Cook County judge accused of physical and verbal harassment when she was a prosecutor; office says allegations were ‘unsubstantiated’

Primary candidate Judge Ruth Gudino allegedly ‘engaged in unwanted touching’ and bullied co-workers as a prosecutor, according to a memo obtained by Injustice Watch. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said the allegations were ‘unsubstantiated.’

A Cook County judge who is running in next week’s primary to keep her seat was reported by her supervisor for alleged unwanted touching, bullying, and other workplace misconduct toward her colleagues during her tenure as a county prosecutor.

Judge Ruth Gudino denies the allegations, and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said the allegations were “unsubstantiated.”

Gudino allegedly “engaged in unwanted touching of several” fellow prosecutors, according to an April 2018 memo written by Dan Groth, then a supervising Cook County assistant state’s attorney at the Maywood courthouse, where Gudino worked as his deputy. “This includes unwanted contact with the lower back, shoulders, waist areas, and pants pocket areas,” Groth wrote.

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In the memo, obtained by Injustice Watch through a public records request, Groth recounted a 2017 episode in which Gudino allegedly encouraged a female assistant state’s attorney “to wear more revealing clothing in the bust area” after criticizing her for wearing high-necked shirts. “When the ASA responded that she did not think it was appropriate to show cleavage in court, Gudino insisted that the ASA’s shirt still revealed cleavage,” Groth wrote, referring to the unnamed female prosecutor. Gudino then allegedly “ran her hand down the side of the ASA’s covered breast over the clothing, commenting, ‘What do you call that?’”

Judge Ruth Gudino

The memo also details several instances in which Gudino allegedly “belittled” prosecutors “for their personal appearance and mannerisms” and for being “overweight.” In one case, Groth said Gudino allegedly told a prosecutor that he should stop eating salads for lunch, “as it was not working.”

Groth did not name Gudino’s accusers, though he said he was also on the receiving end of unwanted touching and inappropriate comments from Gudino. Injustice Watch could not independently verify the allegations against Gudino. A spokesperson for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office wrote in a brief statement that “a review of this matter determined the allegations to be unsubstantiated.”

In a lengthy email response, Gudino “categorically” denied the allegations. “I have never engaged in inappropriate behavior, either professionally or personally,” she wrote. “In my over-22-year career as an assistant state’s attorney, I have never had any official misconduct allegations lodged against me or been investigated for any misconduct allegations by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. I have never been subject to an investigation for misconduct because there has never been a credible allegation lodged because nothing ever happened.”

Gudino also claimed that Groth was a “disgruntled former employee who had issues with women.” She did not provide evidence to substantiate that claim in response to an Injustice Watch request for more details.

Groth initially declined Injustice Watch’s request to comment, but he later provided a statement after reporters informed him of Gudino’s comments. Groth said Gudino’s accusations about him were “categorically” false. “The proponent of those statements has offered no support for her falsities because she cannot,” he wrote.

Groth told Injustice Watch that he reached out in 2017 about Gudino’s alleged behavior to his two immediate supervisors, but that they said he would “be replaced” if he complained to them again about Gudino. “As an experienced prosecutor, I recognized victim blaming,” Groth wrote in his statement.

According to his 2018 memo, Groth convened a staff meeting in February in which he said he told everyone, including Gudino, that unwanted touching was unacceptable, but Gudino’s behavior allegedly continued. After reiterating the same message at another staff meeting in April 2018, “the unwanted touching stopped for about a week” but resumed soon after, Groth wrote, as Gudino allegedly “tugged or pulled” a prosecutor’s ear and “wrapped her hands around another ASA’s neck to simulate strangling him.”

Later that month, Groth told Injustice Watch, his supervisors “ordered” him to write the memo detailing the complaints that he’d received about Gudino. He submitted the memo to Joseph Magats, then the criminal prosecution bureau chief for the state’s attorney’s office, and Risa Lanier, his deputy, on April 27, 2018. “That same day, [Gudino] was removed from the Maywood courthouse and transferred to another courthouse,” Groth claimed in his statement. According to a copy of Gudino’s resume, she started working at the Bridgeview courthouse in May 2018.

It’s unclear what Magats and Lanier did with the memo. A public records officer at the state’s attorney’s office told Injustice Watch that “there are no responsive documents for any disciplinary records or investigative records” related to Gudino. Magats has since left the office and did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for the state’s attorney’s office declined to make Lanier, who is now the office’s second-in-command, available for an interview. The spokesperson also did not respond to a list of detailed questions about how the allegations were investigated or found to be unsubstantiated.

In his written statement, Groth told Injustice Watch that two members of the state’s attorney’s office contacted him about the memo, and he provided them with additional details about the alleged incidents. Groth left the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for another job in December 2018.

A few months after Groth left, Gudino returned to Maywood, taking Groth’s old job. She was in the position until the Illinois Supreme Court temporarily appointed her to fill a judicial vacancy in April 2021.

Gudino is running as a Democrat in next week’s primary election to stay on the bench. A dozen bar groups evaluated her before she was appointed by the state supreme court and said she was qualified for the job; three groups said she was highly qualified or recommended. The Chicago Bar Association said she is “well regarded for her legal knowledge, extensive trial experience, and excellent demeanor and temperament.”

Read the full memo below:

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