CHICAGO — Some Cook County judges skipped an annual golf outing this year, after Chief Judge Tim Evans got wind of the event and told them not to attend.
The golf outing is organized by two private law firms, which sent invitations to Cook County Law Division judges offering them valet parking, a luncheon, 18 holes of golf and dinner.
The head of the law division, Judge William Maddux, told us he’s attended the event before, and he is offended that anyone that anyone would think his judges would sell out their ethics for a game of golf.
Still, critics are concerned about the appearance of impropriety.
“Judges should never be taking freebies from people who appear before them,” said Better Government Association Executive Director Andy Shaw. “The problem is that an independent judiciary that’s impartial and unbiased is a key to our democratic society. And we have judges who are on golf outings and are being wined and dined by the same lawyers who appear in their courtrooms.”
On Monday, someone passed the invitation along to the Judicial Inquiry Board, which in turn sent a “personal and confidential note” to Chief Judge Evans, letting him know about the event.
A few hours later, Evans sent a memo to all Daley Center Law Division judges, reminding them of the code of judicial conduct.
“While I have every confidence in your commitment to your judicial duties, I urge you to consider declining this invitation,” he wrote.
We checked the golf course on the day of the event, and it was empty.
Kent College of Law professor Vivien Gross said this sort of event is inappropriate.
“If you look at the judicial code, it makes it clear that judges have to be especially sensitive about the integrity of the system,” she said.
The cancellation of this event comes on the heels of a FOX Chicago News investigation that found many judges were working far less than eight hours a day.