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No pension for Cook County judge who refused traffic court and quit

Friday, May 26, 2017
Chicago Tribune
by Steve Schmadeke

No pension for Cook County judge who refused traffic court and quit

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John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune
The Daley Center in Chicago on April 22, 2015. A newly elected Cook County judge refused an assignment to preside over traffic court, and later quit the bench.
 
Steve Schmadeke, Chicago Tribune
9:13 am, May 26, 2017

The Cook County judge who resigned in April rather than face a possible inquiry from a state disciplinary agency into his refusal to work in traffic court won't be walking away with an Illinois pension.

Former Judge Richard Cooke, 50, needed to work at least 8 years before he could begin collecting a pension from his $194,000-a-year job, according to a state retirement system representative. If he had made it that long, Cooke would've collected an annual pension worth about a quarter of his pay.

Cooke, who was elected in November, made waves after lending his campaign an unprecedented $660,000. He was slated in a Northwest Side subcircuit by the Democratic Party after directing nearly $70,000 to politicians.

But after refusing a traffic court assignment — the place almost all new judges get their start — Cooke was sent to marriage court. Just days after the Tribune began asking questions, a committee of 17 presiding judges headed by Chief Judge Tim Evans voted to refer Cooke to the state agency that handles judicial discipline.

Cooke resigned soon after, ending any possible investigation by the Judicial Inquiry Board. The episode left many of his fellow judges, who declined to talk on the record, shaking their heads in bewilderment wondering why Cooke thought he could leapfrog over more experienced jurists to a more sought-after assignment.

But Cooke doesn't have to walk away with nothing. If he asks for a refund, he's entitled to five months of payments he made into the pension system, according to figures provided under an open-records request.

That's $8,639.93.

sschmadeke@chicagotribune.com

 



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