Here are some things to know before you vote for (or against) the Cook County judges on your ballot

CWBChicago does not endorse or recommend judges or candidates for political office. In the past, we have provided our subscribers with information about Cook County judges who handle criminal matters during bi-annual retention vote cycles. We have decided to publish this year’s information for all readers.

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Here are short biographies, background information, and links to relevant cases for Cook County judges up for retention during the current cycle who handle criminal matters for CWBChicago’s coverage area.

Judge Susana Ortiz

First elected in 2016, Ortiz should be a familiar name to CWBChicago readers. As one of seven judges who handle initial bail hearings in Chicago, Ortiz decides what conditions should be imposed to ensure that a person accused of a crime returns for future hearings and does not endanger the community.

Her decisions have appeared in more than 200 CWBChicago stories since she was assigned to bond court duties in April 2019.

Ortiz is even-keeled and operates efficient court calls. There is no way to compare her bail-setting decisions with other judges objectively. However, as observers of more than 1,000 hours of bail hearings per year, we can subjectively say that her decisions tend to be somewhat more restrictive than her peers.

She is rated positively by all major Illinois bar groups.

Charles Patrick Burns

Burns, a judge since 1998, is a former Cook County prosecutor who serves as a criminal court trial judge. He oversees the court system’s Rehabilitative Alternative Program for people accused of drug violations. When defendants complete the program successfully, Burns gives them his phone number.

According to Injustice Watch, appellate courts have reversed Burns’ decisions 40 times since 2016, which is “significantly more than other judges in the criminal division.”

Among the sentences Burns has handed down, according to CWBChicago reporting, are probation for a Chicago cop who allegedly shot a man while off-duty; 37 years for a man who stabbed an employee to death inside a River North bank; and probation for a teacher who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing her 14-year-old student.

Burns also released alleged rapist Klevontaye White on electronic monitoring with a $10,000 bail deposit in 2020. White subsequently escaped from house arrest. When Chicago police and federal marshals located him in July 2021, White allegedly pulled out a gun. The law enforcement officers shot him to death.

Burns is rated positively by all major Illinois bar groups.

Aleksandra Gillespie

Gillespie was appointed to the bench in 2014 and was elected by the voters two years later. She is a former prosecutor who handles cases at the Skokie courthouse, including felony criminal matters.

Last December, she sentenced a 16-time convicted felon to probation for stealing purses from an elderly cancer patient and a nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. A man who pleaded guilty to robbing a 14-year-old at gunpoint received seven years from Gillespie in November 2020. She gave a man two years for allegedly stabbing another man in River North.

She is rated positively by all major Illinois bar groups.

William H. Hooks

Hooks has been a judge since 2008 and currently handles felony criminal cases. He has called out Chicago police officers whom he believed lied in his courtroom.

Hooks threw out the conviction of Jackie Wilson, who spent decades in prison for the 1982 murder of a Chicago police officer. Wilson alleged that his confession to the murder was coerced by disgraced CPD Cmdr. Jon Burge.

Four years ago, Chief Judge Timothy Evans ordered Hooks to undergo anger management treatment after Hooks “created a hostile work environment for another judge.”

Among the CWBChicago stories that involve Hooks’ sentencing decisions: Three years given to a man who set an occupied home on fire and live-streamed a confession as firefighters fought the blaze; six years for a career criminal who stole an ambulance near the Mag Mile; two years of “second chance” probation for a Chicago alderman who filed a false police report claiming that his car had been stolen; and 18 months for a man who pleaded guilty to a pair of hate crimes.

Hooks is rated positively by all major Illinois bar groups except the Illinois State Bar Association.

John Lyke

Lyke, a former prosecutor and former defense attorney, was first elected to the bench in 2016. He was recently assigned to a felony criminal courtroom after serving as a bond court judge in the Chicago criminal courthouse.

His court decisions have appeared in more than 200 CWBChicago stories, mostly from his years in bond court. There, Lyke was an outspoken judge who occasionally offered life advice to defendants from the bench.

Lyke, who is Black, lectured another Black man who appeared before him about the importance of complying with police commands during a traffic stop. If the cops do something wrong, take it up in court later, Lyke advised.

“You’re never gonna win on the street,” the judge said.

During another bail hearing, Lyke concluded that the man appearing before him was “on the fence” between falling into a life of crime and being a family man.

“I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth at all,” Lyke told the man. “I was born in one of the roughest parts of this country, the Robert Taylor housing project. And I had to make a decision. Was I gonna run with the gang bangers, or I was gonna do what my mama told me to do and go to school?”

“I really didn’t have a choice ‘cuz she would’ve beat my butt if I chose otherwise. I was more afraid of her than I were of them.”

Subjectively, we believe Lyke handed down the most restrictive bail conditions of the city’s bond court judges during his time in the pre-trial branch.

Among the sentences Lyke has handed down since moving to criminal court are ten years for a man who sexually assaulted a woman in Uptown and prison terms of five- and three years for two men who badly beat a college student at the Roosevelt Red Line station.

He is rated positively by all major Illinois bar groups.

About CWBChicago 6555 Articles
CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com