My name is Jim Gleffe, and I am running for Judge here in Cook County. When most judicial candidates introduce themselves, they will talk about the number of cases they tried, the type of law they practice, the awards they have received or law groups they belong to. Many candidates do not talk about what I believe to be the most important quality of a judge – the perspective that they bring with them to the bench.
To illustrate my point, I want to talk about my experience as a prosecutor for the City of Chicago when I was a newly minted attorney out of law school. While prosecuting cases for the City, many of the cases were generally considered low level cases, such as speeding or running a stop sign. Despite the fact that these cases were not considered to be very serious, sometimes the outcome of these cases would cause an individual found guilty make a choice between paying the fine and feeding their family. In this regard, I learned that the legal process has implications, both big and small, those that are participants in it. Most of the time, those participating in the process are not there voluntarily and the court cases they are involved in can bring a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety to their lives. This is why I feel it is important for judges to express empathy and try to understand what life is like for those appearing before them.
In terms of my perspective, my personal, professional and political experience have shaped who I am and make me an excellent candidate for judge. On a personal level, I was raised in a working class, union family on the southwest side of Chicago. My dad worked for a trucking company and my mom was a member of SEIU Local 73 as a crossing guard for the City of Chicago. We did not have a lot, but my family sacrificed to ensure that there was always food on the table and I was able to get an education that allowed me to achieve whatever I put my mind to. I was the first person in my family to graduate college, and I went on to get my law degree from DePaul University College of Law. It was not easy, but the struggle made me appreciate hard work and fight for those that helped me along the way.
Professionally, I have dedicated my life to serving others. In addition to my experience as a prosecutor with the City of Chicago, I served as an Enforcement Attorney with the Secretary of State’s Securities Department. In this role, I prosecuted fraudsters that stole money from the retirement accounts and college funds of families throughout this state. I also served as the Chief Legal Counsel, and later the Chief of Staff, for the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Office where we fought against property fraud and those that try to steal people’s homes. Currently, I serve as the Deputy Chief of Staff and Labor Counsel for Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough where I handle labor and employment matters and work with the administration to improve the lives of the residents of Cook County.
Politically, I have been an advocate for working families for the past 15 years. I continue to serve as a Precinct Captain for the 13th Ward Democratic Organization where there is much more to the role than simply asking people for their votes. I learned that Precinct Captains are often the only source of interaction that residents have with any level of government. My constituents have come to me with their problems, both big and small, and I did what I could to help. When a senior citizen, who was also a Veteran, fell ill, I drove him to the VA hospital for medical care. When a child was being bullied at school, I facilitated a meeting between the family, the principal and our Alderman to ensure that the child was protected from further harassment. I helped a senior citizen pick up their groceries and did pro-bono legal work for a few residents that had nowhere else to turn. These types of experiences were the most gratifying, and nothing was more humbling than being invited into a constituent’s home to discuss our lives and the issues of the day. Beyond my role as Precinct Captain, I have walked precincts all throughout this state fighting to protect collective bargaining rights against the attacks from Bruce Rauner and his anti-worker agenda. I also fought for senior citizens and their access to quality services that allow them to live a life of retirement with dignity; fought for equal pay for equal work; and a woman’s right to make decisions about her own health. I am proud to say that I helped make Illinois “blue” and stood up for the values of working families in Illinois.
This is my perspective, and this is what I will bring with me to the bench. I humbly ask for your support and the privilege to serve as a Judge in Cook County.