Thursday, September 15, 2016

Is it time to write “obituary” for chief judge, one-time alderman Tim Evans?

As much as some people want to believe the political system is rigged in favor of the incumbents and there’s no way to “throw da bums out,” the fact is that every now and then the will of the public works in ways that makes it seem as though we get bored with certain people and let them go.
From back in the days when Timothy Evans (to the mayor's right) was part of the Harold Washington operation to try to govern Chicago

That could very well wind up being the fate come Thursday for Timothy Evans, the one-time alderman who for more than two decades has been a Cook County judge and rose his way to the post of chief judge of the Cook County Circuit Court.

THE ADDED TITLE basically means he gets to claim to have significant power over the courts, and is usually the person who gets called upon when there’s some sort of political ritual that requires the presence of a judge.

It is a nice-sounding post, and actually is quite a way for Evans to wind up a career in public service that dates back to the final years of the first Mayor Daley.

But I’m sure that if Evans winds up losing that “chief judge” title, he’s going to take it badly. He’ll see it as a repudiation, although it’s not really clear what people who are repudiating him think is wrong in the way he has conducted himself.

Which makes one thing very clear – internal elections involving professionals can be just as petty as those public elections that we all have the opportunity to vote in.

THERE IS A certain generation of political observers to whom the name “Tim Evans” brings back significant memories from the days of Harold Washington as mayor – because while the mayor had a majority opposition in the City Council going out of its way to thwart much of what he desired to do, he did have some allies.
EVANS: Wants to remain the chief

And Evans – the alderman from the South Side-based 4th Ward – was the floor leader. Meaning he was the one who supposedly was trying to coordinate the mayor’s desires when they came up in ordinances before the City Council.

When Washington died, there were those who believed that Tim Evans was the natural heir who should have become mayor. Of course, that would have implied that people were generally in agreement with the Washington agenda; rather than scheming for a way with which to dump him.
ALLEN: Looking for a promotion

That is why the council picked another alderman, Eugene Sawyer (the father of current 6th Ward Alderman Roderick Sawyer), to be the interim mayor, then dumped Sawyer when the special election came along a year later. Which is how we got the concept of “Mayor Richard M. Daley.”

EVANS TRIED CHALLENGING all of this, but lost at the polls. Then lost a 1991 re-election bid for the City Council, which is how current Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle gained her entrance to electoral politics.

A year later, Evans became a judge. And in a sense of peace-making, Daley supported his rise through the ranks that saw him ultimately be able to call himself the “chief judge.”

But the Cook County judges on Thursday (all 241 of them) will gather to pick a new chief judge for a three-year term, and Evans has challengers. Particularly in the form of Tom Allen, a former alderman-turned-judge who’d like to have the top title.

Allen has his ties to the Cullerton family that has produced many generations of government officials in Chicago. He even has the backing, of sorts, from Preckwinkle – who has made it clear she thinks Evans has undermined her own efforts to push for reforms in the criminal justice system.
Sentiment of some, but not enough, to make Evans the mayor

ALLEN ALSO HAS been aggressive in trying to get his judicial colleagues to back the idea of a change in leadership, to the point where 34th Ward Alderman Carrie Austin this week was publicly critical of her Democratic colleagues who are backing Allen – saying they are guilty of a “double cross.”

Feisty rhetoric for a title that I imagine most of us didn’t know was up for grabs and didn’t realize would be decided on Thursday.

It will be interesting to see how the judges take all this into account. Is there a serious sentiment to depose Tim Evans? Do they really want a new chief judge? Or is this a lot of hype being spewed to an impressive-sounding-but-obscure post?

Is it really time to write the political obituary of Timothy Evans? Or will judicial life carry on come Friday as it has before?


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