Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Top Judge Accused of Ducking Tickets Illinois Faces Question of Who Will Handle Case

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Top Judge Accused of Ducking Tickets Illinois Faces Question of Who Will Handle Case

Article excerpt

Illinois' top judge stands accused of ducking speeding tickets by throwing his weight around with rural police - a first in Illinois history.

So who should judge the judge? What penalty could he get? How will this affect his reputation? There are few clear answers.

After a yearlong investigation, the Judicial Inquiry Board accused Supreme Court Chief Justice James Heiple of refusing to cooperate with police and pulling out his judicial identification during four stops for speeding. Heiple was let off without a ticket three times. The fourth stop ended with Heiple being led away in handcuffs and charged with resisting arrest. He eventually pleaded guilty to speeding and disobeying police. Now Heiple's fate rests with the five judges who sit on the Illinois Courts Commission and decide matters of judicial conduct. That's where the questions start. As chief justice, Heiple is essentially boss to everyone on the Courts Commission. He was chairman of the commission until earlier this month. Hi s replacement was Moses Harrison II of Fairview Heights, one of his colleagues on the Supreme Court. Will that create a bias in Heiple's favor? Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra certainly thinks so. Kustra sent a letter Friday urging Harrison to step aside from this ethics case. Kustra noted that Harrison sharply criticized Gov. Jim Edgar for a recent comment about the "Baby Richard" custody case. Heiple wrote the court's decision in that case and has been the focus of terrible publicity ever since. "You obviously have a close working relationship with the Chief Justice and cannot view this case dispassionately," Kustra wrote to Harrison. "Your participation . . . would only heighten the public's cynicism about our judicial system." Harrison, in a telephone interview, said he could be objective and would not step aside. If he did, Harrison noted, he would just be replaced by another Supreme Court justice. …

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