Q&A: 20th Judicial Circuit judge-to-be Norton

Ann Knef Feb. 15, 2005, 4:39am

William C. Norton

Marissa attorney William C. Norton was recently selected to fill a vacancy on the 20th Judicial Circuit through the recommendation of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier—the Republican justice’s first exercise of influence over a judicial appointment.

Norton, who has lived a lifetime in Marissa—save college—has been married for 30 years to his wife, Cathy. They have three sons, Andrew, 24, a second year law student at the University of Missouri; Ryan, 22, a senior at the University of Montana; and Jonathan, 18, a freshman at McKendree College.

Norton, who will be sworn into office next month, took time to answer a few questions recently.

Q: You will be sworn in as circuit judge in the 20th Judicial Circuit on March 7. Will it take you some time to learn your way around?

I’m very, very familiar with the courthouse and virtually all of the judges. I’ve either appeared before them or they were attorneys and we practiced together.

Q: Tell us briefly about your legal background.

I would describe my law practice as very general. I have represented financial institutions, school districts, municipalities. Where I live (and practice law) is within 20-25 miles of each courthouse in the five-county circuit. (Norton lives in Sparta and has an office there and in Marissa, which is approximately equal-distance to Belleville, Nashville, Pinckneyville, Waterloo and Chester).

Q: What will be included in your case docket? Criminal? Civil? Some of each?

I really don’t know yet. I need to talk to Chief (Circuit Judge Jan) Fiss to see where my services are needed most. There will be a certain breaking-in period I’m sure, but I believe that will be short and fast.

Q: You will be the only Republican judge in the Circuit. Is there any discomfort with that situation?

In our judicial circuit there are 12 circuit judges and 12 associate judges. To my knowledge I am the only Republican.

There is no discomfort. I know all of the judges and have a professional relationship. I consider some to be friends. I don’t anticipate any problems.

Unfortunately, there is partisanship in our judiciary. I don’t like it but that’s what we have to deal with.

Q: Are you conservative?

I would say that, yes, I am conservative. But there are some sitting judges who are more conservative than I am.

Q: What role, if any, did you play in the election of Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier?

Other than the fact that I supported him and attended events, I had no role in planning or fund-raising.

Q: St. Clair County has been added to a judicial watch list by the American Tort Reform Association, right behind Madison County’s dubious #1 ranking as the nation’s top “hellhole.” Venue shopping is one of the “wrongs” identified by ATRA. Are you critical of lawsuits being filed in a jurisdiction in which there is no connection by the plaintiff, defendant or cause of action?

The type of law I engaged in venue shopping was not a factor. But (as a judge) if it’s a problem and it has been identified then I am going to do my best to be part of the solution.

I am going to look very closely—every case hinges on its own facts.

Q: What can plaintiffs’ and defense attorneys expect from you as a judge?

They can expect fairness. I am a good listener and will hear both sides.

Q: Will you be media-friendly?

I will be as open and accessible as allowed. Certain judicial ethics may keep me from commenting on pending matters, but I will abide by being open.

Q: Your term expires in December 2006. Will you run for election to the post in November 2006?

Yes. I plan to seek election.

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