Chief Justice Fitzgerald began his own career in the law as a prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. When first elected to the bench in 1976, he was, at that time, the youngest elected Circuit Judge in Cook County.
Justice Fitzgerald served as a trial judge in the Criminal Court form 1976 to 1987, was assigned Supervising Judge of Traffic Court; and in 1989, he returned to the Criminal Division as Presiding Judge, where after Operation Greylord 93 people were indicted, including 17 judges, 48 lawyers, ten deputy sheriffs, eight policemen, eight court officials, and state legislator James DeLeo. The first defendant to be found guilty was Harold Conn, Deputy Traffic Court Clerk in the Cook County judicial system. Conn was convicted in March 1984 and was one of the many bagmen in the ring of corruption. The last conviction was that of Judge Thomas J. Maloney, who was indicted in 1991 on bribery charges and convicted in April 1993 of fixing three murder cases for more than $100,000 in bribes. Maloney was released from federal prison in 2008, and died the same year. One judge, Richard LeFevour, was convicted on 59 counts of mail fraud, racketeering and income-tax violations, and later sentenced to 12 years in prison, as well as being disbarred. The stiffest sentence was received by former Circuit Judge Reginald Holzer, who received an 18-year sentence for accepting over $200,000 in bribes from multiple attorneys. Three defendants committed suicide, including former Circuit Judge Allen Rosin.
He became the first Illinois chief justice to preside over the impeachment trial of a sitting governor when he presided over the impeachment trial of Governor Rod Blagojevich., after his original deal
*The name of Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald’s father who was a judge is not publicly available. Cook County Court had Judge Richard J. Fitzgerald, who died in April 2010 at age 96, and had many similarities with Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald biography, to possibly be his father, but he is purportedly not related to Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald.
Richard J. Fitzgerald was criminal court judge for 24 years, and the only member of the Cook County circuit judiciary entrusted by the federal government with details of the Operation Greylord corruption probe before it became public. He served the last 13 years as chief judge and administrator of criminal court before retiring in 1989. Mr. Fitzgerald was informed of the undercover investigation by the government and remained discrete for three years. “The feds came to Chicago and said, ‘Who can we trust?’ ” John Fitzgerald said. “And the only name that came up was my dad’s.” (who was John Fitzgerald at that time and why Feds came to him to ask whom they can trust – is unclear. But of course the first name in his mind was his Dad, a judge who worked with the same judges who took bribes for years, apparently not noticed by other judges while it was well-known by the public). According to public records, then-Chief Judge Comerford also knew about Operation Greylord.