David Bernthal

David Bernthal

David Bernthal/Off the Bench: 'Merit system' and politics ... you be the judge

A previous column dealt with the process by which judicial vacancies are filled. Readers may recall that most judicial positions in the Illinois courts are filled through the electoral process while justices and judges serving under Article III of the United States Constitution are appointed. Today's column deals with a recent high-profile example of the latter.

David Bernthal/Off the Bench: Celebrating the rule of law on May 1

When I was a lad, the first day of May was commonly celebrated as May Day. Children would pick flowers, put them in baskets and secretly deposit the baskets on the front porch of the nice lady who always gave the best Halloween candy. It was also the day the Soviets celebrated themselves by parading missiles and soldiers through Red Square.

David Bernthal/Off the Bench: Jury doesn't always see all evidence

Trial by jury is an extremely important aspect of the judicial system in our country. I have written about it before and will likely do so again. A reader from Danville wrote me recently. While I cannot address personal legal matters or offer advice, the individual did raise a subject that I think impacts many.

David Bernthal/Off the Bench: Federal courts have limited jurisdiction

"Why was this case in federal court?" That was a question asked by a juror following a trial over which I presided a few years back. It was a great question which provided an opportunity to explain the limited jurisdiction of the federal courts. In fact, it is a question that every judge in federal court must ask when a case is filed.

David Bernthal/Off the Bench: Naturalization ceremonies a time of joy

No one will be surprised to hear that there are not many happy days in a courtroom. My friends in state court get to do weddings and adoptions that for the most part are uplifting. That was not part of my federal court experience. In that setting, the feel-good days happened about four times a year, when the adversarial arena was transformed into a place of celebration.

David Bernthal/Off the Bench: Senior judges critical to courts' ecosystem

My chief goal in writing these columns is to inform readers regarding the systems and processes of both the state of Illinois and the United States courts. Most people have minimal direct contact with the courts. As a result, they may seem mysterious and confusing. The operation of the courts is funded by people who pay taxes.

David Bernthal/Off the Bench: Politics play indirect role in appointing judges

My first column discussed the structure of the federal and state courts. It pointed out that while the judicial positions in the federal courts were filled by appointment, most of the Illinois judgeships are elected positions. One astute reader, Dave Chang, followed up with an email on this point. He expressed concern regarding election of judges.

David Bernthal/Off the Bench: Progress made in effectiveness of mediation

Oct. 16-22 is the American Bar Association's Mediation Week. I bet the creative folks at Hallmark have not come up with a card for that one.

David Bernthal: Jury duty is an honor, not an inconvenience

"Guard duty is an honor!" I remember hearing those words from a drill instructor while a basic trainee at Fort Knox, Ky.

David Bernthal/Off the Bench: 'Hot coffee case' significant in more than one way

During my years on the bench I had opportunities to speak to various groups. Frequently, I asked if people in the audience had concerns about so-called "frivolous" lawsuits tying up the limited resources of the courts. Invariably, at least a few people would indicate they had such concerns.