Cook County judge mounts write-in campaign for bench seat vs ex-law clerk fired for impersonating judge

By Joe Dyton | Oct 11, 2016

CHICAGO – After much deliberation, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Maryam Ahmad will be allowed to start a write-in campaign for a seat in the 1st Judicial Subcircuit, challenging Rhonda Crawford, who was fired from her job as a law clerk at the circuit amid allegations she impersonated a judge from the bench, and who is running otherwise virtually unopposed for the judicial post after winning the Democratic Party's nomination.

Ahmad sought to run against Crawford, after the Cook County Circuit Court's leadership terminated her employment. However, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners said Ahmad was ineligible because she had already been defeated in the primary this year for a different Cook County judicial position.


Maryam Ahmad  

The ruling was overturned when Ahmad argued in Cook County Court she should be eligible to mount a write-in campaign because she did not run for the vacant seat for which Crawford had won the primary. Cook County Judge Al Paul agreed and ruled that Ahmad’s loss in the primary did not disqualify her from running again as write-in candidate against Crawford.


“In our legal system, great minds can and do disagree on statutory interpretation,” Ahmad said. “This is why we have our court system. The Circuit Court of Cook County agreed with my interpretation of the statutes - that I’m not precluded from filing as a write-in for the general election in the Hopkins judicial vacancy. I have moved on; the board has moved on. No hard feelings.”


Now that everyone has moved on, Ahmad’s focus is on her campaign. Ahmad says she’s mounting this write-in challenge because Cook County citizens deserve a competent, honest and fair judge.

“Judges possess the power to take a person’s money, property, children, freedom and life,” she says. “These decisions affect people’s lives from birth to death. Accordingly, the people of Cook County are entitled to have judges who know the law and possess the requisite legal background to make such critical decisions.”

Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans announced Crawford had been fired in late August amid an investigation into allegations Cook County Judge Valarie Turner had allowed Crawford to hear at least two traffic cases, while wearing a judge's robes, from the bench at the county's courthouse in suburban Markham. Turner was removed from hearing cases and reassigned to other duties, pending the outcome of the investigation.

The disciplinary actions, however, would have no bearing on Crawford's ability to secure election to the bench in November. Before Ahmad stepped into the race, Crawford had been unopposed, as no Republicans or others had placed their name on the ballot for the judicial seat.


Ahmad declined to make any kind of predictions when asked what may occur, should Crawford was elected. The same went for making any predictions about what type of judge she’d be. Instead, Ahmad pointed to her own current standing as an actual judge and 16 years of legal experience, which includes bench and jury trial experience.


“I have served the people in this capacity for the past two years,” Ahmad says. “In the Hopkins race, I’m the most qualified candidate. I’ve been found ‘highly qualified’ or ‘qualified’ by every bar association that evaluates Cook County judicial candidates. I efficiently managed high-volume courtrooms in the First and Fourth Municipal Divisions of Cook County for nearly two years.”

Ahmad was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to temporarily fill a vacancy on the Cook County Subcircuit in 2015.


As a write-in candidate, Ahmad finds herself at a disadvantage running against an opponent on the ticket. Volunteers are stepping up to help her make up ground, and she said she is seeking more help online and on social media, including Facebook, through Citizens for Maryam Ahmad.


“Boots on the ground, traditional media, social media and handshake-by-handshake we are spreading the word,” Ahmad says. “Many volunteers believe in a competent judiciary. The public wants judges who know the law, are fair, compassionate and legally competent. I am such a judge.”


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