Cook County Judge Drops Gun In Courthouse
Image via ABC7 Chicago
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Concealed carry means concealed. Unfortunately for one Cook County, Illinois judge, he failed to grasp that concept. While walking out of the Leighton Criminal Court Building, Judge Joseph Claps’ gun fell out of his jacket and skittered onto the floor. Not missing a beat, he picked it up and continued on his way.

There’s just one problem. Illinois law prevents judges from carrying firearms in courthouses. Now Judge Claps faces a $150 fine for carrying a concealed firearm in a prohibited location. Worse, though, the mainstream media have picked up the story. Of course, they treated it as if the judge had committed murder.

From the Chicago Tribune:

A veteran Cook County judge was hit with a misdemeanor gun charge after sheriff’s deputies saw him drop a pistol last week in the lobby of the county’s main criminal courthouse, authorities said.

Judge Joseph Claps, who has presided over felony criminal cases at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, was reassigned last week to “nonjudicial duties” pending a meeting Wednesday of the circuit court’s executive committee, a spokesman for Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ office said.

Claps was walking in the lobby of the courthouse at 26th Street and California Avenue on July 3 when two deputies noticed a handgun fall out of a jacket draped over the judge’s arm, according to a sheriff’s incident report.

Security cameras captured the gun tumbling out of Claps’ jacket as well as the judge picking up the silver pistol and putting it in his pants pocket, the report said.

One more time, for those who have a valid Illinois carry license, the Land of Lincoln provides a mere $150 fine for a first-time conviction for carrying in a prohibited area. Yes, even for local judges. Or Supreme Court judges or law clerks for that matter. What’s more, no matter your station in life, the state doesn’t seize the gun or suspend the license.

Reluctantly, I admit to losing a mag pouch while changing at the gym one day. Similar to the judge, it fell off my belt and skittered across the floor. Only in my case, it ended up under a naked 70-something old man dripping with sweat.  When I asked if he could slide it back over to me I found out he was deaf, too. The moral of the story? Keep your gear secured on your belt. It saves lots of embarrassment.

In a county where prosecutors worry more about providing affordable bail for criminal suspects than protecting the law-abiding, it should surprise no one that the good judge carries a heater. No doubt plenty more do. The smart money says the others will exercise greater care in how they carry their sidearms in the future.

As for Judge Claps, my people in the Cook County system tell me they like him. He’s a decent guy who doesn’t really need to work. He could retire any day he wants. After this episode, he may do just that.


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  1. Smooth move exlax.

    If he picked it up with his FBI trigger-finger, he’d be ok (if he could stick the landing on the back-flip).

    • Got hit with a Class B misdemeanor which is what the CHL/CCW law in Illinois calls for.

      I was honestly surprised. Figured it would be a felony for us “regular” citizens.

    • If he wants to fight it, he would be acquitted (even in Cook County) because they have NO evidence that he violated any law. Because they did not secure the gun, and didn’t even stop him, they CANNOT prove he was carrying a gun. All they can prove is that he dropped something that looked like it might be a gun. It could have been an airsoft or BB gun — or a toy. The video is NOT evidence of what he dropped, only that he dropped something.

      He’s more likely to not fight the misdemeanor charge and just rely on professional courtesy from whatever fellow judge handles the case and from the inevitable judicial conduct review.

  2. Pocket carry in a suit coat draped over arm. If that don’t take the cake , I do not know what does.

  3. OK, that is strange. I was under the impression judges could get approved to carry as an Officer of the Court. I guessing that for some reason he did not bother with doing that.

  4. He broke the law…and only $150?
    Should have to lose carry permit…reapply…after mandatory training…again.
    Oh well…they let guys out on bail for carrying without permits, stolen or felon in possession..,.so what the heck, right?

    • One of the few reasonable excerpts of Illinois’ concealed carry statute is that we don’t become instant felons the moment we fail to see a sign on a door and walk through it while armed. It’s a Class B misdemeanor. You only become an instant felon if you do that on federal property such as a post office.

      Of course the judge should know better. And it irks me that he acts like too many judges, violating the law because he thought he was above it. All courthouses in Illinois have secured entrances with metal detectors. Of course, judges have a key to come in the back door.

    • Yeah, all you said, hard no.

      “All gun laws are infringments.”
      Regardless of his position, his personal views on CC/Citizen ownership/ etc.. he should not have to pay a fine, have his permit revoked, or require training.

      It is an unconstitutional law, in a state that burdens gun owners “because guns”

      Freedom for all.

  5. In California, judges get their own special carry permits, good for three years instead of just two for the rest of us. And yes, they get to carry in the courthouse since the law provides an exception for CCW holders–which is of course ignored as each and every courthouse around here has enacted “local rules” prohibiting carry for all but on duty LEO. The special rule does not apply to judges, most of whom, unless I miss my guess, carry.

  6. Saw this on the local snooz er news. And here I thought laws were only for peasants. Or FBI. Or Chiraq’s cop’s(the baseball bat shooter just skated on an assault charge-on camera-in a bar).Chicago’s Finest©

  7. This “Back Door Judge” is a true “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”!.

    The $150 MisDemeanor fine he faces is likely less than he imposes for giving speeders a measley a 10 over the limit (speeding) traffic ticket.

    Shameful, to say the least!

      • This is the problem with Chicago & Illinois in general. There’s too many who think they still have to “Free the Slaves”.

        Guess what, President Lincoln already did that!

        Move on my friends.

  8. It’s common practice for judges to carry while in their courtrooms.

    But, NOT in Illinois !!!

    I guess this grandpa figures he’s “Above the Law”.

  9. I’m surprised and pleased it’s only a B misdemeanor.
    The old boy needs a proper holster.

  10. Can someone tell me why we’re not charging the deputies that allow him into the building with a firearm anyways I mean what they don’t have to go through security?

  11. The worst he will get is an unplanned earlier retirement and a sweet $175,000 annual pension.

  12. SO WHAT>>>>>>>>>>>I hope he still carries it to work. GOD BLESS HIM. Those loser court officers should have looked the other way. Rats.

    • Illinois is the MOST Liberal state in the US when it comes to suppression of 2A rights. Your post indicates you think this is OK, as long as Libtards like these A**H&*$ Judges are allowed to “Skirt” their own State Laws.

      Get a life Mr Kingston, and get with the program.

      Lead, follow, or, better yet, just “GET OUT OF THE WAY !!!”

      If this FakeTard wanted to carry, he should have gotten with the program to change the Illinois laws, instead of relying on his “Back Door Key” to his personal Courtroom.

    • These judges already Know their own sign language. They’ve taught it to each other.

  13. Judge Joseph Claps, a well-connected jurist who obtained his Associate Judge seat through connections with IL political machine.

    According to October 2015 (!!!) the public comments: “I knew Joe back in the 1980s when he was with the AGs office. He was a shitty attorney, so I was shocked when he was named a judge, but he has machine connections.” and ” Another corrupt, brainless judge in county court!”

    Judge Claps is categorized as “Dirty a$$ judge” and “One of the worst judges at 26th street. Doesn’t know the law. And so arrogant that even if he knew the law he wouldn’t follow it. Be careful with him. His arrogance knows no limits. He’ll screw any police over just to prove he’s in charge of his courtroom”.

    Other commented about Claps as “a judge setting up a Inquisition in his courtroom? Isn’t that against the US Constitution, Supreme court rules, Illinois state judicial rules, and of course guidelines from the chief judges office? Oh Well, being a very liberal judge, you can do anything and get away with it.”

    More comments: “He is an example of how political clout has contaminated the Cook County Judiciary. I wish he would retire and get off the bench. He just loves to put that robe on and tell everyone how great he and dignified he is. Horrible!!!!”

    In 2017 Judge Claps became a party in legal case No. 121025 – People ex rel. Anita Alvarez, etc., petitioner, v. Hon. Joseph Michael Claps, Associate Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, et al., respondents. Motion by petitioner for leave to file a petition for an original writ of mandamus and/or writ of prohibition. Motion denied . The stay of proceedings in the Circuit Court of Cook County in People v. Wilson , case No. 16 CR 1275, is lifted. Order entered by the Court.

    • And…now we know why the deputies and bailiffs didn’t look the other way when the judge dropped his piece.

  14. There is a dizzying number of options for holsters that will keep your gun where it should be and just as many, if not more, that won’t. But to not even try? Carrying a gun loose in a pocket?

    That takes extra special dumbness.

    I mean, maybe he’s a fine judge and all, but on keeping his gun under his control, extra special dumbness.

  15. He should be held to a higher standard being a judge, nail his a$$ to the wall. Then and only then will they start interpratating the 2A as it was written. No special privilages to those that think they are above the law or making the law & no different classifications of man.

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