Saturday, October 22, 2016

Walls closing in on Rhonda Crawford. What should the sanction be?

FWIW readers following the Rhonda Crawford will recall David Thomas's article in the October 14 Law Bulletin about the ARDC petitioning the Illinois Supreme Court, seeking "a rule for Respondent, Rhonda Crawford, to show cause why she should not be suspended until further order of the Court or suspend Respondent on the Court's own motion, and restrain and enjoin Respondent from taking the judicial oath of office or assuming the office of judge, or take such other action as this Court deems just, for having engaged in conduct which threatens irreparable harm to the public, the legal profession and to the orderly administration of justice."

I probably wasn't the only reader who didn't immediately understand that the petition that ARDC filed in the Supreme Court was different from the ARDC Complaint filed against Crawford on October 7. Thomas's linked Law Bulletin article mines the Supreme Court petition in some detail -- and, as damning as the ARDC Complaint may appear, the ARDC's Supreme Court petition is much, much worse. (Mr. Thomas was kind enough to share a copy of the Petition with me.)

And---although I didn't get a chance to post anything during the week---the drumbeat against Crawford continued to grow louder and louder as the week went on. I was able to keep up, more or less, on Twitter:

Debra Cassens Weiss has updated coverage on the ABA Journal website.

Last night on WGN-TV, I saw election attorney Burt Odelson (who is representing Crawford's write-in opponent, Judge Maryam Ahmad) stating that he has also filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking to knock Crawford off the ballot.

For public consumption at least, despite her indictment, Crawford is insisting that she's not going anywhere. If she is not forced off the ballot (as she would be if the Supreme Court suspends her license), Crawford is almost certain to win election on November 8.

If I was advising Ms. Crawford---and, as you might expect, no one has asked---I'd be urging negotiation. I'd be looking for a soft landing. The price would undoubtedly be high---withdrawing her candidacy---but, at the moment Crawford's license and even her liberty is arguably at stake.

No one---no one outside Crawford's defense team, anyway---is defending what Rhonda Crawford seems to have done in Judge Valarie Turner's Markham courtroom this past August. Putting on a judge's robe and deciding even the most insignificant of cases was a special kind of stupid thing to do.

In a story posted last evening, the AP's Michael Tarm quotes Crawford's campaign as saying that Crawford is "'a pawn' in a behind-the-scenes play by 'Democratic Machine politics' to disenfranchise voters" in the 1st Judicial Subcircuit.

Please. There may be a great many sins of omission and commission to lay at the feet of local Democratic Party leaders, but if anyone has disenfranchised voters in the 1st Subcircuit, it is Crawford herself. It is her own conduct that may yet force her off the ballot; if she stays on the ballot, and is elected by default, she will be unable to serve, at least for the foreseeable future, and quite possibly ever. Either way, the community's judicial choice will be frustrated -- and neither Chairman Berrios, nor President Preckwinkle, nor Speaker Madigan will own a particle of blame.

So many FWIW readers would have traded one or more body parts to have been in Rhonda Crawford's shoes before this incident. I can't help but think that a lot of the anger, maybe even fury, directed at Ms. Crawford is attributable to this. How could she do this? How could anyone think this was OK? It is not just the politicians who have closed ranks against Ms. Crawford; it is the larger legal establishment. (And Ms. Crawford had already forfeited the opportunity to make friends with the legal-powers-that-be by refusing to participate in the evaluation process.)

But in determining the appropriate punishment, is our anger at Crawford's actions causing us to demand punishments that are disproportionate to the real harm caused? Of course, just as Ms. Crawford's ballot status is her negotiating chit, jail time is a pretty strong negotiating chit for those wishing Crawford would just go away.

I hope Ms. Crawford's lawyers are talking to anyone they can.


Anonymous said...


Did you see Sneed today... Crawford's attorney actually sent a letter to the State's Attorney's Office asking that the criminal charges be delayed until after the election.

Jack Leyhane said...

Nope, I hadn't seen it -- but I've seen it now. It's all part of the negotiation process -- or it should be... right?

Anonymous said...

No, Jack. They are not trying to negotiate. She just wants to be able to win the election so that she can argue that suspending her license and preventing her from sitting as a judge would interfere with "the will of the people." Because she is in the 1st subcircuit and being represented by a particular lawyer, we can rest assured that this will become racially-charged similar to the Jackie Robinson West scandal. Her lawyer is the same guy who tried to make that situation about race rather than about cheating. Anyone with any sense and spine will push back and suspend her license for six months and prevent her from sitting for the bar, and then call it a day. Voters are so clueless that they will probably elect her again in a few years if she ran for a future vacancy.

Anonymous said...

Does ahmad even live in the 1st subcircuit? Why isn't that being questioned?

Anonymous said...

What about Judge Valarie E. Turner? She handed Crawford her robe. It was not stolen out of the closet. Turner stepped away from her bench, allowed Crawford to sit down, hear cases, and stood right over her. Now Judge Turner is on medical leave? Getting paid to sit at home and watch Price is Right while Crawford is left to twist in the wind? I have no idea what the sanctions should be, however, it seems to me that Judge Turner should be equally if not more severely punished than Crawford. To be honest, I hope Crawford skates with a slap on the wrist and Turner gets booted off the bench. But it looks like that is not going to happen.

Anonymous said...

She's been getting bad advice. Should have been long gone. Then Bates and Ahmad would be doing a write in against each other.

Judge John Roberts said...

Ms. Crawford and her lawyer may think that the default election will improve her situation but it won't. The Supreme Court will not stand for her being sworn in and will probably pull her license as well, The indictment is unjust but that and what the Supremes do have no connection and each will proceed independent of the other.

Jack Leyhane said...

@Anon 10/23 10:21 a.m. -- I won't vouch for anyone's residency but my own. OTOH, Judge Ahmad was appointed to a 1st Subcircuit vacancy, filed for said vacancy, faced opposition there (she lost, remember?) including a challenge to her nominating petitions. Her declaration to run as a write-in was challenged, too. I'm pretty certain that the lawyers who've tried to knock Ahmad off the March ballot or tried to keep write-in votes from being counted in her favor have examined whether there is a residency argument to make. So I'll answer your questions as follows: (1) Yeah, I'm pretty sure she does; (2) it was.

Anonymous said...

So, to save her own skin, Judge Turner stated that she thought Rhonda Crawford was a Judge? Really? Crawford worked in the Markham Courthouse for a long time and we ALL knew she was a law clerk. We ALL knew and celebrated her primary victory in March; and we ALL knew her general election was in November; and we ALL knew she would not be sworn in until December. Did you catch that JIB?

Anonymous said...

I would like to see Rhonda Crawford interviewed by Avy Meyers. Avy keeps it positive. He would never ask about her bar ratings or this incident. He would inquire about her background as a R.N. and, of course, go over the boundaries of the 1st subcircuit. Mazel tov, Rhonda.