Clerk Fired For Posing As Cook County Judge Tells Her Side Of The Story

(CBS) — She calls it job “shadowing.”

For the first time, we hear from the fired law clerk/staff attorney accused of impersonating a judge in Markham and hearing cases.

CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports.

“At the urging of a respected judge, I put on her robe and I sat in her chair,” Rhonda Crawford told reporters Thursday.

Crawford says she deeply regrets what happened.

“I allowed my respect for the judge and my enthusiasm to learn the procedures of being a judge to become a distraction to others and my own lifelong ambition of being on the bench,” she said.

The fired law clerk and staff attorney says the judge never left her side.

“I did not sign my name on any judicial orders. I did not tell anyone that I was the judge,” she said.

CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller casts doubt on the appropriateness of having Crawford sit on the bench, even under the circumstances she described.

“It’s only accepted when she’s won the election, raised her hand, got sworn in, and then she can shadow a sitting judge, for educational purposes, to learn the ropes,” he says.

Crawford, who worked in the office of Chief Judge Evans, is a current candidate for judge in the first judicial sub-circuit.

“I intend to run for the office.  I do not intend to withdraw my name from the ballot,” she says.

She beat the incumbent candidate, endorsed by the Democratic Party.

“It’s the machine, attempting to snatch a seat, from the voters on the South Side and the Southeast Side,” attorney Victor Henderson said.

Politically motivated or not, Miller says the state’s attorney’s office and the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission are both looking into Crawford’s actions. The judge that allowed her to sit at the bench is now assigned to minor judicial duties.

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