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Tuesday, September 20, 2016
WGN investigating... what, exactly?
While many of us were watching the Bears getting picked apart by the Eagles, WGN-TV aired the latest installment of its long-dormant Judging the Judges series, Trouble in the courtroom. The link will take you to the WGN Investigates site and the text of last night's piece; the video link of last night's presentation was working at the time this post was published.
The ostensible subject of the piece was the Turner-Crawford business, I guess, with an emphasis on Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans's role in hiring Crawford as a law clerk and assigning Judge Turner to the courtroom where Crawford would, for a little while, pretend to be a judge and dispose of some traffic cases on Judge Turner's call.
I'm going to indulge in a little speculation here, clearly labeled as such, and suggest that Judge Evans's responsibilities for both Turner and Crawford are more of the captain-of-the-ship variety as opposed to his having any extensive involvement in the placement of either. And while Crawford was, technically, in the employ of the Chief Judge's office, I'd guess that, before this incident, Judge Evans likely had little or no contact with Crawford whatsoever. She was presumably not, as the MBAs like to say, a 'direct report.' (It would be interesting, though, to know what Ms. Crawford was supposed to be doing and for whom. I'm pretty sure her job was not to follow Judge Turner around the courthouse.)
An attorney by the name of Dan Konicek was brought in to note that the fact that former law clerk Crawford is running unopposed for the bench this November is "not a good situation. It just isn't." (WGN did not mention, and may not have been aware of, Judge Maryam Ahmad's recent write-in effort.)
Why was Mr. Konicek the only attorney quoted in the piece? Who knows? Mr. Konicek is a well-known civil trial attorney, and an ITLA board member (although that wasn't mentioned either), but his principal office is in Geneva according to his own firm website and the ARDC. Speculating again here, but I doubt Mr. Konicek has logged a lot of time in the Markham Courthouse where the Turner-Crawford business took place. Konicek's appearance may just mean he was known to the series producer and answered the call when it came. But did other, more local, worthies take a pass on the chance to make similar statements?
Judge Evans has already been reelected as Chief Judge; WGN's report did note that. So... what was WGN's point?
WGN did mention its role in the recent JIB prosecution of Judge Beatriz Santiago, even quoting Judge Santiago's attorney as saying that she accepts her censure and is "ready to go forward and work hard to be a good judge."
In taking its bow, WGN observed that ARDC and JIB investigations are "secret." And slow. So... is last night's piece the opening salvo in a battle to make these sorts of investigations more "transparent"? (I believe that's the current buzzword.) The piece did make the point that, while it will probably come too late to change the outcome of the November election, investigations are probably ongoing into Ms. Crawford's conduct.
Maybe it's the word "investigates" that arouses unnecessary speculation and concern. Maybe all WGN is trying to do is educate, to give its viewers at least a rudimentary understanding of how our courts work. That would be a laudable objective. I suppose we'll just have to wait for WGN's next installment and see what develops.
I am an experienced attorney (concentrating in insurance coverage, insurance litigation and civil appeals). I am certified as a Mediator in the Cook County Law Division Major Case Court-Annexed Civil Mediation Program and the Chancery Division Mediation Program.
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