Remembering Judge Raymond Myles

Myles

The entire Cook County legal community is shocked and saddened to learn about the murder of Judge Raymond Myles.

Judge Myles was a Cook County Judge for nearly 20 years.  He was assigned to the Criminal Division.  Over the years, I appeared before him many times, and tried two cases before him.  He was a very good trial judge, well versed in the law.  He was fair and impartial.  He was open-minded and did not pre-judge cases until he heard all of the evidence.  He was big-hearted and street smart.  In short, he was everything that you would want in a judge.

Just a few weeks ago it was reported that Judge Myles had been seriously injured a year a half ago, after a motor vehicle accident, when the other driver assaulted him, fracturing his nose among other injuries which required reconstructive surgery.

Police are still investigating the murder, and preliminary reports indicate that they believe that this was a robbery gone wrong, unrelated to the assault case or any other matter before him.

My condolences to his family.  He did so much for our community and will be missed tremendously.

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.

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.).

New York Judge arrested for DUI – on her way to court!

astacio

From CBSNews.com:

Authorities say a Rochester judge has been arrested on a drunken driving charge after being pulled over on her way to court.

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley says Judge Leticia Astacio was arrested Saturday morning after being stopped by New York State troopers on Interstate 490.

New York State troopers say they were dispatched to I-490 westbound near Mount Read Boulevard around 8 a.m. Saturday for an accident involving one car, reports CBS affiliate WROC.

Police say Astacio refused to take a Breathalyzer test, according to the Democrat and Chronicle.

Astacio, who was elected to the judicial post in 2014, was released with an appearance ticket and ordered to appear in court in March. She hasn’t immediately returned a call for comment.

Doorley says Astacio was stopped on her way to court, where she was scheduled to preside over criminal court arraignments. Another judge was called in after Astacio was arrested.

A spokesman for the state court system did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Astacio’s arrest.

A conservative Federal Appeals Court Judge lists the 12 legal fallacies that have caused over 1,500 false convictions to be overturned since 1989

In a masterful law review article in the Georgetown Law Journal, Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, lists the twelve legal fallacies that he believes are common factors in the more than 1,500 exonerations since 1989.  Judge Kozinski was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and is considered a conservative.

He has spent the last thirty years on the appellate court hearing appeals from people who have been wrongfully convicted.

The twelve fallacies are:

1.    Eyewitnesses are highly reliable;

2.    Fingerprint evidence is foolproof;

3.    Other types of forensic evidence are scientifically proven and therefor infallible;

4.    DNA evidence is infallible;

5.    Human memories are reliable;

6.    Confessions are infallible because innocent people never confess;

7.    Juries follow instructions;

8.    Prosecutors play fair;

9.    The prosecution is at a substantial disadvantage because it must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt;

10.    Police are objective in their investigations;

11.    Guilty pleas are conclusive proof of guilt; and

12.    Long sentences deter crime.

He follows his discussion of each item on this list with the sentence, “What I have listed above are some of the reasons to doubt that our criminal justice system is fundamentally just.”

I cannot do justice to the article, entitled “Criminal Law 2.0” in a blog post.  Please go to http://georgetownlawjournal.org/files/2015/06/Kozinski_Preface.pdf and read it for yourself.

Texas, Florida Judges in the news for their own DUI arrests

Here are two stories that I saw over the weekend about two out of state Judges who were arrested for DUI.  By the way, for anyone wondering whether or not you should agree to take a breath test when arrested for a DUI, please take note that both of these judges refused.

Questions are being asked about the dismissal of Texas Judge Nora Longoria’s DUI case.  According to reports, prosecutors thought the case was too weak to prosecute, so they dropped it.  They made this decision before they had obtained the officer’s dash cam video, which I am embedding above.  Why did prosecutors rush to drop this case until they had all the evidence?  Didn’t the arrest reports indicate that the Judge was wobbling and unable to walk straight?  I wish all my clients were treated so generously.

Meanwhile, Florida Judge Cynthia Imperato is scheduled to have her DUI trial next week, beginning December 16th.  I have embedded her arrest video above.

Last week, a judge denied her motion to keep her position as a judge out of evidence from the jury, despite her attorney’s concern that “many citizens hold judges and attorneys to a higher standard, viewing them as officers of the court, expecting that they should not disobey the law.”  Personally, I agree with her attorney, and I don’t believe that the probative value of her position as a judge is outweighed by the prejudice that she may face if held to a higher standard than anyone else.