Judge Weber's substitutions reach 66

Ann Knef Feb. 16, 2006, 5:28am

Judge Don Weber, who was sworn into office in November, has been substituted on 66 cases.

While he and his colleagues must absorb the caseload spilled by Madison County Circuit Judge Moran's sudden departure, Circuit Judge Don Weber is frustrated that he hasn't been given a chance to share the burden.

Twiddling his gavel in his chambers on Tuesday, Weber said he didn't expect to be treated as poorly as he has been since his appointment by the Illinois Supreme Court at Justice Lloyd Karmeier's recommendation in November.

"I didn't think it was going to be this tough," he said. "I wasn't expecting this many substitutions."

Days earlier, Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron granted another motion for substitute judge in Stalcup v. Medicine Shoppe. In total, he has been substituted 66 times in four months.

The idle judge is frustrated by the lack of activity in his courtroom, while other judges appear swamped.

"The job of judge is to be fair," he said. "Some people are concerned that I was a very forceful advocate as a prosecutor."

Weber's treatment may have more to do with his political affiliation than his former role as champion of victims. Weber, a Republican, is running for election to his position in November against Democrat Dave Hylla, an Edwardsville personal injury attorney.

In the Record's recent online reader poll, 78 percent of respondents answered that lawyers should not be allowed to avoid Weber simply because he is a Republican.

In the Stalcup case, Tami Stalcup, mother of the late Justin Michael Stalcup, moved for Weber's substitution Dec. 21 in her claim that drug store owner Michael Cleary caused her son's death.

Stalcup's death involved a criminal matter, which was prosecuted by the Madison County State's Attorney's office. Weber, who was an assistant state's attorney at the time, however, was not personally involved in prosecuting the case.

At the substitution hearing on Feb. 10, Medicine Shoppe attorney Jeff Cain argued that substitution for cause requires a showing of personal bias.

Byron said, "I do not willy nilly allow changes from Judge Weber."

"He may not be aware of the case but something may pop up."

Again, Cain said that the plaintiff attorney Hugh Talbert did not demonstrate personal bias.

Byron said, "I would so find. It is a conflict per se. The motion has been allowed."

After his ruling, Byron said no one should assume how he would rule on other substitution motions. He called the Stalcup matter a "very narrow conflict."

According to the suit that Talbert filed for Tami Stalcup, her son died from ingesting drugs that came from the Medicine Shoppe, which Cleary owned.

The suit also names Jodi Sandbach as a defendant, for allegedly selling or giving him the drugs.

When Byron entered his order for substitution, Talbert said, "It is not an open door to get out of Judge Weber's courtroom."

Byron agreed, adding, "I think he is a fair judge, an impartial judge."

After the hearing, Talbert said his comment was a joke.

Minutes later another substitution motion came before Byron, but he refused to hear it.

In that case. Katherine Henderson sued Wells Fargo Mortgage. Byron said Wells Fargo previously substituted for him in the case. "I am not going to sit as trier of a case where they have already made that assertion," he said.

"And it's unfortunate. Go find another judge. I am not intimidated. I don't feel I should have to hear it. It's that simple. It's unfortunate."

Steve Korris contributed to this report.

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