Judge sidelined since outburst, insanity ruling to face panel on professional fate
BY BRIAN SLODYSKO Staff Reporter March 27, 2014 7:11PM
Judge Cynthia Brim (R) and her attorney walking to the Cook County Circuit Court for throwing a set of keys and shoving a Cook County Sheriff's deputy Friday, April 13, 2012. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
Updated: April 29, 2014 6:30AM
A Cook County judge found not guilty by reason of insanity after being charged with attacking a sheriff’s deputy will go before a rarely convened judicial panel on Friday — a hearing that could ultimately decide her future on the bench.
The seven-member Illinois Courts Commission will hear a professional complaint against Judge Cynthia Brim, who collects a $184,000 a year judge’s salary and was re-elected but has not worked since her March 2012 meltdown.
The complaint charges that Brim violated decorum requirements, laid out in the state judicial code, when she made racially charged remarks in a Markham courtroom. Later, she marched into the Daley Center, clad in a fur coat and surgical scrubs, allegedly shoved a deputy and threw a set of keys at him.
“She was off her medication for a period of time and was a little exasperated,” said William J. Harte, a lawyer for Brim, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity last year.
Brim, who could not be reached for comment, said in a legal filing in September 2013 that she does not dispute the various accounts of her behavior. But the filing also states that she can’t recall the alleged attack of the deputy.
Harte said Brim, a judge for 18 years, was medically cleared and hopes for a favorable ruling so that she can return to work. She is willing to undergo supervision to ensure that she takes medication for bipolar schizoaffective disorder, he said.
The panel, consisting of five judges and two citizens, is not expected to issue an immediate ruling on the complaint, which was lodged by a state judicial disciplinary board, officials said.
But they could remove Brim from the bench, reprimand her or suspend her — with or without pay. They also could remove her from the bench for being “mentally unable” to perform a judge’s duties, an official said.
A spokesman for Chief Judge Timothy Evans, the lead judge in Cook County and who oversaw Brim’s indefinite removal from duty, declined to speculate on the implications of ruling for Brim to return to the bench.
Brim was accused of halting a hearing on March 8, 2012, in Markham traffic court and soon declaring that police in Evergreen Park and South Holland targeted minorities.
For the next 45 minutes, she pontificated on her childhood, prior hospitalizations for mental illness, and injustice, according to eyewitness accounts included in a new legal filing that will be presented Friday.
She told those present that she was once hauled out of a courtroom on a stretcher following a similar breakdown.
She also said police from Evergreen Park were racist and a defendant was railroaded by the South Holland police department, according to the written eyewitness testimony.
“If you want to talk about justice — justice is all about if you are black or white,” Brim said from the bench in the filing.
At one point, she said, “not only men have balls, but women can have balls too — you just have to grow them,” according to witness testimony.
Eventually word got to Markham chief Judge Brian Flaherty that Brim was acting “preachy” and her courtroom had devolved into a “circus atmosphere,” the document states.
Flaherty set aside his lunch, entered Brim’s courtroom, and after about 10 minutes was able to persuade her to step down, according to the document.
On the following day, after allegedly throwing a set of keys at a deputy and shoving him while trying to walk away at the Daley Center, she was arrested and later transferred to a mental hospital for a two-week stay, court records indicate.
Soon after, a panel of judges convened by Evans moved to indefinitely remove Brim from her duties.