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United States v. Reynolds

decided: June 9, 1987.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, No. 85 CR 812, William T. Hart, Judge.

Author: Wood

Before WOOD, JR., and RIPPLE, Circuit Judges, and ESCHBACH, Senior Circuit Judge.

WOOD, JR., Circuit Judge. This is a "Greylord"*fn1 case, and the use, or nonuse, of that designation has caused the defendant to raise related issues concerning pretrial publicity, jury voir dire, and the resulting impact on the presentation of defendant's defense.*fn2 On December 19, 1985, the defendant John Reynolds, former judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, was charged in a thirty-six count indictment with racketeering (18 U.S.C. § 1962(c)), racketeering conspiracy (18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)), mail fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1341), and making false statements on his federal income tax returns (26 U.S.C. § 7206(1)). On May 7, 1986, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts.*fn3


Because the defendant does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence or make other customary allegations of trial error, we discuss the facts briefly.

The defendant began the practice of law in 1958. Seven years later he became a magistrate for the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. In 1976 he was elected a circuit court judge and thereafter served in various locations on various assignments until he resigned in 1984. From 1978 to 1981 the defendant presided over felony preliminary hearings in what is known as Branch 42 in the First Municipal District of the Circuit Court of Cook County. THe defendant as judge considered issues of probable cause and suppression of evidence and accepted guilty pleas, but he held no trial.

Customarily, when bond was set for a defendant in the former judge's court a defendant needed to post only ten percent of the total amount in cash. That amount remained with the court until the case was concluded. A defendant then might be entitled to a refund of all or part of his cash deposit. A defendant, however, could choose to assign the bond refund to his attorney to apply to his legal fees. If a defendant made that choice, the judge could, at the appropriate time, order the refund paid to defendant's attorney. The possible availability of the cash bond refund for attorney's fees attracted attorneys who sought to convince unrepresented defendants to hire them. This practice of "hustling" for clients is contrary to both the rules of professional conduct for attorneys as well as the rules of judicial conduct. Judges who permit hustling violate the Standards of Judicial Conduct.*fn4

The evidence clearly shows that the defendant not only permitted hustling, but encouraged it for his own extra-judicial profit, usually a one-third share. Sometimes the judge earned and collected a greater percentage, if, for instance, the judge accommodated an attorney by finding a lack of probable cause, or by vacating a bond forfeiture. Such special extra-judicial service could earn the judge as much as $1,000. Courtroom clerks assisted by steering unrepresented defendants to the lawyers who cooperated with the clerks by paying for this special service. In an effort to curtail hustling, the Chicago Bar Association ("CBA") assigned attorneys to various courtrooms to be available to represent defendants who did not qualify for a public defender. The defendant quickly ridded his courtroom of the CBA lawyers.

The grubby details of the defendant's judicial misconduct are described only to the extent necessary to understand the points the defendant endeavors to make. Attorneys Edward Nydam, Thomas Delbecarro, and Arthur Cirignani were hustlers.*fn5 Money was passed from hustlers to the judge in various ways: via a clerk, or placed by the hustler in the judge's desk, or coat, or handed to him directly. With his share of "hustle" money, as may be expected, the defendant often handled his personal expenses with large amounts of cash. The defendant kept a record of what the hustlers owed him and did not shrink from asking them to pay up. The hustlers, after making agreements with the government, turned against the defendant, as did the court clerks in exchange for promises of immunity.

The defendant called as witnesses three court reporters, three attorneys, and a probation officer who had worked in Branch 42 during the defendant's tenure, all of whom denied knowing that the defendant profited from hustling. The defendant also called a financial analyst in an attempt to show that the hustlers could not have paid the defendant the amounts claims, but the analysis was shown to be incomplete and flawed. The defendant, who testified in his own behalf, denied receiving any payments from hustling activities and endeavored to explain his numerous cash transactions.


The issues on appeal all involve restrictions imposed by the trial court upon the voir dire examination of the jury, and the court's pretrial ruling that the parties were barred from using the term "Greylord." The term "Greylord" was and still is widely used in the media to refer to the federal investigation of corruption in and around the state courts of Cook county. Publicity has been considerable. The problem the parties and the court faced was how to select an impartial and untainted jury, and then to conduct a trial without outside and improper influences.

One might expect all parties to have agreed that the term "Greylord" should be avoided because the press revelations of corruption might prejudice the trial of this particular defendant, a target of the Greylord investigation. That, however, was not the perspective of defendant's trial counsel, who sought on voir dire to explore the impact of Greylord publicity, and to use Greylord's investigative focus on judges as a part of the defense.

Defense counsel explained his position to the trial judge claiming that every prospective juror would have heard about Greylord, although possibly not about this particular defendant. The problem, as defense counsel saw it, was how to determine whether the prospective jurors had been so tainted by the Greylord publicity as to hold fixed opinions. When the trial judge first suggested that it might not be necessary to use the term "Greylord," defense counsel cautioned that it was inevitable that in the course of the proceedings the broader Greylord investigation would somehow be injected. Defense counsel further explained that the Greylord investigation was itself to be the focus of the defense. Rather than trying to distance his client from the larger Greylord investigation, defense counsel intended to try to turn Greylord to his advantage. he planned to establish how the investigation developed and why the government witnesses would testify as anticipated. Defense counsel explained that the label "Greylord" was derived from an old term for English judges which suggested that the investigation focused on the judges themselves and not on the peripheral people involved: the lawyers and clerks. Therefore, defense counsel's strategy was to attack the credibility of the government's witnesses, Greylord participants themselves, by emphasizing that the witnesses could benefit personally so long as they provided incriminating information on judges. Defense counsel argued that it was ...

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