Corrupt lawyers are to blame for corrupt judges, the chairman of a blue-ribbon panel set up to recommend reforms in the Cook County Circuit Court system said Wednesday.
“The organized bar has forgotten its tradition of what the legal profession is all about. Lawyers are too enmeshed in making money,“ said Jerold S. Solovy, chairman of the Special Commission on the Administration of Justice, which was appointed by ChiefJudge Harry Comerford (Deceased) in the aftermath of the federal Operation Greylord investigation into court corruption. (Solovy represented Judge Donald O’Connell (Ret.) in political patronage case filed by unlawfully fired employee of the Court)
You cannot have corrupt judges without corrupt lawyers,“ he said.
“The code of conduct requires lawyers to turn in corrupt lawyers to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, and that is not happening often enough. I put the blame for our judicial system on the lawyers. The system is what lawyers make it and what lawyers want.“
Solovy, a lawyer, made the comments in a press conference held to announce commission support for pending state legislation that would give state`s attorneys the right to demand jury trials in criminal cases to avoid bench trials conducted only by a judge.
He said 32 states and the federal courts allow prosecutors to demand jury trials, a right granted only to the defense in Illinois.
Giving a state`s attorney the option to demand a jury trial would
“strengthen the faith in the integrity of criminal justice in Illinois,“ Solovy said.
John D. Hayes, president of the Chicago Bar Association, said the association has taken no position on the proposal, but he added that such a procedure would clog the courts because of more time-consuming jury trials.
A better approach, Hayes said, would be to allow the state`s attorney a more liberal allowance for seeking a substitution of judges to get a sensitive case away from a certain judge. The state`s attorney now can only seek a substitution for “actual prejudice“ by a judge, he said.
Solovy said the commission had sent letters to area bar associations, calling on them to undertake new programs “to educate lawyers about their ethical obligations.“
He also urged the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, the arm of the Illinois Supreme Court charged with investigating unethical conduct by attorneys and recommending sanctions to the high court, to recommend stiffer penalties for lawyers.
The commission`s letter to the bar associations asked them to conduct seminars and publish articles on legal and judicial ethics.
Solovy urged the bar associations to return to their tradition of a “noble profession.“
Hayes, asked about judicial ethics, said he thinks the Chicago Bar Association could “beef up“ seminars on judicial ethics.
“But we reach lawyers only after they have become lawyers, and by that time they either have an ethical attitude or they don`t,“ Hayes added. “You cannot legislate ethics. Ethics should first come from the future lawyer`s parents. We already have one of the finest ethics seminars among bar groups in the nation.`
Solovy also said that if the state`s attorney`s option on jury trials had been available, problems such as the controversial ruling several months ago by Judge E.C. Johnson of Criminal Court would not have happened.
Johnson acquitted a lawyer of bribery charges on grounds that the state bribery statute does not prohibit an attorney from accepting bribe money designated to be passed on to a judge.