Timothy Evans, a judge who has served for the last 15 years
as Cook County’s top jurist, is again asking his fellow judges of the Cook County
Circuit Court for another turn as the circuit’s Chief Judge.
However, when the judges cast ballots next week, Evans will
face at least two challengers, and possibly more, who believe the local courts
need a new face at the top.
On Sept. 15, more than 240 circuit judges, each elected by
voters in Cook County, will gather to select the circuit’s next chief.
To date, announced candidates include Evans and circuit judges
Thomas Allen and Sandra Ramos.
Evans has held the post for the last 15 years, having
secured consecutive three-year terms since first winning the spot in 2001 as
the circuit’s first African-American Chief Judge. A former Chicago alderman representing
the city’s 4th Ward, Evans first won election to the Cook County
circuit bench in 1992, after he was defeated in the race for alderman in 1991
by Toni Preckwinkle. She now serves as Cook County Board President.
Evans also unsuccessfully sought selection as Chicago’s interim
mayor following the death of Harold Washington in 1987, and was defeated by
former Mayor Richard M. Daley in the race for the mayor’s office two years
Ramos, a former assistant Cook County state’s attorney and
private practice lawyer, was elected to the Cook County circuit in 2010. She
now serves in the circuit’s Municipal Department at Branch Court 48 on Chicago’s
South Side, handling felony preliminary hearings.
Allen, a former Chicago alderman and assistant Cook County
public defender, has served on the Cook County bench since 2010, first as an
appointed judge, and then as a circuit judge after winning election in 2012. He
now serves in the circuit’s Chancery Division at the Daley Center.
Neither Ramos nor Allen returned messages left by The Cook
However, according to published reports, both have lobbied
their fellow judges to deny Evans another term, arguing he has too many
questions he hasn’t answered. Foremost among these are his handling of the scandal
surrounding Circuit Judge Valarie Turner and Rhonda Crawford.
Turner is alleged to have allowed Crawford, a law clerk, to
hear at least two traffic cases while wearing Turner’s robes in Turner’s
courtroom in Markham. Crawford has been fired, and Turner temporarily
reassigned to duties not involving hearing cases while an investigation into
the matter continues.
Crawford, however, remains a candidate for circuit judge
herself, as the Democratic nominee in Cook County’s 1st Subcircuit. She faces
no Republican challenger.
According to published reports, Allen has particularly
pressed Evans for a more full accounting of the matter.
Ramos has reportedly criticized Evans’ communication with
the circuit’s judges and questioned the appointment of associate judges under
In a letter to the circuit judges, Evans said he would “welcome
the challenge” from Allen and Ramos, as well as others who may seek nomination
during the Sept. 15 closed-doors gathering at the Daley Center.
He called attention
to his accomplishments, including “significant improvements in court operations,”
“upgraded technology,” a new domestic violence court and other “specialty
courts … to address drug abuse, mental health problems, veterans issues and
He cited the selection of “outstanding classes of associate
“The respect that the public now has for the Circuit Court of
Cook County as an institution is no accident,” Evans wrote.
“While I respect any judge’s right to run, I respectfully
suggest that no other judge has more passion for improving our system of
justice nor fought harder or longer to produce the results that I believe my
leadership and experience have brought about,” he wrote.