CHICAGO (CBS) — Controversy surrounds a Cook County judge and the issue revolves around race.
CBS 2 political reporter Derrick Blakley explains why some said the job should have gone to a black attorney.
When Cook County Sheriff’s Policy Advisor Cara Smith was appointed to a vacant judge’s seat, she was elated.
“I will work tirelessly to uphold the integrity of the position,” she said.
But West Side Alderman Jason Ervin (28th) was incensed.
“We don’t know who she is, never seen her at any events on the West Side of Chicago and for her to be representing us as a judicial appointment is a slap in the face to residents of the West Side,” Ervin said.
Smith was appointed by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, the wife of indicted Ald. Ed Burke (14th) who himself once controlled the slating of all judges by Cook County Democrats.
But that role was taken away from him after Burke was hit with federal corruption charges.
Smith’s judicial appointment is to the Seventh Subcircuit, which covers much of Chicago’s West Side. And subcircuits were created specifically to increase minority judges on the bench.
It’s a concern Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot shares.
“I want to make sure our judiciary is reflective of the diversity of our community,” Lightfoot said. “I think she’s an incredibly skilled professional but I don’t think we can ignore the point that diversity does matter.”
Cara Smith replaces Judge Marianne Jackson, who lived in Austin and retired in December. Smith, an attorney, formerly ran the Cook County Jail for Sheriff Tom Dart. But opponents said it’s not her legal qualifications they question.
“The subcircuit back in the 1990s was designed to bring more African-Americans and Latinos to the bench. And clearly, that person does not fit either one of those characteristics,” Ervin said.
Smith’s appointment runs through December 2020. Ald. Ervin is already vowing to challenge her with a candidate from the West Side who he supports in next year’s elections.
As for Smith, she originally agreed to an interview with CBS 2, but later changed her mind.