Cook County Judge Terminated After Racist Remarks

A judge in Illinois who was criticized for making racist comments toward defendants lost a secret vote for re-election. Judge Richard Schwind was the only judge of 138 associate Cook County judges to lose his reelection bid.

Schwind, an associate judge since 2012, was reassigned in 2018 after he told a Black defendant, “You were never a slave, but you take offense to it.” The defendant, identified as 31-year-old Deon Lindsey, was convicted in a misdemeanor battery case after he hit his girlfriend’s white brother for using the n-word, WBEZ reported. The Cook County criminal court judge was placed on administrative duty and sent to sensitivity training. According to WBEZ, Schwind was also referred to the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, which investigates complaints against judges.

A year before the incident involving Lindsey, Schwind reportedly told a defendant accused of prostitution that she was a health risk to the people of Illinois. “You go to California, do it in California, do it in Tennessee, do it anywhere but Illinois,” he said, according to ABA Journal. “If you want to continue selling your body for money, that’s up to you, that’s your decision, but stay out of Illinois. You are a definite health risk to anyone you come in contact with.”

In May, Schwind became one of two judges not recommended by the Chicago Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluation Committee. The committee did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for further comment.

“Judge Schwind has serious issues with integrity, judicial demeanor, and temperament. His statements to minority litigants appearing before him are insensitive, improper and evidence bias,” the Judicial Evaluation Committee wrote in its assessment of Schwind as he sought reelection.

Despite his poor rating by the bar, Schwind received the support of Judge Stephen A. Kozicki. The judge wrote to his colleagues during the vote saying Schwind had an “excellent reputation for honesty and fairness.” Judge Luciano Panici was also not recommended, but he was reappointed this year, Injustice Watch reported for The Chicago Sun-Times. In its assessment, the bar wrote that Panici “exhibits a casual attitude regarding whether the state has met the burden of proof.” The judge also “openly expressed the view that nearly all of the defendants who appear before him are guilty.”

Panici argued that the bar’s assessment was “clearly erroneous,” ABA Journal reported. In response to letters by Kozicki and Panici, Circuit Judge Robert Balanoff urged fellow judges to vote no on both Schwind and Panici, The Chicago Sun-Times reported. “If they are retained, how would we explain that 60 percent of us thought this behavior was acceptable for a judge in Cook County?” Balanoff wrote.

Chief Judge Timothy Evans reported the results of the vote to Cook County’s circuit judges on June 5. In a statement, Evans congratulated the judges on their new terms and said he “respects the results of the election,” without mentioning Schwind’s defeat. The selections were confirmed by Christopher Bonjean, a spokesman for the Illinois court administration.

It is rare for associate judges who seek reappointment to fail. Associate judges need at least 60 percent favorable votes to win a new four-year term. Balanoff told The Chicago Sun-Times on June 5 that he was happy his colleagues voted against Schwind’s reappointment but disagreed with their decision on Panici. “We all have to decide on what type of judiciary we want,” the judge said.

Schwind graduated from John Marshall Law School, according to his LinkedIn account. He worked for nearly seven years for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office as an assistant state’s attorney. He then worked for more than 27 years at the Illinois Attorney General’s Office as the chief of the criminal enforcement division. He was elected associate judge in Cook County in April 2012 and had been assigned to the 3rd Municipal District courthouse in Rolling Meadows, Illinois since 2013, WBEZ reported. Schwind reportedly makes a salary of $192,000 a year as an associate judge, and his term is scheduled to end on June 30.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.