Cook County Democrats spurn endorsement for judge who handled Smollett case

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is suggesting local Democratic Party committeemen made a mistake today when they voted to dump a respected judge on the retention ballot this fall.

“The optics of this are terrible. It looks like retaliation,” Lightfoot said.

The chair of the local Democratic party is Toni Preckwinkle, who first hired Kim Foxx as her Cook County chief of staff, then slated Foxx to become state's attorney. Preckwinkle insists that has nothing to do with why Judge Michael Toomin was denied a party endorsement today, but even some Democratic ward committeemen are skeptical.

Toomin is the judge who appointed a special prosecutor to investigate how Foxx investigated the Jussie Smollett case.

“This is retribution for going after the party's nominee for state's attorney, Kim Foxx. It's a political attack on a judge who was just trying to look out for the public interest,” Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) said.

Party insiders released a three-page long explanation, noting Judge Toomin is "extremely diligent and smart" with a 36-year "notable career,"  but it claimed during his interview, however, Judge Toomin "did not recognize (his) multiple privileges ... as a white male from a privileged community."  

It also complained of his outdated approach in juvenile court, where he's presiding judge.

Among those crying foul is Pat O’Brien a former Cook County judge running against Foxx for state's attorney this fall.

“This is an attempt to silence a person in the judiciary whose job it is to be a fair and impartial umpire. So, if this is Toni Preckwinkle behind this, what I can say is she's trying to control not only the state's attorney's office but the judiciary,” O’Brien said. 

Indeed, sources close to Preckwinkle acknowledged her role, saying she's long been frustrated by Judge Toomin's resistance to some policy changes that Preckwinkle has pushed for in the juvenile justice division.

Adding to the questions about political payback, while Toomin was dropped from the retention endorsement list, another judge who locked up an 8-year-old girl to teach her a lesson did win endorsement.