FRANCIS X. GOLNIEWICZ III first was appointed by the State Supreme Court to a vacant Cook County Circuit Court seat in 1991, and then won election three years later as a circuit judge from the 10th sub circuit encompassing Chicago’s northwest side. He served until November, 2004, when he was removed for “a pattern of behavior” on the bench, and for falsifying his address when he ran for election. Golniewicz is collecting $89,158 in pension this year for 14 years of service, including his time when he was serving a sub circuit in which he did not live.
What the judge did: Between 1999 and 2002, while assigned to the branch court in Maywood, Golniewicz made comments on the record in open court that raised questions about his temperament and impartiality. In one case, he taunted an African American defendant, “When I’m talking to you, boy, you look at me.” In another case, he told a defendant he had acquitted, “Be careful. Be real fucking careful.” In another case, after jurors returned a verdict with which he disagreed, he dismissed them without thanking them, tore up certificates honoring them for serving, and declared in a voice loud enough for them to hear, “They don’t deserve them.” Golniewicz’s eligibility to be a judge also was an issue: he lived since 1989 with his wife and children in Riverside, rather than his parents’ home in northwest Chicago.
What the Judicial Inquiry Board said: On May 15, 2002, the Judicial Inquiry Board filed charges accusing Golniewicz of using language that was “inappropriate, disrespectful, intimidating and inflammatory” based on his actions on the bench. Before the courts commission acted on that complaint, the board added the charge that Golniewicz actually lived with his wife and children in Riverside, rather than his parents’ address in the city; the Riverside address would have left him ineligible for the seat he had won.
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What the Courts Commission decided: The commission removed Golniewicz after an August 2004 hearing at which he blamed the board for a “wrong headed” prosecution, and said that he would not do anything differently. The commission concluded that Golniewicz “has consistently engaged in a pattern of behavior that violated the judicial canons, demeaned the integrity of the judiciary, and brought the judicial office into disrepute.” It stated his “testimony at the hearing was dishonest and his answers were evasive.” The commission concluded the “only appropriate remedy in this case is to remove and dismiss” Golniewicz from office, which it did in November 2004.
What has happened since: Golniewicz is licensed to practice law. Despite the commission conclusion that he “used deception to get elected,” he receives a pension valued this year at $89,157.84.