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Second Ward Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste has been appointed judge in the 9th judicial subcircuit in Cook County. He will fill a vacancy left by the death of Judge Gerard Bender in early December under an order issued by the Illinois Supreme Court on Wednesday, February 9.

Ald. Jean-Baptiste said that when approached some time ago about becoming a judge, he had indicated that it was “always an option — eventually.” He began to think seriously about pursuing a judgeship this past fall, and when he encountered Illinois Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Freeman at an event in the fall, he told him, “I’m available if something comes up.” According to Ald. Jean-Baptiste, Justice Freeman told him that nothing was available at that time but encouraged Ald. Jean-Baptiste to “throw his hat in the ring” when the next election cycle came around.

Things changed with Judge Bender’s passing. Ald. Jean-Baptiste said that he received a call in December asking for his resume followed by a request for “too much information.” Ald. Jean-Baptiste had a deadline of December 27, 2010 to gather exhaustive records of his law practice, cases he had handled, and extensive other background information. Gathering as much data as the Supreme Court sought proved a challenge, but one the Alderman met.

An Alliance of eleven area bar associations, the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening, then conducted an extensive interview in which they grilled Ald. Jean-Baptiste about his qualification and temperment. An “even harder” interview session with the Chicago Bar Association followed. Ald. Jean-Baptiste made the cut.

“I kept it all under my hat until they finished the investigation,” said Ald. Jean-Baptiste. As a result, the announcement Wednesday caught many by surprise.

Ald. Jean-Baptiste served the second ward since his election almost ten years ago. City Council gave him a standing ovation Monday night as aldermen praised his dedication, leadership and eloquence. Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl now faces the task of appointing a replacement to fill Ald. Jan-Baptiste’s unexpired term, which runs through April 2013.

Mayor Tisdahl to Hold Meeting About New Second Ward Alderman

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl will appoint a Second Ward resident to serve the remainder of Lionel Jean-Baptiste’s term, through April of 2013.

She will hold a community meeting for Second Ward residents at 7 p.m. on Feb. 22 in Room A241 at Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave. to seek residents’ input on the qualities needed in the next Second Ward alderman.

Mayor Tisdahl says that, after consulting with residents and receiving counsel from Alderman Jean-Baptiste, she will appoint the next Second Ward alderman at the Feb. 28 City Council meeting. Entry to the high school and parking for the meeting are from Lake Street, behind the school.