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State Supreme Court shocker: Cook County judge removed from case

The Illinois Supreme Court building in Springfield. / Photo by Jon Sall

The Illinois Supreme Court has taken the rare step of removing a Cook County judge from a civil case, in which he sentenced a man to six years in prison for contempt of court.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered the case transferred from Judge Daniel Lynch to the presiding judge of the law division of the Cook County Circuit Court, who will reassign the case to another judge. The order comes after one of the attorneys in the case alleged that Lynch was ignoring allegedly significant misconduct by opposing lawyers.

The court offered no reason for removing the case.

Lynch has been overseeing a lawsuit by the estate of a Chicago woman who was hit and killed by a truck in 2007.

In 2013, Lynch overturned a $4.25 million jury award to the woman’s family after evidence surfaced she was married at the time of her death.

Her husband, a cab driver in New York, settled for $60,000 from Roadway Express, the firm that owned the truck.

Last year, Lynch sentenced the woman’s uncle — the administrator of her estate — to six years in prison. A jury found he lied that his niece was never married.

Roadway’s attorneys have been seeking monetary sanctions against Goldberg, Cairo Weisman — the law firm that represented the woman’s estate.

But last month, Goldberg, Cairo Weisman turned the tables, filing an explosive request to remove Lynch from the case, saying he turned a “blind eye” to evidence of misconduct by Roadway’s attorneys.

Also last month, an attorney for Bengaly Sylla, the imprisoned estate administrator, filed a motion to be released on bond pending an appeal, saying his conviction for contempt of court was the result of “fraud and bribery.”

Bengaly Sylla is fighting a six-year prison term for contempt of court in Cook County.
Bengaly Sylla is fighting a six-year prison term for contempt of court in Cook County.

A woman working on behalf of Roadway’s attorneys, the Williams Montgomery & John law firm, improperly paid for affidavits from officials in West Africa showing the victim, Hawa Sissoko, was married, according to Sylla’s motion. Those documents were used to show Sylla lied to the court.

As a result of Sylla’s motion, he was released on a $50,000 bond while his appeal is pending.

Attorneys in the convoluted case declined to comment Tuesday. Lynch didn’t return a call seeking comment.

Lynch has made several controversial decisions in recent years. In January, he dismissed a $25 million settlement agreement because a court clerk told the plaintiff’s lawyer about the contents of a jury note before the defense was aware of it.