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Local

Ruling on Judge Chmiel expected Friday

The Illinois Courts Commission will release its ruling tomorrow as to whether McHenry County Judge Michael Chmiel violated judicial ethics when he held a special 2007 bond court for the brother of a political ally.

The commission's decision will be released at 10:30 a.m. Friday. The panel of judges and citizens will determine whether Chmiel, a circuit court judge since January 2005, broke judicial code, and mete out a punishment if he did. Punishments can range from reprimand to censure to suspension to removal from the bench.

Commission members held a two-day hearing in late August into the complaint filed against Chmiel by the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board. The 2008 complaint alleges that Chmiel inappropriately held a special Saturday bond court so that the arrested brother of Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Robert Miller would not have to spend Father's Day weekend in county jail.

The complaint also alleges that Chmiel was not truthful with either his fellow judges or the inquiry board regarding the involvement of Robert Miller, a powerful figure in the county Republican Party, in arranging the bond court.

Cary police arrested David Miller on Saturday, June 16, 2007, for felony obstruction of justice for allegedly dumping a truck load that police suspected was overweight. David Miller's arrest took place after the traditional Saturday morning bond call, meaning he would have spent the weekend in jail along with other inmates had Chmiel not held the special bond court.

The complaint alleges that Chmiel told his fellow judges, and the inquiry board under oath, that it was Robert Miller's daughter, attorney Rebecca Lee, who asked Chmiel to convene the bond court. But phone records presented before the courts commission in August indicate that Chmiel and Robert Miller had talked several times in the hours after the arrest – Chmiel's first call with Lee did not take place until about 30 minutes before the bond court.

Inquiry board attorney John Gallo portrayed Chmiel at the August hearing as a man caught in a lie who continued to tweak his story "to the point of absurdity." Chmiel maintained that he performed his judicial duty and did not grant any political or personal favors. His attorney, Warren Lupel, portrayed Chmiel as a victim of "inflammatory" and "scurrilous" newspaper articles.

Chmiel had provided legal services to Algonquin Township from 1994 until 2004, and attended some of Robert Miller's political events. The two men did political work in 2000 for Illinois Supreme Court Justice Bob Thomas, and Robert Miller chaired his McHenry County campaign.

Thomas in November 2004 appointed Chmiel to replace retiring Judge Ward Arnold. Chmiel took the seat the following January, and voters in 2006 retained him for a full six-year term.


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