Cook County judge removed from bench after arrest at courthouse
BY LISA DONOVAN AND LAUREN FITZPATRICK Staff Reporters March 12, 2012 4:04PM
Judge Cynthia Brim works the crowd at the 95th and Ryan el stop on Election Day in 2006. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
Updated: April 14, 2012 8:09AM
Following her arrest at the Daley Center court complex and reports of highly erratic behavior on the bench, Cook County Judge Cynthia Brim has been removed from the bench indefinitely, court officials announced Monday.
As first reported by the Sun-Times, Brim was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery Friday after throwing a set of keys and shoving a Cook County Sheriff’s deputy at a security checkpoint in the Daley Center. She was briefly locked up in a holding cell in the courthouse basement and then released on her own recognizance later in the evening, according to the sheriff’s office.
On Monday the court’s Executive Committee – a panel of judges presiding over everything from the civil to the criminal divisions of the court system — approved her removal “until further order of (the) court,” according to a press release issued by Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans.
In coming to their decision the judges determined her arrest and charging “reflects adversely upon her fitness to serve” and that allegations of inappropriate conduct tend to indicate there may be the threat of injury to the public, the judicial branch of government or the orderly administration of justice,” Evans stated in the press release.
Finally, the judges’ panel found: “There is reasonable cause to believe that a medical examination may reveal that Judge Brim presently is unable to perform her judicial duties which could result in serious injury to the public or impede the orderly administration of justice.”
Her unrestricted access to court facilities has been revoked.
It’s unclear whether she’ll continue collecting her $175,000-a-year paycheck.
About 4:45 p.m. Friday, Brim approached sheriff’s deputies at a security checkpoint at the Daley Center and asked if they had found a set of keys she lost, sheriff’s spokesman Frank Bilecki said. The deputies, who did not know who she was, showed her three sets of keys that had turned up and she claimed one of the sets, he said.
She left but returned about 15 minutes later, this time tossing a set of keys toward at least one deputy and shoving one in the chest for unknown reasons, Bilecki said. “At that point she was taken into custody,” he said, adding that she was handcuffed and led away to a sheriff’s lockup in the basement of the downtown court building. She was charged with misdemeanor battery and was later released, he said.
On Thursday, sources said, Brim was acting erratically on the bench as she presided over traffic cases in the county’s suburban Markham courthouse. She was hearing traffic cases on tickets written by South Holland, that town’s police chief confirmed.
“An incident did happen,” said South Holland Police Chief Warren Millsaps, whose officers were in Brim’s packed courtroom Thursday morning. He declined to provide details, referring questions to the presiding judge of the Sixth District, Marjorie Laws. Laws referred calls to Evans, who did not respond to a request for comment.
One source told the Sun-Times that Brim made comments during the call that were “racial in nature,” accusing south suburban towns of ticketing only black and Hispanic drivers. She accused south suburban police officers of conspiring to get her fired, the source said.
Another source said she recited her parents’ names, the address of her church and her license plate number and walked around the courtroom, complaining she had been run out of her last assignment.
Brim could not be reached for comment Monday.
Brim graduated from Loyola University Law School in Chicago in 1983, according to the Illinois Attorney Regulation and Disciplinary Commission. Nor does she have any public history with the state’s Judicial Inquiry Board, which regulates and investigates judicial conduct. A spokeswoman would not comment on whether the board was investigating Brim, citing confidentiality.
Before becoming a judge in 1994, she worked as an assistant Attorney General in Chicago, according to Sullivan’s Judicial Profiles. In 1996, she was assigned to the county courthouse in Markham, the moved to Bridgeview in 1998. In June 2010, she returned to Markham.
Brim was reelected in 2000 and 2006, though she was not recommended by a majority of area bar associations both times.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers said in 2006 she showed up late to court too often and demonstrated a “lack of a good grasp of the law.”
Brim told the Sun-Times then she had handled 220,000 cases, and “only eight cases have been appealed out of all of those. I never was reversed in any of them.”
In 2000, she received negative reviews from 10 of the 11 bar associations. She had relatively little experience as a lawyer before elected to the bench in 1994. The consensus: Brim lacks sufficient legal knowledge and skills to be a good judge.