CHICAGO -- St. Clair County Circuit Court Judges Patrick Young and Judge Jan V. Fiss each received reprimands from the Illinois Courts Commission (ICC) for their roles in a December 2006 drunken driving accident, after a short hearing before the committee today in Chicago.
A reprimand was the most lenient sanction available from the ICC, which had authority to censure, suspend or remove the judges.
Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald, speaking on behalf of the committee, noted that since the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board (JIB) and both judges had previously stipulated to a recommendation that they be reprimanded, the ruling was in the interests of both sides as well as the ICC.
During the hearing, counsel for Young described the incident as a "complete aberration" that was the "second worst day of his life (since the death of Young's wife)."
A contrite Young spoke before the committee and apologized to the court, the JIB, and all parties involved. Young expressed deep regret over the incident's effect on his family and his son who was sworn to the bench two months prior to the accident. "You can only imagine how embarrassing my conduct has been (to them)," Young said softly.
Fiss reiterated Young's comments when he spoke to the committee, acknowledging that he had made a mistake and vowing that "nothing like this will ever happen again in my life."
Counselors for both judges pointed out that the judges had accepted full responsibility for the incident and were "learning to accept things we cannot change."
John Gallo of Sidley Austin prosecuted the claim on behalf of the JIB. He told the court that, in light of all allegations of fact and related code violations, reprimand would be proper for both Young and Fiss.
After a 15-minute recess during which Young and Fiss waited tensely and barely spoke, the committee returned and Justice Fitzgerald announced their decision to reprimand, with a written order to be issued "in due time."