Valarie Turner, a veteran Cook County Circuit Court judge, was removed from the bench for allegedly allowing lawyer Rhonda Crawford to put on her judicial robe and rule on at least two cases.
The lawyer, who is currently running unopposed for a sub-circuit judgeship, has also been suspended without pay from her job as a law clerk for Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans pending an investigation.
"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," Judge Evans said.
Even though, according to a spokesman for Judge Evans, the cases were minor ones involving “two minor traffic tickets — one for driving with no insurance and another for driving on a median,” the issue is still serious enough and a breach of judicial ethics.
It's not just Turner and Crawford responsible for this courtroom fiasco. All lawyers, clerks, courtroom deputies or other county employees who witnessed this abuse and did nothing also share at least some of the responsibility for the whole affair.
Both cases will now be heard again by a real judge.
“I can’t see how someone else can just sit and be a judge,” law professor Clifford Scott-Rudnick told the Chicago Tribune. “Obviously, if you’re entitled to have a judge hear your case, it has to be a real judge.”
The whole incident couldn’t have occurred at a worse time for Judge Evans, who himself is facing challenges from Thomas Allen, a former Chicago alderman and Sandra Ramos, a former state prosecutor, two judges, seeking to oust him in internal court elections next month.