Share the article: The Illinois Supreme Court Races Are All About the Machine’s Political Power

For decades, the Mike Madigan – Ed Burke Machine has controlled Illinois’ judiciary, including the Illinois Supreme Court. The Machine controlled the appointments and slating of all judges in Cook County (which has 3 Supreme Court seats) and at least one other judicial district (out of 7 statewide) in perpetuity for decades.

The Machine has used the Supreme Court and lower courts to protect their power and block good government and pro-business reforms. The Supreme Court has blocked term limits, legislative redistricting reform, pension reform, tort reform, medical malpractice reform, and other policy measures.

The Supreme Court also controls the appointments of all vacancies on the Illinois judiciary, so if there’s a vacancy at any court level (trial court or appellate court), the Supreme Court decides who gets appointed and is more than likely elected on the court.

Who sits on the Supreme Court may decide the future of redistricting reform in Illinois, or how your representation in the Illinois General Assembly and in Congress is decided. In 2016, the Court struck down a citizen-led bipartisan Fair Maps referendum on a 4-3 vote with an overtly partisan decision that every Republican on the Court publicly decried. 

The Fair Maps effort was led by the nonpartisan group Change Illinois and had overwhelming bipartisan support, as it was led by former Republican Governor Jim Edgar and former Obama White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley. But the Madigan Machine, the Dem-controlled legislature, trial attorneys, and the public sector unions opposed it because it would have taken power away from Springfield insiders.

With so much turnover on the Court in recent years, citizen activists and good government groups may try again to get a citizen-led referendum on the ballot regarding redistricting reform. With a court majority that isn’t controlled by the Machine and Springfield insiders, redistricting reform is plausible.

Who sits on the Supreme Court may also decide the future of public safety in the State of Illinois, as a lawsuit regarding the constitutionality of the Governor’s so-called “SAFE-T Act” is making its way to the Court.

Elizabeth Rochford and Mary K. O’Brien are both Madigan Machine judges who will put the Machine before the people of Illinois.

Rochford’s political connections and ties to the Machine run deep. She’s funded by trial lawyers allied with Mike Madigan, and she personally wrote a big campaign check to indicted Chicago Alderman Ed Burke AFTER the FBI raided his office. Rochford served for years on the Illinois Court of Claims, which is a patronage political appointment that typically goes to political insiders.

O’Brien’s deep ties to the Machine are well known. O’Brien was appointed as an Appellate Court Justice during her final year in the Illinois General Assembly after voting with Madigan 93.6% of the time. O’Brien also helped Madigan regain the Speakership and received nearly $200,000 in political contributions from political groups led by Madigan. In the General Assembly, O’Brien supported Madigan’s gerrymandered legislative maps and even had her own district changed to incorporate family members who lived in another district just so they could vote for her.


Join The Fight To Help Rebuild Illinois

Follow us online