Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans was elected Tuesday to a record eighth term leading one of the country’s largest unified court systems.
Evans has been a circuit judge since 1992 and was elected to his first three-year term as chief judge in 2001.
In addition to setting policies for the court and assigning judges to the court’s 16 divisions and geographic districts, Evans also oversees a $296 million budget and more than 2,600 employees in non-judicial offices of the courts, including probation officers, court interpreters, and the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.
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The chief judge is selected by the court’s 239 elected circuit judges. Evans has faced opposition for the post in the past, but this year ran unopposed. But his support was not unanimous; he won 184 votes out of 219 ballots cast, according to a spokesperson for the court.
Evans is the first Black chief judge of Cook County and has touted his reform efforts, including the creation of new restorative justice courts and his 2017 order that required bond court judges to consider a person’s ability to pay before setting a cash bond.
But critics have said he has dragged his feet on making other necessary changes, including ignoring repeated calls to end the use of punitive room confinement at the juvenile detention center.
Evans has also faced pressure to use his power to reassign judges accused of misconduct. Last year, advocates confronted Evans at a public event about Judge Raúl Vega, whom he had appointed as presiding judge of the court’s domestic violence division.
Months later, Evans quietly announced that Vega, who has been accused of making harassing comments toward women in his courtroom, was retiring, after the court’s executive committee had referred him to the state board that investigates judicial misconduct.
Before becoming a judge, Evans was an alderman for 18 years representing the 4th Ward and served as Mayor Harold Washington’s floor leader on the city council.
Cook County voters will have the chance in the Nov. 8 election to decide whether to give Evans another six-year term as a circuit judge.