Three members of the Illinois congressional delegation are urging voters to dump two judges, including one who appointed a special prosecutor to investigate Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s handling of the Jussie Smollett case.
U.S. Reps. Danny Davis, Bobby Rush and Jan Schakowsky, all Democrats, said in a statement Thursday they oppose the retention of Judge Michael Toomin and Judge Mauricio Araujo and pointed to their records in the juvenile division and the 6th subcircuit.
Araujo faces multiple sexual harassment allegations and is under fire for issuing more than 80 search warrants to two Chicago police officers who were convicted for using those warrants to commit crimes.
Facing possible disciplinary action and a retention fight, Araujo resigned later Thursday.
Along with presiding over the juvenile courts, Toomin is also the judge who appointed Dan Webb to reopen the Smollett investigation and look at Foxx’s handling of the case.
Webb later brought a new indictment against Smollett and issued a report that was highly critical of Foxx and her office, though it did clear the first-term prosecutor of accusations of improper influence by outside parties.
Schakowsky said “real reform is impossible” while Toomin is still on the bench.
“The primary aim for juvenile justice should be rehabilitation … Judge Toomin has used his position to thwart progress and block reform,” Schakowsky said in a statement. “He sticks to the same outdated, punitive approach that has proven dangerous and ineffective year after year. It doesn’t protect communities — it rips apart families and ruins lives.”
Davis said voters have an opportunity to “move beyond the harmful policies of the past that do nothing but put our young people on track for the adult prison” by opposing the retention of the two judges.
“We have a chance with this election, with this vote, to say we want our most vulnerable kids to have a real chance at living long, meaningful, successful lives,” Davis said in a statement.
Hanah Jubeh, a spokeswoman for Toomin, said in a statement “the judiciary needs to be free of reprisal.”
“Judge Toomin has 40 years of distinguished service, and the only time his qualifications were questioned was after he appointed the special prosecutor in the Jussie Smollett case and challenged the State’s Attorney on her handling of the case,” Jubeh said.
“This is nothing more than retribution. ... The false narrative about juvenile justice reform is not supported by reality and the facts. It’s nothing more than lies and misinformation to try and deceive the voter.”
The Cook County Democratic Party voted to oppose the retention of Toomin and Araujo last month at a party meeting.
Though party officials denied their decision was related to Foxx’s election, some, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot, called foul.
“The optics of this are terrible,” Lightfoot said. “It looks like retaliation.”
The party pointed to Toomin’s role as presiding judge of the county’s Juvenile Justice division and what they called an “imperial” temperament and “outdated approach” to juvenile justice as their main reasons for opposing his retention.
Toomin called it a “blatant rejection of judicial independence.”
Jubeh said the judge has historically been rated highly qualified, qualified and or recommended by every bar association in his five prior retentions including his retention bid in the November general election.