Legal Ethics

Chicago Judge Jails Lawyer Overnight; Attorney Says Draft Order Set Him Off

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A child support hearing in Chicago last week reportedly ended with an attorney for one of the parties being hauled off to spend the night in the Cook County Jail, after the judge objected to the manner in which she had written up his decision-making in a draft order.

Nancy Murphy, 51, says she is mystified about why Cook County Associate Judge Mark Lopez held her in civil contempt and ordered her to be taken into custody and jailed at the conclusion of the April 22 hearing, according to FOX News and the Chicago Sun-Times.

She was handcuffed, strip-searched and insulted by jail guards before being released the next day, recounts Murphy, who said she is still shaken up by the experience as she told her story to the news media late this week. “I felt like I was in a movie. … I just was in shock,” she tells FOX News.

In an order, Lopez states that “ignoring this court[’s] direct instruction” about what to include in a draft order she wrote for him to sign was the reason for her jailing, reports the Sun-Times.

Lawyers in Cook County customarily fill out handwritten court order forms at the conclusion of hearings and present them to the judge for signature. Murphy says she wrote up an order saying that the case was rescheduled for a July 9 hearing, according to the newspaper.

Neither Lopez nor judges in charge of the court have told their side of the story. Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans says he is barred by legal ethics rules from discussing the incident, and Lopez and the judge in charge of the domestic relations division didn’t respond to requests for comment, the newspaper reports. Meanwhile, an unidentified domestic relations lawyer described Lopez as courteous and “extremely professional.”

Observers note that it is very unusual for a judge to jail a lawyer concerning a drafting issue.

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