09:21, May 08 427 0 abajournal.com

2017-05-08 09:21:04
New judges were welcomed into ‘career paradise’ and told to obey the boss, says judge who quit

“Career paradise” as a well-paid judge in Cook County, Illinois, was short lived for Richard Cooke, who quit 142 days into the job amid a dispute over his court assignment.

Cooke spoke with the Chicago Sun-Times about the “sick culture” of a cushy Chicago-area judgeship that, he says, came with a caveat: Judges, he was told, should never question the boss, Chief Judge Timothy Evans.

At a weeklong training program, newbie judges were welcomed into “career paradise,” Cooke said. “This job as a judge, we were told, came with unbelievable perks: high salary, incredible respect, five weeks’ paid vacation, basically unlimited, compensated sick days, minimal supervision, great health insurance and an outstanding pension.”

The pay was $194,000 a year and the work day ended at 4 p.m., supposedly. But Cooke tells the newspaper he was advised “with a wink, during lunch” how to sneak out early by avoiding the judges’ elevator.

Cooke had refused a traffic court assignment, citing his financial interest in a car wash that had won city contracts to wash police cars and other vehicles. Cooke believed the contracts would pose a conflict of interest when government bodies had cases before him in traffic court. He also told the Sun-Times he has dyslexia, which makes it difficult to read handwritten traffic tickets.

Cooke was transferred in January to marriage court and referred to the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board in April for refusing the traffic court assignment. He says he decided to quit rather than wait for a resolution while presiding over weddings in marriage court, where the boredom was “intolerable,” the carpeting was stained, the furniture dilapidated and the cockroaches plentiful.

Evans spokesman Pat Milhizer told the Sun-Times that Cooke is making “statements that are nonsense.”

Evans “works to accommodate judges with any concerns regarding their service,” Milhizer said. “If Mr. Cooke believes that he was being mistreated and is right in his assertions, then why didn’t he allow the [Judicial Inquiry Board] to place him under oath and then make his case? Instead, he resigned.”