WILLIAM G. SCHWARTZ became associate judge in Jackson County in 1986, then was appointed to a vacancy on the circuit court before winning election to that seat in 1992. In 2001, the Judicial Inquiry Board filed a complaint over Schwartz’ decision to bar Southern Illinois Law School students from serving in his courtroom, after his stepson’s application to enroll there was denied.
What the judge did: Four days after his stepson was denied admission to Southern Illinois Law School, Circuit Judge William Schwartz of Jackson County notified the law school dean in July, 2000, that he would no longer permit law students from doing supervised legal work in his courtroom. Until then Schwartz had permitted SIU law students to do supervised representation throughout his time on the bench. Schwartz imposed the ban even though the offices of both the state’s attorney and public defender protested that his ban would adversely affect their offices.
What the Judicial Inquiry Board said: The Judicial Inquiry Board filed a complaint in February, 2001, against Schwartz, contending that the ban was retaliation for his stepson’s rejection. The complaint contends that by issuing the ban, Schwartz failed to conduct himself in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary, and permitted “family, social or other relationships” to affect his conduct.
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What the Illinois Courts Commission decided: In November, 2001, the commission accepted a joint recommendation from the board and Schwartz and issued a public reprimand. In the joint recommendation, Schwartz acknowledged the rejection of his son was “a consideration” in his barring of student representation, but cited other concerns he had about the quality of the student work. The statement acknowledged many judges and others who were prepared to attest to Schwartz’ good character and respect as a judge.