CHICAGO | A Cook County judge Friday criticized the Thornton Township High School District 205 School Board President Kenneth Williams for what she said was a legal tactic meant to delay the outcome of a lawsuit filed against him by the state’s attorney’s office.
That lawsuit seeks to have Williams, a School Board member since 2009 and School Board president since 2011, removed from the post, contending his felony conviction from 1985 for aiding or inducing a forgery makes him ineligible.
Attorneys for Williams have argued consistently that when he finished serving 22 months in prison on a five-year sentence, his right to run for electoral office was restored.
The attorneys filed a motion asking Judge Rita Novak to dismiss the legal challenge immediately, without having to take the matter to a civil court trial.
Novak said the motion was repetitive of the arguments Williams’ attorneys had made for the past several months.
“This is an 11th hour, overt and rather transparent attempt to obstruct and delay these hearings,” Novak said. She later added, “I do not appreciate the process being followed in this case, not one bit.”
The judge also expressed her displeasure with arguments made Friday by Williams’ attorneys, which she said were repetitive of past legal points that have been discussed in the case.
She also became upset when Williams, who walked into the courtroom after the hearing had begun, tried to stand with his attorneys while they argued the case.
Attorney Matthew Dodge was apologetic to Novak during the hearing, while Williams declined to comment to The Times after the hourlong hearing.
Novak said she will issue a written legal opinion Wednesday morning in response to Friday’s motion. After that, the case may be able to proceed to a trial although nothing has been scheduled.
The state’s attorney’s office contends that a combination of the Illinois school and election codes makes Williams unqualified to hold a school board post because his conviction amounts to an “infamous” crime.
“There is no right to hold office,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Sisavanh Baker. “It is not a civil right. It is not a fundamental right.”
Dodge said what constitutes an “infamous” crime only specifies people convicted of sex offenses, and Williams' conviction in Indiana 28 years ago should not count. Williams has not been arrested since then.
But Baker argued the amount of time since the offense is irrelevant, and the ineligibility does not expire with time.
“Why would time exclude (Williams) from this provision,” Baker said. “It shouldn’t.”