St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert LeChien stopped showing up for court dates on Feb. 11, a sample of his cases shows.
Since then other judges have presided over status conferences in those cases, and he hasn’t signed an order of any kind.
Chief Judge John Baricevic said on March 19 that LeChien had taken sick leave a couple weeks earlier. A follow-up made by the Record on March 26 questioning LeChien's status has not yet been answered.
Baricevic said associate judges Richard Aguirre and Heinz Rudolf were available if parties in LeChien’s cases want action.
He wouldn’t comment on the nature of LeChien’s illness.
A survey of 14 cases that Baricevic assigned to LeChien last year reveals only one sign of activity on his part besides an occasional status conference.
That single sign of activity came in a case LeChien fouled up.
On Sept. 11, he granted default judgment to plaintiff Tina Alexander in an injury suit against World Class Gymnastics Center.
“Prove-up of damages to be set a date to be determined by the court,” LeChien wrote.
He granted default judgment against a second defendant, Family Sportsplex, on Oct. 15.
Family Sportsplex moved to vacate judgment on Nov. 6, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction because of improper service of process.
Family Sportsplex attorney James Garrison of Belleville wrote that a deputy sheriff served a summons on a person who had no relationship with his client.
He wrote that Family Sportsplex didn’t believe it was a party to the case.
He wrote that his client believed World Class Gymnastics Center was the true party in interest and that the matter would be resolved through workers’ compensation.
On the same date he moved to substitute LeChien, who granted the motion.
Baricevic assigned Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot, who declared the judgment against Family Sportsplex void on Dec. 9.
Parties substituted LeChien in three other cases, in September, December and January.
He lost two of the 14 cases through removal to federal court.
Eight of the cases remain on his docket, awaiting his return.
In O’Neal v. Fairmount Phillips, he missed a status conference in November. Lopinot replaced him and set another status conference, but the docket shows no further action.
In Mosby v. Stiehl, he held a status conference in January but missed one on March 18. Aguirre replaced him and continued the cause to May 13.
In Miles v. Bi-State, he held a status conference in November but missed one on Feb. 11. Lopinot replaced him and set another conference April 15.
In Phelps v. Land of Lincoln, he held a status conference in December but missed one on March 18. Aguirre replaced him and set a status conference June 16.
In Resins v. Mason Manufacturing, he held a status conference in December and set the next one Feb. 10. On Feb. 6, the parties postponed the hearing to March 18. On March 13, they postponed it to April 29.
In Basford v. VCG, Baricevic assigned LeChien in December but Lopinot held the first status conference, on Feb. 11. He set the next one May 14.
In LeChien’s most recent appearance among the 14 cases, he held a status conference in Mueller v. Friday’s South on Feb. 10. He set another April 16.
One case, Wilkinson v. Caseyville, has seen no action at all.