What Happens to Complaints Against Judges?

On an average year the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board gets close to 450 complaints, but a step by step walk through of the complaint process shows that a majority of cases are dismissed before any investigation into the complaint occurs. Of the minority of complaints that do get investigated, most are dismissed or dealt with confidentially. Even fewer complaints are made known to the public.

William G. Schwartz, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge

First District Circuit Judge of Jackson County, was appointed as associate judge in 1986, then 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.

Douglas J. Simpson, Cook County Associate Judge

Five years after being appointed as a Cook County associate judge in 2005, Simpson participated in an ex parte conversation involving another judge and a business owner whom Simpson had talked to about detailing his vehicle. Simpson received a censure for the misconduct. Simpson is retired from the bench, is registered to practice law in Illinois and will receive $73,449.36 in Illinois pension this year.

Michael J. Chmiel, McHenry County Circuit Court Judge

Michael J. Chmiel was appointed to a circuit court post in 2004 and then, two years later, won election when McHenry County was shifted into a newly-created 22nd Illinois district. In February, 2008, the Judicial Inquiry Board filed a complaint against Chmiel, based on his actions in holding an emergency bond hearing for the brother of a political ally, after a series of private conversations. In November, 2010, the courts commission reprimanded Chmiel over those conversations.