Cook County judge removed from bench for allegedly locking up child

WGN Investigates
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CHICAGO —A Cook County court judge was removed from the bench after she was seen on video forcing a child in a holding cell behind her courtroom.

Sources told WGN Investigates Jackie Portman-Brown had briefly locked-up the child, who is believed to be a relative, after lecturing her about poor behavior.

The incident occurred on Feb. 19 at the criminal courthouse where Portman-Brown hears adult felony cases.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, WGN Investigates obtained video of the incident which has resulted in the judge being re-assigned to administrative duty.

Security cameras show the child entering Portman-Brown’s courtroom with an unidentified woman.  A short time later, cameras covering the holding cell behind the courtroom appear to show the judge and the woman dragging the child out of her courtroom, through a sheriff’s work area, and into a holding cell.

The sheriff’s office digitally covered the child’s face in the video to protect her identity. WGN Investigates was told the child appeared to be between 6 and 8 years old.

Sources said Portman-Brown originally ordered the courtroom deputies to lock the girl up.  When they initially refused, Portman-Brown, still wearing her judicial robe, did it herself.

The video shows Portman-Brown bringing the girl into the holding cell followed by a deputy sheriff who locked the cell door.  The deputy is seen repeatedly talking to the child while she was locked-up.  The unidentified woman also checked on her.

The child is believed to have been locked-up for less than 10 minutes but was described as being “emotional” during the ordeal.  Shortly after the episode, Portman-Brown is seen on video leaving for the day with the child and the unidentified woman who brought her. They used a back door reserved for court staff.

It was a full week after the incident occurred before the chief judge learned of it and took action.  “Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans [reassigned] judge Jackie Marie Portman-Brown to administrative duty, pending a meeting of the executive committee of the Circuit Court of Cook County on March 4,” said court spokesman Pat Milhizer.

The two deputies, who sources say only reluctantly followed the judge’s orders are also facing scrutiny.

“The Cook County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an internal investigation into the incident to determine whether all policies and procedures were followed by the deputies,” said sheriff’s spokesman Matt Walberg. “Both deputies have been de-deputized and assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of the investigation.”

WGN Investigates attempted to contact Judge Portman-Brown by phone as well at an address associated with her.  We were told she wasn’t home.




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