There are two judicial races in the 4th Subcircuit in the June 28 primary. While much of the attention has been on race which includes Riverside resident Chloe Pedersen, former Brookfield resident Jerry Barrido, Patrick Campanelli and ShawnTe Raines Welch, the wife of Illinois Speaker of the House Chris Welch, there is another contest. 

Nicholas Kantas

The two candidates in other 4th Subcircuit race are Nicholas “Nick” Kantas and Amanda Moira Pillsbury. Both are career prosecutors in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and both live in Western Springs.

Kantas, 43, now works as a supervisor in the juvenile justice division overseeing prosecutions of juveniles while Pillsbury, 42, is a first chair prosecutor in a courtroom at the Bridgeview Court House. 

As a first chair prosecutor Pillsbury oversees all the prosecutions assigned to a particular judge and tries the most serious cases, such as murders and aggravated drunk driving cases that result in a death, herself.

“I get any case that involves a dead body,” Pillsbury said.   

Kantas, a former first chair prosecutor, has tried approximately 40 jury trials while Pillsbury has prosecuted about 20.

Amanda Pillsbury

One difference between the candidates is their ratings by bar associations.

While Kantas has been rated recommended or qualified by every bar association that has weighed in on the race, Pillsbury has been rated as qualified or recommended by eight bar associations, including the Chicago Bar Association, but has been rated as not recommended or not qualified by five bar associations.

The Chicago Council of Lawyers, traditionally known as the pickiest bar association when it comes to judicial evaluations, rates Pillsbury as not qualified. While praising her legal ability, the Chicago Council of Lawyers say that some have questioned her temperament and diligence.

“Most respondents praised her temperament but a few noted that she can, on occasion, be abrasive with opposing counsel,” the Chicago Council of Lawyers evaluation states. “She has substantial litigation experience although some respondents noted that a substantial amount of her experience has been in less complex matters. Most respondents praised her trial skills, although there were a few respondents who questioned her diligence.”

The Illinois State Bar Association, the Black Women Lawyers Association, the Hispanic Bar Association, and the Cook County Bar Association, which is made up mostly of Black lawyers, also all found Pillsbury not qualified or not recommended.

Pillsbury, who ran unsuccessfully for judge countywide in 2018 and 2020, told the Landmark that her negative ratings probably stem from her job as a felony prosecutor who tries high stakes and contentious cases.

“I don’t think a passion for doing a trial should be mistaken for poor temperament,” Pillsbury said.

She also criticized the process used by the Chicago Council of Lawyers in their evaluation process.

“Their ratings are based on a very short interview that’s a couple of minutes long,” Pillsbury said. “The pool of people that they speak with during their investigation is a very narrow pool, usually with defense attorneys or maybe other attorneys. They may be more accurate if they talked with those who observed and interacted with me on a daily basis for the last 17 years.”

Pillsbury noted that she has been found qualified or recommended by the largest bar association in the area, the Chicago Bar Association, and by groups such as the Women’s Bar Association, the Puerto Rican Bar Association, the LAGBAC-Chicago LGBTQ+ Bar Association and others.

Pillsbury, whose father was a long time union electrician, has also been endorsed by the Chicago Federation of Labor and by the pro-abortion rights group Personal PAC, upon whose board Pillsbury sat until she resigned to run for judge.

Kantas is more politically connected. He has the support of State Sen. Steve Landek and the Lyons Township Democratic Organization. Kantas is the son-in-law of Al Ronan, a former state representative who became a powerful lobbyist. Kantas’ wife is also a lobbyist. 

He has received campaign contributions from powerful players in Illinois politics, such as House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs); LaGrange Park resident Heather Vaught, who is a former chief counsel for former House Majority Leader Michael Madigan; and the Del Galdo Law Group, which represents a number of municipalities in the western suburbs.

Kantas served for two years on the board of the Lyons Township Treasurer of Schools, commonly known as the TTO. He said that his wife’s lobbying activities would have no impact on him should he become a judge. 

“Every day as a prosecutor I kind have to deal with the evidence whether I charge a case or don’t charge a case,” Kantas said. “As a judge you have to do the same thing, and I wouldn’t ever let some kind of family issue kind of cloud that.”

Both Kantas and Pillsbury have made major financial contributions to their campaigns. Kantas recently donated $50,000 to his campaign and Pillsbury’s husband, Philip Nawrocki, has contributed or loaned approximately $40,000 to her campaign.