A fired Cook County law clerk said Thursday a judge urged her to wear a judicial robe and hear cases.
Rhonda Crawford had been an assigned attorney and law clerk in Chief Judge Timothy Evan’s office. Crawford, who won the primary for the 1st Judicial Subcircuit in March, said she shadowed multiple judges, including Judge Valarie Turner, who Crawford claimed encouraged her to wear the robe and hear cases in August.
Turner has since been assigned to non-judicial duties.
Crawford, making her first public address since she was fired, said she did not decide cases.
“I did not tell anyone that I was the judge,” Crawford said. “And I want to emphasize that the judge was always standing over me. She never left the bench.”
Crawford, who held a smile through most of the press conference, only read a prepared statement. Her attorney, Victor Henderson, answered questions on her behalf.
Henderson would not say whether it was clear to others in the courtroom who was the presiding judge. He claimed Crawford’s actions were only a minor infraction, but gave little detail on the matter.
“I’ve gotten calls from multiple judges, all quietly because it’s Cook County. You know, people don’t want their heads chopped off,” Henderson said.
He claimed judges told him there were far more significant mistakes that happen on the bench every day. He would not elaborate.
Crawford said she regrets that her actions became a distraction during the election, but said she intends to continue her run. Her opponent in the March primary, Judge Maryam Ahmad, plans to wage a write-in campaign.
Henderson said the “Democratic machine” is working behind closed doors to change the outcome of the election. He said it is an attempt to disenfranchise voters on the South and Southeast sides.
Susie An is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her @soosieon.