Callis stands by record

Ann Knef Oct. 18, 2006, 3:57am

Chief Judge Ann Callis

The Record asked Third Circuit Judges Ann Callis, Charles Romani and John Knight to answer a few questions to help voters decide whether or not to retain them on election day, Nov. 7.

Circuit judges seeking retention must get a 60 percent "yes" vote to earn another six-year term.

Following are questions submitted to and answered by Judge Callis.

Q.Madison County Courts have been criticized as plaintiff-friendly. Inarguably, this venue has had a greater number of class action and asbestos filings than other similarly sized courts in the state and nation. Are the days of forum shopping over in Madison County?

A.Yes they are. We have introduced several measures in the last few months making it more difficult for out-of-state attorneys to bring cases here that have no direct relationship to our county.

In addition, judges in the civil division have taken a strong stand by rejecting cases that don't belong here. We also have instituted a local judicial rule limiting the ability of class action lawyers to object repeatedly to judges, effectively "shopping" for a preferred judge.

A quick look at the court docket should provide evidence of the changes in our court system. Asbestos cases are way down and only one class action lawsuit has been filed in our court system this year.

Q.Should the public have confidence that all parties are treated fairly in Madison County?

A.The fundamental goal of our court system is to give everyone involved in a civil or criminal case a fair hearing. It is at the heart of what I do every day both as a trial judge and as the Chief Judge of this Circuit.

I believe any party has a right to expect fair and impartial treatment and I will continue to work to make certain that our goal also is the reality.

Q.Is it important to have a (politically) balanced court? Or does that not really matter?

A.The idea of political balance in a court system misses the point. We need judges who can put aside their personal views to follow the law and apply it fairly to all parties. That takes judges dedicated to providing fairness and balance every day in their courtrooms. We need to find the best-qualified and most able individual judges; not try to balance competing biases.

Q.You have been a presiding judge during a time period in which Madison County Courts developed a negative national reputation. Why should you be retained?

A.As a circuit judge, my entire career has been spent in the criminal division. I stand by my strong record as a tough but fair criminal judge. From the day I was sworn in as Chief Judge, I have been working to reform and improve our courts.

Q.You have implemented a number of court reforms since becoming Chief Judge in May. If you are retained, can the public expect reforms to continue?

A.I am committed as Chief Judge of the Third Circuit to restoring public faith and confidence in our local courts. I will continue to look for ways to improve our court system both through reforms and through the fair and impartial operation of the courts.

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