Madison County Judge Moran not seeking retention

Ann Knef Dec. 19, 2005, 8:23am

Circuit Judge George Moran

Madison County Circuit Judge George Moran Jr., 57, is not seeking judicial retention in the November 2006 general election.

He will serve the remainder of his term which expires Dec. 6, 2006, and then retire.

Moran, a judge since 1977, said he believed he would have won retention, but stepping down was "the right thing to do."

"The decision is fair to Republicans and Democrats and the voters," Moran said.

An article in the Dec. 11 St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Moran indicated that trial lawyers were trying to force him off the bench because of unfavorable rulings.

A month ago Moran transferred a personal injury case against Pfizer to Cook County, citing the Illinois Supreme Court's "Gridley" decision that slammed forum shopping.

Moran was the only judicial candidate seeking retention not to receive the endorsement of the Madison County Central Democratic Committee several months ago.

Had he remained in the race, Moran said he would have been subjected to vicious attacks.

In a prepared statement, Moran said: "I have proudly served as a judge in the Third Judicial Circuit for more than 28 years.

"After carefully reviewing the political environment and what is best for me and my family, I have decided not to seek retention to the bench and have taken the appropriate steps to be removed from the ballot."

Accompanied by Madison County Treasurer and county Democratic official Fred Bathon, Moran traveled to Springfield to file his withdrawal notice with the Illinois Secretary of State's office.

Monday was the last date Moran could rescind his petition to run for retention so that it will be up for grabs in the March 2006 primary.

Judicial candidates interested in the position will have to file petitions with the State Board of Elections between Jan. 3 and 10.

Moran stated that people in his courtroom were "treated fairly, and with dignity and respect," in a press release.

"I take a great deal of pride in my performance on the bench. Especially what I have been able to accomplish in family court by presiding over a court that helped ensure families stayed together and helping the children who came before me see a better tomorrow."

Madison County Chief Judge Edward Ferguson said he hadn't discussed Moran's decision not to seek retention or the unflattering Post-Dispatch article with him. In addition to political maneuvering, the report also exposed Moran's personal life and the fact that he was taking Spanish classes at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

Ferguson said he has received phone calls about people wanting to discuss Moran's behavior since the article. However, Ferguson said he referred those callers to the Illinois Supreme Court's Judicial Inquiry Board.

"I have no concern about his ability to do his job," Ferguson said. "Seeking retention in this climate might be tough any way. These are things that he has to deal with as a public official.

"As my time as chief judge, I have never received a complaint about Judge Moran."

Comments from local attorneys have been sought, but few have initially responded.

Edwardsville family attorney David Fahrenkamp said he was "shocked" by Moran's decision.

Moran said he would donate campaign donations received for his retention race to the Jessica Ann Bathon Memorial Fund which benefits underprivileged children.

He said he was unsure of his plans post-retirement.

"The law has been my life for more than 35 years and I anticipate I will remain active in that profession in some capacity," he said.

His father, George Moran, is a retired judge with the 5th District Appellate Court at Mt. Vernon.

Moran is a former assistant public defender and was first appointed as associate judge in 1977 by Illinois State Supreme Court. He was first elected a circuit judge in 1982.

Moran generated national controversy in March 1992 when he ordered four top officers of Toledo, Ohio-based Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corp. to testify in an asbestos suit against the company. The officers refused, arguing that travel to Madison County would interfere with their company's operations.

Moran held them in contempt of court and ruled that the company had forfeited its right to a defense, rendering a default judgment. The verdict forced Owens-Corning to pay four former workers $10 million, including $7.5 million in punitive damages.

In his last retention election, Nov. 7, 2000, Moran received 74,404 (79.84%) "yes" votes, and 18,783 (20.16%) "no" votes.

In December 1992, Moran was placed on 'restricted duty' while Madison County prosecutors investigated charges by an 11-year-old girl that Moran molested her over a four-year period. A petition seeking state supervision of the girl was dropped in 1993 and criminal charges were never filed.

Steve Gonzalez contributed to this report.

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