The judge who appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the Jussie Smollett matter, including what role State’s Attorney Kim Foxx played in the case, will not be recommended for re-election by the Cook County Democratic Party.
Party officials claimed the decision to not endorse 40-year veteran judge Michael Toomin stems from his performance as chief judge of the county’s juvenile court division.
But critics, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, say the unusual decision appears to be retribution for the Smollett investigation. Before becoming state’s attorney in 2016, Foxx was the chief of staff for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who also chairs the county’s Democratic Party.
Only two committee members voted to endorse Toomin: Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney (44th) and Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd).
“I am deeply concerned,” Lightfoot said after Monday’s vote. “The optics of this are terrible. It looks like retaliation. This is not something that we should have…and I’m deeply concerned about it.”
Evanston Democratic Committeeman Eamon Kelly said the decision not to support Toomin is based on feedback from the community about Toomin’s leadership of the juvenile division.
“It’s important to do the right thing,” Preckwinkle said, “and we’re trying hard.”
Toomin said in a statement that the party “ignored 40 years of distinguished service and sought retribution” against him for his Smollett decision.
Former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb, the special prosecutor that Toomin appointed, recently found that Foxx and her top aides repeatedly misled the public about their handling of the Smollett matter. But Webb’s team cleared Foxx and her aides of criminal wrongdoing.
The special prosecutor’s investigation did, however, re-charge Smollett with multiple felony counts in connection with his allegedly false claim of being targeted in an anti-gay, racist attack near his Streeterville apartment in January 2019.
Only one other sitting judge failed to earn the committee’s backing for the November 3 election: Judge Mauricio Araujo, who is facing sexual harassment allegations.
Among the dozens of other judges who got the committee’s thumbs-up is Judge Jackie Portman-Brown. She was accused of locking up a young girl in a courthouse jail cell earlier this year. The child is reportedly a relative of Portman-Brown, whom the judge wanted to teach a lesson.