DuPage judge facing discipline over claims he lied about gunshots, retaliated over harassment

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DuPage County Circuit Court Judge Patrick O’Shea should be disciplined for a  “troubling pattern of conduct” that, an attorney for the state judicial watchdog agency said on Monday, included lying to police about a firearm that he shot, and seeking to retaliate against female court employees who accused him of sexual harassment.

In the first day of hearings being prosecuted by the Judicial Inquiry Board before the Illinois Courts Commission, two former judicial colleagues of O’Shea took the stand to describe their concerns about his conduct. The Courts Commission is charged in Illinois with the responsibility to hear judicial misconduct cases and impose penalties that could range from private reprimands to removal from the bench,

Such discipline is rare. 

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The board complaint, filed last October, states that when O’Shea was questioned by Judicial Inquiry Board officials investigating his conduct, he also made false statements to them.

Wheaton Police Department detective Edward Waterous testified at the hearing that O’Shea misled him about accidentally firing a gun into the empty apartment of a neighbor in September, 2017. Waterous testified that O’Shea claimed at first that a hole in his bedroom wall was from a screwdriver or nail gun accident, then later said that it was probably his son who accidentally shot the pistol.

Waterous testified that it took about 15-20 minutes of questioning before O’Shea admitted that his son was not present and that he was the one that shot the gun, finally helping the detectives locate the weapon.

O’Shea’s lawyer, Adrian Vuckovich, rejected the notion that O’Shea purposefully misled detectives, contending that O’Shea cooperated with police when he had no legal duty to do so. Vuckovich noted that O’Shea was found not guilty of a misdemeanor of reckless conduct over the incident and also had the criminal charge expunged from his record.

One day after detectives interviewed O’Shea about the gunshot, he filed a formal internal complaint against a female employee who had lodged a sexual harassment complaint against him. The Judicial Inquiry Board contends that complaint was retaliation and an effort to discredit his accuser.

She was one of two women who worked in the DuPage Court system who complained about O’Shea’s conduct in a span of five days in August, 2017, the Judicial Inquiry Board complaint states.

The Inquiry Board counsel, Kevin Fee and Joshua A. Fogarty of the Sidley law firm, called one of the accusers to the stand at the hearing Monday. The woman, a deputy clerk, testified that after she was assigned to O’Shea’s courtroom he made what she considered inappropriate comments regarding her clothing.

O’Shea’s lawyer, Adrian Vuckovich, sought to suggest in cross examination that complimenting clothing is not uncommon, and that O’Shea’s conduct did not include improper touching, foul language, or inappropriate gestures.

But the former staffer said the comments made work too uncomfortable to bear. “It did not feel like a compliment, it felt like a come-on,” she said. She stopped working in his courtroom after three days, the clerk testified.

A month after the woman complained, the Judicial Inquiry Board complaint states, O’Shea was told that state officials had concluded his conduct violated state policy, and advised him not to retaliate against the women.

Nevertheless days later, the board contends, O’Shea filed his “formal complaint” that contended the former staffer was unqualified, questioning her “knowledge, skills, timeliness and motivation,” according to the inquiry board.

The former chief judge of the DuPage district, Kathryn Creswell, testified at the hearing Monday  that she viewed the action as retaliation, and called that “a pattern.”

Indeed, one year earlier, the Judicial Inquiry Board contends, O’Shea sought to have the court system fire an administrative assistant after he had been found by state officials to have violated court sexual harassment policy in his dealings with her.

The assistant was, for a time, working both for O’Shea and Associate Judge Michael Wolfe, and O’Shea began making comments about Wolfe and O’Shea that left Wolfe uncomfortable.

“I was very surprised by it and I felt bad for [the female staffer],” said Wolfe on Monday  “On behalf of [her], I wanted it to stop.”

Wolfe complained to court officials. After they found his conduct improper, the inquiry board contends, O’Shea went to the administrative assistant’s supervisor to complain that he would hold her in contempt and take her into custody if necessary

O’Shea has been confined to administrative duties because of these allegations. He was retained by voters in November, 2018, after first being elected in 2012.

The hearing on Monday was presented to six members of the court commission. Illinois Supreme Court Judge Anne Burke was the highest-ranking member; Illinois Appellate Judge Mary Seminara Schostok presided over the session. The hearing resumes on Tuesday.