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Cook County judge put on “administrative duty,” after surveillance video shows her locking up child

The video, provided by the Cook County sheriff’s office, was recorded Feb. 19.

A self-proclaimed “lock-’em-up” Cook County judge has been placed on “administrative duty,” after surveillance video surfaced of her putting a child in a courtroom lock-up reserved for adults.

The child, whose face is obscured in the Feb. 19 video, spent about 10 minutes locked up behind a wire-mesh door in a cell that appears to be otherwise empty. The video was provided to the Chicago Sun-Times by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.

Cook County Judge Jackie Portman-Brown, the woman seen putting the child in the lock-up, could not be reached for comment.

“On February 26, Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans directed Criminal Division Presiding Judge LeRoy K. Martin Jr. to assign Circuit Judge Jackie Marie Portman-Brown to administrative duty, pending a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Circuit Court of Cook County on March 4,” according to a statement from Pat Milhizer, a spokesman for Evans.

Milhizer did not respond to questions about the reason for Portman-Brown’s re-assignment.

The video shows Portman-Brown escorting the child into the lock-up, while a male Cook County sheriff’s deputy briefly looks on. The judge then leaves. A female sheriff’s deputy is seen locking the wire-mesh door to the cell and then standing in front of the door, apparently talking to the child for much of her 10-minute stay. There is no audio with the video. At some point, another woman arrives, dressed in civilian clothing, and then leaves. The female deputy then unlocks the door and escorts the child out of the cell.

“The Cook County sheriff’s office is conducting an internal investigation into the incident to determine whether all policies and procedures were followed by the deputies. Both deputies have been de-deputized and assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of the investigation. We ask that any further questions about the incident be directed to Judge Portman and Chief Judge Timothy Evans,” according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.

Portman-Brown has earned a reputation as a highly unconventional judge. The items on her bench have included a cowbell, which she rattles when a defendant is finishing paying restitution, according to a 2016 profile in the Chicago Reader.

At one point in the profile, Portman-Brown is quoted as saying from the bench: “When you mess up, I’m like the Incredible Hulk: You do not wanna see me angry. When I get angry, I lock people up. I’m known as the lock-’em-up judge.”