Jonathan Bilyk Sep. 8, 2016, 6:58pm

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.

Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans
Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans

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 later.

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 County Record.

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 Evans’ watch.

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 sexual exploitation.”

He cited the selection of “outstanding classes of associate judges.”  

“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. 

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