Bethany Krajelis Mar. 13, 2014, 12:23pm

Chief Circuit Judge S. Gene Schwarm of the Fourth Judicial Circuit will become a Fifth District Appellate Court justice next month.

The Illinois Supreme Court announced today that it has appointed Schwarm to fill the vacancy created by Justice James Wexstten’s January retirement. Schwarm’s appointment takes effect April 1 and will expire Dec. 5, 2016, when the position will be filled by the victor of the 2016 General Election.

“I am honored to be selected to fill the vacancy in the Fifth District Appellate Court," Schwarm said in a news release from the high court. "My humble thanks go to Justice Lloyd Karmeier and the Supreme Court for giving me this opportunity.”

Schwarm said he is “especially pleased” to succeed Wexstten, who he referred to as “an outstanding jurist and colleague."

The soon-to-be appellate court justice has spent the past 20 years as a resident circuit judge for Fayette County in the Fourth Judicial Circuit, which also includes Christian, Clay, Clinton, Effingham, Jasper, Marion, Montgomery and Shelby counties.

The circuit judges in these counties elected Schwarm seven times to serve as the circuit’s chief judge, a position he’s held since 2001, according to the court’s release.

Schwarm was chosen for the appellate court appointment through an application process that was reviewed by an eight-member committee appointed by Karmeier, who represents the Fifth District on the Supreme Court.

The committee screened applicants and passed along its recommended candidates to Karmeier, who then recommended Schwarm to his colleagues on the high court.

Pinckneyville attorney Don Bigham served as chairman of Karmeier’s screening committee, which included area attorneys Beth Bauer of HeplerBroom in Edwardsville and Dawn Sallerson of Hinshaw & Culbertson in Belleville.

The other committee members were Craig Hedin in Mt. Vernon, Clinton County State’s Attorney John Hudspeth, John Sanders in Marion, M. Don Sheafor in Vandalia and Bill Sherwood in Carbondale.

Schwarm, 58, is a graduate of University of Illinois and received his law degree from Washington University School of Law in 1981. Prior to joining the judiciary, he worked as a name partner of LeFevre, Zeman, Oldfield and Schwarm Law Group in Vandalia.

As a judge, Schwarm has served on several committees and commissions, including as chairman of the Supreme Court Legislative Committee and the Supreme Court Judicial Mentor Committee, as well as co-chairman of the Illinois Family Violence Coordinating Council, among others.

He has also served as chairman of the Conference of Chief Circuit Judges since 2006. This group is made up of the state’s 24 chief circuit judges and Schwarm, according to the Supreme Court’s release, has been elected chairman five times by these judges.

In 2010, the release states, Schwarm received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Illinois Judges Association and the “Benjamin K. Miller Recognition Award” from the Illinois Family Violence Coordinating Council.

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