CHICAGO - In an overwhelming decision, the Illinois Courts Commission has sided with the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board and ordered that Judge Oliver M. Spurlock be removed from his Cook County judgeship for sexual harassment and misconduct. Judge Spurlock is the first Cook County judge to be removed from the bench by the Courts Commission in over 25 years. Under Illinois law, the Commission's decision is final and non-appealable.
Jeffrey Stone, trial partner resident in McDermott Will & Emery's Chicago office and national head of the Firm's white collar criminal defense practice group, prosecuted the case pro bono on behalf of the Judicial Inquiry Board. Mr. Stone was assisted at trial by James Smith, an associate in the Trial Department.
"This decision sets forth the high standards which judges must achieve and maintain," commented Mr. Stone. "The Commission's strongly worded decision sends an unambiguous message that judges cannot use their judicial office or authority to pursue a personal agenda."
The Board brought charges against Judge Spurlock in 1998, following an extensive investigation. The Board alleged that Judge Spurlock repeatedly harassed women who appeared before him, including four assistant State's Attorneys who testified at trial. As described in testimony before the Courts Commission, Judge Spurlock "demonstrated a regular and frequent pattern of misconduct." In its opinion, the Courts Commission noted that Judge Spurlock's conduct "was offensive to those individuals [four assistant State's Attorneys] and an embarrassment to the robe."
McDermott Will & Emery has represented the Judicial Inquiry Board on a pro bono basis for the past five years. During that time, Mr. Stone and a team of McDermott lawyers have handled dozens of misconduct investigations for the Board, and have advised the Board in numerous cases.
The Judicial Inquiry Board is Illinois' disciplinary entity that investigates allegations of misconduct by Illinois judges. The Board has the authority to conduct investigations, receive or initiate complaints concerning a judge, and file complaints with the Courts Commission.