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Chicago Lawyer Gets Handcuffed to Chair After Argument With Judge

By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. | Reviewed by Laura Temme, Esq. | Last updated on

There are tough, no-nonsense judges. And then there are judges that dislike your arguments so much they order you removed from the courtroom and handcuff you to a chair. The latter type includes Cook County Circuit Court Judge Kathy Flanagan.

On May 7, Judge Flanagan and attorney Brad Schneiderman got into an argument at a motion hearing. Schneiderman ended up briefly handcuffed to a chair, and Judge Flanagan now faces misconduct allegations and a state investigation.


Motion Hearing Goes Wrong

The incident took place on May 7. The Chicago Sun-Times obtained a transcript of the hearing and the sheriff's office report. According to the Sun-Times, Schneiderman was making an argument for his client when Judge Flanagan ordered him to "stop talking" and instructed the attorneys to "step back."

Schneiderman initially complied and was walking toward the courtroom gallery, but muttering under his breath. He then turned back toward the bench, which caused Flanagan to yell out, "That's it, take him!"

A courtroom deputy then handcuffed Schneiderman to a chair in a back hallway for security reasons. He was not officially taken into custody, though.

Wasn't There Something About a Motion?

Once things cooled off, Judge Flanagan spoke to Schneiderman for several minutes.When Schneiderman returned to the courtroom, he complained that Judge Flanagan had not allowed him to present arguments on the motion before granting it. This is unusual. He also expressed frustration that Judge Flanagan accused him of sexism and removed him from the courtroom without a proper hearing. At no point did Judge Flanagan have Schneiderman placed under arrest, however, and she allowed him to leave the courtroom once they spoke.

Too Far?

It is unusual to detain an attorney like this without first finding them in contempt, prompting some speculation that Judge Flanagan may have unlawfully detained Schneiderman. For her part, Flanagan defended her actions, stating that they were in line with her training to de-escalate heated situations and that she never intended for Schneiderman to be taken into custody.

Judge Flanagan has been a judge since 1988 and has served as a supervising judge of the Law Division since 2011. According to the Sun-Times, she is recognized for her legal knowledge and diligence but has faced criticism for her temperament on the bench. A 2012 evaluation by the Chicago Council of Lawyers rated her as "not qualified" and accused her of being hostile, imperious, and discourteous. Despite these criticisms, other law groups have rated her as qualified, and she is currently up for retention.

Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans referred misconduct allegations against Judge Flanagan to the state Judicial Inquiry Board. In addition, the executive committee of judges referred Schneiderman’s conduct to the state’s Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, though no official complaint has been filed yet.

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