I know! When you get down to the judge section, you kind of look at it, shrug your shoulders and simply submit the ballot. Before I became a journalist, I did the same thing. Nobody has the time to truly determine who is, or who would be a good judge.
But the truth is, much like any State’s Attorney’s Office, the men and few women in black have a huge impact on the often desperate people who come before them. And a judge has supreme power in their courtroom. He or she can do whatever they want – including slapping your sorry ass in jail for the least perceived slight.
Sure! You can go to another judge, pay thousands of dollars to have that decision overturned and even then, your only recourse to go to the Judicial Inquiry Board. To make matters worse, you can’t sue a judge for abuse of power or for a bad decision and I can’t remember the last time the JIB dismissed a judge. We all know what absolute power does to some people, too.
The only other possibility – and it’s a longshot – is to convince enough voters that a sitting judge should not be retained. We’ll talk about that before we’re done.
But before we get into the kind of malfeasance Judge John Dalton regularly wreaks in the Kane County Courts on a daily basis, please let me to issue the kind of caveats that’ll set the groundwork for my case.
1. I don’t give a rat’s ass that Judge Dalton is gay – but he certainly likes to trumpet the fact and use it as a weapon to excuse his horrific behavior. In fact, when attorney Dalton thought the Elgin Democrats were giving him short shrift over his sexual orientation, he turned to me, we talked at length, and I wrote a Courier-News column in support of his judicial efforts.
And whenever you back someone who disappoints you, there is a moral obligation to restore balance to the force. That’s what I’m doing here.
2. Yes! This is a case of fighting my own battle which I don’t like to do in print. However, having had to sit Dalton’s courtroom five or six times, sometimes for hours, I’m not nearly the only target of his incessant bullying and bad decisions. So while some of the incidents I’ll report involve me, most of them don’t!
Not only that but, I’ve generally been successful in front of the Judge, including two pro se motions. Though his rulings can be beyond bizarre, it’s what you have to endure throughout the process that shouldn’t be endured by any plaintiff, defendant, or attorney.
3. The reason I’ve appeared in front of Dalton so much lately is due to the fallout from my pickup truck being firebombed in my driveway in April of 2016. Though things have gotten much better, the Geneva Police have a well-known habit of not helping folks who disappoint them, so this columnist had to deal with most of it on my own. No to mention that most Geneva parents refuse to parent.
4. This will not help my cause. Judge Dalton is so intent on exacting his pounds of flesh that, should I ever appear in front of him again, I’m convinced he will not recuse himself. Bullies have to be bullies, after all. He will continue to lash out at anyone he believes has even mildly offended him, as he did when I took on his political sponsor, former Elgin State Senator Michael Noland.
Dalton is also bound and determined to repay society for every slight he believes he’s suffered as a result of being a gay man. I understand it isn’t easy being any kind of minority, but it certainly didn’t stop him from becoming a judge.
Even if Dalton does recuse himself, “replacement” judges take a very dim view of anyone who believes their brethren in black can’t be fair under any circumstance. But as I’ve always said, the truth is far more important than Jeff Ward.
So here’s why Judge Dalton has to go:
1. He regularly ignores the law and imposes his own brand of “justice.”
I sat in courtroom 101 with my mouth agape as Judge Dalton failed to enforce his own order. The plaintiff’s attorney was beyond baffled. A defendant had frequently failed on the child support front and, with jail as the appropriate last resort, the Judge said, “We don’t have debtor’s prison in this country.”
The plaintiff’s attorney tried to argue that Dalton had to enforce his own rulings or they’d be meaningless to no avail. And after talking to a number of attorneys, I discovered that wasn’t nearly the only case in which the judge reversed himself.
Then there was the time my son was assaulted in a Geneva High School hallway to the point where the police arrested the perp without any intervention on my part. But when it came time for the Judge to enforce the court’s existing no-contact order, in an utterly bizarre abrogation of the law, Dalton called it “double jeopardy” and let the kid off with a warning.
His theory was the perp had already been fined by the criminal court, so no action civil court action was necessary. I correctly argued that The People have a vested interest in providing criminal consequences, while the court has a vested interested in seeing that their orders aren’t violated. But Dalton simply decided to write his own law.
In the only ruling that went against me, Dalton claimed that taking pictures of vandals’ license plates, with the Geneva Police fully informed of my effort, was “vigilantism.” My attorney was beyond stunned.
But the worst example is what the Judge did to an overly emotional black defendant. His white girlfriend was seeking an order of protection and I’ve never seen anyone so blatantly lie in court. Her description of being hit in the head with a chair was so cartoonish that not even Gloria Allred would’ve bought it.
The woman admitted to having a serious drug and alcohol problem, too.
But when the defendant rebutted the argument but saying the incident happened seven years ago and he actually swept a chair out from under her after she’d given him an STD, Dalton granted the order.
An attorney I know turned to me in the front row and said, “There you go! Start filing motions about stuff that happened seven years ago. Judge Dalton clearly doesn’t care about timing.
Oh! And after he told that defendant that his own testimony sank him – a Dalton favorite – the Judge laughed under his breath as the defendant fled his courtroom. Though I don’t have enough evidence to come to a final conclusion, it certainly seems like Judge Dalton has a problem with other minorities.
In part two, we’ll discuss how the judge ratchets up the legal bills for folks he doesn’t like and he frequently stops attorneys from putting on a defense so he can have afternoons off. But the worst of it is how he berates attorneys, plaintiffs and defendants – sometimes for 10 minutes at a time, because he can. And then he smiles or laughs about it.
It’s time for someone to call him out on his blatant BS. We’ll also cover the three ways Judge Dalton can be removed the bench. Stay tuned!