Judge describes his sentencing philosophy, is reassigned to civil court in another county

An Illinois judge who had been hearing misdemeanor cases in Peoria County was reassigned to a civil call in Tazewell County after a Feb. 20 meeting with court personnel and lawyers at which he outlined his sentencing philosophy.

In addition to discussing procedures that he felt would make his Peoria County courtroom run more efficiently, Judge Michael Risinger, a former public defender, prepared a crib sheet for the meeting, the Journal Star reports.

Among the points it made: “Young black males deserve a break if they deserve it. You can tell by their dress and attitude. Get my attention.”

Risinger said those comments were not racist and applied not only to blacks but to any defendant seeking a sentencing break.

However, Chief Judge Michael Brandt said in a press release that “standing alone, without context or explanation, the note was inappropriate and this was pointed out to him by me. Even though a review of the entire circumstances does not lead me to the conclusion that Judge Risinger committed any judicial misconduct, it was recognized that the attorneys who received the judge’s initial communication may be placed in a dilemma vis-à-vis their clients including the scope of client consultation in connection with the decision to exercise an automatic, one-time, right to a substitution of judge.”

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