I would like to thank the DuPage County Bar Association, and editors of the BRIEF for this forum to highlight my reasons for seeking the Republican Nomination for the Illinois Supreme Court in the March 21, 2000 Primary Election.
When I ran for Circuit Court Judge in 1988, I recall a memorable moment that took place in a local food store. A man approached me with a quizzical expression on his face, "Can I ask you a question?", he asked. I replied, "Sure," and with that, he queried "Didn’t you used to be Bob Thomas?" That moment crystallized the realization that I would always be better known for my ten-year career with the Chicago Bears than I would ever be for my judicial career.
I am proud of my decade with the Chicago Bears. I can see some carryover benefit from having faced the pressures of being an NFL kicker to my current position facing the pressure related to deciding important cases. The life experience of being noted by the press for both winning and losing games has brought a certain humility that helps me remember that judicial robes are made of the fabric of responsibility, rather than power.
My achievement as an NFL player has been well documented. Receiving less publicity has been my graduation from the University of Notre Dame, and from Loyola University School of Law, my induction into the Academic All American Hall of Fame, and my recent NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, which honors recipients for 25 years of outstanding achievement.
But this race for the Illinois Supreme Court is about more than life experience, regardless of the significance. It should be defined in terms of judicial experience and integrity.
I am a candidate who possesses unparalleled experience in both the trial and the appellate courts. I have served as an Appellate Court Justice for five years, authoring over 600 dispositions, including 100 opinions. Prior to my election as an Appellate Court Justice in 1994, I served six years as a DuPage County Circuit Court Judge presiding over approximately 100 jury trials. I also served as Acting Chief Judge for five of my six years in the trial court.
A question often asked of judges is: "Do you believe in the merit selection of judges?" My answer to that question leads into what I believe further distinguishes my candidacy - integrity. The problem with judicial appointments by merit selection is not the word merit, but rather is with who is making the selection. Too often, appointments are made on the basis of political insider deals. I believe in an independent judiciary, free from politics, favors, and quid pro quos. I seek the office of Supreme Court Justice as the most qualified candidate, not on the basis of family entitlement, family wealth, or the good ole boy network. I therefore believe in the merit election of judges and intend to place my superior qualifications before an informed electorate in hopes of being elected to the Supreme Court owing no one but the voters who put me there and the people I serve.
Experience with integrity necessarily means a commitment to excellence. As a Supreme Court Justice, I would diligently work toward improving our court system by:
1) Promoting more efficient methods to resolve disputes faster and in less expensive fashion (an effort commonly known as alternative dispute resolution);
2) Spearheading an effort to mandate continuing judicial education; and
3) Establishing objective criteria for the appointments of Circuit and Appellate Court Judges.
Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address stated, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in . . . ." I believe I have tackled my profession and my life with firmness in the right as God gives me to see the right. I am a strong believer in not only does character matter, but that character matters much, and I believe my character has been reflected in consistently high ratings by the DuPage County Bar Association, a public recognition of my integrity, impartiality, legal ability, temperament, and court management.
"Justice Bob Thomas for Illinois Supreme Court - a New Kind of Upright," means more to me than a catchy phrase or a clever play on words. It is rather my pledge to the people of the State of Illinois that I will be a Supreme Court Justice in whom the public can put its full faith and trust. It is my intent during the course of this campaign to point out where I have been, to display my character, and to make it abundantly clear that I would uphold and enforce the laws of this State and fulfill my official duties as Supreme Court Justice without bias or influence.
Justice Bob Thomas