DuPage County Circuit judge Patrick O’Shea violated the judicial canons when he misled police, lied to the state judicial watchdog agency and when he retaliated against the court employees who complained of his conduct, the Illinois Courts Commission ruled on Wednesday.
The Courts Commission, agreeing with all four counts brought by the Judicial Inquiry Board against O’Shea, delayed ruling on a discipline for the judge, which could come in the form of a reprimand, a suspension or removal from the bench in the near future.
O’Shea’s defense attorney, Adrian Vuckovich, argued during closing arguments for O’Shea to be restored to the bench, recommending the commission issue either a censure or reprimand. His attorney said O’Shea had already felt the punishment because he has been assigned to administrative duty, not trying cases, while the charges were pending.
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Vuckovich also said the judge would be willing to enter counseling. The previous day, O’Shea admitted during testimony to getting angry and threatening to fire a female employee while alone with her supervisor, testifying that he should have handled the situation better.
Vuckovich said O’Shea was making “foolish comments when he was mad” and that “judges are people too.”
Joshua Fogarty and Kevin Fee, attorneys at the Sidley law firm who serve as counsel to the Judicial Inquiry Board, contended that his threat to fire the court employee was an example of O’Shea retaliating against one of his two separate sexual harassment complaints.
Fee noted the employee’s supervisor had testified at the hearing that O’Shea described the woman as “nasty and loud” and said he was willing to hold her in contempt of court.
Fee also said that O’Shea displayed a disregard for the truth when detectives showed up at his apartment to question O’Shea about an incident in which his neighbors discovered a hole into their apartment, and later found a bullet in September 2017.
According to both officers’ testimony at the hearing: O’Shea first told them that the hole had occurred when he put a screwdriver through the wall. Then he said it occurred with a nail gun, Finally he said his son had accidentally shot the gun.
Detectives testified it took anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes before O’Shea told them he was the one who pulled the trigger. But when he testified this week, O’Shea contended that as soon as officers saw the hole he told them of his accidental shot.
“This is simply not the approach of the truth that we should expect from a judge,” said Fee during closing statements. “Being honest when necessary is not good enough.”
Vuckovich, in contrast, contended O’Shea had not obstructed justice since he ultimately told officers what happened, and said it was a “nonstandard” how quickly someone has an obligation to truthfully describe what happened.
Although the defense attorney maintained O’Shea’s actions are not punishable, he admitted that O’Shea’s conduct is “something maybe a judge should not do.” As a result of his alleged conduct O’Shea has been off the bench since October 2017, first barred from the courthouse entirely, before he was placed on administrative duties outside the courtroom six months later.
The final witness at the hearing, Chief Judge of the DuPage County Circuit Daniel P. Guerin, testified Wednesday morning that since being placed on administrative duty, O’Shea has “done what he’s been asked to do” and remains on the fourth floor of the 18th District courthouse.
Guerin, who was called as a defense witness, was asked by one member of the Courts Commission why he had chosen not to reinstate O’Shea to the bench. He replied, “I did not have full confidence that he should be in a public courtroom interacting with staff.”
O’Shea’s case is just the 96th accusation of judicial misconduct to result in a Courts Commission hearing since the board was created in 1970. He is expected to remain on administrative duty while the Courts Commision deliberates an appropriate punishment.