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Saggy Pants Earn Jail Time From One Cook County Judge

Medill Watchdog finds potential abuse of power in Chicago courtrooms

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Judges are taught to use the power of direct criminal contempt – which sends people to jail without a hearing -- as a last resort.  

But one Cook County Circuit Court Judge has invoked the extraordinary privilege 30 times since 2011 – accounting for nearly 40 percent of the cases -- for offenses such as wearing sagging pants in the courtroom, according to an investigation by Medill Watchdog reporters at Northwestern University in conjunction with WGN-TV.

Watchdog interns spent six months tracking down court documents and interviewing sources in cases of direct criminal contempt in Cook County criminal courts. Between 2011 and August of 2014, they found 74 cases in which Cook County judges ordered people in their criminal courtrooms to jail for something they said or did.

Cook Country Circuit Judge Gloria Chevere had 30 cases, more than any other judge. Judge Ann O’Donnell had the second highest number of contempt cases in that period—at six, according to the report.

The story, which aired on WGN-TV, can be found on the Medill Watchdog website.  

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