Judge John Baricevic speaks at a “BRAC” news conference announcing Scott AFB would be spared. Behind him is Mark Kern who was elected to succeed Baricevic as County Board Chairman.
Editor’s note: In the coming weeks, The Record will be conducting “QAs” with St. Clair County circuit judges. Judge John Baricevic, who agreed to the first interview, was elected to the circuit last November after having served as county board chairman for 14 years.
Baricevic was St. Clair County State’s Attorney from 1980-90 and served as an assistant from 1978-80. Prior to that, he was a college football coach.
Baricevic graduated from Assumption High School in 1966. He received his bachelor of science degree from St. Benedict’s College in Atchison, Kan. in 1970, and his master’s degree from Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia, Kan. in 1975.
In 1978, he earned a juris doctorate degree from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in 1978.
He is married and has four children.
Q: The Illinois Judges Association is encouraging its members to take measures to restore public confidence in the judiciary. Do you believe the judiciary is under attack? If so, what are the contributing factors?
A: I do believe the Illinois judiciary is under attack from special interests who push judges to rule for them regardless of what the law happens to be.
Judges are elected to enforce the law, not make it. Judges are required to apply the law as passed.
As an example, judges in St. Clair County applied the law as passed in medical malpractice cases and the majority of jurors in those trials voted to support doctors. In spite of the fact that doctors usually won those cases, special interests attacked the judges.
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce can not get their legislative package passed so they continue an effort to blame judges in an attempt to affect the jury pool prior to selection. I believe there is no question that the state chamber has placed their interests ahead of our state’s common good.
Q: What can be done in a community to get voters to pay closer attention to judicial elections?
A: It is the job of the candidate to encourage voters to participate in judicial elections. Judges must be involved in their community and in their church.
Judges need to take their message to the citizens on a regular basis as all good community public servants do.
Q: Are there particular misunderstandings the public has about the role of judges that need to be corrected?
A: The media tends to focus on a small portion of cases decided. The public is given a view of judicial life by Supreme Court rulings and a few notorious cases.
The reality is, 99 percent of cases heard are not reported on by any media and so citizens have little real knowledge of what judges do.
Citizens need to know what cases a judge handles, the number handled and reasons for those rulings. Under the current determination of what’s newsworthy, I suspect that will never occur.
Q: The American Tort Reform Association has labeled St. Clair County as the Number Two “judicial hellhole” in the country. Is that unfair? Please explain.
A: It is grossly unfair to label a county like St. Clair a judicial hellhole. The labeling group is secretive, does not explain why or how they reach the conclusion they do.
They don’t list how and who supports them.
How can a county be a judicial hellhole when only two malpractice cases were successful against doctors in recent years?
Q: Describe the transition from your role as St. Clair County Board Chairman to circuit judge.
A: The transition to judge from county board was not difficult. The Supreme Court does a great job of training. I have received great support from other judges in St. Clair County and enjoy help from well-trained personnel in the Circuit Clerk’s office, as well as employees from the Sheriff’s Department, State’s Attorney, Public Defender and courts.
St. Clair County’s professional employees have made the transition an easy one.
Q: Any PR advice for your successor?
A: Mark Kern needs no advice from me. He has had a successful career as a business owner and a public official.
I am confident the best man was elected for the job and confident that he will continue to follow the goals of the Democratic Party in St. Clair County of low taxes, support for Scott Air Force Base and a balanced budget among other issues.
Q: What types of cases are assigned to you?
A: I am assigned to a felony criminal docket and occasionally assist in probate.