What do you do if you're a federal judge who's been removed from hearing criminal matters because you got caught sending emails to former colleagues at the U.S. attorney's office about things you shouldn't be discussing, including a case over which you're presiding? If you're U.S. District Court Judge Colin Bruce, you make campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin in violation of judicial codes of conduct that bar judges from making political contributions. Durbin, whose minions blamed a "clerical error," recently refunded $1,000 to Bruce when Roll Call inquired about the matter as part of a report on judges who've made campaign contributions to members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. In most cases, contributions stopped after judges won lifetime appointments to the federal bench, but not in the case of Bruce, who was recommended for appointment by Durbin in 2013. Roll Call found $825 in contributions to the senator since Bruce became a judge, including a $125 gift made two months after the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals admonished Bruce and suspended him from hearing criminal cases until September of last year as punishment for engaging in ex parte conversations with former colleagues from the prosecutor's office, where Bruce worked before becoming a judge. A drug dealer has had his sentence thrown out on the grounds that Bruce's behavior presented the appearance of bias and a woman convicted of kidnapping in Bruce's court is fighting for a new trial because the judge, in mid-trial, critiqued the performance of prosecutors and laid odds on conviction in an email to a paralegal in the U.S. attorney's office.

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