On Wednesday, July 26, 2023, The Center Square reported that the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board (JIB) closed the complaints against two Illinois Supreme Court justices – Elizabeth Rochford and Mary O’Brien – who were accused of having conflicts of interest in cases involving their campaign donors.

In the previous year, Governor J.B. Pritzker granted $1 million to each of the then-Supreme Court Justice candidates. Subsequently, they were elected to the high court but faced controversy when they declined to recuse themselves from a challenge to Illinois’ gun ban—a law that Pritzker had endorsed. Furthermore, Justices Rochford and O’Brien were also among the judges who formed the majority decision in a case that contested the Pretrial Fairness Act. This particular verdict upheld the use of no-cash bail, which was another law supported by Governor Pritzker.

Following these events, an electrical engineer living in Chicago named Kenneth Mayle filed a complaint with the JIB stating, “It just didn’t sound right what’s going on, and I found there’s a process to file complaints, so I did so feeling like you can’t have the governor essentially giving justices money for their campaigns … and being essentially the defendant on something they’re ruling, there’s a conflict of interest there.”

Unfortunately for Mayle, he was informed that his complaint had been closed. The letter stated that the JIB had thoroughly reviewed the allegations against Illinois state court judges as detailed in his complaints, and they decided to close the matter. However, the closure of the complaints was explicitly mentioned not to be an opinion on the merits of the court case.

Mayle shared that besides the acknowledgment of his complaint’s receipt and the subsequent closure letter, there was no further communication from the JIB. He expressed his frustration at the lack of transparency, describing the experience as disheartening. He wondered if one couldn’t voice concerns to a regulatory body, where else could they seek recourse, stating “That’s pretty tight-lipped that there was really no explanation, it was disheartening. If you can’t complain to a regulatory body, where else can you go?”

Similar letters from the JIB that close complaints like Mayle’s have been circulating on the internet. Back in March, Governor Pritzker was questioned about his generous million-dollar donations to two then-candidates who eventually secured their election to the judiciary. Pritzker tried to downplay concerns by emphasizing that these judges were independent and did not campaign on issues merely to win his favor. However, Mayle expressed his disagreement with the governor’s response, stating that it is unrealistic to believe that substantial donations wouldn’t influence the judges’ perspectives or actions. He highlighted the expectation that receiving financial support from someone might lead to support for the donor’s agenda.

Mayle also criticized the composition of the JIB, which is made up of appointees from the governor and the Supreme Court. He expressed concerns that this structure creates an appearance of corruption and poses a potential threat to democracy.

In the closing letter of Mayle’s complaint, the JIB stated that it is legally prohibited from disclosing specific details about its deliberations, findings, or decisions due to the confidentiality provisions specified in its Constitutional authority and Rules of Procedure. This lack of transparency further fueled Mayle’s dissatisfaction with the system’s handling of the matter.

 

Source: The Center Square