CHICAGO — Cook County Associate Judge Gregory P. Vazquez lost his bid for retention last week week, a rare rebuke from his fellow judges, who voted to retain all 146 other Cook County associate judges who were seeking to remain on the bench.
The vote comes after months of Injustice Watch reporting about Vazquez’s actions inside and outside the courtroom. In December 2021, Injustice Watch found Vazquez was the Cook County judge who most frequently sentenced defendants to wear electronic alcohol monitors as a condition of probation, despite scant scientific evidence that the monitors help address substance abuse. Vazquez sometimes assigned the monitors even in cases in which the underlying charges were unrelated to alcohol, and in at least one case used the threat of jail time to compel a defendant to wear the device, according to the woman and her attorney.
Then last month, Injustice Watch reported on Vazquez’s relationship with the owner of a suburban massage parlor cited repeatedly for illicit sex acts. Vazquez appeared at the parlor on the day of a raid by Brookfield police and Cook County sheriff’s deputies. He also showed up outside the Brookfield Village Hall the day the owner and an employee admitted responsibility and paid fines for the administrative violations against them.
The day after Injustice Watch called Vazquez for comment, he informed the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts of his plans to retire effective July 3.
But the vote denying him retention means his last day on the bench will be the last day of his current term — June 30. The loss means he will not be eligible for a cost-of-living increase to his salary, which would have gone into effect July 1 and raised his annual pension benefit by about $7,700 to $144,358, according to the Judges’ Retirement System of Illinois.
In a brief phone call, Vazquez said he wasn’t aware the vote would affect his pension but declined to comment further before hanging up.
Associate judges make up about one-third of the Cook County judiciary and are selected to four-year terms by the publicly elected circuit judges. Every four years, circuit judges vote on whether to retain each associate judge for an additional term. Associate judges need 60% yes votes to be retained. It’s rare for an associate judge to lose a retention vote; this year, all but four associate judges statewide were retained.
In 2019, one Cook County associate judge, Judge Richard Schwind, was not retained after he made racially insensitive comments to a Black defendant charged with assaulting a white man who used a racial slur. All other associate judges were retained that year, including a judge who faced misdemeanor gun charges for allegedly bringing a gun into the courthouse (he was later acquitted) and another judge who was criticized for his courtroom demeanor and had dozens of decisions reversed by higher courts.
Senior reporter Maya Dukmasova contributed reporting.