Judge reprimanded for special hearing for political ally
November 19, 2010 1:35 PM
A McHenry County judge was reprimanded today for holding a special court hearing for the brother of a political ally and friend.
The Illinois Courts Commission reprimanded Judge Michael Chmiel for "the appearance of impropriety."
The commission found that Chmiel held a special bond hearing on Saturday, June 16, 2007, for David Miller, the brother of the judge's friend, Robert Miller.
Robert Miller is the Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner and a Republican Party committeeman.
A reprimand is the mildest punishment the commission can give. More severe punishments are censure, suspension, or removal from the bench.
David Miller was accused of dumping an overweight load of materials after a Cary police officer directed him to a weigh station, which led to a felony charge of obstructing justice.
Chmiel set a $10,000 bond, which enabled David Miller to get out of jail for Father's Day the next day, though he had missed the regular Saturday morning bond hearing. Such arrestees normally have to wait in jail two nights until a bond hearing Monday.
Phone records show the judge had calls that morning with Robert Miller and with Robert Miller's daughter, Rebecca Lee, a former McHenry County prosecutor, who represented David Miller and also made calls to find a prosecutor willing to handle the bond hearing.
David Miller was later found not guilty by another judge.
The law firm where Chmiel worked before becoming a judge had represented the Algonquin Township Road District, and the judge had supported Robert Miller's election campaign.
The commission finding stated that Chmiel conceded that his conduct, in retrospect, created the appearance of impropriety, and he was "sorry for all the turmoil he had created."
The commission concluded that the Judicial Inquiry Board, which brought the accusation against Chmiel, did not prove there was actual impropriety.
The Judicial Inquiry Board also accused Chmiel of improper communication about the case with Miller, and making false statements to the board, but the commission concluded no such violations occurred.
Judges are prohibited from letting their personal relationships influence them, but the commission stated there is no rule against holding a special bond hearing for the brother of a friend.