A Cook County judge was forced into retirement Friday, a year after she let a law clerk put on her judicial robes and preside over several traffic cases at the Markham courthouse.
The Illinois Courts Commission ordered the immediate retirement of now-former Judge Valarie E. Turner, according to a memorandum obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times that was sent out by Chief Judge of the Cook County Circuit Court Timothy C. Evans.
On Aug. 11, 2016, Turner was presiding over traffic cases at the south suburban courthouse when she abruptly announced to the court that “We’re going to switch judges,” according to the commission. She then gave her robes to Rhonda Crawford, a law clerk running for judge, and let her hear several cases.
An attorney brought the swap to the attention of the presiding judge in the Markham courthouse, who alerted the Judicial Inquiry Board. Evans also fired Crawford.
Crawford ran for judge in the first judicial subcircuit, but she was legally barred from taking the oath to serve.
In November 2016, Turner, a judge since 2002, admitted under oath that she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the commission. Turner said she didn’t want to continue serving as a judge with her diagnosis because “even with the medicine I want to know that I’m whole [and] that I can do the work well.”
“She was not contesting that she was ‘not capable of performing [her] duties as a judge,” the commission wrote.
Turner vowed never to again serve in her official capacity, but instead sought to apply for temporary disability payments and effectively retire. She had also moved that the complaint filed against her to Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board be dismissed.
Monday, the commission rejected both proposals.
“If the condition that [Turner] was suffering from was temporary, at it was possible that she could regain the ability to perform her judicial duties in the future, suspension could be a plausible result,” the commission wrote. “However, that is not the case here. [Turner] acknowledges that she is permanently unable to perform her judicial duties, and, accordingly the outcome reached by this Commission must be similarly permanent.”
“Because [Turner] has not retired or resigned from office, and she is mentally unable to perform her duties as a judge, this Commission, under its constitutional authority, retires Respondent Turner from judicial office, effective immediately.”
Neither Turner nor her attorney could be reached for comment Friday afternoon.