Judge Donald O’Connell (Ret.) Corruption

Donald P. O’Connell served in the Law Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County for his entire judicial career.


Donald P. O’Connell, (then-51), became Cook County Circuit Court’s third chief judge in early December, serving Harry G. Comerford’s remaining two-year term. Comerford, 73, was re-elected chief judge by acclamation last year, but announced in July that he would retire in December ending a 16-year tenure as chief judge.

O’Connell, a jurist since 1978, was named presiding judge of the 1st Municipal District in 1984 and served there until he took over the law division in late 1990.

As Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Judge O’Connell continued to institute improvements in the court. In September 1994, Circuit Court judges elected O’Connell as chief judge of the county’s massive court system.


In September 1995, Cook County Circuit Chief Judge Donald P. O’Connell and two of his assistants are targets of a $1 million federal lawsuit brought by a 10-year employee of the court who was fired in July. Annmarie Milazzo, who lost her job as human resources administrator for the office of the chief judge, alleges she was fired because she didn’t have political sponsorship. Her lawyer, John M. Beal, said he can prove that “dozens of people were hired based on their political sponsorship” since O’Connell was named chief judge less than a year ago.”

Complaint County II. Patronage Hiring. Milazzo alleges in the second count of her complaint that she was terminated because of her political affiliation and because she lacked a political sponsor, and that this violated her First Amendment rights of association. In Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 360, 96 S. Ct. 2673, 2683, 49 L. Ed. 2d 547 (1976), the Supreme Court held that a public employer’s decision to terminate employees on the grounds of political affiliation unquestionably infringes employees’ First Amendment rights”. County II survived O’Connell’s Motion to Dismiss.

In October 1997 Cook County Chief Judge Donald O’Connell announced Thursday the 36 finalists for the 18 vacant associate judge slots.Unlike full Circuit Court judges, who are chosen by the voters, associate judges are selected in a secret ballot by the court’s 200 full circuit judges. The contenders for the judgeships include an alderman–John Steele (6th)–prosecutors, private practitioners and attorneys for the City of Chicago as well as the Chicago Housing Authority.

O’Connell said that he and the selection committee tried to keep politics out of what in the past has been a notoriously political process.

He said all the candidates were on “equal footing” and neither his office nor the nominating committee had a preferred list.

In prior years, calls from ward organizations and clout-heavy politicians influenced the selection of associates, while the recommendations of bar organizations went largely ignored.

The finalists include: Mark J. Ballard; Helaine Leslie Berger; William Joseph Borah; Yolande Marie Bourgeois; William Stewart Boyd; Geraldine Soat Brown; Dennis J. Burke; Frank Castiglione; Timothy John Chambers; Thomas Lee Ciecko; Joseph Michael Claps; Susan Coleman; Joy Virginia Cunningham; Fe Fernandez; Brian Kevin Flaherty; Renee G. Goldfarb; Patricia Brown Holmes; Marianne Jackson; John P. Kirby; Michael Allen Kreloff; Joan Maria Gloria Kubalanza; Thaddeus Stephan Machnik; Judith Ann Mondello Wick; James A. Murphy; Gregory Michael O’Brien; Thomas James O’Hara; James M. Obbish; Harriet Jane Parker; Jesse Gregory Reyes; Elizabeth Loredo Rivera; Karen G. Shields; John O. Steele; Eddie A. Stephens; John D. Tourtelot; Judge Rena (Rose) Marie Van Tine; Maureen Dorothy Yamashiro.

Chicago personal injury attorney Robert A. Clifford, principal of Clifford Law Offices,
says O’Connell has demonstrated terrific staying power. By that I mean from the very
beginning of his second career as a mediator, he has been regarded as fair and
impartial by both sides“. Robert Clifford donated hundreds of thousands to various judicial and political campaigns; and was definitely in the circle  of Judge O’Connell preferred parties.
Thomas A. Demetrio, another personal injury lawyer with Corboy & Demetrio P.C. in
Chicago, says O’Connell is very smart. “His ability to grasp the nuances of the legal
issues and the facts, and his command of the insurance industry are a recipe for success.”. Corboy & Demetrio P.C donated hundreds of thousands to various judicial and political campaigns; have[d]  at least five  (4) known by me personal judges (Katherine and Elizabeth Rochford; Terrance Lavin; Eve O’Reilly and James Epstein (Ret); and this Firm was definitely in the circle  of Judge O’Connell preferred parties.
O’Connell returns the compliment to lawyers who appear before him as a mediator. “I generally deal with the very top-tier lawyers on both sides in complex cases,” O’Connell says. “So, those lawyers don’t have any problem keeping their eyes on
the ball.” Clifford and Demetrio say that O’Connell’s word is his bond.
“He’s a man of his word,” Clifford says. “So, you should not hesitate to confide in
him on confidential (matters).”
In 1973, he became administrative director of the courts under then Chief
Judge John Boyle.
O’Connell became a Cook County Circuit Court judge in December 1978. Until June
1979, he was assigned to the office of the newly elected chief judge, Harry G.
Comerford, and continued as court administrator.
O’Connell was named presiding judge of the First Municipal District in June 1984,
while being additionally assigned to the Law Division. (This is exactly when judicial corruption in Municipal Division of Cook County Court went through the roof and became totally unbearable and resulted in FBI investigation known as “Operation Greylord” when 15 judges were convicted in bribes. Notably, neither Law or Chancery Divisions (were top layers rack their handsome legal fees) were not investigated for corruption.