February 21, 1986|By Dave Schneidman
Legislation aimed at preventing judicial corruption and prompted by the conviction of Cook County Circuit Court Judge Reginald Holzer was proposed Thursday by State Sen. Bob Kustra (R., Des Plaines).
Kustra said at a press conference in the State of Illinois Center that he will introduce a package of bills March 5 to:
Expand the economic interest statement filed by judges each year to include loans of more than $5,000 and the source of any such loan.
— Amend the state criminal code to make it a misdemeanor for a lawyer to appear before a judge to whom he has lent money or had other economic dealings.
— Amend the state Constitution to give the Illinois Department of Registration and Education, rather than the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, authority to monitor lawyers` conduct.
— Amend the Constitution so that the chief judge of Cook County Circuit Court is appointed by the state Supreme Court, rather than elected by fellow circuit court judges.
Holzer, a judge for 20 years, was found guilty of extorting $200,000 in the guise of loans from lawers and others who appeared before him in court. His conviction in a case resulting from the federal Greylord investigation of court corruption came Tuesday at the end of a six-week trial.
“The conviction underscores, once again, the need for changes in our judicial system,“ Kustra said. “Citizens of Cook County expecially, must be reassured that we are serious about cleaning up. . . . We must restore integrity and impartial justice to those courtrooms in Cook County Circuit Court now tarnished by the revelations of Greylord.“
Kustra also is a sponsor of a bill providing for merit selection of judges. He voiced disappointment that merit selection has not been made into law. “I`ve been most disappointed that that bill has not been able to get the support of key legislative leaders,“ he said. “I still believe that merit selection of judges offers the best hope for an improved judiciary.
“In the meantime, however, I also believe that we must do something to regain the confidence of the people. . . . The legislation that I offer you today attempts to deal with (the problem).“
Kustra criticized the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Supreme Court, which investigates reports of wrongdoing by lawyers and recommends disciplinary action to be carried out by the court. After a recommendation, the court may suspend or revoke a lawyer`s license to practice.
Kustra said the commission “has a reputation throughout the legal system of this state as a paper tiger unwilling or unable to crack down on incompetent or dishonest lawyers.
`The time has come to move the regulation of lawyers to the executive branch in the Illinois Department of Registration and Education where all other professions and occupations are regulated.“
Kustra said he also would introduce an appropriations bill to “increase substantially“ funding for the Judicial Inquiry Board, a state agency that investigates cases of judicial misconduct.
Kustra noted that the board now has only three staff investigators, which he said is not enough.
When Holzer`s trial opened, prosecutors said government witnesses would include eight veteran attorneys who had wrongfully given money to Holzer and consequently faced investigation by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.
By the time the trial ended, however, 13 others had been named as making payments to Holzer.