Legal Ethics

2 judges testify about romantic relationship, say they didn't have to report it to chief judge

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Two married Illinois judges tried to keep their romantic relationship a secret after it began in late 2010 at a conference in Washington, D.C.

But as others sought to bring the matter to light, the McLean County pair created more issues for themselves. Part of the problem was that Judge Rebecca Foley was married to a lawyer, Joe Foley, who had cases—including a trial—in Judge Scott Drazewski’s courtroom, the Pantagraph reports.

After Joe Foley drove to the courthouse one night in February 2011 and saw through a window that his wife and her fellow jurist were kissing, he confronted his wife and demanded that Drazewski recuse himself, according to testimony last week at an Illinois Courts Commission hearing in Chicago. But when Drazewski was questioned by the court’s then-chief judge, Elizabeth Robb, about anonymous letters she had received about the claimed affair, Drazewski initially denied the relationship.

Drazewski did recuse himself from Joe Foley’s cases, after hearing from Judge Foley after her husband confronted her about the affair. But Drazewski didn’t tell Robb why, he testified. He says that he now regrets this. Meanwhile, he had presided over a three-day trial of one of Joe Foley’s cases.

Robb said both judges did good work on the bench.

A Judicial Inquiry Board complaint filed against Drazewski and Foley last year accuses the two of conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and conduct that brought the judicial office into disrepute. It alleges that Judge Foley didn’t tell Robb or her husband about the affair with Drazewski, even though she knew Drazewski was presiding over a trial in which Joe Foley represented a party, and that Drazewski also should have informed Robb and recused himself earlier.

A lawyer representing both Drazewski and Foley in the ethics case earlier denied in a responsive pleading that they had done anything wrong, the Pantagraph reported last year.

“Although the complaint in this case is replete with salacious allegations and innuendo, many of the factual claims are untethered to the alleged rule violations and seem intended more to scandalize than support a legitimate claim of misconduct,” wrote attorney Warren Lupel.

He asked the commission not to allow “puritanical notions on adultery” to cloud the issue of his clients’ legal obligations to the court for which they worked.

Rebecca Foley also testified last week, and she and Drazewski, who are both now divorced from their respective spouses, plan to marry after the ethics case is concluded, Lupel told the News Gazette.

“They testified they both hope to spend their lives together,” Lupel said.

He argued in the hearing that Drazewski was not obligated to recuse himself from Joe Foley’s cases, absent a showing of bias, and said other judges were aware of the affair but saw no legal ethics issue that required them to report it to disciplinary authorities.

The commission has not yet issued an opinion in the case.

Related coverage:

Pantagraph: “2 McLean County judges cited in misconduct complaint”

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