Cook County Circuit Judge Matthew Coghlan loses retention bid

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Cook County Circuit Judge Matthew E. Coghlan. |

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It’s been 28 years since a Cook County judge has been voted out of office.

Circuit Court Judge Matthew Coghlan broke that streak on Tuesday, notching 52.4 percent affirmative votes with 79 percent of precincts reporting — well shy of the 60 percent “yes” votes needed for Cook County judges to keep their seats.

Coghlan was first elected to the bench in 2000. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

Scrutiny of Coghlan’s background was spearheaded by reports from Injustice Watch, an online news outlet, that were published in the Chicago Sun-Times. Those reports fueled calls from progressive organizations and lawyer groups to oust the 18-year incumbent.


• 2018 Cook County judicial election results

In June, two men exonerated after 23 years in custody sued Coughlan, alleging that — during his time as a county prosecutor — he helped frame them for murder in collusion with disgraced Chicago police Detective Reynaldo Guevara. Coghlan denied the allegations in a court filing in August.

In September, following mounting pressure for progressive groups, the Cook County Democratic Party rescinded its recommendation for Coghlan’s reelection.

The Chicago Council of Lawyers rated Coghlan a week later as “not qualified,” saying he “can be condescending and otherwise disrespectful toward non-white lawyers and defendants in his courtroom.”

However, the Chicago Bar Association and the Illinois State Bar Association both endorsed Coghlan for retention.

Last week, Cook County Democratic Party Chair Toni Preckwinkle advised her supporters to vote “no” on Coghlan.

“This year, the party is holding judges more accountable. That is why we will not be endorsing Judge Matthew Coghlan for retention,” Preckwinkle states in the video.

The Illinois Supreme Court will appoint a replacement judge to fill the vacancy left by Coghlan at the end of his term in December.

Carlos Ballesteros is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.

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