Two Cook County Branch courthouses to close

It is official:  the Cook County branch courthouses at “Belmont and Western” and “51st and Wentworth” are going to be closed in cost-cutting moves.  Both locations have two courtrooms, one for misdemeanors and the other for felony preliminary hearings.

According to the Chicago Tribune:

Despite the closings, no Circuit Court of Cook County workers will face layoffs this year. But all employees will have to take 10 unpaid furlough days, a move that will save the county $6.2 million. The settlement between Preckwinkle and Chief Circuit Court Judge Timothy Evans also will close one housing unit within the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, and its 22 vacant positions will be eliminated.

It has not yet been announced when the courthouses will close, or where the cases will be transferred.  It is expected that the closings will occur by the end of August.

In Memoriam: Richard Cohen, defense attorney extraordinaire

I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of DUI defense attorney Richard Cohen. He was a great lawyer and the best DUI defense attorney that I’ve ever seen. He was a great cross-examiner and loved doing legal research. He excelled at finding “technicalities” – like the moment when an officer conducted a seizure before having sufficient evidence, or a breath test device that was improperly calibrated.

Richard gave me first job out of law school and I worked with him for six years, handling DUI and other criminal defense, personal injury and the occasional divorce, paternity or other matter. In the 18 years since we parted ways, we continued to regularly meet or speak to discuss cases that we were working on and of course to catch up on each others lives.

Richard always used to say that it was a great honor whenever someone would place their trust in him to handle their case, and I keep that in mind every time I accept a new matter.

He always harped on the need for hard work. Richard grew up in Buffalo, New York and was a big Bills fan. One day in the office, he was still fuming because the night before he saw a baseball playoff game on tv, and Jim Kelly, the Bills’ quarterback, was sitting in the stands. “He should be home preparing for his next game, not out at a baseball game.” I said, “Its Tuesday, all the players get the day off!” That didn’t matter to Richard. If the player had been home, he’d have more time to prepare and maybe get an insight that would make a difference the following Sunday. That was the way Richard thought. He never wanted to lose at trial because he hadn’t planned and prepared for every eventuality. And you can’t plan and prepare if you are out having a good time.

Richard had been a professor of special education before deciding to go to law school. He was a State’s Attorney in Lake County, then went to work as an insurance defense attorney for Stern and Rotheiser, an insurance defense firm in Chicago. This is where he originally made his reputation, saving his carrier from potentially large verdicts in the Cook County Law Division. He then switched over to plaintiff’s work, at Kugler, De Leo and D’Arco, which became Kugler, Cohen and Sammarco, and then established his own firm, Richard Cohen & Associates.

Here are just a few of Richard’s highlights:

All Illinois DUI defense attorneys will be familiar with the Boomer case. This is a case from DeKalb County that Richard won, both at the trial court and on appeal. Mr. Boomer was found in a ditch about 15 feet from a motorcycle. At the hospital, the arresting officer tried to get consent for a blood draw, based solely on the accident and an odor of alcohol on Mr. Boomer’s breath. The trial court found that the officer lacked probable cause for the arrest and the case was upheld on appeal.

Another memorable moment for him was when he sued the then Cook County State’s Attorney, Cecil Partee, in a paternity suit on behalf of a mother and her child.

A case that Richard remembered fondly was one where the police went to a suspect’s apartment and claimed to have seen contraband through the slightly opened door, thus allowing them to enter and conduct a seizure. Richard had photos proving that the officer could not have seen what he claimed he saw from where he stood at the doorway. The case was before Judge Nicholas Pomaro in Rolling Meadows. Judge Pomaro, now retired, is blind. That didn’t stop Richard, even though his case depended on demonstrating that the contraband was out of the officer’s line of sight.  He had the witnesses testify to what was on the photos, and the Judge ruled in his favor.

More recently, Richard had a case in Bridgeview where his client blew around twice the legal limit. As the case progressed, he would call me frequently to run his ideas past me. To my way of thinking, this was the type of case to take before a jury. But Richard thought otherwise. He felt that the breath test was not properly calibrated, and that a judge would agree. He spent months working up his theory, and preparing his cross-examination. He won the case, and as he was walking back to his car, a law student, who was interning with the State’s Attorney’s office, ran up to him to ask him how he achieved this amazing result. Richard told me that this case was probably his finest moment, and if he never tried another case again, that would be fine. I’m not sure if it was his last trial (he did at least one successful Motion to Suppress after that), but it was one of his last. We were just talking about it again last month.

Of course, the biggest moment of his life was when his son was born.  I will never forget Richard talking about how everything for him changed the instant he first saw his son Rennie.  He was a devoted father, and I know he was very proud to see his son enrolled in his alma mater, Indiana University.  I wish he had a few more years to see his son graduate and become the accomplished man that I am sure he will become, but as life often cruelly reminds us, each day is a gift and we must cherish the few days that we get to have.

Richard, you were a hard person to work for, but I am glad that I did and I will miss you very much.

Downstate Judge Who Wore a Wire to Expose Corruption in Chicago Traffic Court has died

Brocton Lockwood, a downstate Illinois Judge, who is remembered as the Judge who wore a wire to expose corruption in the Chicago Traffic Court, has passed away.

Judge Lockwood was one of several downstate Judges who were sent to Chicago to do a rotation in the First Municipal Division, due to a shortage of Judges.  He was shocked to see the widespread corruption that was then rampant.  Working with the FBI, he took over the other downstate Judges’ rotation spots and spent three years in Chicago, mostly working at the Traffic Court then located at 321 N. LaSalle Street.  He befriended, to the extent an outsider could, Sheriffs, Clerks and Judges to get inside information and to keep track of suspicious cases.

He published a book entitled “Operation Greylord:  Brocton Lockwood’s story”  which is out of print but used copies can be found on Amazon, ebay and used bookstores.  I got a copy a couple of years ago.  It is not very long, and because he was only a small part of the Operation Greylord story, you won’t get details about, say, corruption in the divorce courts like you will in James Tuohy and Rob Warden’s book Greylord, but it has lots of small details about the workings of First Municipal and especially Traffic Court in the early 80s.  Its most compelling aspect is how it puts in you in Judge Lockwood’s mindset as he became an undercover operative, risking his life, and always worried about what would happen if his cover was blown.

I have to admit that I am bit uncomfortable about the idea of wearing a wire and befriending people in order to betray them, even if these people were committing criminal acts and perverting our justice system.  Yet, as an attorney who obtained his law license shortly after the Greylord scandal was revealed, I am thankful for work of Judge Lockwood’ (and all the others involved) in cleaning up our courts.  In my 24 years of practice, I am not aware of any bribery or other corruption going on in our judicial system.  So thank you, Judge Lockwood.

Cook County in talks to close two branch courts

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chief Judge Timothy Evans have reached an agreement to close the branch courthouses at Belmont and Western and at 51st Street by September.  Both branch courthouses have two courtrooms apiece, one that handles felony preliminary hearings and one that handles misdemeanors.  The cases will be moved to other courthouses.

Lake County to Increase use of Alcohol Ankle Monitors in DUI cases

From the Libertyville Patch:

From the Lake County State Attorney’s Office: With nearly 1,800 DUI arrests in 2016 Lake County has the fourth highest rate of drunk driving in Illinois, and high-risk DUI offenders—those who repeatedly drive drunk or are most likely to cause a serious crash—account for up to a third of those arrests. Now, to improve public safety and reduce repeat offenses, the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office has launched a new program that will monitor these high-risk offenders around the clock to ensure they aren’t drinking.

As a condition of bond, drunk driving offenders who cause a crash with serious injuries, those with multiple DUIs and those who are arrested with a high BAC will be required to stay sober and wear a high-tech anklet that monitors them for drinking 24/7. Post-conviction, these offenders can be sentenced to monitored sobriety for up to 180 days. The program is also set up to address other offenses, like domestic violence and assault, where alcohol played a contributing role.

The goal of the program is to reduce the number of offenders who are putting the community at risk by committing alcohol-involved crimes. Offenders are responsible for the costs of their monitoring, which allows them to maintain their employment and family commitments while ensuring they aren’t drinking and endangering the public.

According to Michael G. Nerheim, Lake County State’s Attorney, “When we separate these offenders from alcohol, we know they aren’t going to be out drinking and driving or committing other alcohol-involved crimes. We are targeting the root cause of these problems, saving taxpayers’ money and giving these offenders the chance to get sober and get their lives back on track.”

Known as SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring, or SCRAM CAM, the anklet automatically tests the wearer’s perspiration every 30 minutes for alcohol consumption. The technology has been used to monitor 620,000 high-risk DUI offenders around the country and more than 12,500 people in Illinois.

“Alcohol monitoring, especially when it’s part of a larger program of supervision and treatment, can support long-term behavior change, making it less likely these individuals will be back here for another offense in the future,” notes State’s Attorney Nerheim.

 

2018 Chicago Bar Association Judicial Elections Guide is Now Online

As a member of the Chicago Bar Associations’ Judicial Evaluation Committee for over 15 years, I am happy to announce that our ratings for the 2018 March Primaries are now available.  These evaluations are non-partisan.

From the CBA website:

March 2018 Primary Election: CBA Judicial Evaluation Committee Findings

 

Candidates for judge appearing on the ballot in Cook County have been evaluated by the CBA’s Judicial Evaluation Committee (JEC). In the Judge Smart Guide to Judicial Elections, the JEC offers evaluations of each candidate with the rationale for the evaluation as well as an in-depth explanation of the evaluation process. The separate Pocket Guide is a two-page document that can be printed out and carried into the voting booth for easy reference when you vote. Please share this information with your coworkers, friends and family.

 

 

 

Please Note:
The Chicago Bar Association urges voters to elect only candidates found Highly Qualified or Qualified for judge.

 

Paid for by The Chicago Bar Association 2018 Judicial Evaluation Fund. A copy of the CBA Report is available from the State Board of Elections.