With the March 20 general primary election looming, candidates for Will County Circuit Court judge sought to make their views and interests known.
There are currently two open seats in the race.
On the ballot vying for nomination to replace the Hon. Carla Alessio Policandriotes are Naperville’s Vincent F. Cornelius and Joliet’s Victoria McKay Kennison. The two are running unopposed in the primary, but could meet one another in the November general election.
Seeking nomination to replace the Hon. Daniel J. Rozak are Joliet’s David Garcia, Shorewood’s Moira Dunn, Joliet’s Daniel O’Connell and Frankfort’s Ben Braun. Braun is running unopposed in the primary, but could challenge another candidate in the November general election.
Vincent F. Cornelius
Vincent F. Cornelius, a lone democrat in his field, currently owns a private law practice with offices in Joliet and Wheaton.
“I envision bringing my very broad perspective, and my very broad perspective includes having lived in Will County for more than 40 years and having been educated in Will County in elementary, middle school, high school and college,” Cornelius said. “I’ve worked as a prosecutor; I’ve worked as a criminal defense attorney; I have worked as a civil litigator, as well, so my experience for someone who is pursuing the bench is broader than most. I think that’s what’s going to make the difference for me.”
Illinois State Bar Association offered a positive recommendation of Cornelius. An advisory poll gave him several marks of note for integrity (90.54 percent), temperament (90.54 percent) and health (96.58 percent).
With a career in law spanning 28 years, Cornelius has a history of service to the legal community, with having had an opportunity to serve as president of the Illinois State Bar Association, as president of the Illinois Bar Foundation and as chancellor of the Academy of Illinois Lawyers. Currently, he is board member for the American Bar Association House of Delegates.
“I have really enjoyed being an advocate, being a leader, and a decision-maker in all of those places,” Cornelius said. “I feel I am very prepared now to transition all of those experiences, all those skillsets to the bench, and to use those experiences and skillsets as a judge.”
Cornelius first began working as an assistant state’s attorney in DuPage County and went on to become a prosecutor for the Law Firm of James D. Montgomery and Associates, a prominent law firm in downtown Chicago. His practice, the Law Offices of Vincent F. Cornelius, with locations in Wheaton and Joliet, has served in the community for more than 22 years.
“There is no higher honor, or calling, than ensuring that our citizens believe they received justice,” Cornelius said. “Sometimes they receive justice and they don’t believe that they did, because they don’t understand that they did. I take very seriously the opportunity to serve as a circuit judge, and I take very seriously what it means to the citizens of Will County. I’ve worked really hard in every aspect of my life—my community, my family, in the legal profession, and in my business—to prepare for this opportunity, and I feel very prepared to serve as a Will County Circuit judge.”
Victoria McKay Kennison
Victoria McKay Kennison, a lone republican in her field, currently serves as an associate judge for the Will County Circuit Court.
“I decided to run because after having learned that Carla Policandriotes was announcing her retirement, it was important for me that we keep our experience judiciary,” she said. “She is someone that I have respected and admired over the years. Her absence is going to be deeply felt in the circuit. I’m looking to take my skills and experience and bring that to the judiciary at the circuit level.”
Illinois State Bar Association offered a positive recommendation of Kennison. An advisory poll gave her several marks of note for integrity (88.44 percent), temperament (88.55 percent) and health (96.49 percent).
“I was practicing law for a total of 15 years before I became [an associate] judge,” Kennison said. “I think I had a really nice variety of law, both on the criminal side and the civil side. Thankfully the circuits agreed, and based on, again, my experience and service in the community, they appointed me associate judge in 2011.”
Kennison received her Bachelor’s of Science degree in sociology and criminal justice from Illinois State University and a J.D. degree from John Marshall Law School. She prides herself on being a candidate with a proven track record of success.
“Every court call that I’ve been on, I’ve always worked to see how can I improve the efficiency of the court and how can I improve access to the court,” Kennison said. “That’s something that over the last several years quite a few of my colleagues and I have worked together to help improve the quality of the services at the courthouse, from everything as simple as working with the Will County Circuit Clerk’s Office and our domestic violence advocates to coming up with a user-friendly chart about how you go about the process of applying for orders of protection and putting together a resource in one place, so that individuals who don’t have the benefit of an attorney know where they can go for advice and help.”
Moira Dunn, one of several democrats in her field, currently works for Will County.
“I’m a felony prosecutor for Will County, and I’ve done the county’s prison offenses for over a year,” she said. “I’ve been prosecuting since 2010. I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer. … It’s a goal of mine to become a judge. I’m involved in the community. I believe in giving back. The best way to affect change is through becoming part of the courts.”
Illinois State Bar Association did not offer a positive recommendation of Dunn. An advisory poll gave her several marks of note for health (77.78 percent), temperament (73.27 percent) and sensitivity (76.00 percent).
Dunn prides herself on having the support of Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, as she looks to make a campaign run.
“He’s supportive of me,” she said. “He wants me to be successful.”
Dunn hopes to affect change by serving the courts.
“I need to get my name on the ballot,” she said. “If I’m sitting on the sideline, it isn’t enough.”
David Garcia, one of several democrats in his field, currently works as an associate judge for the Will County Circuit Court.
“I’m an associate judge, and I want to stay in that call,” he said. “They could move me at the year’s end. The circuit judge gets to appoint associate judges. It’s like a promotion. I look it at like moving up the ranks. I enjoy the call, and I enjoy making a difference in people’s lives. I’m a great mediator for families that may be going through divorce, and I try my best to be 50/50 on any divorce. I’ve been in this position five years. They need someone that will make decisions in that call.”
Illinois State Bar Association offered a positive recommendation of Garcia. An advisory poll gave him several marks of note for health (89.51 percent), temperament (81.33 percent) and integrity (82.32 percent).
Garcia gave kudos to his colleagues for shaping him into the candidate he is.
“I thank the rest of the circuit,” he said. “I thank them for approving my appointment as a Latino. Previously, there was never a Latino [in this position.] They’re very progressive. One of the great things is, no matter what party we belong to, we help each other. We’re a family. I have to give them credit.”
Garcia attended Will County schools and went on to practice law in Will County for nearly 20 years.
“I can identify with the people,” he said. “Not that there’s anything wrong [with coming from riches]. I’ve had a few breaks, and I’ve reached where I am today. I have a lot of experience and that separates me from the pack.”
Daniel O’Connell, one of several democrats in his field, currently serves as a member of the Joliet Junior College Board of Trustees.
“I’ve had 35 years of experience running for the courts, and I know that one of my opponents in the election has less experience practicing law,” he said. “What gives me an edge is, I’ve practiced in front of at least a dozen counties in northern and central counties of Illinois. I’ve seen a lot of judges working in the courtrooms and that gives you a perspective of what to do, what not to do. It tells me I’m the best for the job.”
Illinois State Bar Association did not offer a positive recommendation of O’Connell. An advisory poll gave him several marks of note for sensitivity (80.58 percent), temperament (78.30 percent) and integrity (77.14 percent).
O’Connell prides himself on being a candidate for the people.
“I bring empathy to the plight of people,” he said. “We declare war on everything. It’s mess, and it’s making things worse. I’ve done criminal cases and personal injury cases, and I know how it is for the people. I’m down in the trenches.”
O’Connell wanted to be clear, however, that he is not soft on crime.
Ben Braun is the lone republican in his field. Requests for interview were not returned.
Illinois State Bar Association offered a positive recommendation of Braun. An advisory poll gave him several marks of note for health (96.43 percent), legal ability (92.35 percent) and integrity (91.72 percent).
The general primary election is March 20. For more information on polling locations and hours, visit www.thewillcountyclerk.com.