This blog has followed the story of Phillip Spiwack, a Chicago-area lawyer who legally changed his name in 2012 to Shannon O’Malley. The reason for the change: he was planning to run for judge in Cook County, and recognized the stubborn reality that having an Irish woman’s name would be a valuable commodity at the polls.
Spiwack lost his first race in 2010 while using his original name. The next year, the DePaul Law Review published a study showing that Cook County judicial candidates with Irish and female names tended to have an advantage in judicial elections. Spiwack changed his name to Shannon O’Malley shortly thereafter, and then deliberately sat out judicial races for the next several cycles to circumvent a state law requiring candidates who undergo a name change within three years of an election to disclose their old names on the ballot.
The plan worked. O’Malley won his election last week, even though he refused to submit his qualifications to any local bar associations and therefore did not receive any bar recommendations.
O’Malley may or may not prove to be a good judge. But this whole episode speaks poorly of the low-information judicial voters in Chicago.
Cook County Judge Jessica Arong O’Brien, convicted by a federal jury of mortgage fraud and facing a sentencing hearing in October, has refused to step down from the bench and continues to collect her nearly $200,000 yearly salary. Now the state’s Judicial Inquiry Board has asked the Illinois Courts Commission to suspend her pay pending a full hearing on removal from office.
In a fascinating bit of chutzpah, O’Brien recently filed paperwork to seek retention in the upcoming election. That seems unlikely, but O’Brien is making a strong push for inclusion in the (already spacious) Cook County Judges Hall of Shame.
In a sad and bizarre story, the Illinois Courts Commission ordered Chicago judge Valarie Turner to retire on Friday, after an investigation found that Turner had given her judicial robe to her clerk and allowed the clerk to preside over several traffic court cases in August 2016.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times:
Circuit Judge Valarie E. Turner has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and is “mentally unable to perform her duties,” according to a complaint filed Thursday by the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board.
Turner allowed law clerk Rhonda Crawford to take her seat behind the bench and rule on several traffic cases last August after introducing her to a prosecutor as “Judge Crawford,” the board contends.
“We’re going to switch judges,” Turner allegedly said during an afternoon court call, before standing up and giving her judicial robe to Crawford.
It appears that Turner’s current mental condition made her forced retirement a fairly straightforward decision for the Board. But it’s entirely unclear why Crawford would play along with this charade, and she has lost her law license as a result.