Judge Brim wants job back after insanity acquittal

February 5, 2013 2:59:35 PM PST
In Chicago, Judge Cynthia Brim wants to return to the bench. The Cook County judge was found not guilty by reason of insanity in connection with a shoving incident a involving a sheriff's deputy.

Five times in the last 19 years, Cynthia Brim was hospitalized for treatment of a bipolar-related mental illness, including one instance in which paramedics had to remove her from her Markham courtroom. It's unclear to what extent her superiors were aware of her mental health needs.

The altercation took place at the Daley Center last year, and shortly after that incident she was suspended from her job.

Last fall, she received enough votes to be retained as a judge even though her mental health issues were unknown by the public.

"For whatever mixture of reasons, the judicial review mechanisms fell short in this instance," said Prof. Harold Krent, Kent Law.

"Mental illness is a personal private issue but when you're wearing a robe in court rendering justice, you have awesome power," David Morrison, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, argued, saying voters should have been made aware of her mental health issues before deciding whether she should stay on the bench.

Should judges be held to a different standard when people in all walks of life with mental health issues are able to function normally with medication?

Brim, though, frequently had failed to take her medication. Her attorney says she understands now that was a mistake.

"She understands that very clearly now, and she understands fully the nature of her condition," said Brim attorney James Montgomery.

Brim wants to return to her job as judge, but that may depend on what the judicial inquiry board recommends.

"We don't want to prejudge what the board does in this case, but certainly a finding of innocent by reason of insanity is one reason to probe deeply into whether or not she can be fit to serve in the future," said Montgomery.

One of the questions raised is, could lawyers who have appeared before Judge Brim challenge some of her decisions based on questions about her mental health? The short answer is yes, just about anything can be challenged in court, but it would be difficult to prove that a judge's aberrant behavior led to a faulty ruling.

The chief judge's office says it does not comment on employees and the judicial inquiry board won't discuss it, but it has disciplines that it could mete out up to and including removal, and there's no timetable on when that will come through.