Ruth, Tognarelli to be sworn in Dec. 1

Steve Gonzalez Nov. 6, 2008, 5:30am



Madison County's two newly elected circuit judges will take their oaths of office at 3 p.m. on Dec. 1.

Dennis Ruth, the former chairman of the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission (IWCC) and Associate Judge Richard Tognarelli both ran unopposed in the Nov. 4 general election to become the Third Judicial Circuit's two newest circuit judges.

Ruth will take over the civil docket of outgoing Nicholas Byron, while Tognarelli will take over the criminal docket of Edward Ferguson. Tognarelli will also take over the duties of the drug court.

Ruth has spent 21 years in the legal profession, including many years practicing law in Madison County prior to being appointed an arbitrator for the IWCC.

An arbitrator in Illinois' Workers Compensation system is an administrative law judge, hearing workers compensation cases. As an arbitrator, Ruth heard more than 400 cases prior to being appointed a commissioner.

The 10 members of the commission serve as appeals court judges, hearing workers compensation case appeals. Ruth has heard more than 100 appeals cases as a commissioner and recently finished his second term as commission chairman, overseeing Illinois' workers compensation system.

Tognarelli has been an associate judge since 2002. He is currently assigned to hearing criminal cases at the Criminal Justice Center. Before that, Tognarelli was assigned to civil, family and traffic divisions.

"I am looking forward to handling the drug court," Tognarelli said. "That is really a great program that we have here."

Ruth was at the Madison County Courthouse on Nov. 6, helping make plans for his swearing-in ceremony.

Ruth's docket will consist of cases in the Law Division, which are cases that seek monetary relief in excess of $50,000. When Ruth takes it over from Byron, he will have more than 500 cases ranging from auto accidents, and slip and falls to breach of contract, and FELA and Jones Act cases.

He will also inherit 17 medical malpractice cases and 27 class action cases from Byron.

On his first day, Ruth has one jury trial scheduled.

The case that is scheduled for trial on Ruth's inherited docket Dec. 1 involves Edwardsville attorney Amanda Verett. She filed a personal injury suit against Pizza Hut and Troy police officer Clarence Jackson.

Verett is currently suspended from practicing law. The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) had recommended the discipline after conducting an investigation into Verett's handling of a family law matter.

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