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2 Cook County judges — one cleared of gun charge, one reassigned for anger management — to return to bench at criminal court

Thursday, January 10, 2019
Chicago Tribune
by Megan Crepeau

2 Cook County judges — one cleared of gun charge, one reassigned for anger management — to return to bench at criminal court

A Cook County judge cleared of a gun charge and another judge reassigned for anger management will both return to the bench at the county’s main criminal courthouse later this month.

The Circuit Court’s executive committee ordered that Judges Joseph Claps and William Hooks, both veterans of the Leighton Criminal Court Building, again take on court assignments on Jan. 22 for a conditional six-month period.

 

Claps was charged with a misdemeanor weapons violation in July after courthouse security cameras caught what appeared to be a gun tumbling out of his jacket in the lobby. He was reassigned to administrative duties shortly afterward.

Claps was acquitted at a bench trial in October when Judge Edward Burmila — brought in from Will County — found prosecutors failed to prove the object on the video was, in fact, a gun.

An order from the executive committee said Claps will not hear any cases involving unlawful use of a weapon charges.

Claps has been a judge for more than two decades, including the last 15 years in the criminal division. He previously worked as the top assistant to the Illinois attorney general and as a Cook County prosecutor.

Hooks was reassigned in October for reasons never fully explained by Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ office. He was referred for anger management after allegedly acting “in such a manner that created a hostile work environment for another judge,” Evans’ office said in a statement at the time.

The executive committee’s order said Hooks’ return will be subject to unspecified conditions to be determined by Evans and LeRoy Martin Jr., presiding judge of the criminal judge.

Both judges had their cases referred to the Judicial Inquiry Board, which investigates allegations of wrongdoing against judges.

Claps went before the board last month and answered questions for more than an hour and a half, said his attorney Thomas Breen, who also represented Claps on the weapons charge.

Citing confidentiality requirements, Breen declined to go into detail about the proceedings but said that “after a full grilling and questioning,” the board notified him it had closed the case.

Claps is eager to return to the courthouse, Breen said. Even without hearing weapons cases, the judge will keep busy, he said

“There’s enough cases to go around,” Breen said.

Hooks’ attorney, Edward Washington II, also declined to go into detail about the confidential proceedings before the Judicial Inquiry Board.

“You can infer that they obviously went well for Judge Hooks,” he told the Tribune. “He gave a full and candid explanation.”

Washington also declined to say if Hooks had, in fact, received counseling for anger management.

“I just think the whole situation has been resolved,” he said. “The judge, once again, is a good judge, has served the community ... and is fair-minded and hardworking, and is just ready to put this behind him and go forward.”

Hooks, a Marine Corps veteran who had a long career as a civil rights lawyer, took the bench in 2008.

Before his abrupt reassignment, he had presided over several high-profile cases, including four people charged in a racially tinged beating of a teenager livestreamed on Facebook and Jackie Wilson, whose conviction for killing two Chicago cops he tossed out last summer after finding that notorious ex-Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his crew had tortured Wilson into confessing.

The court’s executive committee is composed of Evans and the presiding judges of the court’s other various divisions.

mcrepeau@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @crepeau

 



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