Saturday, August 20, 2016

Updating the Turner-Crawford story and suggesting a step back

This week's story about a Cook County judge getting suspended after allegedly allowing a law clerk/ staff attorney (and judicial candidate) to wear a robe and decide cases on the judge's call has grown national legs.

In addition to the coverage here, and in the Tribune, and the Sun-Times (the Sun-Times has also published an editorial on the case -- the paper is against non-judges pretending to be a judge, in case you were in doubt), the story has been picked up by
If a Google search this morning can be believed, a couple of Chinese-language sites have picked up the story as well.

Also weighing in on the story, albeit tangentially, is Second City Cop. In a post throwing darts at the Cook County Sheriff (*ahem*), SCC bumps a blog comment into its post:
Sheriff's office attempted to cover-up Judge scandal at the Markham Courthouse. Numerous sources saying a Deputy wrote a memo stating Judge was allowing her friend to wear a robe and play Judge on the bench. The Deputy's memo was never reported by the Sheriff's office. The Sheriff's office is now claiming they did not know if Judge was running a "training" exercise. Numerous sources say this is a lie cause Sheriff Dart blew a gasket today in his office as he just learned the Deputy documented the incident.

I'm not accepting SCC's reported rumor as fact. But, whether it's true or not, it reminds us, or it should, that this Turner-Crawford business is more that what-were-they-thinking story. There's another story here, too, namely, whether anybody could have, or should have, seen this coming -- and maybe even headed this off.

Because this is not a 'funny story' for the people involved. It's at least career-threatening, maybe even career-ending. And, on paper at least, nothing in Judge Turner's background, at least, suggested that she would ever have thought this unauthorized job-sharing to be a good idea. As Mark Brown's August 17 Sun-Times article pointed out, Judge Turner came to the bench after "two years as an assistant U.S. attorney and six years at Kirkland & Ellis. She received her law degree from the University of Chicago." Since her election to the bench in 2002, Judge Turner was found recommended or qualified for retention by every bar group, both the CBA and every Alliance member, in both 2008 and 2014 (the sole exception being a negative review from the Chicago Council of Lawyers for the 2008 retention election -- and, as noted, the CCL urged a yes vote for Judge Turner in 2014).

So I have to think that maybe something changed for Judge Turner between 2014 and whenever she first let Ms. Crawford don her robe. But maybe not -- that's what investigations are for.

But take that step back with me now. Let's just talk about judges generally, not about Judge Turner or Ms. Crawford.

I realize that judges have pretty autonomous working conditions. But judges typically have support staff, at least a courtroom clerk and (as SCC notes this morning) a courtroom deputy. Every judge has at least a supervising or presiding judge to whom he or she reports. No, there's no clock-punching---quite the opposite---and there are no ra-ra meetings in the breakroom (although wouldn't that be pretty cool? OK, team, we're having a special on 2-615 motions this week...). But, still, there are people who interact with any judge often enough that a marked change in behavior, in demeanor, in appearance... for whatever reason... illness, substance issues, depression... you'd think something might have been seen. By someone. Wouldn't you hope something might also be said?

Now, maybe, that judge---that hypothetical judge we're now talking about, not anyone in particular---might respond to a friendly offer of help or concern by biting the head off of the person having the temerity to ask. Or maybe he or she might burden the person asking with more than he or she can handle alone. There's a range of possible responses. But if your helping hand is slapped away, mightn't you then take your concern to the judge's supervisor maybe even the Chief Judge? I just don't see why a situation has to get so far out of hand, to the point where someone jeopardizes their career, or worse. If it was you who'd wound up, for whatever reason, in a bad place, wouldn't you want someone to offer help? Wouldn't you want someone to warn your supervisors before you harmed yourself or your livelihood?

So wouldn't you, shouldn't you, want to offer help if you see a judge---or any colleague---drifting into peril? When the snickering stops over the Turner-Crawford business, I hope that this thought remains.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jack you are right, the Chief Judge needs to go.

Jack Leyhane said...

Um, Anon 4:13 p.m., where exactly did I say that?

Everybody tells me that reading comprehension doesn't suffer when folks read stuff online as opposed reading on paper---that's the fundamental premise of efiling, obviously---but comments like the one above make me wonder. A lot. And not in a good way.

Anonymous said...

"So I have to think that maybe something changed for Judge Turner between 2014 and whenever she first let Ms. Crawford don her robe."

Why, Jack? Because what they did was SO stupid? Because Judge Turner had a resume with big firm background and degrees from Northwestern and University of Chicago? Don't be so surprised.

During my many years of practicing law I have found that, as far as opposing counsel, the gals and guys with degrees from less esteemed schools have been a lot more pleasurable to work with and exhibit a lot more common sense. I wish I had a dime for every time I mumbled "that idiot graduated from Northwestern!?!?" or that idiot's law firm has offices in Paris and New York!?!?".

Remember Forrest Gump - Stupid is as stupid does.

And please, Jack, "a special on 2-615 motions"? You and I are both aware that most Cook County judges would not know what a 2-615 motion (or a 2-619 for that matter) even if bitten by one on the backside of their black robe. Then again..... if their black robe is given to a law clerk to play judge.....what do you expect?

Anonymous said...

There are so many 'ifs'. Sometimes we get to a point where we say "okay, that's it"...--even after days, months or years pass by. Other times it's not until the person goes to the edge and jumps and we say, "I didn't know it was that bad"...--yet there were probably signs. Face it, people whisper, see strange things happen and go on about their day unless what they see affects them directly. I'm sure there were signs, something was seen but possibly the signs and sightings were intermittent. We don't know. But until it's an "OMG" or "Wow" or "what the___" moment expect no one to put themselves out on a limb to report a colleague. Depending on the facts and total circumstances, it appears it was not the signs, nor the whispers but the OMG or "Wow" or "what the ___" moment that happened. Those signs that say 'if you see something, say something' doesn't always play well in a workplace including a courthouse. Those that say it does probably wouldn't say anything either but make an anonymous tip to the hotline or write an anonymous letter. After all there's anonymity in writing on this site.

Concerned Lawyer said...

Exactly, Jack. Where in the world did anon's conclusion/comment come from (if you will excuse the use of a preposition at the end of a sentence)?

Jack Leyhane said...

@Anon 10:51 -- The first thing I suggested was asking the person directly. Is everything OK? You look a little stressed these days; is there something I can do to help you? Although it says 'attorney and counselor' on our licenses, I realize I'm not a professional counselor, but I can ask, and I can listen, and maybe I can refer. LAP might be one option. Helping someone to walk in, or call, and seek real, professional help might be a really good thing to do.

The second thing I suggested was---if your efforts were rebuffed and if you were still concerned---reporting the questionable behavior to someone up the chain of command (yours or theirs, or both).

I'd always recommend doing the first thing before the second.

As to the thought about making an anonymous report, an anonymous comment here that 'Judge So-and-so is nuts' is never going to see the light of day. So I hope you weren't thinking that this site might serve. An anonymous hotline, though, if properly affiliated, might be helpful. I'd sure publicize it.

@Anon 7:39 p.m. - I agree that I've had moments where I've questioned how that person got through [whatever prestigious school]. Or got a job at [whatever silk stocking firm]. My impression of this incident, though, is that it's just too bizarre to attribute to a lack of common sense---although, surely, that was lacking here, too. I'd agree that it's probably hard to tell the difference on short acquaintance.

My thought was that people in your life, people you see regularly, people who you've always thought rock-solid, can change because of disease or depression or substance issues or whatever. I'm talking about the situation where you know a person well enough to see the change for the worse; that's the time to intervene, or try to, before a situation goes from a mere change to what-were-they-thinking story.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the same pj is involved in the sad brimm Cas and now this. And the same cj. We all know that frankly there are those who wear the rob who really don't have the skills necessary to handle what can be a high stress,high volume job-especially in markham which by far is overworked and understaffed.
I agree w comments above that a pj and cj have the ability reach out to all the judges to make sure all is well.

Anonymous said...

Jack, when I wrote about making anonymous reports through a tip line or writing, I did not mean to imply through this site. Oh no!!! I only meant that if people have concerns or comments about things going on that even a site such as this is anonymous---people do not want others to identify them or their opinions so they sign off as anonymous. I do not deem this site as a tip line. My only point is that people tend to not go and directly tell supervisors or others in decision making positions about concerns such as what happened with the judge. It seems that you are hearing some other information to cause you to question why there wasn't someone intervening before the 'OMG' moment occurred. Yes, I've asked people if they were okay even when it seemed they were not but my concern did not translate to action. I remember a colleague that had a blank look on her face many times. We would often talk about her at work and how she didn't engage with us but just did her work silently. But it seemed to me and others that her blank look was no more different than usual. This went on for years. This colleague and I would have brief conversations. We would sit across from each other on the train. She'd stare out the window. But who doesn't when they ride the train? Well, on a couple of occasions I saw her on the train clutching rosary beads appearing to be in a "zone" that I thought was prayer so I didn't sit with her on the train those couple of times. One Friday I saw her doing the same thing and I decided not to sit with her and thought to myself, she's looking too weird. I moved to another car just to avoid speaking. Well the next day she committed suicide. I wondered what if I would have sat next to her like I used to do instead of avoiding her because she was acting weird. What if I would have tried to engage conversation that maybe could have broken the 'zone' she was in. I don't know. Later I learned that she did have mental and emotional issues and had been hospitalized on previous occasions. I didn't know. I only say this because yes, there can be signs but those signs we see hopefully are the same signs family members see more clearly and can act. Those signs may not always be a call to action that leads to anything more than 'are you okay'. Then when something goes down, we look back and we then see the signs. This judge probably showed signs but then we shake our heads but it's too late. Also, those people on this site that talk about the judge's educational achievements miss the point. Totally not relevant if there were mental or emotional issues at stake. I'm hearing what you could be hearing ---that there were signs but for some reason that isn't always enough for an intervention.

Ira Helfgot said...

Jack:
"As to the thought about making an anonymous report, an anonymous comment here that 'Judge So-and-so is nuts' is never going to see the light of day. So I hope you weren't thinking that this site might serve. An anonymous hotline, though, if properly affiliated, might be helpful. I'd sure publicize it."
I have no comment about the recent events with this judge. However, let me take you up on your offer. As I am sure you are aware, the mission of the Lawyers' Assistance Program is to help lawyers, judges, and law students get assistance with substance abuse, addiction and mental health problems, to protect clients from impaired lawyers and judges, and to educate the legal community about addiction and mental health issues. Confidentiality is guaranteed. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 1.6. cloaks in confidentiality all information received by LAP volunteers and trained interveners during interventions and related meetings. Both the volunteer and client are assured that anything disclosed is specifically protected by the attorney client privilege. The only exception is if the client signs a release of information and asks LAP to report on his or her behalf to another organization or individual. Additionally, the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Interveners and Reporter Immunity Law guarantees immunity for LAP Volunteers and those who participate in its work.
Ira Helfgot
Vice President, Lawyers' Assistance Program

Jack Leyhane said...

Thank you, Ira.

Readers, the LAP website address is http://illinoislap.org/

The Chicago office is located at

20 S. Clark St., Suite 1820
Chicago, IL 60603
Email : gethelp@illinoislap.org
Telephone: 312.726.6607 | 800-LAP-1233
Fax : 312-726-6614

There is also a Downstate office

2217 W. Main St.
Belleville, IL 62226
Email : get-help-downstate@illinoislap.org
Telephone: 618-444-9706
Fax : 618-235-4316

Anonymous said...

REMINDER - anyone who wants to run as a write-in against Rhonda Crawford, you have until September 8 to turn in a Notarized Declaration of Intent. You need to turn one in to both the Chicago Board of Elections (69 W Washington 6th Floor) and the Cook County Clerk (69 W Washington 5th Floor).

Anonymous said...

Jack has been silent since he uncharacteristically offered a stern opinion about a recent JIB case. Some good legal news has happened since then, so Jack's absence is worrisome. I'm concerned he may be tied up in a basement in the 6th subcircuit.

You can't spell Jibarito without JIB.

His disappearance may have something to do with the Trump ads on his web site. Maybe the ads didn't pay off and Jack was deported back to Ireland. Come to think about it, there is a 40 foot wall being erected around Edison Park.

Send us a sign you are ok.

Jack Leyhane said...

@Anon 8/29 6:35 p.m. --

As if they'd have me.

But, about the news... I've been working. What did I miss?