Judge Janet Heflin
Madison County Associate Circuit Judge Janet Heflin was appointed by the Illinois Administrative Office of the Court to preside over St. Clair County Circuit Judge Patrick Young’s DUI case.
Last week acting St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic appointed Randy Patchett, a Republican from Williamson County, to prosecute the case against Young.
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Robert Haida had asked the Chief Judge to appoint a prosecutor from the State Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, but Baricevic declined and appointed Patchett. Haida stepped away from the matter because of a potential conflict. He said that Young and Fiss are assigned to major criminal cases being prosecuted by his office.
In 1987, Patchett was charged with a DUI, but was found not guilty in a bench trial. Eight years later he took a guilty plea to a reduced charge of reckless driving after a DUI arrest.
Patchett, a former chairman of the Williamson County Republican Party, was appointed Dec. 18.
“…Mr. Randy Patchett is hereby appointed Special Prosecutor in the matter of the traffic crash on December 3, 2006, at the intersection Frank Scott Parkway and Dutch Hollow Road in Belleville,” Baricevic wrote.
St. Clair County Chief Judge Jan Fiss was Young’s passenger at the time of the accident. The two were returning from a St. Louis Rams game.
According to the police report, Fiss was seen attempting to conceal a can of beer and reportedly poured out a can of Bud Light at the accident scene. He stepped down as chief judge following the incident.
“Mr. Patchett shall have the same power and authority in relation to such cause and proceeding as the State’s Attorney would have had if present and attending to the same,” Baricevic wrote.
The defense filed an objection to the appointment of a prosecutor from the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor’s office.
In his order, Baricevic wrote that the statute governing appointment of special prosecutors indicates that a “competent attorney” be appointed when the state’s attorney is unable.
“The statute does not provide for a procedure by which the state’s attorney recommends a special assistant, nor does the statute allow the defendant to have a voice in the appointment process,” Baricevic wrote.
“The defendant may file a motion suggesting that a special prosecutor has a conflict and should be removed, but that motion does not lie until a prosecutor has been appointed.
“I therefore will not rule on the defense motion for conflict as it is not timely filed, is premature, and thus moot,” he wrote.
Patchett has served as Williamson County State’s Attorney and as judge of the Illinois Court of Claims.
Heflin was appointed to the bench in November 2004, filling the vacancy created when Judge Lola Maddox retired.
She took over the traffic docket in June, after serving in the family division.
Heflin, 40, received her law degree from St. Louis University in 1991. She is married and has two children and one step-child.