Cook County pays out 3.25 million to woman assaulted in Markham lockup

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Nine officers of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office are still on the payroll even though the county unanimously voted Wednesday to pay $3.25 million to a woman who was sexually assaulted on their watch in the lockup at the Markham Courthouse.

Cara Smith, chief policy adviser to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, said Wednesday that the office is seeking to terminate the officers, a decision that was made after an investigation by the Sheriff’s Office of Professional Review. The office was investigating how the woman came to be locked in a small cell with two men — and why none of the deputies assigned to the courtroom at the time noticed the assault as it was taking place.

…Last June, Hamidullah Tribble, 21, and Nelon Drake, 23, were charged with sexually assaulting the female inmate on May 2 in a holding cell adjacent to a courtroom in the south suburban courthouse.

Investigators with the sheriff’s office found that Tribble, “under the guise that he needed to use the toilet,” had sheriff’s officers escort him from his cell to another one nearby that had a bathroom — where the victim was located at the time. It was in the bathroom that Tribble allegedly committed the sexual assault.

Once Tribble was returned to his cell, Drake, who was held in the same one, also told sheriff’s officers he had to use the bathroom, records show. He was taken to the same one, where the woman remained. Once inside, “he had [the victim] perform an act of oral sex on him.”

…The Office of Professional Review found that the four named officers violated several sheriff’s office policies and standards. The complaints against them — all of which were sustained — cited: Inattention to duty, failure to follow policy and procedure, failure to report an incident, neglect of duty, falsifying a report, conduct unbecoming and being less than truthful, records show.

Read the whole story here:  https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/sheriff-moves-to-fire-9-officers-after-sex-assault-of-inmate-in-lockup/amp/?utm_source=Chicago%20Sun-Times&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1960368_morningedition111617&ID=1960368_morningedition111617&dm_i=2JCP,160MO,7FJHLL,3MOXE,1

Close the Bridgeview Courthouse? It makes no sense

Bridgeview2

According to media reports, Cook County is consider closing the Bridgeview courthouse as a cost-cutting move.  Even though it is unclear whether the move would actually save money.

Situated in the southwest suburbs, Bridgeview is one of five suburban Cook County Courthouses.  There are five criminal courtrooms that handle both suburban and Chicago felony cases, plus a felony bond room and another room that handles specialty  calls like juvenile, drug and veterans’ court.  There are also five misdemeanor courtrooms, four minor traffic courtrooms.  In addition, there is a courtroom that handles domestic relations and child custody, another that handles domestic violence, and three courtrooms that handle civil cases, such as personal injury and evictions.

Cases from the following municipalities have cases at the Bridgeview Courthouse:  Alsip, Bedford Park, Bridgeview, Burbank, Burr Ridge, Chicago Ridge, Countryside, Crestwood, Evergreen Park, Forest View, Hickory Hills, Hinsdale, Hodgkins, Hometown, Indian Head Park, Justice, LaGrange, Lemont, Lyons, Merrionette Park, Metra, McCook, Morton College, Oak Lawn, Orland Hills, Orland Park, Palos Heights, Palos Hills, Palos Park, Stickney, Summit, Tinley Park, Western Springs, West Haven, Willow Springs, Worth.  In addition, traffic and criminal cases brought by the Cook County Sheriff, Cook County Forest Preserve, Secretary of State, Illinois Commerce Commission, and Illinois State Police Districts – 3 and 15 are heard there too.

The Courthouse is a fairly large and spacious building.  It is near I-294 and major streets like 95th Street and Harlem Avenue, so it is not too hard to get to.  There is a large parking lot adjacent to the courthouse, although this lot can get filled up on busy court days.  As far as I know, the building is in good shape.

I can’t think of a particularly good reason to close this courthouse.  My totally unofficial guess is that it ranks somewhere in the middle of the the five suburban courthouses in terms of how busy it gets.  Markham is well-known for being the busiest of the courthouses, and my unofficial guess is that Rolling Meadows and Skokie are the slowest.

If Bridgeview is closed, where would the cases go?  It would make sense for some of these towns to send their cases to Markham (in fact, some of them used to go to Markham until they were moved to Bridgeview to ease overcrowding a few years back).  The rest would presumably go to Maywood, which is a much smaller courthouse and has an even worse parking situation.  In addition, the Maywood courthouse is in deteriorating shape and would be a good candidate to be torn down and rebuilt, if the money were there.

For those reasons, if I had to pick a courthouse to close, it would be Maywood.  Some of the Maywood cases could be sent to Bridgeview, some to Rolling Meadows, and maybe even a few to Skokie.  But Maywood has some extremely busy court calls, like Cicero, the State Police, Berwyn and Riverside.  I don’t see how the Bridgeview or Rolling Meadows parking lots could handle the additional traffic, let alone adjudicate all the cases.

A better idea might be to consolidate some of the Chicago area branch courts, but there wouldn’t be as big of a savings compared to closing one of the big suburban buildings.  There are branch courts at 111th Street, 51st Street, Harrison and Kedzie (Flournoy), Grand and Central and Belmont and Western.  Some of these could be consolidated or moved to the main criminal courthouse at 26th Street, the Domestic Violence courthouse at 555 W. Harrison, or the Daley Center.

Another possibility that has been floated to reduce expenses is to cut back court to three or four days of the week.  The obvious math means that court calls would be increased by 20 to 40%.  But you can’t do 20 to 40% more trials with the same staff and courtrooms that you had before.  And some of these court calls are overcrowded already.  Some of the worst court calls that I have ever seen are the State Police, Cicero and Riverside calls at the Maywood courthouse.  People are standing in the hallway because there is no room inside the courtroom, even to stand in an aisle.  There might be 8 or 12 cases set for trial, but it takes hours before all the cases on the court call have been called once and  even one trial has been completed.

All of these proposals will result in jammed up court calls, lengthy continuances, and more aggravation for all parties concerned.  None of them are palatable.  They are the opposite of the orderly administration of justice.

My preference?  Find other places to cut the budget.  Closing a suburban courthouse will be a major setback for residents and is the epitome of “penny wise, pound foolish.”

Cook County to start texting court date reminders to defendants

In an excellent decision to take advantage of modern technology, starting in December, Cook County will phone or text criminal defendants to remind them of their upcoming court dates.

This is good for a couple of reasons.  First of all, the vast majority of missed court dates are because the defendant forgot their court date.  I used to have a lot of clients miss court dates until I began a practice of texting, emailing or calling clients the day prior to court as a reminder.

The other reason is because it is not unusual for court dates to get confused for one reason or another.  For example, recently I had one case where the judge wrote 8/3/17 as the new court date on the court file instead of the actual continuance date which was supposed to have been 8/30/17.  This would have resulted in a warrant for my client but for the client being told about his “upcoming” court date by pre-trial services.

Ultimately, this program should reduce costs, because there will be less court dates, less warrants, less need to go out and arrest fugitives, and less housing costs while the arrestees sit in Cook County Jail.

You can read more about this in a DNAinfo story, linked here.

Cook County Jurors: Buy your own breakfast and snacks!

While at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building at 26th Street this week, I saw a memo from Chief Judge Timothy Evans that was left “in plain view” as the police like to say.

It said that due to budget cuts, Cook County jurors would no longer get breakfast and snacks for the rest of the year.  Even with the reinstatement of the “soda tax.”  It also said that it was expected that this cutback would likely become permanent in all future budgets.

So, to all you Cook County jurors out there:  if you want a cup of coffee and a croissant in the morning, you’d better stop off somewhere else because you aren’t getting it at court.

As new Cook County bail order goes into effect, Central Bond Court gets revamped

Earlier this summer, Chief Judge Timothy Evans issued General Order 18.8A, which went into effect today for felony cases (it won’t go into effect in misdemeanor cases until January 1, 2018).

The key change is that unless a defendant poses “a  real and present threat” to persons or is unlikely to appear in court, the “presumption [is] that any conditions of release imposed shall be non-monetary in nature, and the court shall impose the least restrictive conditions or combination of conditions necessary to reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant for further court proceedings.”

In order to implement these changes, Judge Evans has swapped out the entire roster of judges who handled Central Bond Court.  He also changed the name — now it will be called the “Pre-Trial Division.”  The new Division will be headed by long-time Felony Judge John Kirby, and assigned to the division will be Sophia Atcherson, Michael R. Clancy, John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr., Mary C. Marubio, Stephanie K. Miller and David R. Navarro.

Here is a link to a story about this change in today’s Chicago Sun-Times.

Cook County will stop prosecuting some traffic offenses

From the Chicago Tribune:

Citing a lack of personnel, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office plans to stop prosecuting certain traffic offenses, a top county official said.

Under a policy expected to take effect later this year, the state’s attorney’s office will not prosecute people accused of driving on licenses that have been suspended or revoked for financial reasons — such as failure to pay child support, tolls or parking tickets.

Instead, individual cities will have the option to prosecute those violations.

“We are in a triage mode, and we can’t continue to do what we were doing 10 years ago with 30 percent less resources,” Eric Sussman, the first assistant state’s attorney, told the Tribune on Wednesday…

In the new policy on traffic cases, Cook County prosecutors will continue to handle cases in which a driver’s license was invalidated because of more serious crimes, such as DUI, fleeing a police officer and reckless homicide.

In addition, the new traffic policy raises the bar for felony charges against people who cause serious car crashes while their licenses were revoked for financial reasons.

Under current law, a driver’s license-related misdemeanor charge can be upgraded to a felony if the driver causes a serious car crash and has one prior conviction for driving on an invalidated license.

Under the new policy, the state’s attorney’s office would upgrade those charges only if the defendant has five or more convictions for driving on a revoked or suspended license, if the license was taken away for money-related reasons.