Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sun-Times reports that Jessica O'Brien has filed for retention

Jon Seidel's article, posted this afternoon at 3:25 p.m., can be found here.

For those who came in late, the Illinois Supreme Court suspended Judge Jessica O'Brien's law license on April 26. That action would have made it impossible for O'Brien to become a judge. Article 6, Section 11 of the 1970 Illinois Constitution provides, in pertinent part,
No person shall be eligible to be a Judge or Associate Judge unless he is a United States citizen, a licensed attorney-at-law of this State, and a resident of the unit which selects him.
For example, by suspending the late Rhonda Crawford's law license, the Illinois Supreme Court effectively prevented her from assuming the office of judge.

But O'Brien, first elected in 2012, was already serving as a judge when the Illinois Supreme Court entered her suspension order.

So a constitutional question is presented: Can an already-serving judge be removed because her law license is suspended? The above language notwithstanding, the answer is not immediately clear. Why? Because, pursuant to Article 6, Section 15 of the Illinois Constitution, only the Illinois Courts Commission, acting on a complaint brought by the Judicial Inquiry Board, can remove a judge from the bench.

The Supreme Court referred the O'Brien matter to the JIB when it suspended her license. Seidel's article marvels that, "nearly one month after that referral, the JIB has taken no public action."

What Mr. Seidel does not seem to understand is that nothing the JIB does, or doesn't do, is public unless it files a complaint with the Courts Commission.

As the JIB website explains, "Like most other states, the initial investigation by the Board is conducted on a confidential basis. The matter remains confidential until a determination is made to publicly charge a judge with misconduct or incapacity." And, before that determination is made, there is a specific process that must be followed. That process is specified on the linked JIB web page. Following the process will take time.

Thus, there may well be a JIB complaint to the Courts Commission concerning Judge O'Brien -- but we'll know about it when we know about it.

Whether this will or can be resolved before November is purely a matter of speculation at this point.

Hat tip to my most prolific commenter, Anonymous, for the link to the Sun-Times story. Both your comments on the subject have been flushed, Anon (calling a comment 'civil' does not make it so), but I am grateful for the information anyway.

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