By JOHN O’CONNOR, AP Political Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Seven Democrats are vying for a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court once held by the high court’s fist black justice.

Democrat Charles Freeman, who died March 2 at 86, held the post from 1990 to 2018, when he retired. P. Scott Neville, formerly an Illinois First District Appellate Court justice, was appointed to complete Freeman’s term.

Neville and six other candidates — five of whom are First District Appellate Court justices in Cook County — are seeking a new 10-year term on the court. With no Republicans in the race, the winner of Tuesday’s primary election will most likely be the victor in November’s general election.

In this Sept. 10, 2013, file photo, former Illinois Supreme Court justice Charles E. Freeman questions an attorney during oral arguments at the Michael A. Bilandic Building in Chicago. Seven Democrats are vying for a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court once held by the high court’s first black justice in Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2020, Illinois Primary. Democrat Charles Freeman held the post from 1990 to 2018, when he retired. Freeman died March 2 at 86. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green File)

Neville came under fire last summer when NBC5 Chicago reported that he had received a Homeowners’ Exemption on a Chicago home that listed his late mother as owner. Neville repaid $3,000 for four years in which he had received the exemption but didn’t live in the home.

In the only other Supreme Court race, two Republicans and a Democrat hope to replace retiring Republican Justice Lloyd Karmeier.

Here are the candidates:




Cobbs points to a varied resume of her experience both as a jurist and an administrator.

With a master’s in social work before receiving a degree from Illinois Institute of Technology-Chicago Kent College of Law, Cobbs has been a clinical social worker, staff attorney and chief legal counsel. She was director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, which runs the Illinois judiciary, from 2002 to 2011 before becoming a circuit court and then appellate judge.


Epstein is the only candidate in the race who has not been a judge. Before beginning his campaign, he worked for a Chicago law firm on cases he says showed him the system’s injustices. He proposes Supreme Court rules changes to close ethical loopholes, eliminate bias and barriers to access to the courts.

Among other things, he wants disinterested outside parties to determine ethical rules for judges, to eliminate cash bail and to require criminal-case depositions so that certain facts are established regardless of the outcome.


Harris was a Chicago Public Schools special education teacher who earned a law degree at night. He had 30 years of trial experience before spending 10 years as a circuit court judge and 10 as an appellate justice.

Harris points to two key appellate court opinions he wrote, one giving the Illinois State Police the authority to deny concealed-carry firearm permits to people based on information in prior police reports and one that directed Cook County to provide health insurance to retired firefighters even if they get work elsewhere.


Howse attended a segregated school while growing up in Jim Crow-era Tennessee. After his family moved to Chicago, he received a law degree from Loyola University. Howse focused on election law and worked for the Harold Washington Party, formed by followers of Chicago’s first black mayor, to help outsiders get on the election ballot.

Howse was elected a Cook County circuit judge in 1998 and was appointed in 2009 by the Supreme Court to serve as an appellate justice, where he won election in his own right in 2012.


Reared in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, McBride joined a civil practice firm upon graduation from DePaul Law School, but soon went to work for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, overseeing the preliminary hearing courtroom for homicides and sexual-assault cases.

McBride was appointed a Cook County associate circuit judge in 1987 and won a seat on the appellate court in 1998.


After graduation from Washington University Law School, Neville began a four-decade law career clerking for an Illinois appellate justice. As an attorney, he specialized in appellate, employment, civil rights and complex civil litigation. He was part of a team of attorneys in the early 1990s that won cases for fairer political mapping and for black and Latino workers laid off by the city of Chicago.

He was appointed a circuit court judge in 1999 and elected in 2000. He was appointed appellate court justice in 2004 and elected in 2012, then replaced Freeman on the high court in 2018.


Reyes has been a judge since 1997, starting as an associate circuit judge.

Before rising to the bench, he represented the Chicago Board of Education in litigation and was tasked with developing and implementing the policies and procedures of school reform. He earlier worked in the Chicago corporation counsel’s office.



Two Republicans, John B. Barberis Jr. and David K. Overstreet, square off on Tuesday to challenge Democrat Judy Cates in November. All three currently sit on the Fifth District Appellate Court in southern Illinois,


Barberis was a juvenile home detention officer for the Madison County Probation Department for two years before entering St. Louis University Law School. He spent nearly 20 years in private practice while also working part-time as a Madison County prosecutor.


Overstreet was in private practice for 30 years following law school at the University of Tennessee. He was appointed a circuit court judge in 2007, then was tabbed for the appellate court in 2017 and elected to the seat in 2018.


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