Cynthia Dizikes and Todd Lighty discuss their investigative story on how Cook County judges seal cases, including those involving a fellow judge, rich Chicago families, and a prominent Chicago athlete. (Posted Feb. 24, 2013)

About a year later, Judge LeRoy Martin Jr. sealed the entire file, according to court clerk records. Martin, through his law clerk, declined to answer questions about why he had sealed the still-pending case.

Brewer, who became a judge in 2002 after serving as chief counsel to then-Cook County Board President John Stroger, also requested that a domestic relations case involving her and Blumenthal be sealed. Brewer filed that case in 2009 under their initials.

Blumenthal declined to comment.

Brewer said she requested the cases be sealed for the safety of herself and her children. She said the files contained her home address and her children's names.

"I felt that my safety and that of my children was threatened by a series of incidents that occurred in November 2011, in connection with a case pending before me," she wrote in an email.

Brewer provided a copy of her motion asking that the chancery case be hidden from public view.

"The grounds for this motion are that defendant Brewer is a Cook County Circuit Court judge who has been threatened by an attorney whom she had removed from her court room on Nov. 8, 2011," according to the motion. "The file on this matter contains personal and confidential information, including Judge Brewer's home address and information concerning her family."

Asked why she did not just request that the confidential information be removed, Brewer said, "Sealing the file was advised by my attorney as this is typically how a situation like this would be handled."

Frank Bilecki, spokesman for the Cook County sheriff, said the office was not told of a threat against Brewer and did not investigate. "I am not aware of any direct threats against the judge," he said.

Bilecki said the sheriff knew that a lawyer had been "problematic and disruptive in Judge Brewer's courtroom and possibly others." The office provided additional courtroom staff at Brewer's request, he said.

Judge Lisa Ruble Murphy, who sealed the domestic relations case, could not be reached for comment.

Cases of the famous

Judges also have given the highest level of secrecy to well-known Chicago families and businesses.

In December 2003, Judge Bernetta Bush sealed a case involving William Wrigley Jr. and his sister, Alison Wrigley Rusack, on the day it was filed. At the time, William Wrigley was the head of the multibillion-dollar Wrigley chewing gum company.

The case was disposed of nine months later, and details about what happened remain a secret, as does Bush's order sealing the file.

Bush, who has since retired, said in an interview that the case may have been a dispute involving a trust but that she could not recall the details.

"Someone petitioned to seal the case," she said. "As I always do, I listened to the argument and made a ruling."

Wrigley's lawyer, Stephen Novack, declined to comment. Alison Rusack declined to comment.

That was not the only time a judge sealed a legal matter involving the Wrigleys.

William Hagenah III, a cousin of William Wrigley Jr., said he asked the court in 2010 for permission to resign as a trustee of several Wrigley family trust funds.