Stack leaves criminal, drug docket to focus on civil

Steve Gonzalez Jan. 6, 2005, 2:30pm

Circuit Judge Dan Stack will join fellow Circuit Judges, Byron, Kardis, Moran, and Matoesian in civil cases

Madison County Circuit Court Chief Judge Edward Ferguson has relieved Circuit Judge Daniel Stack from the 3rd Circuit's criminal and drug docket so he can concentrate on civil cases.

Stack, who already tends to the circuit's overwhelming asbestos docket, was re-assigned by Ferguson Jan. 3.

Associate Judge James Hackett and Ferguson will take over most of his criminal cases, Stack said.

“I told Judge Ferguson that I can still do some criminal cases until they move into the new criminal building to help out,” Stack said Thursday in his chambers.

Stack had been assigned to all felony drug cases as well as the probation revocation (PTR) docket with and the Madison County Assessment and Treatment Alternative docket, commonly known as drug court.

Stack will be placed into the civil rotation with fellow circuit judges, Philip Kardis, Nicholas Byron, George Moran Jr, and Andy Matoesian.

Stack took over the asbestos docket from Judge Byron on September 8. In his first forum ruling Stack argued the "astronomical burden" of looming trials demanded he dismiss cases that were not connected directly to Madison County.

Stack pondered how Madison County would hold up if every asbestos lawsuit filed in its courts did go to trial, suggesting that the "cash cow" asbestos docket would quickly overwhelm local resources at the expense of taxpayers.

"It is not the function of the courts to make money," Stack wrote. "This is not a business. It is the function of the courts to administer justice."

Stack said he is already assigned to at least seven or eight "big" class action cases and at least 32 cases where Abbott Labs are named as defendants for using thimerosal--a mercury laden preservative that was used in vaccinations given to children.

Reflecting on the assignment adjustment, Stack noted that trials in criminal cases may have intersting facts, while civil cases can be a little boring.

"But the legal questions that arise during a civil action can sometimes be challenging," he said.

“Drug court is a very important thing, and dear to my heart,” Stack said. He said that he “likes a change” from time to time so he does not get “burned out doing the same thing everyday.”

Stack, a Granite City native, has served as circuit court judge since January 2003, when the circuit judges chose him to replace retiring Judge P.J. O'Neill.

Before that, he had served as an associate judge since 1986--with an 18-month hiatus after circuit judges voted not to retain him in 1995, and then reappointed him in early 1997.

Stack, 53, ran unopposed in the general election in November.

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