IL judge facing possible removal amid backlash over rape conviction reversal

November 12, 2023

A judge in Adams County, Illinois is on the cusp of potential removal from the bench as the state's judicial oversight panel reviews claims that his reversal of a rape conviction ran afoul of established law, as the Associated Press reports.

The Illinois Courts Commission, charged with determining the merits of claims lodged against jurists in the state, is poised to decide whether Judge Robert Adrian's conduct in the case of an 18-year-old rape victim merits reprimand, suspension, or even removal from his post.

Controversial conduct

At issue is Adrian's handling of a three-day bench trial involving defendant Drew Clinton, a Michigan resident who faced charges involving the sexual assault of a teenage girl during a party that was held in May 2021.

Clinton was subsequently found guilty of criminal sexual assault by Adrian, a result that, according to Illinois statute, brought a minimum four-year prison sentence.

However, by the time Clinton's sentencing date came around, Adrian decided to reverse the conviction and declare that the time already served by the defendant – 148 days – represented sufficient punishment and that he would not impose the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment.

“By law, the Cort is supposed to sentence this young man to the Department of Corrections. This Court will not do that. That is not just,” Adrian said at the hearing.

Backlash ensues

Following Adrian's decision, community outrage ensued, with the Quincy Area Network Against Domestic Abuse – among others – calling for the judge's ouster from the bench, as Fox News noted at the time.

“Adrian's dangerous and highly atypical conclusion to a sexual assault case demonstrates to assailants that they are above the law – even after they are convicted in a fair trial,” the group said in a statement.

Soon after, a petition to “censure, suspend, and/or remove” the judge from his position garnered thousands of signatures.

The father of the young assault victim added his disappointment to the public discourse, revealing that his daughter had been struggling in the aftermath of the shocking development. “It's worse now than it was, because not only does she not have her justice, but now she feels like she spoke up for nothing, and you know that hurts.”

Jurist's fate in the balance

The Courts Commission heard arguments in the matter on Wednesday, a stage that few complaints against judges in the state ever even reach.

While claims of judicial misconduct are lodged with frequency, few make it beyond an initial review by the Judicial Inquiry Board and move to a full review by the Courts Commission.

Though the complaint against Adrian alleges that he wrongfully disregarded applicable law in reversing Clinton's conviction, the judge and his attorney contend that the move was based on the evidence and was not done in an attempt to “thwart the law.”

Given the extreme public outcry in the wake of Adrian's decision, it seems clear that the progress of this case will continue to receive significant attention, though, as the AP noted, a final resolution from the Court Commission may still be weeks or even months away.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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