OLIVER M. SPURLOCK was named a Cook County Associate Judge in 1988. He served until December, 2001, when the Illinois Courts Commission ordered him removed based on its finding that he engaged in inappropriate and sexually intimidating behavior while a judge. This year Spurlock will receive $76,986.12 from his judicial pension.
What the judge did: Four different prosecutors contended, in testimony later found credible, that Cook County Associate Judge Oliver Spurlock engaged in a series of intimidating and suggestive conversations when they were assigned to his courtroom. He also engaged in a sustained romantic relationship with a paralegal from the state’s attorney’s office, and did not disqualify himself from cases when she appeared in his courtroom to assist victims of domestic violence. He also had a sexual relationship with a court reporter in his chambers. When called to the Judicial Inquiry Board to answer questions about the proposed charges, he refused to answer questions on the advice of his attorney.
What the Judicial Inquiry Board said: In May, 1998, the inquiry board charged Spurlock with violating the Judicial Code by failing to uphold the integrity of the judiciary, by failing to act in a matter that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and by failing to be “patient, dignified and courteous” toward those the judge dealt with in an official capacity.
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What the Illinois Courts Commission decided: After five days of contested hearings with more than 50 witnesses, the courts commission in December, 2001, ordered Spurlock removed from office, writing of the assistant state’s attorneys’ accusations, “The clear and convincing quality and quantity of evidence proves not only that key specific events occurred, but also demonstrate a regular pattern of misconduct deserving of a sanction if committed by anyone, let alone a judicial officer who used his position and power for his own self interest.”
The commission concluded Spurlock’s conduct in chambers with the court reporter, and his refusal to answer board questions both were violations of the Judicial Code, but ruled that the refusal to answer questions was not a factor in deciding to remove Spurlock from office. Last, the commission ruled that the judge’s failure to disqualify himself from cases in which the paralegal of the state’s attorney’s office was involved, while he was having a relationship with her, “displayed a lack of sensitivity to the potential for conflict and the appearance of impropriety,” but was not a violation of the Judicial Code.
What the dissent said: Supreme Court Justice Mary Ann McMorrow, joined by Appellate Justice Robert Chapman Buckley, wrote that because there was no showing that Spurlock had used his judicial power to force the prosecutors to acquiesce to his advances, nor evidence that his conduct affected the judicial process, they would have imposed a one-year suspension on Spurlock.
What happened since: Spurlock is registered as an attorney in Illinois. He receives $76,986.12 in pension.