Friday, September 04, 2020

Two more retention judges withdraw, and two others, both in judges' jail, get profiled in the Sun Times

I hadn't checked the ISBE website for a couple of days, but one or more sharp-eyed readers (all named "Anonymous") did, letting me know that Judges Pat Rogers and Dennis M. McGuire have both withdrawn from the retention ballot.

Judge Rogers was first elected from the 4th Subcircuit in 2008. He began his legal career as an Assistant Cook County State's Attorney, becoming Lyons Township Supervisor in 1993. In private practice Rogers worked for a number of municipalities as a prosecutor or hearing officer.

Judge McGuire was first elected from the 11th Subcircuit in 2002. A basketball player in his DePaul undergraduate days, McGuire got a very effective endorsement from his college coach, the legendary Ray Meyer: "Put Dennis on the bench---I did." McGuire also began his career in the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, first representing Cook County Hospital in matters of collection, probate, and zoning. He later moved into real estate tax litigation.

These two subcircuit vacancies will up for election in 2022.

Meanwhile, two other members of the 2020 retention class, Judges Mauricio Araujo and Jackie Portman-Brown, got some unwelcome publicity in today's Chicago Sun Times. John Seasly's article, "2 Cook County judges in ‘judge jail,’ under investigation, want 6 more years on the bench," was also published on the Injustice Watch website.

Judge Araujo was first elected from the 6th Subcircuit in 2008. He has been assigned to administrative duties since October 2018 following a Tribune story concerning inappropriate remarks he allegedly made about a female Assistant State's Attorney. That incident is further described in the Judicial Inquiry Board's June 2019 complaint against Araujo, which also charges him with inappropriate conduct towards a court reporter and a female police officer. This matter remains pending before the Illinois Courts Commission.

Araujo was in the news last October as well, when he was called as a witness in the federal corruption trial of Chicago Police Sgt. Xavier Elizondo and Officer David Salgado. They were charged, and ultimately convicted, of paying off informants to lie in order to obtain search warrants, then stealing cash and drugs found in the course of those raids. Many of these search warrants were signed by Judge Araujo, including one that Araujo signed outside a Christmas party at a steakhouse in 2017 "that turned out to be part of an elaborate FBI ruse," according to an article by Jason Meisner in the October 10, 2019 Tribune.

Araujo's relationship with Salgado was scrutinized by the FBI, according to a March 29, 2019 Sun-Times article by Frank Main, Jon Seidel, and Andy Grimm, but no criminal charges have been filed against Araujo. The JIB Complaint before the Illinois Courts Commission does not raise any impropriety with search warrants among its charges against Araujo.

Judge Portman-Brown was also first elected to the bench, from the 5th Subcircuit, in 2008. She was assigned to administrative duties this past February, after a story broke about her locking up her six-year old grandniece, apparently at the request of the child's mother.

Political consultant Frank Calabrese, who was quoted in Seasly's article, told FWIW he sees a difference between Araujo's case and Portman-Brown's. "Araujo has multiple 'me too' complaints," he explained, while Portman-Brown appears to have made a "single mistake."

Another political consultant, Hanah Jubeh, identified in Seasly's article as working with Portman-Brown, says that the Chicago Bar Association has rated Portman-Brown as "qualified" for retention despite the current controversy. Seasly quotes Jubeh as saying, "this was a personal family matter that became public.... [T]he media’s perception of the incident with the grandniece was not a true representation of the matter in question."

And, now, some caveats: None of the bar associations, including the Chicago Bar Association, has publicly released their evaluations of retention candidates. Most, if not all, retention candidates have heard by now from most, if not all, of the bar groups, and are free to release that information themselves -- as Portman-Brown's consultant appears to have done here. Investigations by the Judicial Inquiry Board are expressly made confidential by Article VI, Sec. 15(c) of the Illinois Constitution except the filing of a complaint with the Courts Commission. But the absence of a complaint does not mean that the JIB's investigation has been closed. In the past, where the JIB has determined that it will not pursue charges, those judges were released from "judges' jail." Investigations are not required to wrap up within or otherwise conform to any particular election cycle.

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