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Cook County Judge Has Taken Over 200 Sick Days

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 19, 2012 7:00PM

Judge Vanessa A. Hopkins (Image via Hopkins' Cook County Judge profile.)
The Sun-Times has a story in today's paper about a Cook County Circuit Court judge who, according to sources, has missed 206 days of work in the last year.

Judge Vanessa A. Hopkins told the Sun-Times she's been dealing with a myriad of ailments, particularly a rotator cuff injury, but wouldn't go into further detail. Hopkins may have also been hopped up on pain medication when she spoke; she used that as an excuse twice when asked if she could remember the last time she went to work. Sources told the Sun-Times the last time Hopkins sat on the bench was last April, a claim she disputed.

The report comes after Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans received a letter from Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke that inquired as to the extended absences of 20 of the 411 judges in the Circuit Court system. Judges may miss up to 30 days due to illness. Any days over that must require "medical verification," in a reply Evans wrote to Burke.

Hopkins was the subject of scrutiny when she first was elected to the bench in 1996, when she was only two years removed from law school. In 2008, the Chicago Bar Association and Chicago Council of Lawyers recommended Hopkins not be retained. The Chicago Bar Association said Hopkins' "lack of legal experience and legal knowledge is a concern. Judge Hopkins is extremely slow and prone to giving very long continuances for a call that should move more quickly. There is a general report by lawyers who appear before her that she has a temperament problem and takes challenges or questions personally. Judge Hopkins also has problems with being on time and seems unable to figure out what she needs to do to efficiently and effectively manage her court call."

The CBA further said of Hopkins:

"In her 2008 investigation, while some lawyers say she has improved, there are continuing negative reports about her courtroom management. Lawyers complain that she too often loses control over her courtroom, has an imperfect temperament, and is sometimes not punctual."