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Cook Democrats make martyr out of judge

Tuesday, Sep 15, 2020

* Yeah, this’ll go well

As the Jussie Smollett case boiled over last year, Judge Michael Toomin appointed a special prosecutor to look at how Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and her office handled the controversial case, saying it had been botched.

On Monday, the Cook County Democratic Party, which is chaired by Foxx ally Toni Preckwinkle, took the relatively rare step of voting not to endorse Toomin for retention on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The move set off a political firestorm. Toomin called it “retaliation.” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said it sure looked like payback. But the Democratic leaders who dumped Toomin pointed to what they said was his outdated approach to juvenile justice, finding him “imperial” and “obstructionist” as they declared it was time for him to retire. […]

In 2018, Toomin faced backlash from Preckwinkle, who also is the Cook County Board president, and others after declining to follow a county ordinance that barred youths 12 and younger from being sent to juvenile detention. Two 12-year-old boys with gun charges on their records had been placed on electronic monitoring, but were ordered to detention after they repeatedly damaged their monitors and ran away.

Toomin ruled that the boys would remain confined there, saying they were a threat to society and to themselves, and the county law provided no “viable alternative” to their incarceration. State law, which allows children as young as 10 to be locked up, trumps the county ordinance, he ruled. A state appellate court agreed with him last year, drawing disappointment from Preckwinkle because the confinement of young children can lead to mental health problems, she said at the time.

* Mark Brown

The Cook County Democratic Party voted Monday to oppose retention of the judge who appointed a special prosecutor to investigate State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s handling of the Jussie Smollett case, bringing immediate accusations of retaliation.

Party officials denied any connection to Foxx’s election and said they are seeking to oust Judge Michael Toomin, presiding judge of the county’s Juvenile Justice division, over what they said was his “imperial” temperament and “outdated approach” to juvenile justice.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot was among those who questioned the party’s move, saying she was “deeply concerned” about it.

“The optics of this are terrible,” Lightfoot said. “It looks like retaliation.”

It sure does.

Yes, it does. And with all this free publicity, the party just gave him a big campaign boost.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

43 Comments »
  1. - dan l - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 9:45 am:

    This story won’t just go away.


  2. - Powdered Whig - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 9:47 am:

    Yet another poor decision by Preckwinkle. This judge is one of the good ones that actually follow the law, and you withhold support? Why would anyone follow recommendations of the Cook County Democrats anymore?


  3. - Amalia - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 9:48 am:

    interesting that the Council of Lawyers reversed their rating. always heard he was fair, smart, hardworking. Toni should concentrate on getting her former chief of staff reelected instead of taking a tactic that muddies those waters.


  4. - Just Another Anon - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 9:48 am:

    Its almost like when one county party controls the appointment of a vast majority of a state’s judiciary, the cries of quid pro quo cut both ways.


  5. - Frumpy White Guy - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 9:49 am:

    Toomin will use this to his advantage. Wasn’t he in the news recently for being in an investment club with Burke?


  6. - A Guy - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 9:54 am:

    It looks like…precisely what it is.


  7. - Fav Human - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 9:57 am:

    Tossing out a judge isn’t easy. After all motivated groups couldn’t toss out Judge McDunn.

    I think this is more of a warning to future judges.

    Those needing election.

    If it’s a serious attempt to toss him out, it’s like they used the Keystone Political consultants…


  8. - Donnie Elgin - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 9:57 am:

    Silly hill to fight on. Cook County Judicial retention votes are a slam dunk.

    Only one judge, Matthew Coghlan, was not retained in 2018. He received just 52.2% of the vote. Coghlan was the first judge in 28 years to fail to meet the 60 percent threshold. Another judge, Maura Slattery Boyle, narrowly won retention with 62.5% of the vote, the smallest margin since at least 2010.


  9. - Chicken Hawk - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 9:58 am:

    I like watching democrats fight among themselves.


  10. - Drake Mallard - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 9:59 am:

    any idea where I can get a yard sign for him?


  11. - Practical Politics - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 10:10 am:

    This looks exceptionally petty and venal on the part of Preckwinkle.

    Judge Michael Toomin has been assigned a number of “heater cases.” He did not get kicked to the curb when he handled the case involving Daley’s nephew.


  12. - BigLou - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 10:19 am:

    Two things:

    1-If he is so bad at his job why is he still the head of the Juvenille Justice courtd?

    2- Eamon Kelly’s response/thinking leaves me shaking my head [Kelly’s report on Toomin cited the judge’s personal experience in the juvenile justice system, when he stole a car as a teenager and subsequently entered the Marines, to suggest that his views — “as a white male, from a privileged community”— were outdated.] So, because he was in trouble as a youth and straightened himself out he’s not right for the job? If anyone is for second chances I would think it would be Evanston and the Democrats of Cook County and considering the judge has had an exemplarity career he’s the poster child for second chances.


  13. - Just Me 2 - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 10:26 am:

    Let’s see: Judge tries to keep teenagers with guns off the street. Can Preckwinkle explain to me how that is bad? What is her solution?


  14. - under the bus - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 10:32 am:

    Good thing for Toomin that no one cares what the Cook County Democratic party says. Smoke and mirrors organization trying to stay relevant.


  15. - Fav Human - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 10:35 am:

    subsequently entered the Marines,

    While it is certainly true that not everyone can be a Marine, I didn’t realize that signified a privileged background.

    Seems like rather the reverse in the judge’s case…

    I guess Mr. Kelly is tossing about his buzz words without thinking if they make sense.


  16. - Unanimous? - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 10:42 am:

    Where can we get a list of how they voted?


  17. - Louis G Atsaves - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 10:43 am:

    Only two of 60 votes were cast against the recommendation not to retain this judge? Are these guys a little ton deaf? They got mad because he ignored social justice and enforced the law concerning those two 12 year olds? Appointed special prosecutors for Daley’s Nephew and for the Jusse Smollett cases? Sounds like application of the law in an even handed fashion. Last thing we need are judges who follow the law./snark


  18. - West Side the Best Side - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 10:51 am:

    Kelly is obviously unaware of the history of Boys Court in the Cook County court system, especially the late Judge Saul Epton. Judge Epton would give almost everyone - depending only on the severity of the crime - a second chance. Sometimes community service, with a donation from the parents to The Boys Club, sometimes going into the military. It was not done because of “White Privilege”, because Boys Court North, where Judge Epton sat was certainly not a hotbed of white privilege, but because it gave young men who made stupid mistakes the ability to change their lives around. I have no idea if Judge Epton was the judge in Judge Toomin’s case, but that type of disposition was very common then. (Unlike the lie that lots of people got the same deal Smolett got.) So yes, Kelly is just tossing buzzwords around to justify the unjustifiable decision not not back Judge Toomin for retention.


  19. - Just Another Anon - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 10:58 am:

    @Fav Human

    >While it is certainly true that not everyone can be a Marine, I didn’t realize that signified a privileged background.

    I see you are aptly named, as you are now in competition for my favorite commenter of the day.


  20. - regular democrat - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 10:59 am:

    Lightfoot stepping out and calling it like she sees it. Good for her. Keep it up


  21. - Candy Dogood - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 11:04 am:

    Yes, this sure looks like retaliation.

    Yes, keeping 12 year olds in prison is terrible.

    However — Judges don’t get to make the law and they certainly don’t get to throw out state law in favor of local ordinances.

    Electing judges is such a weird thing to do. It’s not like he would have had a whole lot of flexibility in that ruling.


  22. - yeah - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 11:13 am:

    I always vote against retaining judges. I’ll be voting to keep this one.


  23. - BigLou - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 11:13 am:

    Candy Dogood, States Attorneys are supposed to enforce the law but the current one has decided to not prosecute theft based on what the dollar amount prescribed by law is but instead arbitrarily raised the amount to what she thinks is reasonable. Its Cook County, what do laws mean to the people that are meant to uphold them or mete it.


  24. - The Way I See It - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 11:20 am:

    Toomin is an excellent judge.


  25. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 11:21 am:

    Preckwinkle’s desperate attempt to cover for Kim Foxx’s poor record is in fact highlighting just how awful she’s been as State’s Attorney, and especially with regard to the Smollett case.

    Preckwinkle needs to be dumped as County Chair, then as Board President. Can’t happen soon enough.


  26. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 11:28 am:

    The judge who literally dragged a child into a jail cell was slated. Pretty obvious nonsense coming from President Preckwinkle.


  27. - 17% Solution - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 11:46 am:

    Two things are obvious.
    1. Tooman wasn’t the only judge not endorsed. Araujo also wasn’t endorsed. 2. This has nothing to do with Smollett. “Earlier this year, Toomin was criticized for blocking a key legal protection for detained youth in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading Chief Judge Timothy Evans to clarify his coronavirus general order.“
    And then you have the Burke investment club thing, which while not illegal has the stink of Burke all over it.


  28. - West Side the Best Side - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 11:57 am:

    17% - The reasons for not endorsing Araujo are nowhere in the world comparable to not endorsing Toomin. And if you think is has nothing to do with Smollett, well, just beware of bridge salesmen.


  29. - Helm - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 12:06 pm:

    Welcome to the Democratic Party of Toni Preckwinkle. The reality is she is a bully. Always has been.

    It’s common knowledge around 26th & Cal that TP is waging a campaign to get rid of judges whom she believes are too hard on crime.

    This campaign is being run by Brendan Schiller and the PAC he has created and is actively raising $$$ for to campaign against these judges.

    There is rich irony when the left cries about the right going after judges when the left is equally culpable.

    Yet another reason why judges shouldn’t be elected.


  30. - Dan Johnson - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 12:29 pm:

    If we vote to retain judges, then we rely on political parties to advise us over who ought to be retained or not. I’m glad they are doing the work to make those recommendations. And in the era of mass incarceration where the status quo is fundamentally broken (trials take way too long to happen, sentences are way too long), criminal justice reform includes judicial elections.


  31. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 12:35 pm:

    ===If we vote to retain judges, then we rely on political parties to advise us over who ought to be retained or not.===

    Relying on a political party for advice about which judges to retain is perhaps the dumbest idea ever. Try the Bar associations or newspapers or criminal justice advocates, but relying on a political party for advice on which judge to retain? I don’t think so.

    The committeemen in the room are trading jobs and favors for votes on slating. You know this, and you still rely on them? Pathetic.


  32. - Ex ASA - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 1:00 pm:

    If you’re curious what the Democratic Party considers “not qualified” to be retained… take a look at Judge Toomin’s bio and resume on the retention website.
    http://cookcountyjudges.org/judge-michael-toomin/


  33. - 17% Solution - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 1:00 pm:

    ==And if you think is has nothing to do with Smollett, ==
    Proof?


  34. - West Side the Best Side - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 1:24 pm:

    17% - The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming in this case. Certainly the civil burden of preponderance, and even the criminal burden of beyond a reasonable doubt that this retentions decision is connected to Judge Toomin’s special prosecutor rulings.


  35. - 17% Solution - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 1:52 pm:

    ==The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming in this case.==
    You hadn’t provided any such evidence. Read Elizabeth Clarke’s rebuttal in this blog.


  36. - Dan Johnson - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 1:55 pm:

    Nice to be insulted on the comments section “47th ward”, but whatever. Political parties are elected bodies. Newspapers, bar associations and advocacy groups are not. When 78 committeepersons — all of whom are elected — come to a consensus position that two judges ought not be retained, that’s a really good sign that it is a good decision.


  37. - Mr. Green Genes - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 2:20 pm:

    “ The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming in this case. Certainly the civil burden of preponderance, and even the criminal burden of beyond a reasonable doubt.”
    That isn’t circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence is when you look outside after it snowed and see snow on the ground. The only way snow gets on the ground is because it snowed so there is circumstantial evidence it snowed. The only way the snow can get on the ground is by snowing. If people say they aren’t going to endorse a judge for reason A and you have the opinion they aren’t going to endorse a judge for reason B, that is just your opinion not circumstantial evidence. Snow on the ground is the only way snow can get on the ground, but a person can have many reasons for not endorsing another person. See the difference?


  38. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 2:42 pm:

    Lol Dan. I didn’t insult you, I ridiculed your idea. Committeemen are only elected by primary voters, and they only represent the party. They push judicial candidates by currying favor and trading votes, not by analyzing judicial rulings or temperament. Again, you know this already. I wish we had a better system, but we don’t. Stop defending a bad system by pretending it’s small d democratic. It isn’t.


  39. - Miso - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 3:42 pm:

    Political parties are elected bodies. Newspapers, bar associations and advocacy groups are not. When 78 committeepersons — all of whom are elected — come to a consensus position that two judges ought not be retained, that’s a really good sign that it is a good decision.

    Why was it in closed session? They let press in for all but one discussion. Because it was political.


  40. - west wing - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 4:04 pm:

    ridiculous overreach by the cook county democrats that will, as has been accurately written, only help this particular judge …


  41. - Anon E Moose - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 5:25 pm:

    We shouldn’t elect judges. Just my opinion.


  42. - Dennis M. - Tuesday, Sep 15, 20 @ 6:39 pm:

    This is a Judge who makes the correct decision regardless of the parties or politics involved. If he were truly an enemy of Fox, he would have allowed disclosure of Webb’s Smolett report. You can bet that report would have done severe damage to her reelection chances. I used to like and respct Preckwinkle, but not any more. Can’t wait to vote against her no matter what office she runs for.


  43. - Will Rez - Friday, Sep 18, 20 @ 2:26 pm:

    Check out his background. Public defender in County for three years. Sole practitioner for 11 years specializing in criminal defense. Appointed to the bench in 1980 as an associate judge. Four years later became a Circuit Court judge. Assigned to the criminal division. Later selected by the Chief Judge to be the supervising judge for the criminal division. Selected to serve on the appellate court. Came back to head the juvenile division.

    Handles a number of heater cases.

    Yet he became stupid in the last six years?
    Nah, don’t think so.


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