Donald P. O’Connell served in the Law Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County for his entire judicial career.
Donald P. O’Connell, (then-51), became Cook County Circuit Court’s third chief judge in early December, serving Harry G. Comerford’s remaining two-year term. Comerford, 73, was re-elected chief judge by acclamation last year, but announced in July that he would retire in December ending a 16-year tenure as chief judge.
O’Connell, a jurist since 1978, was named presiding judge of the 1st Municipal District in 1984 and served there until he took over the law division in late 1990.
As Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Judge O’Connell continued to institute improvements in the court. In September 1994, Circuit Court judges elected O’Connell as chief judge of the county’s massive court system.
In September 1995, Cook County Circuit Chief Judge Donald P. O’Connell and two of his assistants are targets of a $1 million federal lawsuit brought by a 10-year employee of the court who was fired in July. Annmarie Milazzo, who lost her job as human resources administrator for the office of the chief judge, alleges she was fired because she didn’t have political sponsorship. Her lawyer, John M. Beal, said he can prove that “dozens of people were hired based on their political sponsorship” since O’Connell was named chief judge less than a year ago.”
Complaint County II. Patronage Hiring. Milazzo alleges in the second count of her complaint that she was terminated because of her political affiliation and because she lacked a political sponsor, and that this violated her First Amendment rights of association. In Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 360, 96 S. Ct. 2673, 2683, 49 L. Ed. 2d 547 (1976), the Supreme Court held that a public employer’s decision to terminate employees on the grounds of political affiliation unquestionably infringes employees’ First Amendment rights”. County II survived O’Connell’s Motion to Dismiss.
In October 1997 Cook County Chief Judge Donald O’Connell announced Thursday the 36 finalists for the 18 vacant associate judge slots.Unlike full Circuit Court judges, who are chosen by the voters, associate judges are selected in a secret ballot by the court’s 200 full circuit judges. The contenders for the judgeships include an alderman–John Steele (6th)–prosecutors, private practitioners and attorneys for the City of Chicago as well as the Chicago Housing Authority.
O’Connell said that he and the selection committee tried to keep politics out of what in the past has been a notoriously political process.
He said all the candidates were on “equal footing” and neither his office nor the nominating committee had a preferred list.
In prior years, calls from ward organizations and clout-heavy politicians influenced the selection of associates, while the recommendations of bar organizations went largely ignored.
The finalists include: Mark J. Ballard; Helaine Leslie Berger; William Joseph Borah; Yolande Marie Bourgeois; William Stewart Boyd; Geraldine Soat Brown; Dennis J. Burke; Frank Castiglione; Timothy John Chambers; Thomas Lee Ciecko; Joseph Michael Claps; Susan Coleman; Joy Virginia Cunningham; Fe Fernandez; Brian Kevin Flaherty; Renee G. Goldfarb; Patricia Brown Holmes; Marianne Jackson; John P. Kirby; Michael Allen Kreloff; Joan Maria Gloria Kubalanza; Thaddeus Stephan Machnik; Judith Ann Mondello Wick; James A. Murphy; Gregory Michael O’Brien; Thomas James O’Hara; James M. Obbish; Harriet Jane Parker; Jesse Gregory Reyes; Elizabeth Loredo Rivera; Karen G. Shields; John O. Steele; Eddie A. Stephens; John D. Tourtelot; Judge Rena (Rose) Marie Van Tine; Maureen Dorothy Yamashiro.