Jesse G. Reyes

Candidate for IL Supreme Court - 1st District

Candidate Q&A

Why do you want to be an Illinois Supreme Court Justice?

I grew up in the blue-collar neighborhoods of Pilsen and Bridgeport, raised by an immigrant blue-collar family. I was the oldest of four children and the only one to attend college. After graduating from Kelly High School, I attended community college while working in factories to help support my family.

I observed many injustices growing up, and for this reason, I decided that if I would ever reach my goal of becoming a lawyer I would never forget where I came from and would give back to others. So, as a lawyer and judge, that is why I have returned to my community and other communities to provide service and information about our legal process. Growing up, I read many history books and biographies. One of the historical figures I read about was Abraham Lincoln, the lawyer, and how he would, in some instances, speak on behalf of those who could not speak for themselves. It was these acts of seeking justice for all that inspired me to be a lawyer.

We are unfortunately living in very difficult and dangerous times, and we must always be cognizant of these circumstances and stand guard in protecting our rights. Our courts are the venue in which issues can be peacefully resolved. Our court system, particularly the Illinois Supreme Court, is the forum where rules and regulations can be established to ensure our rights are protected. I bring an ability to identify problems and find solutions to the problems. I bring to the position diversity of experience, diversity of practice, and diversity of perspective.

Why do you believe you are the most qualified candidate?

As a member of the judiciary, I have served as an associate judge, circuit court judge, and appellate court justice. Each time I have run for a position in the judiciary, I have been considered or evaluated by the bar associations. Every time, I have been found to be recommended, qualified, highly qualified, or highly recommended for the position I was seeking. Presently, I have been found to be either Highly Recommended or Highly Qualified by the Chicago Bar Association (CBA), Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI), and Puerto Rican Bar Association (PRBA). All other members of the Alliance of Bar Associations have issued a recommended rating. I have also had the great honor of having been endorsed in the past by Personal PAC as an Appellate Court candidate and as a Supreme Court candidate.

I am currently serving on the Illinois Appellate Court, First District. As a member of the court, I am presently the presiding justice of the Third Division as well as the Co-Chair and founding member of the First District’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee. I have previously served as Chair of the Executive Committee and Settlement Committee, as well as a presiding justice on all of the previous divisions that I served on during my tenure on the appellate court.

Throughout my judicial career, I have written or lectured extensively on a variety of issues, from abuse to workers' compensation, nationally and internationally. I have also conducted community forums on numerous legal topics to keep the community at large informed on current developments in the law.

My lived experiences and my experiences as a judge have prepared me to be a justice on the Illinois Supreme Court. For example, as president of the Illinois Judges Association, this experience provided me the opportunity to become familiar with how our courts work in Illinois. At the same time, I gained some insights on how to improve our administration of justice.

Do you think electing justices to the Illinois Supreme Court is the best way to select justices?

Yes, I have always believed that the courtrooms belong to the people, and the people should determine who sits in their courtrooms.

Are you concerned about the public’s perception of judicial independence when Illinois Supreme Court candidate (committees) must fundraise to run for that seat and to run campaign commercials?

Yes, However, this is the current means by which we (candidates) have to engage to get elected. That is why a candidate must have a campaign that is transparent and above board in all regards.

Some judicial candidates have lifted contribution caps in their races by giving themselves $100,000 or more. That opens the door for other deep-pocket donors to contribute and influence races. Should judicial candidates have tighter restrictions on campaign financing to keep more modest fundraising caps in place?

Yes, No, For the exact reason stated in the question, without caps, there is a possibility that deep-pocket donors can contribute and influence a judicial race. Even if there is no influence asserted, It is the perception that damages the integrity of the election. This only serves to further erode the public’s trust in our judiciary.

Would you always remove yourself from a case if it involved one of your campaign donors?

Yes, No, Judges always avoid the appearance of impropriety. The perception of a lack of integrity, whether explicit or implicit, should always be avoided. Transparency is always the best policy.

How important is it to your candidacy to be slated by your political party?

As a candidate, I believe it would be preferable to have the support of your political party. If, however, you do not, it is still the right of every individual in this country to run for the office they seek. Furthermore, this political process does not diminish the candidates' qualifications, experience, or ability to hold office, nor should this factor deter the voting public from voting for the candidate.

Do you support the campaign finance rule for judicial candidates that bans donations from groups that don’t disclose the donors who fund them (dark money groups)?

Yes, “Dark money” only serves to taint judicial elections and threatens the integrity of the judiciary. There needs to be stricter campaign finance rules requiring greater public disclosure of donations and expenditures.

Do you think more should be done to protect the safety of judges?

Yes, No, The safety of judges, their families, and their court staff is essential. Our system of justice depends on judges who can feel safe in carrying out their constitutional duties and responsibilities without fear of reprisal.

Tell us about your judicial temperament and what aspect of judicial temperament you think is the most important for an Illinois Supreme Court justice?

I believe my temperament would be described as judicious, firm, but fair to both sides in an attempt to ensure that every litigant gets all the process they are due by not placing limits on the amount of time they have to present their case. Along those lines, treating everyone with respect. I believe the most important aspect of judicial temperament for an Illinois Supreme Court justice is being judicious.

What is your biggest goal if you are elected to the Illinois Supreme Court?

My biggest goal is to create better access, more transparency, and a diversity that reflects the people of Illinois.

I would work to create a more transparent system of justice. First, I would establish a more transparent appointment process for individuals seeking to be on the bench. I would send out public notices that inform the public of a vacancy that needed to be filled. The courtrooms belong to the people and not only to one individual(s). So, I would create a committee consisting of retired judges, lawyers, and representatives from the community at large. This committee would vet the candidates seeking an appointment to the bench and would actually make recommendations. This committee would actually be a working committee and not one in name only.

Another change is to have court reporters or recording devices in all the courtrooms so unrepresented litigants can prepare a transcript and present a record to the appellate court if the matter is appealed. This is also a means to ensure that the hearing or trial remains fair and objective.

I would also place cameras in the courtrooms to evaluate judges and to monitor how trials and hearings are conducted.