Michael Toomin, Retired Cook County Judge Who Survived Stealting Battle, Dies At 85

Retired Cook County Judge Michael Toomin, who served as a lay judge for more than 40 years before retiring in December, died Friday. he was 85 years old.

Toomin died of “advanced cancer,” according to Cook County electoral assistant Bill Murphy, who was aide to Toomin when he died in hospice.

“His life was law,” Murphy said. “If a judge is inducted into the Hall of Fame, he will be one of the first to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

At the time of his retirement, Toomin was presiding over the juvenile division. During his 42-year tenure as a lay judge, he also served as Chief Justice of the Cook County Criminal Court. Before becoming a judge, he spent a dozen years as a defense attorney.

Murphy said Toomin died from a “rapidly spreading” and “aggressive cancer” that he had developed just months earlier from “just coughing” and was later diagnosed.

“It blew everyone away,” Murphy told The Sun-Times Friday night. “Knowing what a vibrant man he was, I hated seeing him for the last few days. [But] he died peacefully. ”

Toomin presided over many high-profile cases, including those of Chicago gangster Jeff Fort and hitman Harry Ehrman.

In 2012, he appointed special counsel, former U.S. Attorney Dan K. Webb, to investigate a possible police cover-up of an assault by former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew, Richard J. Vanecco. The assault left 21-year-old David Koshman dead. Webb’s investigation resulted in Vaneco being charged with manslaughter, to which he pleaded guilty.

Born April 14, 1938. Toomin was expelled from Nutria High School After he and a few friends stole a police car for fun. However, after earning his GED in the Marine Corps, he attended Northwestern University, where he served from 1956 until 1958. He then went on to DePaul University Law School, graduating in 1967.

He became a judge in 1980 after working as a lawyer for his father, who was once federally appointed High Court Associate Judge of the Pacific Trust Territory.

Outside the courtroom, Mr. Toomin spent Wednesday night at the Tripoli Taps on what he called “Toomin Night,” where former judges, current public defenders and others gathered to drink and talk. Still, according to Murphy, the judge “wasn’t a big drinker.”

Murphy said Toomin would often have dinner with friends on Sunday nights, where he would often talk about the days of being a “tenacious” trial lawyer, but much of Toomin’s weekends were spent preparing memorandums at home.

“He taught me how to be a trial lawyer and how to act before a jury,” Murphy said. “If you were the judge who worked for him, you would feel lucky. He was always available and knew himself well.”

Mr. Toomin enjoys traveling and has shared it with others, taking his friends on trips to Europe. When the daughters of Murphy, the judge’s godfather, went abroad, Murphy bought them rail passes to make their exploration easier.

In 2020, Mr. Toomin survived an intra-party struggle when the Cook County Democrats chose not to endorse him. Party leaders claimed they had legitimate concerns about his views on juvenile justice. There was also criticism after Judge Toomin made it difficult to release a boy during his pretrial detention in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some saw the move as payback for his appointment as a special counsel to investigate the actions of the Cook County Attorney’s Office. For Jussie Smollettan actor who falsely claimed to be the victim of a hate attack.

The special counsel, again Mr. Webb, concluded that the prosecutor botched the case and filed a new indictment against Smollett for making a false police report.

Survivors include two nephews.

Contributor: Tim Novak Michael Toomin, Retired Cook County Judge Who Survived Stealting Battle, Dies At 85

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