Cook County Judge Who Made ‘Inappropriate’ Comments Loses Reelection

cook county third municipal court
The 3rd Municipal District courthouse in Rolling Meadows. Dan Mihalopoulos
cook county third municipal court
The 3rd Municipal District courthouse in Rolling Meadows. Dan Mihalopoulos

Cook County Judge Who Made ‘Inappropriate’ Comments Loses Reelection

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Updated: 5:13 p.m.

In a rare rebuke from his own colleagues, the Cook County judge who made a series of bizarre and offensive comments to defendants in a suburban courtroom has lost his bid to remain on the bench.

Richard Schwind has been an associate judge since 2012, and he asked the county’s circuit court judges to give him another four years in the retention vote that ended last Friday.

He “did not receive the requisite percentage of votes in favor of reappointment and is not retained for another term,” according to a letter that the state Supreme Court, which oversees retention voting in Illinois, sent Wednesday to the Cook County’s chief judge.

Schwind was the only one of 138 associate judges in the county court system who wanted to be re-appointed but was rejected. He’ll have to give up the job — which pays nearly $190,000 a year — after his current term ends on June 30.

Supreme Court records show it’s been at least 20 years since a Cook County associate judge has failed in a bid for re-appointment. All the associate judges who wanted to stay on the bench were retained in elections in 2015, 2011, 2007 and 2003.

Schwind has been the subject of stories by WBEZ detailing odd and offensive remarks that he made to a black defendant and a sex worker whose case came up in his courtroom in Rolling Meadows.

Schwind, 67, could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

He was disciplined last year after WBEZ reported that he told a black defendant, “You were never a slave.” But Schwind was returned to his old assignment hearing traffic and misdemeanor cases in Rolling Meadows in March.

Last week, WBEZ reported that Schwind had told a sex worker whose case he handled that she had to get “out of Illinois” because she was “a definite health risk to anyone you come in contact with.”

The Chicago Bar Association had recommended against Schwind’s re-appointment. In a statement, the group said the judge had “serious issues with integrity, judicial demeanor and temperament.”

“His statements to minority litigants appearing before him are insensitive [and] improper and evidence bias,” the bar association said of Schwind.

Schwind is a graduate of John Marshall Law School. Before becoming a judge, he worked for seven years for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and for more than 27 years at the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. Records show he’s collecting pensions from the state and the county in addition to his judicial salary.

In a statement Wednesday, a spokesman for the chief judge, Timothy Evans, said Evans “congratulates the judges on their new terms and respects the result of the election.” Evans did not comment specifically on Schwind’s defeat.

Another associate judge who was disciplined recently was among those who won another term in the retention vote.

That judge, James Karahalios, was taken off the bench in Rolling Meadows in March because the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx made undisclosed “allegations” about him, according to court records.

Karahalios was “assigned to restricted duties or duties other than judicial duties” at the Daley Center in a move designed “to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary,” the records show.

In transcripts obtained by WBEZ, Karahalios made strange comments during a hearing in the sexual-abuse case of a Muslim leader who was tried in Rolling Meadows in 2016. The Muslim defendant’s lawyer asked for the trial date to be moved so that it would not be immediately after the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Karahalios granted the request but quickly added: “In doing so, I’m certainly not agreeing with the premise that the Sept. 11 occurrence would prejudice your client. I have repeatedly heard throughout the news that it isn’t an issue of being Muslim, it’s an issue of being, I think the term on the news is radicalized. Although President Obama doesn’t seem to recognize that term either, so according to the president there should be no problem.”

Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter for WBEZ. Follow him at @dmihalopoulos.