Weber denies Hopkins' motion for substitution

Ann Knef Nov. 16, 2006, 10:21am

John Hopkins

Madison County Circuit Judge Don Weber has denied Edwardsville plaintiff's attorney John Hopkins' motion for substitution of judge in a medical malpractice case, saying the request was "meritless and frivolous."

Hopkins, who represents Felipe and Angela Osorio in a case against John Petrovich, M.D. and Gateway Regional Medical Center, had sought to substitute Weber for cause claiming Weber is prejudiced against all plaintiff's attorneys and him in particular.

He wrote that Weber made false remarks about him to the press.

"That in the statements made on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2006, Judge Don Weber made a claim that a Plaintiff's attorney had told him, 'that in order to be a good judge in Madison County a judge has to sometimes ignore the law and rule in favor of plaintiff's attorneys.'"

The remark appeared in a Belleville News-Democrat article on Oct. 11. The headline read, "Weber says he will take on plaintiff's attorneys."

"That when pressed, Judge Weber attributed the statement to attorney John J. Hopkins; that said statement was and is false," Hopkins wrote.

Hopkins argued that he and his clients "cannot possibly get a fair trial" in front of Weber.

But Weber disagreed.

"To substitute this judge for cause, the plaintiff's attorney must overcome the presumption that the judge is impartial," Weber wrote. "The burden rests on the Movant. The Court does not have to justify its retention of the case."

He wrote that Hopkins must present evidence of personal bias stemming from an extrajudicial source.

"To be disqualifying, the alleged bias or prejudice of a trial judge must be shown to have stemmed from an extrajudicial source and result in an opinion on the merits on some basis other than what the judge learned from his participation in the case."

"Here, attorney John Hopkins alleges an extrajudicial source (newspaper comments) but does not allege the comments constitute an opinion on the merits of the case in question," Weber wrote.

"Indeed, this Court is in no way prejudiced against the Plaintiffs or their case and has never expressed an opinion to the contrary."

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