An Illinois judge who allowed a soon-to-be colleague to don a robe and handle two court cases has been indefinitely suspended from practicing law — and the state attorney’s office is investigating the harebrained judge to see if she violated the law.
Cook County Judge Valarie E. Turner handed over the robe to court clerk Rhonda Crawford on Aug. 11, allowing her to preside over two cases involving “two minor traffic tickets — one for driving with no insurance and another for driving on a median,” according to a spokesman for the Chicago courts.
Crawford 45, was informally “job shadowing” Turner to learn how to perform a judge’s duties since she’s running unopposed to become one in November, having won the Democratic nomination in March for a judgeship from the 1st judicial subcircuit, which includes portions of the South Side and south suburbs. However she and other new judges won’t be sworn in until December and have no authority until they are.
Crawford, who lives in Calumet City, became a lawyer in 2003 after graduating from Chicago Kent College of Law. Prior to that, she was a registered nurse.
It was not immediately clear if Turner was in the courtroom while Crawford donned the robe and banged the hammer but a spokesman noted that both cases she presided over will be retried. However, Turner, 59, is no novice. She was elected to the Cook County bench in 2002 and has twice won retention. Her current term expires in 2020. Crawford was suspended without pay after the chief judge’s office found out about her judicial horseplay.
According to her website, Crawford is an attorney with “experience handling a wide variety of complex legal issues both civil and criminal.”
Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for the Illinois State Attorney, said that her office has opened an investigation into the bizarre case, calling it a “very concerning matter.”
Order removing Judge Valarie E. Turner here