2014
07.27

Questions On Greylord Still Remain
May 03, 1987 By Joseph R. Tybor, Legal affairs writer.
Maurice Possley contributed to this report.

When the first round of indictments in the Operation Greylord investigation was announced 3 1/2 years ago, then-U.S. Atty. Dan Webb said that when the investigation was completed it would be viewed “as one of the most comprehensive, intricate and difficult undercover projects ever undertaken by a law-enforcement agency.“

The conviction last week of Judge John H. McCollom and testimony during his trial underline the grim truth in Webb`s prophecy. There has been no investigation into official corruption on the state or federal level that can match its scope or prosecutorial success.

Although the investigation appears far from over–with reports of grand-jury investigations underway into the Domestic Relations Division of Cook County Circuit Court–the success and character of the trials to date have largely muted questions raised by many at the beginning about unprecedented undercover tactics used by government agents.

These methods included penetrating the traditional sanctity of a judge`s chamber with a wiretap and the use of contrived court cases by FBI agents posing as corrupt lawyers, drunken drivers and defendants giving false statements under oath in court.

Imagine that. An undercover investigation of judicial corruption of an unprecedented magnitude… leads to the CONSPIRACY OF INCOMPREHENSIBLE SCOPE AND MAGNITUDE WHERE THE JUDICIARY IS UNDERMINED AND JUSTICE IS DENIED TO MILLIONS OF AMERICANS WHILE AN ENTIRE PROFESSION OF LAWYERS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT IS MANDATED TO SILENCE/CONFIDENTIALITY WHICH PREVENTS EXPOSURE AND RESOLUTION OF THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL INJUSTICE.

THE SURVIVING VICTIMS OF THAT NATIONWIDE STATE AND FEDERAL JUDICIAL CORRUPTION AND INJUSTICE ARE RELEGATED TO (1) BEING HOMELESS/DESTITUTE, (2) INCARCERATED UNDER FALSE PRETENSES OR (3) SUICIDE.

Clearly, the response to Operation Greylord was a level of corruption by an unchecked and self-policing judiciary giving rise to injustice of a scope and magnitude that ANY government would be unwilling and unable to admit.

The United States, the world leader of democracy, has denied the most basic rights of millions of Americans and controlled the media preventing the exposure of the government’s corruption… WHILE DOING NOTHING TO ADDRESS THEIR CORRUPTION.

Even after presentment to the Judiciary and Government Representatives at state and federal levels, the Government continued to perpetrate a fraud of unfathomable proportions… AND CONTINUED TO DENY IT”S CITIZENS OF THEIR MOST BASIC RIGHTS.

Terrence Hake and David Ries were the two FBI agents who posed as corrupt lawyers and carried eavesdropping equipment to record conversations with judges and lawyers in washrooms, hallways, restaurants, chambers and courtrooms.

The investigative tactics were used with a good deal of care, according to those who once were wary of their implementation. Their validity also has been upheld by a federal appeals court against arguments that they represented frauds on the court and were an overextension of federal power.

“The phantom cases had no decent place in court,“ wrote Judge Frank Easterbrook of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in upholding the conviction of former Associate Judge John Murphy, who like McCollom was guilty of bribe-taking in Traffic

Court.

“The government offered Murphy opportunities to sell the powers of his office and disgrace himself,“ Easterbrook said. “He accepted with alacrity.“ Easterbrook pointed out that these tactics were used throughout the investigation. “The FBI and prosecutors behaved honorably in establishing and running Operation Greylord. Operation Greylord harmed only the corrupt.“ Large questions still linger, however. Controversy persists over who and what are to blame and what some regard as the apparent failure of lawyers and judges and their institutions and regulatory agencies to cope with the causes.

Testimony at McCollom`s trial implicated with bribe-taking not only him but 25 other current or former judges and a state representative who works part-time as a court officer.

It seemed to put to rest any doubts that–although there are a high number of honest judges–corruption and its causes are systemic in the nation`s largest single-court system.

Among the witnesses at McCollom`s trial, which he ended with his guilty plea Friday, were 12 lawyers and police officers who said they paid hundreds of bribes in Traffic Court.

“What this trial shows more than any other Greylord trial to date is the depth and breadth of corruption at the Traffic Court,“ said Sheldon Zenner, who prosecuted the case with Lawrence Rosenthal, both assistant U.S. attorneys.

“It wasn`t just one bad lawyer or one bad judge or one bad cop,“

Zenner said. “It was hundreds of cops and scores of lawyers and packs of judges.“

“What this case does is leave no one who can say there were just a few people who were casually engaged in casual wrongdoing,“ said U.S. Atty. Anton Valukas.

“It was not just the number of people involved, but they were paying these bribes on a day-to-day basis over an extended period of time.“

Evidence in the convictions of Judge Raymond Sodini, who also pleaded guilty in midtrial, and 19 other defendants earlier this year for massive bribery in branch and Traffic Courts shows that the “corruption is ingrained, systemic and obviously pervasive,“ Valukas said.

So far, according to Valukas, Operation Greylord has yielded 65 indictments of judges, lawyers, police officers, deputies and court clerks.

Eight judges have been convicted; the case of one is still pending. Of those indicted, there have been 55 convictions, 8 cases are pending and 1 involves a former city attorney who has fled to Greece. There has been one acquittal: Associate Judge John Laurie.

In addition, the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission reports that 30 lawyers and judges have been disbarred or suspended because they were convicted or implicated in Operation Greylord proceedings.

An additional 27 are being prosecuted by the commission, and the Greylord-related activities of about 350 others are being investigated.

Despite these statistics, Thomas P. Sullivan, credited with beginning the Greylord investigation after he became U.S. attorney in 1977 and laying the groundwork to ensure that it was carried out ethically, takes a less than sanguine view of its impact.

“It is naive to believe that all of the corrupt judges have been identified and rooted out,“ he said.

“Most lawyers who practice here will not speak of this for publication, because they fear reprisals by the judges, but the existence of judicial corruption has been discussed among knowledgeable lawyers in Cook County for as long as I can recall.“

Sullivan believes that prosecutions alone cannot end criminal conduct and that their deterrent effect is “transient and minimal.“ Like many, he calls for a change from electing judges.

Indeed, calls for an appointive system based on merit have increased with the progress of the investigation, but there are those who fear such a system may be dominated by members of large law firms and result in an “elitist“ judiciary, cutting out minority groups and women.The investigation also has produced concern in the legal profession over failure to restore public confidence in the system.

Appearing at a Greylord panel last week marking the centennial of the Harvard Law Society of Illinois, Richard Phelan, former president of the Chicago Bar Association, criticized the Illinois Supreme Court for failing to act on a request made nearly three years ago by the association and the Chicago Council of Lawyers to conduct its own investigation and come up with proposals for changes in the Cook County courts.

Others blame the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, although that agency last week filed with the Supreme Court its annual report showing more cases and successful prosecutions of attorneys in 1986 than before.

The report also said that the commission was notified of Operation Greylord by Sullivan`s office in 1977 and later turned over records from its independent investigations into court corruption. The commission believed that federal authorities had greater resources to investigate such matters, the report said.

Since February, 1986, the report said, the U.S. attorney`s office has been giving the commission investigative information after trials are complete that result in “more complete disciplinary prosecutions“ of those implicated in Greylord.

There are many who believe that before corruption is rooted out, lawyers and judges who suspect misconduct must change their long-held views about protecting their colleagues.

“It`s real simple,“ said Robert P. Cummins, chairman of the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board and chairman of the American Bar Association`s Committee on Professional Discipline. “Lawyers and judges have got to have the guts to call misconduct into question because it seems the epidemic of improper conduct we`ve seen in Greylord was aided and abetted by people who believed they had to `play the game` and simply disregarded their professional responsibility.“

IT WOULD SEEM THAT THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE CORRUPTION WAS IGNORED AND SPREAD TO LAW ORGANIZATIONS AND COURT DIVISIONS. AS A RESULT, THE PLAN TO MAKE SURE IT NEVER HAPPENED AGAIN WAS DISGUISED. BY ENACTING THE RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT INTO LAW – A JUDGE WOULD NOT BE PROSECUTED FOR JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT OR INJUSTICE. … AND IT WOULD TAKE DECADES BEFORE THEIR EFFECTIVE UNCONSTITUTIONAL LAW TO CONCEAL CORRUPTION WOULD COME TO LIGHT.

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