Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Ch-ch-ch-changes: Bond court shake-up sends judges packing

Judges leaving bond court are (L to R): Sophia Atcherson, Michael Clancy, and Stephanie Miller.
Changes are coming to Cook County bond court, the daily spectacle at 26th and California where terms are established for the pre-trial release of newly-accused criminal defendants.

Three judges responsible for setting bail and release conditions are being transferred to new assignments. Two of their replacements have already begun “shadowing” the sitting judges to learn the ropes of the job.

The changes were made by Chief Judge Timothy Evans in a series of written orders dated April 8th and April 17th. CWBChicago received copies of the orders today.

Evans' spokesman, Pat Milhizer, said "new assignments are part of the normal course of business for the court system as judges seek variety in their careers on the bench. For example, there have been 34 transfers this year in a system that has 389 judges." All of the departing judges asked for reassignment, he said.

Leaving bond court are:

• Judge Stephanie K. Miller, who has been assigned to probate court effective May 7th. Miller was an enthusiastic torch-bearer when Evans rolled out his affordable bail initiative in 2018, infamously allowing an accused armed robbery defendant to go home on a recognizance bond and electronic monitoring.

Miller also released Daryl Williams on a recognizance bond after he was charged with unlawful use of a weapon following a “shots fired” incident in the New City neighborhood. Three months later, Williams allegedly secured another gun and shot a man to death on the South Side.

While there have been some notable challenges since the “affordable bail” program was introduced, Milhizer said 85% of felony defendants released on bail under the program have followed the conditions of their release. A similar percentage have not been re-arrested while on bail, Mihizer said.

Miller, who was appointed to the bench between election cycles, lost when she came up for election in March 2018. After being rejected by voters, Miller was almost immediately selected to fill a new vacancy in the court system (although she never really left her bond court assignment).

• Judge Sophia Atcherson will move to the criminal division effective May 7th. Judge Michael Clancy will follow her there on July 8th.

Miller, Atcherson, and Clancy will also be “additionally assigned” to the court system’s pre-trial division, which includes bond court after they report to their new jobs.

Judges moving into bond court are (L to R): Charles Beach, Susana Ortiz, and Arthur Willis.
Incoming bond court Judges Susana Ortiz and Arthur “Wes” Willis have been shadowing and carrying out some of the court's activities since April 15th. They will take over for Miller and Atcherson. Judge Charles Beach will take over for Clancy on July 8th.

Like Miller, Beach also lost his appointed seat when the voters rejected him in March 2018. And, like Miller, he was almost immediately selected to fill another vacancy in the system.

Three current bond court judges remain in place: Mary Marubio, John Lyke, and David Navarro.

Editor's note: This report was updated on April 25th with newly-received comments from Milhizer.
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