Chicago-Area Judge Who Let Clerk Take Bench Has Alzheimer's

A Chicago-area judge who allowed a law clerk to don a judge's robe and preside over a few traffic cases suffered from memory loss at the time and has since been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a state judicial board has concluded.

The Judicial Inquiry Board said in a complaint filed Friday that it had concluded that Cook County Circuit Judge Valarie E. Turner "then suffered and continues to suffer from memory loss, and is mentally unable to perform her duties."

Turner's attorney, Gino L. DiVito, confirmed that Turner has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

The ruling stems from an August incident that led to Turner being taken off the bench and suspension without pay of Rhonda Crawford, the law clerk who presided over at least two traffic cases.

Crawford was subsequently fired and county prosecutors charged her with impersonating a judge.

Despite all this, Crawford was elected to a judge position in November. Crawford had won the Democratic primary and was running opposed in the general election. The Illinois Supreme Court has barred her from taking office.

In a statement, Chief Judge Timothy Evans' office said that it only learned about both the board's complaint and Turner's "medical condition" outlined in the complaint on Friday.

But the complaint does say that on the day Turner allowed Crawford to take the bench, she informed the presiding judge in the courthouse in suburban Markham that she believed Crawford was a judge.

Crawford has said she only wore the robe for about five minutes and that the whole incident was overblown.

In a statement, DiVito criticized the board for filing the complaint against Turner, who he said has not been charged with misconduct and because of her illness is "already effectively retired..."

"In essence the Judicial Inquiry Board has charged her only with having Alzheimer's disease," he wrote. "This sets a terrible precedent for any judge who, like Ms. Turner, has an illness that she did not cause and cannot control."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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