State challenging candidacy of clerk who posed as judge

SHARE State challenging candidacy of clerk who posed as judge

Attorney Rhonda Crawford, alongside attorney Victor Henderson, held a news conference in September to address allegations that she impersonated a judge in the Markham courthouse. | Sun-Times file photo

The state commission charged with disciplining attorneys has filed a petition with the Illinois Supreme Court seeking to effectively block the candidacy of a former law clerk accused of impersonating a judge.

The Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission on Thursday filed the petition for interim suspension of Rhonda Crawford’s law license and argued that she should be barred from taking the judicial oath of office or assuming the office of judge “for having engaged in conduct which threatens irreparable harm to the public.”

Crawford is unopposed on the ballot for the First Judicial Sub Circuit judge vacancy, according to the Chicago Board of Elections. Maryam Ahmad, a municipal judge in the Fourth District, is running for the seat on a write-in basis.

Thursday, the ARDC also filed a three-count complaint against Crawford alleging dishonesty, criminal conduct by impersonating a public officer and making false statements in a disciplinary investigation.

Crawford has three weeks to respond to the complaint, after which time a hearing would be set, according to a spokesman for the ARDC. That hearing would not take place until after the Nov. 8 election.

A spokesman for the state Supreme Court said no date has been set for the court to hear the petition.

Crawford could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

In a statement issued Friday afternoon, Chicago Bar Association President Dan Kotin said: “The charges filed against Rhonda Crawford by the ARDC are very serious and if true, are cause for concern about Ms. Crawford’s integrity and judgment to serve as a Circuit Court Judge.”

On Aug. 27, Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans fired Crawford, who had been employed as a law clerk since August 2011.

The ARDC complaint alleges that on Aug. 11 Crawford wore the robe of Cook County Judge Valerie E. Turner in the Markham courthouse and made rulings in three traffic cases from south suburban Dolton.

The complaint alleges that around noon, Turner introduced Crawford to the Dolton village prosecutor by asking: “Have you met Judge Crawford?”

According to the ARDC, Crawford did not correct Turner.

An hour later, Turner announced to Courtroom 098 that “‘We’re going to switch judges’ and gave her judicial robe to [Crawford],” the ARDC alleges. Again, Crawford did not correct Turner’s assertion that she was a judge.

At one point, after the Dolton prosecutor made a motion to continue a case, Crawford asked Turner “Can I deny his motion?” to which Turner responded: “Yes, you can deny the motion,” according to the ARDC.

After the 1 p.m. court call, in which Crawford ruled on three traffic cases, she returned Turner’s judicial robe to the judge, according to the ARDC.

After returning the robe, a court officer offered his congratulations to Crawford on her judgeship and asked her if she would be assigned to the Markham courthouse, the complaint stated. Crawford did not correct the officer and told him she would likely be assigned downtown.

In a statement issued Friday afternoon, Ahmad’s attorney, Burton Odelson, said: “I am sure the ARDC wants this matter heard promptly so that the voters in the First Judicial Sub Circuit do not waste their vote on an attorney charged with such an egregious violation of the law and the judicial code of ethics.”

As of Friday afternoon, the domain name for Crawford’s campaign website had expired.

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