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Judge lifts gag order on police union president, refuses to extend it to other union officials

Judge Cecilia Horan said the conditions under which she issued the order — in which the city faced a severe shortage of manpower — have not played out.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

Chicago police union chief John Catanzara is again free to say what he wants.

Cook County Judge Cecilia Horan on Monday denied the city’s request to extend a 10-day ban on Catanzara’s use of social media to discourage his members from reporting their vaccine status to the city.

Horan also denied a request from the city to extend the ban to other officials from the police union — officially known as the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7.

In explaining her decision, Horan pointed to the dire prediction that the city’s police force might be drastically reduced as a result of Catanzara urging his members not to comply with the city’s vaccine policy — which contributed to her initial order — has not occurred.

As of Monday, the city had only put 23 officers who’d refused to share their vaccination status by the Oct. 15 deadline on no-pay status.

“With very limited exception, the city has not implemented no-pay status for those members who are not in compliance, and the threatened work-stoppage has not come to pass,” Horan stated in her ruling.

Horan called the issuance of a measure that would prohibit speech an “extraordinary remedy” and one that “is only available in situations where an extreme emergency exists and serious harm would result if it were not issued.”

Catanzara was not immediately available for comment. A spokesperson for Mayor Lori Lightfoot was also not immediately available.

Horan also refused a police union request to dismiss the city’s lawsuit seeking the union’s compliance with the city’s vaccine mandate policy, which, in addition to sharing their vaccination status, requires employees be vaccinated by Jan. 1 and be regularly tested until they are inoculated.

Horan’s decisions came several hours after Moshe Jacobius, the presiding judge in the county’s chancery division, denied a police union request to have the city’s lawsuit transferred away from Horan to a different judge.

“We have a strong policy against judge shopping,” Jacobius said, also citing the fact that Horan had already issued a substantial ruling in the case.

“There’s a presumption in law that judges are honest and fair and follow the law,” he said.

Attorneys for the police union had previously questioned Horan’s impartiality because the firm she was a partner at prior to becoming a judge, Hinshaw & Culbertson, created a report about police reform for the city’s Police Accountability Task Force that contributed to the creation of a federal consent decree the Police Department is still currently under.

Horan said the firm had more than 400 attorneys and she did not know about the report at all and had nothing to do with it while she was a partner at the firm. Horan further said she doesn’t know Mayor Lori Lightfoot and has never represented any of the parties involved in the case.

Swirling in the background are two other pending lawsuits.

One was filed by the police union and seeks a court-ordered suspension of the city’s vaccination policy pending further bargaining and arbitration.

A separate suit filed by more than 130 municipal workers, including a large group of Chicago Fire Department employees, seeks a temporary restraining and preliminary injunction that would block the enforcement of city and state vaccination mandates and prevent employees from being suspended or fired while the suit plays out.