Name: Ben Braun
Political party: Republican
Town where you currently reside: Frankfort
Marital status: Married
Significant other: Wendy Braun
Children: Two children, Brooke and Ryan
Office sought: Will County judge, 12th Circuit - Rozak Vacancy
Occupation (employer): Will County associate judge
Education: Bachelor’s Degree from University of Illinois, Juris Doctor Degree Stetson University College of Law
Elected offices held: N/A
Facebook: Judge Ben Braun
Phone (for possible constituents to call): 779-254-3912
1) Why are you running for the elected office you’re seeking?
As a Will County associate judge for 12 years with over 32 years of experience in the law, I am running for circuit judge in order to help improve our Will County court system and make it more efficient.
Going to court and dealing with litigation is a stressful experience. The process puts a burden on people and their families, adding emotional and financial stress to their lives. As judges, we should do everything we can to help bring their case to a conclusion in a fair and efficient manner, removing this weight from their shoulders. But often, cases drag on, taking longer than necessary to proceed through the system. Many cases that could be concluded in six to nine months take two to three years to resolve.
I work diligently in my courtroom to push cases along toward a resolution or trial, actively working to resolve cases. In fact, the Illinois Supreme Court’s Education Committee designated me to teach other judges how to better run a courtroom and conduct trials, and I have been selected to mentor judges to help improve their performance. I will utilize this experience to help make our court system more efficient.
I will also work with my colleagues to recruit the best possible associate judges to the bench. We need individuals with extensive and broad experience in many areas of the law who also have a track record of success. This experience will help our judges differentiate between the complicated cases that need more time and the routine cases, which can be resolved more quickly.
Another way to increase efficiency is to instill a culture of productivity, ensuring judges are proactively managing their caseloads and working to resolve cases. Will County has among the highest caseloads of any county in the state, so we require more active management than other counties. Presiding judges should actively manage schedules and caseloads and monitor productivity.
This increased efficiency will have additional benefits for Will County, beyond ensuring speedy justice for all. Our county court system is a $25 million enterprise. When a criminal case is in court, six different people have to touch the file or take an action among the clerk’s office, state’s attorney’s office, public defender’s office, the judiciary and often the sheriff's office as well. Increasing our efficiency will make us more responsible with our resources, while ensuring justice is delivered in a reasonable amount of time.
That is why I want to serve my community as a Will County Circuit Court judge. Having spent 32 years in the trenches, I have seen how we can improve our court system operationally. I have the breadth of experience necessary to help make our courts more efficient, and I am passionate about making an impact on our community.
2) What skills, qualities or experience do you have that separate you from your opponents?
I have served Will County as an associate judge for 12 years. During that time, I have presided over more than 100 criminal jury trials, hundreds of bench trials and thousands of hearings in nearly every division of the courthouse. I have earned a reputation as one of the county’s most versatile and productive judges, and as a result was designated by the Illinois Supreme Court’s Education Committee to teach other judges how to better run a courtroom and conduct trials. I was also selected to mentor judges to help improve their performance.
I earned among the highest ratings of all Will County judges. In important standards like integrity, impartiality, legal ability and approval rating, I earned the highest ratings of all six Will County judicial candidates in the 2018 Illinois State Bar Association Judicial Advisory Poll. In the retention bar poll in 2015, I earned the highest legal ability rating of the county’s 20 associate judges.
I practiced law in Will County for 19 years before beginning my service as a judge. After passing the Illinois Bar in May of 1987, I began my career at the respected Joliet firm of Stefanich, McGarry, Wols and Okrei, where I was exposed to many different areas of law. This breadth of experience has made me a versatile judge and one of the few current Will County judges who tried a significant number of jury cases on both the civil and criminal sides, with substantial experience in the appellate courts as well. After six years, I became a partner in the firm, and remained there until 2000, when I built my own successful legal practice.
I have been recognized for my service to Will County, my home for over 28 years. I served as board president of Lifeworks, a nonprofit drug and alcohol treatment center focused on addressing opioid addiction in Will County. I served on the board of Will County Legal Assistance, a nonprofit providing legal assistance and counseling for low-income litigants, earning their Pro Bono Attorney of the Year award.
A cancer survivor, I live every day grateful for the opportunity to serve my community. I have presented programs to over 10,000 students over the past decade, including educating teens on the consequences of underage drinking, drug use and underage sexual encounters. I have been a member and officer of the Joliet Kiwanis Club. I served on the board of my religious congregation for 10 years, including serving as vice president of the organization for four years. I am a member of the Will County Bar Association and the Illinois Judges Association, and I ran the Will County Bar Association’s Family Law Committee for five years.
3) What are the greatest challenges facing Will County and/or your specific district in the coming years?
The biggest challenge facing our court system is the high caseloads. Because of both population growth in our county and our transportation network, our judges preside over some of the busiest courtrooms in the state. Bringing cases to a speedy yet fair conclusion is a necessity, not only for the litigants and interested parties in those cases, but also because of the newer cases coming into our court system each weekday and the need to have resources available for those cases.
4) If elected, what will be your top three priorities?
As a Will County Circuit Court judge, my priorities will be focused on improving our court system.
First, we must instill a culture of productivity. Because of our population’s size and transportation network, Will County has among the highest caseloads in the state. Actively managing our caseloads will help our court system deliver justice within a reasonable period of time.
Second, as a majority of the judges in our county are appointed by our elected judges, I will work with my colleagues to recruit the best possible attorneys to the bench to serve as associate judges — attorneys with expertise in multiple areas of law, with a track record of success.
Third, we must be careful stewards of the resources allocated by our citizens to operate our court system.