An appointed Cook County judge, running as a write-in
candidate for an elected judicial seat on one of the county’s judicial
subcircuits, has asked a Cook County judge to toss out the more than 85,000
votes received by her opponent for the judgeship, Democratic Party nominee
Rhonda Crawford, a former law clerk whose law license was suspended by the
Illinois Supreme Court shortly before Election Day amid accusations she impersonated
a judge from the bench.
On Nov. 14, Maryam
Ahmad filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court, challenging Crawford’s rights to
receive votes in the race for the spot on the county’s judicial bench.
Ahmad named Crawford, as well as the Chicago Board of
Election Commissioners and the Cook County Clerk’s office, as defendants in the
quo warranto action.
The complaint centers on the action taken on Oct. 31 by the
Illinois Supreme Court to suspend Crawford’s law license and issue an order
barring her from taking the oath of office should she be certified the winner
of the election in the race to replace Cook County Judge Vanessa Hopkins on the
Cook County First Judicial Subcircuit.
In March, Crawford, who had worked as a law clerk at the
Cook County courthouse in suburban Markham, had secured the Democratic
nomination for that judgeship. She had won despite receiving a grade of “Not
Qualified” from the Illinois State Bar Association, as part of that organization’s
work of evaluating judicial candidates.
No Republican or independent candidate had filed to seek the
judicial post, leaving Crawford to run unopposed.
However, in August, Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge
Timothy Evans fired Crawford, after allegations surfaced accusing her of
presiding over at least three traffic cases in a Markham courtroom, under the
guidance of Cook County Judge Valarie Turner.
Turner was removed from hearing cases, pending the outcome
of a disciplinary investigation into the matter.
In October, the Illinois Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission filed a petition with the Illinois Supreme Court,
asking the court to take action to block Crawford from becoming a judge, at
least until its investigation into the matter was resolved. The state high
court responded with its actions against Crawford, eight days before the Nov. 8
Soon after news of Crawford’s alleged misconduct broke,
Ahmad, who had been appointed to the Cook County bench on a temporary basis in
2015, announced her intent to oppose Crawford as a write-in candidate.
Ahmad had herself sought election to a different judicial
post in the March primary election, but had been defeated. The Chicago Board of
Election Commissioners had declared her candidacy invalid, saying she was barred
from seeking another judgeship in the same election cycle.
However, that determination was overturned by a Cook County judge,
allowing her to secure the right to run as a write-in candidate.
In the Nov. 8 election, despite the allegations swirling
about her and despite the state Supreme Court’s actions against her, Crawford
won more than 87,000 votes, according to the latest unofficial tallies posted
on the websites of the Chicago Board of Elections and the Cook County Clerk’s
The websites haven’t reported the number of write-in votes
Ahmad may have received. And Ahmad conceded in her complaint that Crawford had
more votes than she.
However, Ahmad argued none of the votes for Crawford should
count, as Crawford was not, at the time of the election, a “lawful candidate”
for the judgeship, since her law license had been suspended by the state
“On Nov. 8, 2016, although Rhonda Crawford was on the
ballot, holding the franchise as the Democratic Party nominee for the office of
Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Vanessa Hopkins vacancy, in the
1st Judicial Subcircuit, she was not a legally qualified candidate
because her license to practice law had been suspended by the Illinois Supreme
Court, and she held the franchise unlawfully, illegally, and without the
authority or privilege of law,” Ahmad said in her complaint.
Ahmad is represented in the action by attorneys Burton S.
Odelson and Mary Ryan Norwell, of the firm of Odelson & Sterk, of Evergreen