September 23, 2020

2 Cook County judges, indicted Ald. Ed Burke, 3 retired judges partnered in investment club

Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) enters the Dirksen Federal Courthouse on Jan. 3, 2019, after being charged.

Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) enters the Dirksen Federal Courthouse on Jan. 3, 2019, after being charged. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times file

Judge Michael Toomin presides over the juvenile justice division and is running for retention in November. Judge James Shapiro hears family law cases.

Two sitting Cook County circuit judges and three retired judges are partners in a company with attorneys including indicted Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), records show.

Participants in the company, called Table of Wisdom LLC, say it’s an investment club formed by a group of longtime friends who regularly met for breakfast and decided to pool their money so they’d have something to talk about.

Two of the partners in Table of Wisdom are sitting judges:

Cook County Circuit Judge Michael Toomin, who is the presiding judge of the juvenile division and is running in November for another six-year term. Toomin might be more widely known as the judge who appointed former U.S. Attorney Dan K. Webb as special prosecutor in two high-profile cases, investigating Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office’s handling of the Jussie Smollett case and reinvestigating the death of David Koschman. That case resulted in former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and going to jail.
Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune pool photo
Cook County Circuit Judge Michael Toomin on Aug. 23, 2019, after swearing in former U.S. Attorney Dan K. Webb as special prosecutor in the Jussie Smollett case. Cook County Circuit Judge James Shapiro, who hears family law cases in the domestic relations division.

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Both declined to comment.

Other members include:

Burke, the longtime Southwest Side alderman who is charged in a May 2019 federal racketeering and extortion indictment that accuses him of using his position on the Chicago City Council to withhold construction permits for a Burger King in his ward in an unsuccessful bid to get the restaurant to hire his law firm for property tax appeals. He has pleaded not guilty and remains in office. He didn’t respond to interview requests.
Retired judges Margarita Kulys Hoffman, Clifford Meachem and Warren Wolfson.
Attorney Barry Greenburg, who runs a firm that focuses on family law.
And attorneys Marvin Leavitt and Michael Stiegel, who practice family law together in the Chicago firm that Leavitt started after he retired from the Illinois Appellate Court.

Judges aren’t prohibited from joining such investment clubs in Illinois, according to retired Lake County Circuit Judge Ray McKoski, now an adjunct professor teaching judicial ethics at UIC John Marshall Law School.

But Illinois law warns of the potential for conflicts of interest when judges go into business with attorneys. Judges should refrain from financial and business dealings that “involve the judge in frequent transactions with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court on which the judge serves,” according to the Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct.

Other states have taken a firmer stand on investment clubs. Judicial ethics boards in New York and Massachusetts have said …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun Times


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