They're forever the two judges who went on the Sunday afternoon football bender. They drank bloody marys and cans of Bud Light in the car. One of them was driving and got into an accident.
He could have killed someone.
That's what defendants are thinking these days anytime they enter the St. Clair County courtrooms of Judges Jan Fiss or Patrick Young.
They know that Judge Young, the driver, had eight beers and two bloody marys that Sunday, by his own estimate. Fiss had two bloodies and six beers. They know the story of Young's DUI and refusal to take a breathalyzer. They know how Fiss tried to hide the beer he was drinking from the Belleville cops, of the victim their SUV rammed who broke his leg.
They know these men broke the law. They know they got caught red-handed. They know they didn't immediately fess up to authorities.
And they resent this behavior, if only because it came from two men who go by the title "your honor."
They resent it because Judges Young and Fiss are entrusted with judging the actions of others; of meting out justice upon the rest of us; of punishing you and I for drinking and driving, or having open alcohol in the car.
For credibility's sake at the St. Clair County courthouse, this is a very bad thing. Which explains why the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, charged with holding judges accountable for their actions, finally weighed in this week on the case of Judges Young and Fiss. It called for formal punishment of the duo for violating the Code of Judicial Conduct, failing to "personally observe high standards of conduct."
Options include censure, suspension, and removal from the bench.
In this case, the only just option is the latter.
There are plenty of very capable and willing lawyers in the St. Clair County legal community who would jump at the chance to take the place of Young and Fiss on the bench. We can do better than try to carry on with men hindered by such baggage. Our courts needn't be run by lawbreakers.
Alas, we all make mistakes, and we all deserve forgiveness. But the public careers of two men should never take precedence over public confidence in the integrity of our judicial system.