If you ever needed more proof that drugs are not an insular (low socio-economic communities) issue, look no further then to the person who may have had a hand in judging you.   Wearing cutoff shorts and a T-shirt with the slogan “Bad is my middle name,” St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook pleaded not guilty to federal counts of possessing heroin and having a firearm while being an illegal user of controlled substances. The criminal complaint alleges those offenses took place Thursday [May 23, 2013], and that Cook is an addict.  Earlier Friday, the county coroner said toxicology tests showed that Cook’s colleague, St. Clair County Circuit Judge Joe Christ, overdosed on cocaine while staying with Cook at the Cook family’s 2,500-square-foot cabin near the Mississippi River in western Illinois.  To recap, two St. Clair Circuit Judges have been implicated in drug use while being members of the Illinois Judiciary.

Following these charges, Michael Cook resigned from his position as St. Clair County Circuit Judge and is currently “away in treatment.”  Adding to the corruption, “Probation Officer James K. Fogarty, 45, is accused of distribution and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He told authorities that he sold an “eight ball of cocaine” to two judges, identified as Cook and former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Joe Christ.”  Both the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration are involved in this investigation and have searched Cook’s home, court office, cabin, and the home of Sean D. McGilvery, where Cook was arrested. McGilvery, a former client of Cook’s, was charged late Thursday in federal court with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute heroin. In 2011, Cook sat as judge in a case of cocaine possession against McGilvery and Cook ordered that the case be dismissed after the man attended drug treatment.  Judge Cook had about 225 current cases and they’ve all been transferred to another judge. According to Baricevic (Cook’s boss), since 2010 he’s handled more than 500 criminal cases ranging from shoplifting to murder. Now, those found guilty can come back and demand new trials.

Why this is Important

This is not an Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney attempting to forsake the system in which he lives and works.  This is an Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney attempting to shed light on the potential problems that come with our criminal justice system.  No human being is perfect and human beings run our justice system.   What makes this situation so important, is the people who have been adjudicated by Michael Cook and Joe Christ.  Their drug use raises issues of competency and fairness.  As stated above, Cook has handled more than 500 criminal cases since 2010.  As Baracevic points out, “I don’t believe at this point the question is was the judge an addict. The question is, did his addiction affect the outcome of the case in any particular fashion.”

If you have ever been convicted of a crime and that conviction was in the courtroom of either Judge Cook or Christ, you may have grounds for overturning your conviction.  It is important to immediately consult a qualified Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney.