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The [Tuesday] Papers

"A law clerk running for judge who was allowed to make rulings from the bench earlier this month has been fired, according to a statement from the Office of the Chief Judge of Cook County," the Sun-Times reports.

If only . . .

Goodnight, everybody!

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Back to the Sun-Times:

"Chief Judge Timothy Evans suspended Rhonda Crawford without pay Aug. 17, about a week after she was accused of making rulings in two cases from the bench in Markham. She was then fired Aug. 26, according to Tuesday's statement."

Well at least now she has a record to run on.

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"Cook County Judge Valarie E. Turner, who allegedly allowed Crawford - running for judge in the November election - to put on her robe and make the rulings, has since been reassigned to non-courtroom duties."

The "E" stands for "Extrajudicial."

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Wait, she still has a job?

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"A spokesman for Evans said the Aug. 11 incident involved Crawford presiding in 'two minor traffic tickets - one for driving with no insurance and another for driving on the median' . . . both cases in which Crawford had ruled would be heard again by another judge."

Maybe the defendants should be given the option to keep their rulings or roll the dice with a real judge.

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According to the Tribune, "Documents show one case was continued, while the other was dismissed when the officer failed to appear in court."

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"[T]he incident raised questions about the judgment of any lawyers who took part in the cases knowing that Crawford is not a judge, as well as the conduct of any clerks, courtroom deputies or other county employees who regularly work with Turner in her courtroom," the Tribune reported earlier this month.

In other words, why didn't anyone in the courtroom that day speak up?

Well, someone did . . . sort of. The Tribune reported a day after wondering:

Mario Lozano knew something was not quite right.

A 28-year veteran of the Cook County sheriff's office, Deputy Lozano had stepped out of Judge Valarie Turner's lower-level courtroom at the Markham Courthouse for a moment to answer a question from a member of the public. When he stepped back in, a sheriff's official said, a lawyer named Rhonda Crawford was wearing a judge's robe and presiding over traffic cases, though she is not a judge.

Turner "was still in the courtroom standing behind attorney Crawford," said Cara Smith, a chief policy officer for the sheriff. In all, Crawford handled two or three traffic cases from the south suburban village of Dolton in the 20 minutes she was on the bench Aug. 11.

Lozano took note of the moment and documented it in an internal memo, which was obtained by the Tribune. Smith, who said she was speaking on Lozano's behalf, provided a fuller account of what he observed.

The sheriff's office did not report what happened to Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans, who now faces an embarrassing scandal because of the incident and the fact that one of two key figures - Crawford - is a law clerk/staff attorney in his office. The sheriff's office, Smith said, did not report the incident because it did not know if Turner and Crawford were participating in a training program or some other approved activity.

Several outlets have reported that Crawford was "shadowing" Turner that day as a sort of training for her new, upcoming job, so folks in the courtroom may have been confused.

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Also:

A clerk from the office of Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown was in the courtroom too. But a spokeswoman for Brown, Jalyne Strong-Shaw, would not say Thursday if the unidentified clerk reported the incident to a supervisor or if the office reported it to the chief judge.

Dennis Gianopolus, the village prosecutor for Dolton, said one of his associates, Luciano Panici Jr., was in Turner's courtroom that day handling traffic cases. But Gianopolus, who maintains a private practice as well as representing municipalities, declined to comment further.

Panici, the son of a veteran Cook County judge and a 2009 law school graduate, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

As near as I can tell, it took six days for the incident to become public - which doesn't tell us who knew what when.

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From Mark Brown for the Sun-Times:

"Turner, 59, is no novice. She was elected to the Cook County bench in 2002 and has twice won retention. Her current term expires in 2020.

She has good credentials, too. Prior to becoming a judge, Turner worked two years as an assistant U.S. attorney and six years at Kirkland & Ellis. She received her law degree from the University of Chicago.

"No comment. Have a good day," Turner told me Wednesday when I contacted her by phone.

Meanwhile, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office has opened a criminal investigation into the matter. Hey, maybe Turner will be tried in Crawford's courtroom! That would be the most Chicago conclusion to this affair possible - well, short of a brown paper bag filled with cash exchanging hands somewhere.

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Back to Brown:

During the campaign, Crawford described herself as a staff attorney for the Cook County Circuit Court and assigned as a law clerk in the Markham courthouse. That makes Evans her boss.

With no opponent in the November election, Crawford is certainly expected to win the office. But she and other new judges won't be sworn in until December and have no authority until they are.

Crawford received 47 percent of the vote to beat out two other candidates in the primary despite being rated "not recommended" by all of the major bar groups after she declined to participate in their evaluation process. She defeated the Democratic Party's endorsed candidate.

That's a bit of a glitch in the narrative; I figured she was a Burke and/or Madigan tool for sure. She must have some base of support; the Trib says she "handily" beat her two opponents in the March primary. More on that next . . .

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The Tribune outlines the larger problem in an editorial:

Crawford isn't just a wannabe judge, she's a gonnabe judge.

Nice.

She's unopposed in the 1st Judicial Subcircuit race on the Nov. 8 ballot.

One-party rule isn't good for anyone - including the one party.

But voters should have had reservations about Crawford before now. She got a unanimous "thumbs down" from a dozen local bar associations before the March primary. That's because she refused to participate in the rigorous evaluations conducted by the Chicago Council of Lawyers, the Chicago Bar Association and others.

There are always a handful of candidates who don't seek the bar associations' stamp of approval. Why? They're not qualified, so they won't get it. Or they've been clouted onto the ballot, so they don't need it. Or both.

If they get past voters the first time, they're generally home free. Every six years, they stand for retention. It's been 26 years since a sitting judge failed to get the 60 percent "yes" vote required to stay on the bench. So if you think Evans ought to just go ahead and fire Turner for her ethical lapse, think again. He can't.

And voters probably won't. They've given judges a pass over far more egregious behavior. In 2012, Judge Cynthia Brim was retained even though she was banned from the courthouse and awaiting trial, charged with battering a deputy sheriff outside the Daley Center. She pleaded insanity and was found not guilty. In 2014, the Illinois Courts Commission removed her from the bench.

Bar associations had recommended a "no" vote for Brim in 2000, 2006 and 2012. Voters retained her every time.

There are more than 400 judges in Cook County. But unless you have reason to appear before one of them - say, for a traffic ticket - then you likely know little about their fitness for the job. You know even less about a first-time candidate like Crawford. That's why the bar association ratings are so valuable. A candidate who ducks them doesn't deserve your vote.

Here's what we do know about Crawford: She's been a lawyer since 2003 and has clerked for the judges in the Markham courthouse since 2011. She got 47 percent of the vote in a three-way Democratic primary, ousting the judge who'd been appointed to the vacant seat two years earlier by the Illinois Supreme Court.

She's following the path of her mentor. Turner skipped the bar association screenings in 2002 and still managed to collect 57 percent of the primary vote, beating two others, including an experienced and highly respected associate judge. Republicans, as usual, didn't field a candidate. So Turner coasted through the general election unopposed.

So Turner and Crawford both refused to appear before the bar groups.

Voters, pay attention: This is not the way to fill a $188,000-a-year job. That's what Turner makes for presiding over a municipal courtroom. It's what Crawford, who currently earns less than $57,000 a year, will make once she's sworn in.

So yes, she's eager to rap that gavel. It's a little late to wonder if she's fit to do so.

There's got to be a better way.

*

The Sun-Times also weighed in with an editorial, offering a possible (short-term) solution:

Turner showed such a blatant disrespect and disregard for the law by allowing a non-judge to act as a judge that it's hard to imagine how she could be allowed to return to the bench.

We hope the Judicial Inquiry Board, the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office all open expedited investigations into the matter.

Turner will be presiding over weddings, deciding if litigants qualify to have filing fees waived in civil cases, and performing other administrative tasks as assigned, according to a spokesman for Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans.

In addition, the executive committee has assigned her to an Illinois Supreme Court Peer Mentoring Program.

Well, she certainly has an aptitude for it.

If [Crawford] doesn't voluntarily drop out of the race, the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission could ask the Illinois Supreme Court for a rule to show cause why her law license should not be suspended until further order. Such an order would block her from serving as judge.

The paper suggests then that the parties could select replacement candidates for a write-in campaign.

Otherwise, we have the specter of someone fired as law clerk becoming a judge a few months later. Take this job and shove it, Evans, I'm gonna have my own law clerk!

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One person oddly defends the pair, calling Turner "smart" and saying she has "served honorably." The incident should not be career-killers for either, he says in a Tribune Op-Ed piece.

That person is Steven Lubet - a Northwestern University law professor who specializes in legal and judicial ethics.

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Even worse is that Lubet's piece appeared just days after telling the Trib for a news article what an ethical quagmire the situation created.

[Lubet] pointed to several rules of professional conduct for judges and lawyers that Turner and Crawford might have violated when Crawford took the bench.

"The alleged conduct presents multiple violations of the ethics rules for both judges and lawyers that prohibit any conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice," Lubet said. "Any judge or lawyer should know that only judges can rule on cases, and it's plainly wrong for a non-judge to sit on the bench in a robe and rule on cases."

Also, isn't it plainly unethical to skip the bar groups' interviews? It's stunning professional and public disregard. We shouldn't be surprised at the results we get from people who don't care - or who find such evaluations obstacles to their ambition.

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Would you want to appear before either of these two? I would not. Credibility shattered.

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The Guaranteed Rate EPL
Employing the White Sox strategy in the English Premier League. In this week's installment of Breakfast In America.

The Weekend In Chicago Rock
Featuring: The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, Bruce Springsteen, Blue Oyster Cult, Wild Belle, Ryley Walker, The Flat Five, Envy On The Coast, John Fogerty, Ace Frehley, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Enuff Z'nuff, Train, Seal, and Richard Vain.

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BeachBook

Traders Discuss Data Superhighway Between Chicago And Japan.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tronc Line: One website at a time.



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Posted on August 30, 2016


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
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SPORTS - Wrong Foot Louie vs. The Fireball Kid!

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