Pub:Court Corruption Under Microscope

January 07, 1992|By William Grady, Jan Crawford, John O`Brien.


Is the Illinois Supreme Court getting ready to launch a statewide effort at court reform?

There`s nothing official yet, but word in the legal community is that a blue-ribbon commission convened in 1984 to look at court problems in Cook County will be asked by the state high court to take on a new mission.

The Special Commission on the Administration of Justice in Cook County, chaired by Jenner & Block partner Jerold Solovy, was set up initially in response to the federal Operation Greylord investigation into court corruption. The commission made nearly 200 recommendations in a series of wide-ranging reports over four years.

Now, a new federal investigation, Operation Gambat, has resulted in additional allegations of judicial wrongdoing, as well as the conviction of former Cook County Circuit Court Judge David Shields, once the powerful presiding judge of the court`s Chancery Division.

In the 1980s, the state Supreme Court was criticized for not doing enough in response to Greylord disclosures. Apparently, the current members of the court are more willing to attack problems in the state`s legal system.


Attorney Kimberly A. Sutherland and a group of Chicago police officers may be the latest casualties of the growing impatience by federal appeals court judges here with anything they perceive as sloppy lawyering.

Sutherland represents police officers, most of whom are white, in a court challenge to the way the city computes the test scores used to promote would- be sergeants and lieutenants.

She had sought to press her legal claims before Senior U.S. District Judge Prentice Marshall, who has presided over nearly two decades of litigation involving police hiring and promotion policies. But Marshall, who ruled in 1976 that the city had discriminated against blacks and other minorities, turned down most of her arguments.

Sutherland`s appeal was sharply rejected last month. In an unsigned order, a three-judge appeals court panel upheld Marshall, ruling that the

“woeful inadequacy“ of Sutherland`s written arguments gave them no other choice.

The panel-Judges John Coffey, Frank Easterbrook and Thomas Fairchild-described Sutherland`s arguments as “sketchy“ and said “some sections were almost completely incomprehensible.“

“Ideas are briefly thrown out to the reader with no argument developed in support of those ideas,“ the panel said. “This court is not obligated to research and construct possible arguments for the parties, particularly when the parties are represented by counsel.“

Sutherland has asked the full appeals court to reconsider the panel`s decision.

She said the panel`s ruling will have little impact, though, because she is representing the officers in separate lawsuits raising other arguments, which remain pending before U.S. District Judge Paul Plunkett. Also, the city announced last week that it was putting future police promotions on hold for fear of violating the new federal civil rights law, which prohibits adjusting test scores to benefit minorities.

CABLE CLASH. A “substantial“ but undisclosed amount was paid last week to settle litigation brought in 1986 by unhappy investors against Charles F. Dolan, chairman and chief executive officer of Cablevision Systems Corp. and general partner of Cablevision Programming Investments.

Dolan raised $17 million, much of it through Illinois law firms, to fund Cablevision Programming Investments, a limited partnership set up to develop programming for cable television.

Other investors became disgruntled, though, after they were stuck with a tax liability for shares in partnership income that was earned but never paid to them, according to their lawyer, Jay Canel of Canel, Davis & King. The other investors also alleged Dolan was attempting to force the limited partners into selling their shares back to him at a price that was below actual value. Dolan`s lawyers included Theodore Tetzlaff, of Jenner & Block, who characterized the dispute as a disagreement over the value of a company.

– NEW ADDRESSES, NEW TITLES. Robert A. Merrick Jr., former senior counsel at the state`s Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and a lawyer with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, is signing on with and adding his name to Martin & Breen. The firm will be Martin, Breen & Merrick. . . . Similarly, Arthur Radke, a former partner at Ross & Hardies who has been associated with the commercial litigation firm of Hefter & Associates since last April, becomes a partner at and adds his name to what will be Hefter & Radke. Radke and Daniel Hefter are fellow alums of now-defunct Isham, Lincoln & Beale. . . . Stephen E. Brown, former director of communications for the American Bar Association`s litigation section, takes over this month as managing editor of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. … Kenneth Lopatka departs what was Lopatka, Nohlgren & Martin and takes his labor and employment-law practice to Matkov, Salzman Madoff & Gunn.