Judge Susan McDunn

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Al Gore famously alluded to “powerful forces and powerful interests” that were out to get ordinary Americans. He received derision from some quarters for his vague invocation of mysterious forces that were conspiring to keep the people down — but maybe he had a point? As Henry Kissinger famously observed, “Even a paranoid has some real enemies.”

This brings us to the first of our two Judges of the Day, both out of the Chicago area. The first claims that she is “being persecuted extensively by many people in many ways.”

Let’s learn about the mysterious forces who are supposedly causing trouble for this jurist. Does she have actual enemies, or is she simply cuckoo in Cook County?

We mentioned this story in passing on Friday, but it’s so fascinating that it deserves closer attention. The Chicago Sun-Times reports:

Cook County Judge Susan McDunn thinks someone might be out to get her — but she can’t say who.

During two bizarre appearances in federal court last week, the 57-year-old judge claimed her “life is being ruined” by a series of secret lawsuits that may involve powerful Chicagoans including former Mayor Richard M. Daley, Ald. Ed Burke (14th), Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and officials with the Archdiocese of Chicago.

She sounds a bit paranoid, right? Well, think again:

McDunn insists, “I’m not paranoid.”

Last Tuesday, Judge McDunn went into federal court and appeared before Judge Amy St. Eve (N.D. Ill.), citing an “emergency” situation. Judge McDunn told Judge St. Eve, “I’m almost certain there is a case or more pending in this court under seal involving claims that I have — that I have against people.” More specifically:

Asked how she knew the sealed cases existed, McDunn said, “I have a massive amount of evidence regarding that, but it’s in small pieces because basically I’ve been locked out of my own life because of these secret proceedings.

“Many people know about these cases,” she continued as a seemingly perplexed assistant U.S. attorney looked on. “I have many pieces of evidence to know that. But people are lying to me about the existence of the cases and saying they don’t know anything about them.

“But . . . I know the cases exist . . . I am being persecuted extensively by many people in many ways. I have many claims of many types against many potential defendants, including very powerful people in this city.”

Alas, unfortunately for McDunn, judicial hottie St. Eve reacted coolly to the claims: “You have not provided me with sufficient information to make a determination if you can intervene in some case that may or may not exist.”

Well, it seems that going into federal court is like speaking with a call-center worker in my ancestral homeland. If you can’t get anywhere with the first person you talk to, you turn to a supervisor:

Two days later, McDunn appeared before [Chief Judge James F.] Holderman — Chicago’s top federal judge — again armed with a motion alleging that either the attorney, her doctor or her “spiritual advisor” had filed or helped file the secret cases, which she could not identify, asking Holderman to allow her to intervene.

Holderman told her he’d asked the clerk’s office to find the mystery sealed cases McDunn was referring to, but “there is no case” — a statement he repeated to her eight times during the short hearing, according to a transcript.

But Judge McDunn remains undeterred. When contacted by the Sun-Times about her unsuccessful outings in federal court, she pointed out that as a judge, “I know that cases are sometimes filed but the parties involved are not given notice.” She also emphasized that “I’m a completely healthy person — mentally, spiritually and physically.”

But not healthy enough to be hearing cases, it seems. On Friday afternoon, the Sun-Times had this report:

“Judge Susan J. McDunn was removed from hearing cases in the Circuit Court of Cook County by Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans and her Presiding Judge William D. Maddux months ago, and has been on medical leave status since that time,” according to a statement issued by Evans’ office Friday afternoon.

McDunn — who continues to collect her $182,000 county salary — said later Friday that she is under the care of a doctor, but she continues to insist that she is healthy. She says she asked for a leave of absence during a bench trial she was presiding over in December after she felt “a great pain from all the persecution I have suffered since I began this job 20 years ago.”

Maybe she is being persecuted by… lesbians? As noted by an earlier Sun-Times piece:

McDunn previously attracted unwanted headlines for her controversial handling of adoptions by lesbians. McDunn refused to approve uncontested adoptions by lesbian couples without a hearing, a move at odds with standard practice in Cook County. The Illinois Judicial Inquiry board argued she was biased against gays. The Illinois Courts Commission cleared her.

For her part, Judge McDunn doesn’t seem to miss active service on the bench. She described the Daley Center, where she used to hear cases, as “a toxic, hostile work environment that I needed to get away from.” Guess she won’t be leaving the bench for Biglaw.

It might seem unfortunate for Illinois taxpayers that Judge McDunn continues to collect her $182,000 salary despite not hearing any cases. On the other hand, the good people of Cook County would probably pay much more than that to keep McDunn off the bench.

UPDATE (11/16/2012, 11:00 AM): Judge McDunn has resigned from the bench.

Judge Cynthia Brim

Our second Judge of the Day, one of McDunn’s colleagues on the Cook County Circuit Court, is a repeat winner. We bestowed JotD honors upon Judge Cynthia Brim back in March, after she allegedly flipped out while presiding over traffic cases. Now, thanks in part to Judge McDunn, Judge Brim is back in the news:

McDunn’s strange behavior follows a finding earlier this year by a court-appointed psychiatrist that fellow Cook County Judge Cynthia Brim was “legally insane.”

Brim is on the retention ballot Tuesday and continues to draw her $182,000 salary. She was charged with a misdemeanor battery and indefinitely suspended after she allegedly shoved a sheriff’s deputy and threw a set of keys during a scuffle at the Daley Center in March.

A day before that incident, sources say Brim, 54, was ruling on traffic cases in the Markham courthouse when she began making comments that were “racial in nature,” accusing South Holland police officers of ticketing only black and Hispanic drivers. She also accused south suburban police officers of conspiring to get her fired, a source said.

Another source said Brim recited her parents’ names, the address of her church and her license plate number and walked around the courtroom, complaining she had been run out of her last assignment.

Guys (or girls) in my high school used to wander around the courtroom reciting incoherent things all the time; it was no big deal.

The allegations against Judge McDunn and Judge Brim sound disturbing. But let’s not forget: we’re talking about elected officials in Chicago. Better cuckoo than corrupt, right?

‘I’m not paranoid,’ says Cook County judge who claims secret cases name her [Chicago Sun-Times]
Judge in bizarre court appearance was quietly suspended months ago [Chicago Sun-Times]
“So often, powerful forces and powerful interests stand in your way….” [Althouse]
Gore vs. the Mysterious Forces! [Slate]
Henry Kissinger quotes [ThinkExist.com]

Earlier: Judge of the Day: If You Can Call A Traffic Judge a ‘Judge’
Non-Sequiturs: 11.02.12


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