Circuit Court Judge Donnelly Fighting for People to be Treated With Dignity and Respect (Chicago, IL) – When someone enters Judge Thomas More Donnelly’s courtroom, he understands that it’s often not in the best circumstances. But he also believes every person has certain rights that should be respected. It’s the reason restorative and social justice remains two pillars he fights for everyday.
“Part of my experience as a public defender, I found that my clients were hated by the clerks, sheriffs, judges and prosecutors and treated with disrespect on occasion. One thing I vowed as being a judge is that everyone would be treated with dignity and respect,” said Donnelly.
“I’m passionate about making the system more fair and more just, especially for those who don’t have money or power and can’t advocate for themselves within our court system.”
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Running for Cook County Circuit Court Judge
Donnelly is running for Circuit Court of Cook County which he was appointed to last year. The position allows judges to vote for chief judges and associate judges that will preside over certain state divisions. Sworn in as a judge in 2000, Donnelly currently serves as Circuit Court of Cook County Associate Judge. he currently hears civil jury trials. He has presided over hundreds of jury trials and received the Harold Sullivan Award from the Illinois Judges Association and Impact Award from the Center for Disability and Elder Law.
“Many times the least of us don’t have a voice or someone to speak for them,” said Donnelly, who chairs the Illinois Judicial College Board of Trustees.
“We are always looking for ways to improve the system and make the legal system better and more fair for everyone involved.”
Donnelly Pushes for Legislation
Donnelly helped push for Illinois Senate Bill 88 restorative justice bill signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker in 2021, which is one of his passions. Restorative justice is a set of principles and practices that create a different approach to dealing with crime and its impacts working to address the dehumanization experienced by people in the traditional criminal justice system. It seeks to include those most directly affected by a crime in the justice process namely victims and survivors. Rather than a process focused on the offender, restorative justice aims at those who have been harmed and the harms they experienced.
“I served as a public defender for 12 years and oftentimes the victim and offender know each other and are family members. We ought to be spending a lot of our resources to attempt to repair relationships, acknowledge the harm that has been done, see what can be done to repair the harm and allow people to rejoin the community,” said Donnelley.
“That is important for public safety. Whenever you sever the connection between them and the community they have nothing that holds them to a higher duty.”
Fights for Consumer Fairness
He has also fought for a consumer fairness bill that was passed when it comes to debt collection, helping to reduce the post judgment interest rate from nine percent to six percent along with decreasing enforcement from 21 years to 17 years.
“If you are a grandmother who signed a car loan for your grandchild and all of a sudden you were having trouble paying for the interest because it was so high, creditors could keep going after them where it is difficult for them to pay off,” said Donnelly.
“As a judge, you have the influence to go to the legislators and they will listen. If you can use your influence to help the quality of life for people then I believe you should.”
He also works with the Illinois Supreme Court’s educational arm, which is responsible for training Illinois judges and those who assist judges in the court system, including probation officers, court clerks, guardians ad litem, trial court administrators, and law clerks. Before becoming a judge, he clerked for Judge Mary Ann G. McMorrow and served as an assistant public defender. He has chaired both the Chicago Bar Association (CBA) Professional Responsibility Committee and the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) Standing Committee on Professional Conduct.
Circuit Court Judge Donnelly Fighting for People to be Treated With Dignity and Respect