For the first time in nearly a decade, a Cook County judge has been removed from the bench.
Friday, the Illinois Courts Commission ordered Cynthia Brim, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity after being charged with attacking a sheriff’s deputy, to hand in her gavel and robe.
The seven-member commission, ruling on a professional complaint against Brim, determined “that [Brim] suffers from a mental disability that persistently interfered with the performance of her judicial duties. [Her] repeated failure to follow through with proper medical treatment resulted in conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice and brought the judicial office into disrepute.”
The commissioners wrote that they “are sympathetic to [Brim’s] mental health issues. Nonetheless, the judicial profession requires a high level of mental ability and proper mental function.” The order was unanimously agreed upon.
Brim was accused of violating decorum requirements laid out in the state judicial code when she made racially charged remarks in a Markham courtroom. Later, she marched into the Daley Center, clad in a fur coat and surgical scrubs, allegedly shoved a deputy and threw a set of keys at him. Brim was found not guilty by reason of insanity last year for that incident.
She has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, and has been hospitalized multiple times for mental illness since 1993.
Reached by phone Friday, Brim said, “I’m disappointed. That’s my only comment.”
As for her future, she said: “My options are open.”
Brim, who has been collecting her $184,000-a-year judge’s salary, was re-elected but has not worked since her March 2012 meltdown. Her salary will stop immediately, said Joseph Tybor, spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts.
Brim’s attorney was surprised by the commission’s decision.
“Her case was strong because she [was not taking] her medication properly,” William J. Harte said. “Ultimately, she got it and … she was on the medication, and everything turned out fine. Her testimony and her physician’s testimony indicated she would be fine as judge.”
Brim’s troubles began March 8, 2012, while in Markham traffic court. She halted a hearing and declared that police in two south suburban communities targeted minorities.
She also pontificated on her childhood, injustice and prior hospitalizations for mental illness, according to eyewitness accounts.
The next day, after allegedly throwing a set of keys at a deputy and shoving him while trying to walk away at the Daley Center, she was arrested and later transferred to a mental hospital for a two-week stay, court records indicate.
In March, Brim testified before the commission that she now has a grip on her mental illness and was ready to return to the bench.
Brim told the panel she knows she must carefully monitor her mental health condition and keep taking medication regularly.
“I’m expecting to be maintained, as long as I take the medications prescribed,” Brim testified.
Brim also testified in intimate detail about how her mental health would, through the years, deteriorate to the point where she “lost control and broke like a pencil.” She said work stresses as well as “negative publicity by the media” contributed to her decline.
The removal of a judge from office by the commission doesn’t happen often. The last time was in 2004, according to Tybor.
That year, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Francis X. Golniewicz III was ordered removed from the bench after the commission found that, among other accusations, he “used deception to get elected” and violated residency requirements.
In 2001, Cook County Associate Judge Oliver Spurlock was removed after the commission found he had sexually harassed four female prosecutors. The commission also found Spurlock had violated the rules by having sex with a court reporter in his chambers.
Contributing: Brian Slodysko