Long-time Evanston resident Jerry Esrig is seeking re-election to the ninth judicial subcircuit. After a 35-year career practicing law, he decided in September of 2013 to run for judge. A month later, on Oct. 30, 2013, he was appointed to fill the seat vacated by retiring Judge Allen Goldberg.
After graduatiing from University of Chicago Law School in 1978, Judge Esrig worked for the law firm Solomon, Rosenfeld, Elliott Stiefel & Engerman. In 1980, he joined James P. Chapman & Associates. In 1984, he co-founded the firm of Zaideman & Esrig, P.C., which in 1985 became Epstein, Zaideman & Esrig. Since Jim Epstein was appointed and then elected to the bench in 1999, the firm has been known again as Zaideman & Esrig, P.C.
As a trial lawyer, Judge Esrig said he handled in part civil litigation such as personal injury cases and commercial disputes. Examples of his commercial litigation cases are construction claims, partnership and shareholder disputes, claims for breach of fiduciary duty, physician privilege issues, fraud, fraudulent transfers, employment disputes, covenants not to compete and mechanics lien claims. In personal injury suits he represented people who were injured in transportation accidents – airplane crashes, train derailments, automobile and truck collisions, as examples – and people injured by defective products, pharmaceuticals and medical negligence.
His courtroom experience includes jury and bench trials, arbitrations and “about a dozen” appeals, he said, in state and federal courts. And it was those years in the courtroom, he says, that made him decide to seek judicial election. “I know what it is like to walk into a courtroom and what a joy it is to work with a prepared and knowledgeable judge. You can use your skills and your client gets a fair shake. Unfortunately, I also know the opposite. [With an unprepared judge], not only are you hampered in your job, the client doesn’t always get a fair shake.
“I really care very deeply about those associated with the court system,” said Judge Esrig. In traffic court, where he now sits, he said, “A lot of people don’t have a lawyer and don’t know what to expect. I’m deeply committed to making everyone who comes before me understand what is happening.”
Judge Esrig and his wife, Deborah Thorne, have lived in Evanston for more than 23 years. Their two children, now grown, are graduates of Evanston Township High School. He served as secretary and then president of Am Yisrael Synagogue. When his children were younger, he coached AYSO soccer and Evanston Youth Baseball. Ms. Thorne is a past chairperson of Evanston United Way, has participated in Leadership Evanston and served as a member of the City’s Human Relations Commission. She is immediate past president of the national organization Women Employed.
“I have been very involved in the Evanston community,” said Judge Esrig. “I care very deeply about it.”
Before children, however, and even before law school, Judge Esrig was active in Evanston. As an undergraduate student at Northwestern University, but not yet an Evanston resident, he helped out with Abner Mikva’s congressional campaigns. In 1972, he organized an innovative absentee ballot drive aimed at students attending school outside the district. In 1974, he was the precinct coordinator for Niles Township and in 1976 he was the precinct coordinator for the Congressional district. From January to September 1975, when he began law school, he worked on Congressman Mikva’s Congressional staff.
Endorsements and Supporters
The Chicago Bar Association has rated Judge Esrig “highly qualified,” and the Chicago Council of Lawyers, “well qualified.” He is rated “qualified” by the Puerto Rican Bar Association and the Illinois State Bar Association and “recommended” by several other bar associations.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and former Congressman Mikva are the honorary co-chairs of the campaign. Many local leaders have endorsed him, including Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen, Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin and Evanston Aldermen Peter Braithwaite, Donald Wilson, Delores Holmes, Mark Tendam, Jane Grover, Ann Rainey and Coleen Burrus.
“Jerry is a very talented lawyer who has done a lot of great things,” said Commissioner Suffredin. “He will be an exceptional judge.”
Judge Esrig said he feels it is important that people pay attention to the judges’ races. “Courts are so critical to our democracy. It is the branch of government people come into contact with most frequently – whether it is a traffic ticket, a kid in trouble or something terrible that has happened.”
In addition to the Goldberg vacancy, there are two other judicial vacancies in the 9th subcircuit: those of Judge Barbara Meyer and Judge Lee Presto. Election Day is March 18.