Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Who is Arthur Hill Jr., and Should He Step Aside as Judge in Vanecko Trial?

The judge who was assigned to the manslaughter trial of Richard J. Vanecko, former Mayor Rich Daley’s nephew, says he could be “fair and impartial.” But some are urging him to step aside, citing Hill’s ties to Daley and others at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Immediately after Mayor Daley’s nephew, Richard J. Vanecko, was arraigned Monday, there was an outcry against the judge assigned to the case, Circuit Court Associate Judge Arthur Hill Jr.—especially in the pages of the Sun-Times. The paper’s reporters had spent two years investigating the Koschman case until a special prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney Dan K. Webb, was appointed and Vanecko was finally indicted last week on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the 2004 death of David Koschman.

“Step aside,” urged Sun-Times columnists Mark Brown and Carol Marin.

Judge Hill, who was selected randomly (by a computer program called a “Randomizer”) to hear the case against Vanecko, said Monday that he could be “fair and impartial,” and that he intended to try the case unless “the lawyers” ask him to step aside.

My hunch is that after several additional days of pounding, Hill, who hears cases at the Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California, will recognize that nothing good can come of hanging on. Better to acknowledge his obvious conflicts of interest—ties to former Cook County State’s Attorney Daley, as well as to successor state attorneys Dick Devine and Anita Alvarez—and to recuse himself.

The drunken Rush Street confrontation between then-29-year-old Vanecko and 21-year-old Koschman (Vanecko allegedly threw the punch that knocked Koschman to the sidewalk, hitting his head and dying 11 days later) has been soaked in controversy because of allegations of special treatment for this member of the city’s most powerful family. Hill’s selection, random as it was, just exacerbates fears that the fix is in.

And that’s after Hill behaved with integrity and mentioned his history with Daley et al in open court. Should Vanecko be found not guilty, expect a deafening hue and cry.  Should he be found guilty, his lawyers and defenders could argue that Judge Hill needed to prove his independence.

A quick Nexis search on the 59-year-old African-American Hyde Park resident and 1978 Northwestern University Law School graduate (his B.S. is from Western Michigan University), turned up remarkably little. Here’s what we know about Hill:

+ He worked as an assistant state’s attorney from 1978 to 1988, chief of the office’s juvenile section in the mid-1980s, under then-State’s Attorney Rich Daley, who promoted Hill.

+ After leaving the office—and while a partner in the Loop law firm of Haggerty, Koening & Hill—Hill was appointed by Daley, just after he became mayor in 1989, to the CTA board. As Mark Brown wrote, “That’s a pretty plum post for a lawyer going out into private practice. Not only does it pay a small salary plus benefits, it opens up a lot of opportunities for attracting clients.”

+ During those private practice years, Hill also had an appointment to the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission and was elected its president in 1994.  According to a Sun-Times story from late 1994, Hill and others recommended “encouraging more affordable housing throughout the region as jobs increasingly spread to the suburbs….” The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that “At the same time [as he was a political appointee to NIPC], Hill was a partner in a private firm that worked on municipal bond issues for the city.”

+ Leaving private practice, Hill returned to the State’s Attorney’s office in 1996 under Daley friend and confidante Dick Devine. Hill worked on Devine’s campaign for State’s Attorney, chaired Devine’s transition, and climbed his way up, by 2001, to First Assistant State’s Attorney. Devine headed that office at the time of Koschman’s 2004 death, when he investigated but ultimately brought no charges against Vanecko, citing a lack of evidence.

It’s important to note that Hill had left the State’s Attorney’s office the year before, in 2003, when he was appointed to his judgeship via a complex selection process presided over by Chief Judge Timothy Evans.

Alvarez, who has spent virtually her entire career in the state’s attorney’s office—so she was a colleague of Hill’s—was a top assistant to Devine (Chief Deputy State’s Attorney) before succeeding Devine as State’s Attorney. She also declined to press charges, citing a lack of evidence, and did not appoint a special prosecutor.

Dan Webb, now a partner at Winston & Strawn, who brought the charges against Vanecko, could ask for a change in judges. So could Vanecko’s lawyers, although they might see Hill’s presiding over the case as a plus. Either the prosecution or the defense can use its one challenge, without giving a reason, to ask for a new judge.

A grand jury continues to investigate whether favoritism for the well-connected Vanecko played a role in the case—and whether charges should be brought against the Chicago Police Department or the Cook County States Attorney’s office in connection with the decision not to charge anyone in the Koschman’s death.


Photograph: Chicago Tribune


2 years ago
Posted by jerpaul

Silly of course he should step away far away! + He worked as an assistant state’s attorney from 1978 to 1988, chief of the office’s juvenile section under then-State’s Attorney Rich Daley, who promoted Hill.

+ After leaving the office—and while a partner in the Loop law firm of Haggerty, was appointed by Daley, just after he became mayor in 1989, to the C.T.A. board. As Mark Brown wrote, “That’s a pretty plum post for a lawyer going out into private practice. Not only does it pay a small salary plus benefits, it opens up a lot of opportunities for attracting clients.” ???
Let's say he doesn't step aside ? So I hear RETRIAL so let's have to do it all over again! Like the C.T.A. stations rebuild & lasting 2 years we now have to Rebuild. Like our X head of State Blogo maybe we should re-hear his case again! Arthur Hill Jr., Should Step Aside as Judge in the Vanecko Trial?

2 years ago

Given the way Judges are selected in Cook County, it will be the reare judge who has no ties to either Daley or any of the last three state's attorneys. Perhaps a change of venue is needed to guarantee a trial without the appearance of impropriety.

2 years ago
Posted by dianav

Save my son
On July 16, 2009 an African American male was walking down the street on 80th western when he was approached by an officer. He was told by the officer {Kevin McCullough #19551} to get in the car. The officer took him to the scene of an accident as they approached the crime scene there was a victim laying in the ambulance 10 feet away from the victim the officer said this is the subject that shot you the victim said “yes” after the victim said’ yes” the officer then put the suspect under arrest.
On July 16, 2009 Zachary Brown never had a criminal history as a juvenile. He was charged with B and E but it was dismissed, after the incident of July 16, 2009 they bought the charges back up! That was dismissed to make it look like he had a criminal history. Zachary Brown is a caring 16 years old child who would do anything for anybody would help anyone and never look for anything in return always smiling. He did everything from his heart. He loved to play basketball and played basketball thought out his grade school. The Judge and prosecutor trying to make him out to be a monster the he’s not.
Me as a mother going back and forth to court with my son watched the judge and prosecutor violate my son civil right. He was not given a fair trial. Throughout the trial the prosecutors lead all the witnesses. During jury deliration the prosecutor kept going in the room. There was no evidence pertaining that my son did the crime. There was no gun power on his clothes or hand, no finger prints on the weapon, that was put into evidence year later no blood splatter on my son clothing, no DNA period that make him the shooter. The judge did not even order a pre-sentence investigation report. He did not have a hearing in the juvenile court for his case to be charge over to adult you call that fair my entire son civil right has been violated.
Zachary had a jury trial and he was found guilty of first degree attempted murder, 32 count Judge Arthur Hill read off The suspect only fire the gun twice. The victim was shot in the foot and ankle. He was treated and release from the hospital the same day. The prosecutors and Judge Arthur F Hill told the jury that Zachary” thoughts” were to kill him. He was sentence to fifty years. I just wanted the judge and prosecutor to be fair with my son. It makes me wonder how many other young men that are innocent and they have found them guilty with no evidence if the system isn’t going to be fair, who do we have to protect us and where would the trust be. I am just asking for justice to be done right, not only for my son but for all young men. Arthur F Hill do not go by the book he is not fair at all when it come to Africa American young boy. He used his power and he don’t play fair. Vanecko was Selected randomly LOL {Walk Free} if Arthur F Hill is the family friend. Judge Hill room 208 need to be investigated my the FBI. I am not going to stop till my son get a fair trial and Judge Hill room 208 be put under investigated. I have my documents to deliberate my story

Diana Villavicencio 269-718-6218

2 years ago
Posted by help

judge Arthur F Hill is not a fair judge he did not follow the letter of the law in Zachary Brown case. he injected his own depended of the case and his own believe. He was throwing out concreat imformation to the jury that did not surport the evidence. He was misleading the jury. This judge should be dismiss because a lot of innocent people are going to be wrongful convicted who not rich.

2 years ago
Posted by lindab2

My nephew was just convicted of 2 counts of attempted murder and
2 counts of aggravated battery under judge Arthur Hill in August 2012.Before he was found guilty Judge Hill told the jury that if they was to find him guilty they would have to charge him on All counts not just 1. leaving him a total of 52 years for conspiracy.
It was proven by forensics that he did not fire the gun at the two men that was shot in the leg but another boy was there may have done it. So that is probable cause. The judge and prosecutor painted him as a cold blooded thug with the attempt
to kill.
Before the trial he was not up on a conspiracy charge
but we was blindsided by the trial because the prosecutor threw
the charge in there and Arthur Hill did nothing.
After sentencing he tried to convince my family that we did not know my nephew and that he had two sides to him a young man that
is capable of doing the crimes. NO HE IS NOT. He did not get a fair trial and the judge already pictured him as just another
black criminal on the south side of chicago. My nephew has no criminal history , he is not in a gang so how could the judge say that he deserves 52 years. He is now 23 years old serving in the Joliet penn.Life thrown away by Judge Arthur Hill.

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