A Cook County judge who for months refused to show up for duty in traffic court has resigned.
The resignation was effective at the end of business on Tuesday, April 25, a spokesman for the Illinois State Supreme Court said.
Richard Cooke ran unopposed in the Democratic primary election in March 2016 and in the general election in November 2016 was elected to Cook County’s 6th Judicial Subcircuit.
Prior to running for election as a judge, Cooke worked as a lawyer in private practice, specializing in legal work involving Environmental Protection Agency regulations, according to an online biography published on his 2016 campaign website. He also had litigation and trial experience as well as domestic relations and traffic court experience, his biography stated.
After winning election to the judicial post paying at least $194,000 in annual salary, Cooke was assigned to the county’s First Municipal District, and was then assigned by that district’s Presiding Judge E. Kenneth Wright Jr. to serve on the county’s traffic court in December.
However, Cooke never reported for his traffic court assignment.
“This is a new one on me,” Jack Leyhane, of Leyhane & Associates Ltd. In Chicago, told the Cook County Record. “Almost all new judges start out in traffic court here. Those are generally high-volume courtrooms and handling a room like that is often quite different from anything a new judge might have done before.”
“In fact, by coincidence, just a month ago at an Appellate Lawyers luncheon, one of the justices at my table recounted how he had never sat one day in traffic court," Leyhane said. "Because of his extensive trial experience, he was put immediately in a small claims courtroom instead. That is another possible destination for new judges. Often it's the next assignment after traffic court, but these '11th floor courtrooms' - non-jury civil courtrooms on the 11th floor of the Daley Center - are also fairly high-volume rooms where some of those same initial lessons in how to be a judge may be learned.”
The circuit’s executive committee sent the matter of Cooke not reporting for traffic court to the state Judicial Inquiry Board. The Judicial Inquiry Board is responsible for overseeing and investigating complaints of judicial misconduct. Cooke resigned, however, before any decision on the complaint against him could be made.
“The process takes time,” Leyhane said. “Therefore, in Cooke's case, while the relationships were obviously strained, this was not a situation where Cooke had to jump or face termination the next day, or even during the next year or two.”