Name: Joel Berg
Office Sought: Circuit Judge for the 22nd Judicial Circuit, 1st Subcircuit, Judge Weech Vacancy
Occupation: Associate Judge
Education: B.S. summa cum laude from Northern Illinois University, J.D. with High Honors, IIT/Chicago-Kent College of Law
Elected Offices Held: City of Harvard 2nd Ward Alderman, 2000-2006
1) What skills, qualities or experience do you have that separate you from your opponents?
First, I served my country honorably in the U.S. Army.
Second, I put myself through college and law school while working 30 hours per week and graduated both near the top of my class.
Third, I owned my own business where I learned the importance of staying within a budget while representing thousands of people in all types of legal matters. I didn't just practice one type of law; I practiced all types of law, which is vital for a judge who is expected to competently sit in all types of courtrooms. While doing this, I further served my profession as President of the McHenry County Bar Association and as a lecturer and author for lawyers and judges in fields as diverse as child custody law, civil procedure, and criminal procedure.
Fourth, I served my community for 10 years on the Library Board and for six years on the City Council. Again, I learned what it takes to keep within a budget, and I never once voted for a tax hike.
Fifth, and finally, I've been a judge for the past six years. During that time I've presided over all types of cases: traffic, civil, criminal misdemeanor and felony, small claims, personal injury, domestic relations, foreclosure, and on and on.
No other candidate has this breadth of experience, in life, legal practice, or on the bench.
2) Do you have a strong sense of moral behavior in your personal life and how would that carry over to your decisions on the bench?
Yes. But actions speak louder than words, so the question is not how would that carry over into my professional career, but how it has already been carrying over for the past six years. And it has been carrying over as I have striven, day in and day out, to always be three things: prepared, fair, and courteous. Morality requires hard work for a day's pay, and that's what I try to give the taxpayers and the parties before me. Morality requires that the judge give a fair and honest hearing to both sides that appear before the court, and I've constantly sought to give all before me a fair decision based only on the law and on the evidence properly presented. Finally, morality demands courtesy. Judges must always remember we are public servants – servants, not masters – and we must be polite and respectful to all before the court.
3) Does the Bail Reform Act do enough to level the playing field for poor people in the criminal justice system? Why or why not?
No. The Bail Reform Act is a good start on leveling the playing field for poor people, but only through the arraignment stage. We still must make sure all people – rich, poor, and middle class – have access to quality legal representation to insure their rights are safeguarded for the duration of the case.
4) Is there a Justice on the Supreme Court that you admire? Who and why?
I have been following Justice Neil Gorsuch since he was a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. I have read nearly every decision he has written in the past seven years, and he has impressed me as a legal genius from the get go. Even on the rare occasions on which I disagreed with him, his decisions have been well written, polite and respectful without being mushy, and the product of a keen intellect.
5) How will your party affiliation influence your actions as a judge?
As a circuit judge, my Republican Party affiliation will influence me only in how I would deal with the administration of the courts. To wit, I believe in balancing the budget and cutting costs, which seems out of vogue the past 20 or so years in Washington but is still my guiding principle. Political party affiliation will have absolutely nothing to do with my legal decision making, though. Judges don't make laws, we interpret and apply them. And politics can't change the language of a statute I'm bound by oath to uphold and apply, no matter how distasteful it may seem.
6) Do you think cameras should be allowed in McHenry County courtrooms? Why or why not?
Yes, cameras should be allowed in courtrooms. Government functions best when it functions in the open for all to see.