Judges on the Take: How the FBI took on Chicago’s Crooked Courts

FBI Special Agent Ken Misner was in Chicago on a critical mission: to get arrested for drunk driving. Yet each time the police pulled him over, he escaped with a warning – no matter how erratically he had driven, and no matter how well he had faked his drunkenness. It was 1980, and the Chicago police simply didn’t arrest middle-aged white guys for traffic offenses. When his act failed yet again, he finally decided it was time to resort to desperate measures. He jumped from his car, leaped onto the hood of the police cruiser, and started screaming obscenities. The officer promptly yanked him down and began writing a summons. At last, thought Misner, mission accomplished. But as he read what the cop had written, he saw he had caught another “break.” The charge was disorderly conduct, a minor offense that wouldn’t get him anywhere near traffic court. Misner never succeeded in becoming a traffic court defendant, but fellow FBI agent Woody Enderson did, realizing an important milestone in the federal undercover investigation into corruption in Chicago’s court system known as “Operation Greylord.”

Click here to read the rest of this article from Foreign Policy magazine.  It appears in the series, “Curbing Corruption: Ideas that Work,” DemLab Case Studies exploring successful approaches to fighting corruption.  Democracy Lab is Foreign Policy’s home for coverage of transitions to democracy, published in partnership with the Legatum Institute.

1 thought on “Judges on the Take: How the FBI took on Chicago’s Crooked Courts

  1. I’m always glad to see posts on domestic corruption challenges at the local level within the United States. Given recent increasing attention to municipal financing through “poverty violations” — see the recent Washington Post article below — it would be very interesting to consider whether, if at all, corruption plays a role in communities where aggressive sentencing is particularly common.


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