JIB convenes next month in Duebbert case; Four other St. Clair Co. judges have faced discipline

By Record News | Jan 23, 2019

Attorney for JIB Kevin Fee and Judge Ron Duebbert  

CHICAGO – St. Clair County Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert will face a commission with the power to reprimand, censure, suspend, or remove him on Feb. 27. 

The Illinois Courts Commission will convene on that date to consider a Judicial Inquiry Board (JIB) complaint against Duebbert, which alleges that he made false and deceptive statements to police investigating the murder of Carl Silas in 2016.

The JIB’s investigation was launched after State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly - recently tapped to serve as director of Illinois State Police - asked for a special prosecutor to determine whether Duebbert obstructed the Silas investigation. Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson granted the request and Kelly sent his file to the JIB.

Duebbert was never charged with obstructing the Silas investigation.

Silas’s murder remains unsolved as the accused who spent nearly two years in jail awaiting trial, David Fields, was found not guilty by St. Clair County jurors on Dec. 10.

In its complaint against Duebbert, the JIB also accuses him of making false statements and omitted relevant facts in sworn testimony before the board in 2017. 

The JIB is represented by Kevin Fee of Sidley Austin in Chicago. 

JIB History

The Judicial Inquiry Board was created when Illinois voters adopted the Constitution of 1970.

Since then, it has filed 95 complaints with the courts commission, which has removed seven judges and retired one. 

Twelve judges resigned before the commission could take action. 

Cook County judge Jessica O’Brien resigned last year, after jurors in federal court found her guilty of bank fraud and mail fraud. 

The commission has suspended 18 judges, six for a month, five for two months, two for three months, two for four months, and three for six months. 

The commission has censured 10 judges and reprimanded 25. 

Occasionally the commission has dealt out double discipline. 

In 2016, the commission suspended McLean County Circuit Judge Scott Drazewski for four months and censured Circuit Judge Rebecca Foley. 

Drazewski and Foley carried on sexually while Foley’s husband represented clients in Drazewski’s court. One of the husband’s cases went to trial in Drazewski’s court. 

Four St. Clair County judges have stood where Duebbert stands. 

In 2007, the commission reprimanded judges Patrick Young and Jan Fiss for guilty pleas they entered.  

Young paid a $1,500 fine for driving under the influence and spent two years under court supervision. Passenger Fiss paid a $500 fine and spent 60 days under supervision. 

In 2001, the commission suspended associate judge James Radcliffe for three months. They found he presided over an injunction hearing and forced a liquor control agent to reveal that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was investigating a client of the attorney who sought the injunction. 

They also found the agent was not served with notice and learned of the hearing 15 minutes prior to it, and then Radcliffe denied his request for a lawyer or a telephone call. 

The commission further found Radcliffe entered a preliminary injunction that lacked an expiration date, set no bond, and didn’t set forth findings of fact. 

In 1983, the commission suspended associate judge Thomas Daley for two months, finding that he worked as a watchman for a month and falsified reports to show he performed judicial duties during that time. They also found he failed to show the income on his statement of economic interest. 

Driving under the influence in St. Clair County resulted in a reprimand for Fifth District appellate court judge John Karns in 1983. 

A Caseyville cop nabbed Karns, who announced his occupation and lost his temper. The commission found he cursed the arresting officer and other officers. They found he refused to cooperate and threatened to fight. And, they found he and his counsel took custody of all pertinent records the next day, and he was never prosecuted. 

Fourth District appellate judge Robert Steigmann drew a reprimand last year for using the court’s prestige and resources to advance his private interests. 

The committee found he solicited lecturing opportunities from law enforcement organizations, medical societies, and hospitals. They found he used court letterhead, computer, and staff. And, they found his conduct created a possible appearance of bias with respect to physicians and law enforcement. 

Only once has the commission disciplined a Supreme Court Justice. 

In 1997, the commission censured Chief Justice James Heiple for disobeying police and failing to cooperate with their investigation of traffic violations. They found communicating such information was likely to influence officers, who would perceive it as an effort to use his office to keep from being charged. 

The commission removed a judge for the first time in 1974, finding Wayne County circuit judge Randall Quindry tried to alter absentee ballots. They found he consistently engaged in partisan politics and adjudicated cases in which a nephew was counsel. 

The commission removed Cook County associate judge James Oakey in 1975, for concealing compensation from a business in tax returns. 

The commission removed Kane County associate judge William Vanderwater in 1976, finding he staged a scene from a Wild West movie. 

He “detained a former tenant with the aid of a hand gun, had him arrested and charged with theft, procured a guilty plea and jury waiver, conducted a midnight proceeding in the police station and sentenced the tenant to eight months in jail.” 

In 1994, the commission removed Sangamon County associate judge John Keith for jailing defendants without due process and improperly jailing others for contempt. 

In 2001, the commission removed Cook County associate judge Oliver Spurlock for sexually intimidating and inappropriate conduct. They found he failed to recuse himself from cases handled by a person with whom he had a romantic relationship. They also found he engaged in sex with a court reporter in chambers. 

In 2004, the commission removed Cook County circuit judge Francis Golniewicz for a variety of reasons. 

They found he told a criminal defendant to be “real” careful and repeated it with a four letter word before careful. They found he showed dissatisfaction with a verdict by tearing up juror appreciation certificates and saying they didn’t deserve them. They found he misrepresented facts about his residence in campaign literature, and that he voted in the wrong district. 

In 2014, the commission removed Cook County circuit judge Cynthia Brim after a judge found her legally insane at the time she pushed a deputy sheriff. They found she had a bipolar disorder and without appropriate medication, her condition rendered her unable to perform her duties.

In 2017, in a special case, they ordered retirement instead of removal. They found Cook County circuit judge Valarie Turner suffered from memory loss and was mentally unable to perform her duties.

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Organizations in this Story

Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board Illinois State Police Sidley Austin LLP Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Illinois

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