Bethany Krajelis Jul. 24, 2013, 1:22pm

Former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook has been suspended from the practice of law on an interim basis as a result of his federal drug and firearm charges.

The Illinois Supreme Court entered the order against Cook last week after the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) filed an agreed petition for interim suspension at the end of June.

The clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District last week filed a notice of the suspension, which took effect July 15, and today filed a "notice of impending disciplinary action."

Cook stepped down from the bench shortly after being charged May 24 with possession of heroin and being an unlawful user of controlled substance in possession of firearms. He entered a not guilty plea to both charges.

He is currently in drug treatment in a Minnesota facility and “is expected to remain there for several more weeks,” according to the ARDC’s June agreed petition.

The petition states that Cook “agreed to accept an interim suspension until further order of the Court, without the need for the Administrator to petition for a rule to show cause pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 774(a)(1), alleging criminal charges and persuasive evidence to support the charges.”

Rule 774 allows the high court to order an interim suspension on its own motion or on a petition from the ARDC during the pendency of a criminal indictment or information or a disciplinary proceeding or investigation.

The ARDC attached three exhibits to the agreed petition: 1) an affidavit from one of Cook's attorneys, Belleville attorney Thomas Q, Keefe, III, stating that his client “joins in the petition freely and voluntarily,” 2) a copy of the criminal information against Cook and 3) an affidavit of Joseph Murphy, a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that was filed in James Fogarty’s criminal case.

Fogarty, a former employee in the St. Clair County probation department, was charged in May with possession of cocaine with intent to deliver and being an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm. He has also pleaded not guilty.

He is accused of supplying drugs to Cook and the late Associate Judge Joseph Christ, who died March 10 of cocaine intoxication at Cook’s Pike County hunting cabin. He allegedly told an FBI agent that he had used drugs with both judges on multiple occasions.

In addition to Cook and Fogarty, federal prosecutors in May charged Belleville resident Sean McGilvery with conspiracy to distribute and possess more than 1 kilogram of heroin with the intent to deliver. Cook was arrested at McGilvery's home.

The ARDC has not filed a complaint against Cook, but has jurisdiction over his discipline. If Cook didn’t resign from his position on the St. Clair County bench, he would have faced potential discipline from the Judicial Inquiry Board (JIB).

The notice filed today in federal court orders Cook to show cause within 30 days “why the imposition of similar discipline by this Court, consisting of suspension from the practice of law in this Court until further order of the Court, would be unwarranted.”

With a copy of the Supreme Court interim suspension order attached, the notice states that if Cook fails to respond, “this Court will impose similar discipline.”

No docket entries have been made in Cook’s criminal case since mid-June, when U.S. District Judge William Stiehl granted his request to continue his July 15 trial to Oct. 1 and set a final pre-trial conference for Sept. 23.

In early July, U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan granted McGilvery’s request to push back his jury trial until Sept. 16 and scheduled an Aug. 26 trial in Fogarty’s case.

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