“You have a right to an attorney” – but will you actually get to talk to one?

According to the Chicago Tribune, Cook County Chief Judge has issued an order requiring the Chicago Police Department to provide suspects with access to a lawyer upon arrest.  However, the mechanics of how this will work in reality were left murky.

Until this order, when a person is arrested, they are advised of their “Miranda rights” which includes the right to an attorney.  But this is a mere formality; the police will usually encourage the arrestee to “make it easy” on everyone by “explaining” what happened “so you can get out of here.”

Usually, when I get a call from someone that his or her relative has been arrested, it becomes a race for me to get to the station before the “explaining” starts.  If I call up the station to tell them not to question my client until I arrive, I will be told that the “detective is busy right now” and he or she will get back to me “when they get a chance” (i.e., after my client has confessed).

So I was gladdened to see the headlines about Chief Judge Evans Order requiring access to attorneys.  In my mind, I envisioned a public defender or two getting a space at each Chicago Police Station (like the State’s Attorney have) and getting the opportunity to interview and advise each arrestee.  Of course, I also imagined that this would not go over too well with the police, who have no interest in having lawyers interfering with their cases and preventing confessions.

But I am concerned about the lack of implementation in the Order (which I have not read).  According to the Tribune:

But the success of such an order may ultimately depend on the cooperation of Chicago police, who in the past, say legal aid officials, have been reluctant to grant suspects phone calls or give attorneys access to suspects while they’re being questioned.

A Chicago police spokesman said Tuesday the department has agreed to post signs with a phone number for “free legal services” in arrestee areas and outside interview rooms but did not comment on questions about granting phone calls to those in custody.

Posting signs is not much of an improvement.  They are almost certain to go unnoticed.  On the other hand, Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli is quoted as saying, “I’m going to make it happen — this is way too important. This is groundbreaking,” she said. “I could have every lawyer do (a rotation) if I don’t get the funding.”  She is an aggressive advocate, and I am convinced she will work hard to provide representation.  But this will be a battle, because I expect that without an Order specifically stating what “access” entails, the PD’s office will face resistance from the CPD.

What do you think?

Lawyer who donned robes indicted, may still take bench as a real judge soon

Rhonda Crawford, the law clerk who was was running unopposed for judge this November and was allowed to put on a judge’s robes and hear traffic cases as part of an unofficial “training” has been indicted and charged with official misconduct, according to the Tribune.

She is still running in the election, although now she is opposed by write-in candidate Maryam Ahmad.  Assuming that Crawford wins election, she will be sworn in as a judge but will probably be put on administrative duty while this is pending.

Cook County Judge Censured for false mortgage application

The Illinois Courts Commission has censured Cook County Judge Beatriz Santiago for making false statement on a mortgage application.  The full text of the order can be found here: https://www.scribd.com/document/321625953/Santiago-order

The gist of the complaint was that Santiago has owned a home since 2005.  In 2012, she decided to run for a the Sixth Judicial Subcircuit, even though her home was outside the subcircuit.  She claimed to have solved the residency issue by moving in with her parents, who do live in the subcircuit.  She did not sell the house.  There was a residency challenge to her candidacy, which she defeated, and then she went on to win her election.

After being sworn in, she then sought to re-finance her house.  As part of this process, she affirmed several times that the house was her principal place of residence.  This helped her obtain FHA loan approval for the refinance.  It also was revealed by a WGN investigation that the Judge had claimed a homeowner’s tax exemption on the property in 2012, which she later paid back.

In her defense, she claimed that she did not read the paperwork closely, and had quickly signed it during a lunch break.  She was a former public defender not familiar with real estate law.  She claimed that she in fact lives with her parents in the subcircuit, does not live at the house, and that it is currently being used by members of her family.  Several attorneys attested to her good character and reputation for honesty.

The Judge was charged with failing to maintain high standards of conduct and failing to respect and comply with the law.  As a sanction, she was censured.

Update: More details emerge about Judge who let clerk wear her robes

Mark Brown of the Chicago Sun-Times has a story with more details about the Markham Courthouse judge who let a law clerk (who is running unopposed for Cook County Judge this November) to take her place on the bench.

I have re-ordered a few of the paragraphs to give you the gist.  Click on the link above to read the whole story.  The way I see it, Judge Turner was probably taking pride in mentoring the longtime courthouse law clerk who is about to become a judge but crossed a major line when she allowed Crawford to take her place, even if it was for a couple of minor tickets.  In essence, Judge Turner was just previewing what soon to be Judge Crawford will be doing at Traffic Court next December or January, which is learning how to handle a traffic call — assuming that she will be allowed to take the bench after this incident.

Sources say Crawford was informally “job shadowing” Turner to learn how to perform a judge’s duties when Turner allowed her to take the bench and rule on some cases.

Evans’ office did not disclose whether Turner remained in the courtroom while Crawford took the bench.

Unfortunately, their “training session” was about four months premature….

A spokesman for Evans said the Aug. 11 incident involved “two minor traffic tickets — one for driving with no insurance and another for driving on a median.” Evans did not reveal how Crawford ruled in those cases, but his spokesman indicated both cases will be heard again by another judge….

Crawford, 45, won the Democratic nomination in March for a judgeship from the 1st judicial subcircuit, which includes portions of the South Side and south suburbs.

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.

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…

Crawford, who lives in Calumet City, became a lawyer in 2003 after graduating from Chicago Kent College of Law. Prior to that, she was a registered nurse.

I am curious to see what consequences, if any there will be for this.  I am guessing just a written reprimand for the Judge and Ms. Crawford. The key is that I don’t believe that either of them had any bad intent in doing this.  It was part of a mentoring process that went too far.

I am also curious to find out how this got to the attention of Chief Judge Evans, and whether that person will face retaliation for whistle-blowing.

Markham Judge in hot water after allowing an attorney (and Judge to be) to handle her court call

I was absolutely stunned to see this story posted on the online edition of the Chicago Tribune today:

 A veteran Cook County Circuit Court judge allegedly allowed a lawyer who is running for election to the bench to wear her robe and hear some of her cases at the Markham courthouse late last week, a breach of judicial ethics as well as a potential violation of the law.

The move prompted the county’s chief judge, Timothy Evans, to remove the judge from the bench Wednesday until further notice.

The incident occurred in the courtroom of Judge Valarie Turner, who allegedly allowed lawyer Rhonda Crawford to take her place on the bench during her morning call of cases, Evans said in a statement. It is not clear if people appearing for cases knew of the situation in the courtroom.

Turner, a graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Chicago law school, is a former federal prosecutor who also worked as an associate with the Kirkland & Ellis law firm. First elected to the bench in 2002, she hears municipal cases in Markham.

Crawford, records show, works for the office of Chief Judge Timothy Evans. In March, she handily defeated two opponents in the Democratic primary for the 1st Judicial Subcircuit, which includes parts of the South Side of Chicago and some of the south suburbs.

She is unopposed in the November general election.

Pat Milhizer, a court spokesman, declined to say if Evans referred the matter to criminal authorities for investigation or to the disciplinary agencies that handle misconduct allegations made against lawyers and judges. He also would not say the types of cases Crawford improperly presided over or what now happens to those cases.

The incident shocked judicial ethics experts, who said it would be such an ethical lapse — and possibly a violation of the law for the impersonation of a judge — they were surprised any judge would allow it, and any lawyer would actually take the bench. It also raised a host of issues, from questions about the validity of any judgment Crawford might have rendered to the cost and inconvenience of rehearing cases she handled…

Evans also suspended Crawford from her job pending an internal investigation. She has been a law clerk/staff attorney in his office since 2011, and makes nearly $57,000 a year.

Evans made the move after a meeting with his executive committee.

“The public’s confidence in the judiciary is the cornerstone of our system of justice, and I have taken the steps necessary to preserve that confidence,” Evans said in the statement. “Because the investigation is pending, I believe it is inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Chief Judge Timothy Evans has removed Judge Valarie Turner from her current duties in Markham and has reassigned her to restricted non-judicial duty in Chicago for the time being.

I have appeared in front of Judge Turner many times (as well as her husband, who is also a Judge) and just saw both of them yesterday.  I have nothing bad to say about this judge, and I hope this turns out to be a mistake.

The only time that I have ever heard of something like this is  former Cook County Judge Ray Sodini, one of the judges who was caught up in the Greylord scandal, who is also remembered mostly for calling in and having a court bailiff handle his morning court call when he was too hung over to make it to court.  (Which is not meant to imply that Judge Valarie Turner is anything like Judge Ray Sodini, who was both an alcoholic and corrupt.  I imagine that Judge Turner’s mistake, assuming that this is true, is that she made a serious lapse in judgement.).

Chicago Bar Association Judicial Evaluations are now available for the March Primary

I am a member of the Chicago Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluation Committee, and today the Committee has released its ratings for the 2016 Cook County Judicial Primaries.

From the CBA website:

Candidates for judge appearing on the ballot in Cook County are evaluated by the CBA’s Judicial Evaluation Committee (JEC). In the Green 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 single sheet 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 qualified judges. Vote for candidates that have been found Highly Qualified or Qualified in the March 15, 2016 election