Judge Daniel Guerin Profile
By Azam Nizamuddin
(From the January 2018 Issue)
John F. Kennedy once wrote, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” The act of reading is necessary for any literate society. For attorneys and judges, it is an indispensible tool to analyze and comprehend facts and legal concepts. For many, however, it is an act of joy and learning. It is this activity, which I noted during my conversation with the incoming Chief Judge of the 18th Judicial Circuit, Daniel Guerin. Judge Guerin has an impressive book collection of American history and contemporary politics in his office. His impressive library contains many biographies of US presidents, such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, and JFK. A survey of his life reveals that in addition to reading, his education and life experience manifest the values of fairness, hard work, and justice.
Judge Guerin comes from a family of six children. He attended Maine South High School in Park Ridge where he played on the basketball and tennis teams. After high school, Judge Guerin attended the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana where he was a journalism major. Subsequently, Judge Guerin earned a Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University College of Law. After graduating from law school, Judge Guerin worked for the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s office where he worked in the misdemeanor and felony criminal divisions. For thirteen years, Judge Guerin worked as an Assistant State’s Attorney, handling some of the most serious cases in that office. While working at the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s office, he worked under legendary prosecutors, James Ryan and Joe Birkett whom he deeply admires. As one can assume, some of his most memorable cases as a prosecutor involved some horrific crimes. In fact, one of his most sensitive cases involved a 6-year-old victim who he had to put on the witness stand to identify the perpetrator of the crime. This was no ordinary task and involved a high degree of sensitivity, empathy and deftness, which takes years to develop. Another case involved a ghastly murder of a young woman by her boyfriend who burned his victim in order to prevent identification by family and authorities. Through sophisticated forensic techniques, Judge Guerin was able to procure identification of the victim. In both cases, Judge Guerin was able to obtain a successful conviction.
In March 2003, while working as the Supervisor of the Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Unit of the DuPage County State’s Attorney Office, he was appointed as Associate Judge. As most judges, his judicial career began in Traffic Court and he eventually settled in the Misdemeanor Division and then later in the Felony Division. But Judge Guerin’s assignment in the Felony Division did not allow him a gradual transition from common petty criminal cases to more serious ones. He recalled how when he first transferred to the Felony Division, one of his first cases involved a capital punishment case. It was a multiple homicide case known as People v. Tenney. The trial lasted nearly 5 weeks given the nature of the crime and the capital offense.
Subsequently, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed Judge Guerin as Circuit Judge in 2010. Since that time, he has served as Presiding Judge of both the Misdemeanor and Felony Divisions. He was one of the first judges in the State of Illinois to utilize cameras in the courtroom. The case was People v. Borizov and involved a triple murder. But, unlike the chaos that ensued during the O.J. Simpson murder trial in the early 90’s, cameras in the courtroom have worked fairly well and without much controversy in DuPage County and in Illinois in general.
Judge Guerin loves the law and is actively involved in the administration of the courts in DuPage County and in Illinois. As the incoming Chief Judge of the 18th Judicial Circuit, he would like to make sure that judicial assignments are most effective for the people who use the court system. Judge Guerin believes that the judicial system runs best when all of its moving parts work together to produce justice and treats everyone with fairness and dignity. For him, this involves not only judges and attorneys, but it also includes the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the DCBA community, the court reporters, the deputies and probation officers, the Guardians Ad Litem, Family Shelter Services, and the court administrative staff. He contends, “They all play a vital role in the administration of justice in this County.”
While he will no longer have a courtroom adjudicating criminal cases, Judge Guerin is concerned with several institutional and societal issues which affect the lives of everyday people. For example, as a result of recent changes in Bond Court legislation, courts now have to consider non-monetary bail for some low-level crimes. Judges will now have to consider a presumption of non-monetary forms of bail for all crimes. Additionally, the new legislation permits the court system to consider making a pre-trial risk assessment as to which defendants can be released on bail. This will require policies that ensure fairness, but also consistency. However, it will also have an economic impact on the court system, as more probationary officers will be needed along with the use of new technologies and equipment to consider non-monetary bail.
A second area of concern for Judge Guerin is the increase in the heroin and opioid epidemic in Illinois. As a judge, he frequently witnessed young people repeatedly being charged with possession of these deadly drugs. Because these crimes carry the weight of a felony conviction, young people between the ages of 18 and 25 often have significant challenges procuring employment and in many cases have tarnished their education and careers. Judge Guerin believes the time has come for DuPage County to consider establishing a special court to administer young first time offenders who are charged with these crimes to undergo a special program with greater oversight, more consistency, educational panels, and other programs that can prevent addiction and prevent further violations of the law.
He is mindful of the budgetary constraints for any new programs and looks forward to working in collaborative fashion with law enforcement partners such as the State’s Attorney, Public Defender, Probation officers, the DCBA community and of course the DuPage County Board.
As the incoming Chief Judge of the 18th Judicial Circuit, he would like to thank his predecessors who have paved the way for one of the best judiciaries in the State of Illinois. In particular, he would like to thank Judge Kathryn Creswell for her leadership and stewardship.
Judge Guerin looks forward to working with “the best judiciary in the State of Illinois.” His appreciation and respect for his colleagues on the bench led to the upcoming assignments of the new presiding judges for 2018. His selection of the following judges seeks to take advantage of the hidden talents and energy of the judiciary:
Acting Chief Judge will be Judge Robert Kleeman
Presiding Judge of Law Division will be Judge Ron Sutter
Presiding Judge of Chancery Division will be Judge Bonnie Wheaton
Presiding Judge of Domestic Relations will be Judge Robert Anderson
Presiding Judge of Felony Division will be Judge Liam Brennan
Presiding Judge of Misdemeanor and Traffic will be Judge Paul Marchese
Judge Guerin is the recipient of many accolades for his professional and community work including the “Felony Assistant of the Year Award” in 1996, the DuPage Family Shelter “Justice System Partner Award” in 2006, and the La Rabida Children’s Hospital “Big Hearts for Young Heroes Award” for his work for victims of child abuse. In addition to his role in the Judiciary of DuPage County, Judge Guerin loves to spend time with his family including his wife and three children. He is an avid reader of history and particularly of American legal and political history. He coaches basketball, soccer, and baseball, and can also be found playing golf on occasion.