of nonprofit voter education efforts regarding judicial retention. Issue trying to get revenge against her critics?
By Ray Hanania
Anna Helen Demacopoulos, a Cook County Judge seeking retention criticized for having the highest number of rulings reversed, is allegedly lobbying against support of nonprofit voter education efforts regarding judicial retention.
InjusticeWatch has noted Demacopoulos has had “14 decisions reversed by higher courts since 2014, among the most of any of the judges running for retention this year.” Click here for more
[An earlier version of this Op-Ed column inaccurately concluded Injustice Watch is urging against her retention. Injustice Watch, a nonprofit news organization, said they do not make endorsements or urge voters to vote one way or another. InjusticeWatch did flag Demacopoulos on their website listing of judges has having “Notable Reversals” and they explain: “Notable reversals: A high number of reversals can cause a judge to lose the respect of their peers, appellate judges and litigants, who have concern about the permanence of the judge’s decision in their case. Many reversals or a pattern of reversals based on the same legal issues could be a sign that a judge is repeatedly misapplying the law.” Click here to view link.]
Elected in 2008, Demacopoulos is one of 62 judges seeking retention in the Nov. 3, 2020 General Election. She is seeking retention in the 15th Subcircuit Judicial Circuit Court District.
Several sources allege Demacopoulos contacted at least five attorneys who donated to or served on boards of organizations that educate the public on Cook County judges. The implication is that supporting those boards might hurt their chances of winning cases.
“We have been told by at least two former donors that she contacted them and ask them not to continue to donate,” said Judicial Accountability Project staffer Charles Edwards.
InjusticeWatch cited two instances of what I believe are instances of Demacopoulos’ “poor judgement.”
In 2016, Demacopoulos ruled in favor of a City of Chicago ordinance that restricted how close food trucks could park to brick-and-mortar restaurants, the judicial review agency reported.
In 2017, she ruled that Sam Cirone, a Chicago Police sergeant who faced discipline for his role in the David Koschman case, could have his case heard by an independent arbitrator, instead of the Chicago Police Board.
An appellate court later reversed that decision. Demacopoulos has had 14 decisions reversed by higher courts since 2014, among the most of any of the judges running for retention this year.
In an emailed statement to InjusticeWatch, Demacopoulos said the Appellate Court decision in the Cirone case “has no precedential value and is not binding on any court, rendering it meaningless” and she disputed InjusticeWatch’s accounting of her reversals claiming they represent a tiny fraction of the more than 5,000 cases she has heard since 2011. “Comparing judges’ reversals is unfair, challenges the independence of the judiciary and only further discourages judges from taking on difficult assignments in fear of reprisal,” she said.
Not everyone agrees.
“When a judge has a higher reversal rate than normal, it raises a red flag,” attorney David Melton told Injustice Watch—a nonprofit media watchdog that covers judges.
Three different judges currently running for retention confirmed that Demacopoulos was the ringleader in rounding up judges to rally around each other and not support the rest of the Democratic Party.
For the first time in nearly 50 years, the retention judges voted to not support any of the Cook County Democratic Party slate (which this year includes Joe Biden and Senator Dick Durbin), thereby depriving the party of funds it usually receives to promote the slate.
“Demacopoulos was the most vocal about not supporting the Democratic Party,” said a sitting judge from the Criminal Courts who asked to not be named.
Demacopoulos hopes that by organizing the retention judges into a unified group that committed to not donating to the Cook County Democratic Party and by getting some of the more monied plaintiffs attorneys to not donate to nonprofit voter information campaigns, she will break the recent movement towards more judicial accountability, explained several political operatives.
“As far back as the summer of 2018 this judge was attacking the Judicial Accountability Project,” explained Brendan Shiller.
“She told one judge that was supported by the Project’s Political Action Committee but lost in the March 2018 primary that he would likely not get supported in the associate judge’s election by other judges if he did not renounce the support of the PAC.”
Shiller and 47th Ward Democratic Committeeman Paul Rosenfeld believe Demacopoulos began organizing colleagues against nonprofit voter-education efforts such as the Judicial Accountability Project, Chicago Votes, Injustice Watch and others as well as against the Democratic Party as a means of providing cover for her own “indefensible record of appellate reversals.”
“I welcome the political discourse and debate over the confines of what Demacopoulos and a few other judges term judicial independence and how that interacts in judicial races with voter education and judicial accountability,” said Shiller.
“What concerns me is that in this case, this particular judge is using the power around her current office to allow the implication to be in the air that if certain plaintiffs attorneys participate in that debate their litigative fortunes may be harmed.”
Rosenfeld concurred, saying “the issue is accountability. Cook County should have the best of the best judges. And judges like Demacopoulos trying to avoid public scrutiny when they are running for office and asking for the public’s vote goes against everything our democracy stands for.”