Candidate Barred From Bench Wins Judge Election in Ill. | NBC 6 South Florida
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Candidate Barred From Bench Wins Judge Election in Ill.

The former nurse was fired from her courthouse job and criminally charged for donning a black robe and presiding over traffic cases that should've been heard by a real judge

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    A law clerk who faces charges of impersonating a judge has been elected as a judge in the Chicago area even though she's been barred from taking the office. 

    Rhonda Crawford had been expected to win Tuesday's election over a write-in opponent, as she was the only name listed on the ballot for a Cook County judicial subcircuit. The 45-year-old can't be sworn in to the $180,000-a-year job unless she's cleared of wrongdoing.

    The former nurse was fired from her courthouse job and criminally charged for donning a black robe and presiding over traffic cases that should've been heard by a real judge. The Illinois Supreme Court temporarily suspended her law license.

    Crawford has said she'd been shadowing judges, observing how they work, when Judge Valarie Turner "encouraged" her to put on the robe and preside.

    "I did not pronounce any judgments. ... I did not tell anyone that I was the judge," she said at her lawyer's office on Sept. 22. "I want to emphasize that the judge was always standing over me. She never left the bench."

    She added at the time that she had "allowed my respect for the judge and my enthusiasm to learn the procedures of being a judge to become a distraction to others and to my own life-long ambition of being on the bench. It is a lesson I will never forget."

    Crawford pleaded not guilty to both charges she faces, the Chicago Tribune reported, and the Supreme Court could appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the next election if she is declared permanently ineligible to serve.