Ed Underhill, trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience, and Bucktown homeowner for the past 17 years. Ed is a candidate for Judge of the Sixth Judicial Subcircuit of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Ed Underhill has the highest bar ratings of any candidate in the race, and has been endorsed by Alderman Scott Waguespack.
“I’m honored and excited to be taking this step with my friends and family,” Underhill said at a press conference in the district announcing his candidacy in August. “It has been a distinct privilege to practice law here for more than 30 years, and I hope to bring my legal experience, acumen and energy and passion for our community to the bench for Chicago families and businesses.”
Ed Underhill is seeking the Democratic Party nomination in March of 2018 for one of three vacancies in the Sixth Judicial Subcircuit. The Sixth Judicial Subcircuit is one of two judicial circuits that lies entirely within the city of Chicago. The diverse Sixth Subcircuit spans several neighborhoods, including all or part of Albany Park, Avondale, Belmont Cragin, Bucktown, East Village, Hermosa, Humboldt Park, Irving Park, Lincoln Square, Logan Square, Noble Square, Roscoe Village, Ukrainian Village, West Town and Wicker Park.
In addition to his legal experience, Underhill a long record of public service, including active membership in the Bucktown Community Organization, volunteer experience as a mock trial instructor at Austin and Simeon high schools in Chicago, and representation of student journalists in defense of their first amendment freedoms.
Among his contributions to the legal community, Underhill has been a member of the Chicago Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Committee and is a former president of the Northern Illinois University Alumni Council.
Ed lives on Wabansia Avenue with his husband, Liam, and their dog, Finn.
"The bedrock of our democracy is a promise that everyone will have equal access to our courts and be treated equally and with respect in our courtrooms. That is my commitment to you"
I am proud and excited to be running for judge in the 6th Judicial Subcircuit, specifically for the Hon. Richard C. Cooke vacancy. Let me tell you a bit about my family, my background, my education, and my qualifications. So, you can decide if I am the right candidate for you.
I was born on the Southside of Chicago, the youngest of five kids. My father, a Marine Corps veteran, was a lineman for the phone company. My mother was a stay-at-home mom. I attended Bogan High School at 79th and Pulaski. After graduating from high school, I attended Northern Illinois University (“NIU”) for both undergrad and law school. I am the first member of my family to attend college and professional school
I worked many jobs while I was in school to pay for my education, including loading and unloading trucks on the docks of a department store (where I was a member of Local 710 of the AFL-CIO), moving bundles of dirty and bloody laundry in the maintenance department of Christ Hospital, selling books at a bookstore in Ford City, serving as the night-shift librarian at my law school library, carrying bundles of shingles up and down ladders for my brother’s roofing company, writing stories and taking pictures as a newspaper reporter for the NIU student-run paper, as well as for the DeKalb County newspaper, and as a “stringer” for the Rockford Register-Star. I was also a Resident Assistant in my dormitory, Douglas Hall. While in law school, I worked first for the university’s Student’s Legal Assistance Office and later for the DeKalb County State’s Attorney.
My favorite pre-law job was reporting for the NIU student-run newspaper, the Northern Star. Reporting is a great job for anybody who is curious about the world around you-you get to talk with all the people who are personally involved in a conflict (nearly all newspaper writing involves reporting on a conflict of some type) and interview the so-called experts, as well. You have access to all kinds of information and sources the average person doesn’t get to see or meet. If a person wants their story or point-of-view in the paper, they have to talk to you. Also, you have to learn to communicate in a short amount of time and space all of the important – that is, relevant -- information your readers need to grasp the nature of the conflict you are reporting on and to understand who or what caused this conflict. Newspaper writing is great training for the kind of writing lawyers do.
Decades after I graduated from NIU, I still read the student newspaper and continue to provide free legal counsel to the Northern Star and its staff, and I serve as legal counsel to the newspaper’s alumni association
"I’ve observed in the best judges I’ve appeared before over the years is that they always remember why they are on the bench and whom they serve."
Career Success | Lawyer
Law school was always a dream of mine, and I loved nearly every minute of it. I held my first genuine legal job while in law school, working as a prosecutor in DeKalb County under a temporary “7-11” law license (a temporary law license granted to third-year law students who are qualified to work as assistant state’s attorneys or public defenders) and then briefly after I graduated from law school.
While in the state’s attorney office, I learned a great deal about the interaction of the regular participants in the criminal justice system -- the police, the state’s attorneys, the public defenders or private defense attorneys, the clerks, and the judges. I noticed that because these participants have day-to-day interaction with each other and must rely on each other to get cases called, heard and resolved, they can often be given more attention than the actual defendants, witnesses, victims, or juries whose cases they manage. One of the traits I’ve observed in the best judges I’ve appeared before over the years is that they always remember why they are on the bench and whom they serve. Good judges place the rights, interests, and sensitivities of the defendants and victims first while remaining respectful of the challenges that the police face in the field and the challenges witnesses and juries face in the courtroom. They also work hard to avoid any unintentional bias toward the lawyers and court personnel who appear regularly in their courtroom.
I was active in many organizations while in law school, including the student bar association, and was fortunate enough to receive some scholarship money from the law school for talks that I gave to prospective students and other activities I took to promote the school; otherwise, it was a close call as to whether I would be able to afford to remain in school. It was definitely a race to the finish line between the money I had to pay for school and my graduation. The race essentially ended in a tie. I felt my law school experience was uniquely positive, mostly because I developed many close friendships with my classmates and several of my professors. I was very proud of the award I received at my graduation for “The Most Valuable Contribution to the Law School Community” because I was chosen for this award by students, faculty, and staff. I still remain in regular contact with many of my classmates and professors even now. I was the president of the law school’s alumni association board for several years, which is probably the major reason I was named the College of Law Alumnus of the Year by the university in 1993.
I am an attorney at the downtown law firm of Masuda, Funai. This firm has been my “professional home” for more than three decades of my courtroom practice. My court activity involves mostly civil litigation, with a certain amount of criminal defense work. I think it speaks to my strong commitment to the law and my loyalty to my clients that I have represented my clients in nearly all of the divisions of the Cook County Court. I have also handled several appeals before the Illinois Appellate Court. I have also represented clients regularly in the federal court here in Chicago and throughout the country. I am a member of the distinguished Federal Trial Bar, and I am admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court.
I truly enjoy being a lawyer and helping people resolve their disputes and solve their legal problems. To help serve my clients in getting their disputes settled faster (and cheaper) outside of court, I attended a highly-respected, week-long arbitration and mediation program conducted by the Illinois Bar Association a few years ago, and I am now a court-appointed arbitrator for the commercial case section of the Law Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. I enjoy conducting these arbitration hearings and bringing the parties closure to disputes that have given them many a sleepless night.
Pro Bono Work
I have regularly performed pro bono legal services for people in need over the years, mostly through the Legal Aid Foundation and my local neighborhood group, the Bucktown Community Organization. But I have received and handled pro bono work from various organizations I have been associated with over the years, including ward organizations in my area.
For several years, I was a coach and mentor for two high-school mock trial teams that participated in the mock-trial program sponsored by the Circuit Court of Cook County. I first worked with students at Simeon High School on the Southside and later with Austin High School on the West Side. I look forward to contributing again to this program when I am no longer running for judge.
I was a member of the Chicago Bar Association (“CBA”) Judicial Evaluation Committee for several years, first as an investigator, then as a voting board member. From my participation on this CBA committee, I began to give serious thought to running for judge. Eventually, I applied for an Associate Judge vacancy to educate myself on the whole process. Before I could take that step, however, I first had to resign from the CBA committee to avoid any conflict. Fortunately, when I was finally screened by my former committee, the CBA Judicial Evaluation Committee found me “Qualified” to serve as an associate judge in Cook County. I have also been interviewed and rated by all eleven bar groups that make up the Alliance of Bar Associations. I received “Recommended” or “Qualified” ratings from nine of the alliance bar organizations, and am “Highly Recommended” by the Decalogue Society of Lawyers and “Highly Recommended” by the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago. As far as I can tell from public sources, I have the best bar ratings of any candidate running for judge in the 6th Subcircuit.
When not practicing law, I enjoy writing. I have written many legal articles, including articles for the Illinois Bar Journal, which is published by the Illinois State Bar Association. I am also a playwright, short story writer, and screenwriter. Several of my stories have been published in anthologies. In 1987, I won the first Fiction Contest sponsored by the Chicago Lawyer for my story, “Call the Next Case.” Several of my plays have been produced. I am currently writing an article about Abraham Lincoln’s time in Chicago, and the remarkable impact he had on the city and the impact Chicago had on him.
Married in Bucktown
I live in Bucktown with my husband, Liam, a pathologist assistant at Mt. Sinai Hospital, and adjunct instructor at Rosalind Franklin University. We were a couple for many years until gay marriage in Illinois was finally made legal. We were married in 2013, the year gay marriage was recognized by the state. We are very proud to be living in a city and state that recognizes our rights to be married, and we work hard through various organizations to advance civil rights for all residents of Chicago and Illinois. For example, I a member of the Illinois State Treasurer, Michael W. Frerichs’s Advisory Council, representing the LGBTQ community. In addition, Liam and I are both active in the Bucktown Community Organization, and usually help out at the several major programs the BCO sponsors each year, especially the Garden Walk.
It has been my pleasure to introduce myself to the voters in the 6th Subcircuit, and to freely discuss our concerns about our neighborhoods and hear your opinions regarding the performance of our Cook County Courts. No doubt, we are a diverse group of neighborhoods in the 6th Subcircuit, but I think we are all united by a strong, persistent commitment to seeing that our courts are fair, independent, and accessible – to all our residents. The bedrock of our democracy is a promise that everyone will have equal access to our courts and be treated equally and with respect in our courtrooms. That is my commitment to you.
Please vote for me on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, to be the Democratic candidate for the Richard C. Cooke vacancy.
Please me on social media to learn more about my race for Judge in the 6th Judicial Subcircuit.