Handcuffing of lawyer prompts Cook County chief judge to seek inquiry

The Cook County chief judge’s office has referred allegations made against a Cook County judge to a state board for investigation after a deputy handcuffed a lawyer to a chair at the Daley Center following a confrontation in a courtroom last month, according to an order from the office.

The imbroglio happened May 7 at the Loop courthouse during a hearing in front of Judge Kathy Flanagan, acting presiding judge of the Law Division. During the proceeding, Flanagan ordered deputies to remove attorney Brad Schneiderman from the courtroom after asking him to “stop talking” and “step back,” according to a report from the Cook County sheriff’s office.

Schneiderman walked toward the gallery, then began “turning back toward the bench” and addressed the judge again, the report said. Flanagan said “That’s it, take him!” according to the report.

A deputy took Schneiderman to a hallway and handcuffed him to a chair, the report said. He was released after Flanagan took a break from the bench and declined to sign an order that would remand him into custody, according to the report.

Reached by phone, Schneiderman declined to comment.

In a statement, Flanagan said: “At this time, I will say only that I am shocked at how the facts have been distorted into a now-public narrative that has veered so far from what actually occurred. I have cooperated fully with the Executive Committee and will cooperate fully with the Judicial Inquiry Board on this matter.”

The event spawned two hearings before an executive committee headed by Chief Judge Timothy Evans with Schneiderman, Flanagan, witnesses and attorneys detailing differing views of what happened, according to transcripts obtained by the Tribune. No official transcript of the May 7 hearing in its entirety exists because Cook County court reporters for years have not covered the Law Division, which handles civil cases.

The executive committee referred the matter to the Judicial Inquiry Board, which investigates complaints about judges, but declined to reassign Flanagan, deferring “a decision on assignment to other duties until further information is received from the Judicial Inquiry Board,” the office said in a statement.

During a May 14 executive committee hearing, Schneiderman told Evans he tried to be heard after he said Flanagan ruled on a motion without allowing him to respond, a statement which Flanagan disputed later in the proceedings.

“I should say that prior to me being taken back in the hallway, at no time was I trying to be disrespectful to the court,” Schneiderman said according to the transcript. “I was merely trying to advocate on behalf of my client on a contested motion.”

For her part, Flanagan told the committee at a later hearing that Schneiderman “became disruptive over a ruling on a motion” but that she did not order Schneiderman to be handcuffed, but merely wanted him removed from the courtroom because he needed a “time out.”

“That’s all he needed. That’s all I intended. I never imagined that he would be handcuffed to a chair behind the courtroom, and I wasn’t present when he did it — when he was handcuffed,” she said.

Schneiderman disputed that he was disruptive or disrespectful, with his attorney submitting affidavits from observers, according to references to the affidavits in the transcript. Flanagan’s attorneys brought to the hearing multiple courtroom observers as witnesses who told Evans they viewed Schneiderman’s conduct as disruptive.

The deputy who handcuffed him told the committee during a second June 3 hearing that she interpreted Flanagan’s words of “That’s it. Take him,” as meaning take him into custody.

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