Judge denies Chicago police union's effort to recuse her from vaccine mandate case

Chicago’s police union went to court on Wednesday asking a Cook County judge to recuse herself from a case over the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police said Judge Cecilia Horan had a previous work connection with Mayor Lori Lightfoot, giving the city an unfair advantage in the dispute.

The law firm where Horan was a partner before she became a judge had been involved with a task force that helped create a consent decree — widely criticized by the union — aimed at overhauling the police force a few years ago.


Horan said in court Wednesday no such connection with Lightfoot exists and she would not be recusing herself.

"I did not know about the task force report at all when I was a partner at the firm," Horan said during Wednesday’s hearing.

Horan is the same judge that barred FOP President John Catanzara from speaking to his members via social media last week.

Wednesday's ruling comes amid a battle between the mayor and Catanzara over the vaccine mandate for city employees.

Catanzara says the mandate violates collective bargaining rights while the city says the union president is encouraging his members into a work stoppage.

With Horan’s order set to expire next week, an attorney for the city told the judge that he would ask her to extend it and expand it beyond union officials during a hearing on Monday.

"There have been mass email communications coming from officials other than Mr. Catanzara that we believe, if they do not violate the letter of your honor’s order, violate the spirit," said attorney Michael Warner.

On Wednesday, the union’s first vice president, Michael Mette, posted a warning on the union website to "all you young coppers out there," asking them "What issue is next?" if they give in and provide their vaccination status to the city.

Following a police academy graduation Wednesday afternoon, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said all the new officers have been vaccinated, which was not a condition of their employment and that they made the decision on their own.


"This vaccine mandate is about saving officers' lives. The number one killer of police officers in this country is COVID-19. And lastly I would just say, remember the oath you just took. The words in the oath answers any and all questions about the importance of the vaccine mandate," Brown said.

On Tuesday, Brown said 21 department employees had been placed on "no-pay status" for failing to report their vaccination status. He said the department needed to still talk to hundreds of officers who had thus far not provided the information.

Of those who have reported their status, 82% of them are vaccinated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.