Legal ethics professor says Cueto's candidacy not valid

Ann Knef Jul. 12, 2006, 3:00am

A Southern Illinois University legal ethics professor said that St. Clair County Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto's election bid is not valid.

"He can't run for election," said Leonard Gross, a law professor at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. "It's not valid pursuant to the Illinois Constitution."

Cueto, a Democratic incumbent, withdrew from the retention ballot last December and instead filed to run for election. By doing so he he gained a Republican opponent, O'Fallon attorney Paul Evans. They will face each other in the Nov. 7 general election.

A judge running for retention needs 60 percent approval from voters, whereas in an election, the winning candidate needs only 51 percent.

"I don't see how he can run for election to an office that is not vacant and the one he currently holds," said Gross. He also said it appeared as if Cueto was "circumventing" the law.

Cueto's office was contacted for comment, but by press time he had not responded.

According to the state constitution, the office of a judge is vacant upon death, resignation, retirement, removal, or at the end of a term without retention.

Cueto did not resign from office. Since he is not running for retention, his second six-year term would expire in December, according to Gross.

The consitution provides that judicial vacancies are filled by Illinois Supreme Court appointment.

Last week, Illinois Civil Justice League president Ed Murnane publicly raised the issue of Cueto's candidacy, stating that his organization was considering a legal challenge.

"Based on the opinion of the law professor, there appears to be reason to take some kind of action," said Murnane.

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