The lawyer for a Cook County judge accused of making inappropriate comments in court and pushing a sheriff’s deputy said he will ask the Illinois Courts Commission to keep his client on as a judge.
The Judicial Inquiry Board filed a complaint this month against Circuit Judge Cynthia Brim alleging she violated judicial ethics. The complaint came six months after a judge found Brim not guilty by reason of insanity for pushing the deputy.
In March, DuPage County Associate Judge Liam C. Brennan ordered that Brim be conditionally released for five years.
He mandated Brim receive outpatient mental-health services during that period. Brennan — assigned to the case to avoid one of Brim’s Cook County colleagues handling it — also directed her to receive psychiatric treatment and medication management at least once a month, along with random tests three times a year to make sure she complies with the medication regimen.
Brim “had and continues to have schizoaffective disorder (bipolar type),” the JIB complaint says. “Without the necessary and appropriate medication, this condition renders (Brim) mentally unable to perform her duties.”
The matter now moves to the Illinois Courts Commission, a seven-member body than can discipline judges for ethical violations. The sanctions run from a reprimand to removal from the bench.
Brim’s attorney, James D. Montgomery Sr. — a partner at Cochran, Cherry, Givens, Smith & Montgomery LLC — said Brim is following Brennan’s order.
“Our plan is to basically ask the commission to keep her on the bench, given that her alleged aberrations are illness-related and that the illness is treatable and under treatment,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery said he plans to file an answer to the JIB’s complaint soon.
Brim’s illness is permanent and “can be controlled by medication and treatment and that’s the game plan,” he said.
Brim, 54, was relieved of her judicial responsibilities by the circuit court Executive Committee — which consists of Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans and the presiding judges — shortly after her arrest on March 9, 2012.
At that time, Evans couldn’t recall the panel ever taking such an action against a judge. Brim is still collecting her $183,936 annual salary.
The JIB’s complaint summarizes the misdemeanor case against Brim resulting from her actions on the day of her arrest and comments she made from the bench the previous day.
She made a number of unusual comments on March 8, 2012, while hearing traffic matters at the 6th Municipal District in Markham, according to the complaint.
They ranged from saying her “grandmother had been raped by a white man and respondent herself was the child of a white man that raped a black woman” to “justice is all about if you’re black or white.”
Brim also stated, “she had been in a mental hospital before and had previously been taken out of her courtroom on a stretcher and she expected the county to send her to a mental hospital after she left the courtroom that day,” the complaint says.
Brim was hospitalized at least six times for psychiatric-related issues between 1993 and 2012, the complaint says.
The complaint asserts that Brim brought the judicial office into disrepute.
The JIB’s outside trial counsel, John N. Gallo — a Sidley, Austin LLP partner — declined to comment.
Since its inception in the early 1970s, the Illinois Courts Commission has removed six judges, suspended 18, censured eight and reprimanded 23, records show. The commission also dismissed 19 of the JIB’s complaints.
In 1973, the JIB filed a complaint against a Cook County judge alleging the judge was physically or mentally unable to perform his duties.
In 1980, the JIB filed a complaint against a downstate judge asserting he brought the judicial office into disrepute and that demonstrated his “incapacity and mental inability to perform his duties.”
Both those judges resigned, which resulted in the commission losing jurisdiction in their cases.
Three lawyers who represent judges in disciplinary matters offered their takes on what the commission could do in Brim’s case.
“If she is sick as people claim, the courts commission may suspend her from her duties while she gets well,” said George B. Collins, a partner at Collins, Bargione & Vuckovich. “That would be the rational thing to do.”
William J. Harte said he believes the JIB’s complaint “will be dismissed because it was an emotional thing. It wasn’t an improper judgment on her part.”
Warren Lupel — special counsel at Much, Shelist P.C. — said the commission could suspend Brim or enter a finding that she cannot retain her judgeship.
However, “if someone is ill and they act as a result of that illness, they should not be treated the same as someone who knowingly violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.”
Robert P. Cummins, a partner at The Cummins Law Firm P.C., served as the JIB’s chairman from 1979 to 1987. He mentioned a potential remedy that is available to Brim under the Illinois Constitution.
“If I were representing (Brim), I would try to work out a stipulation that she be retired subject to compliance with (Brennan’s) court order and, hopefully, leaving the door open for a return to the bench if she recovers,” he said.