Madison County swears in two new judges

Steve Gonzalez Dec. 1, 2008, 5:00pm

Dennis Ruth is sworn in to a six-year term as Madison County Circuit Court judge on Dec. 1.

More than 125 people gathered in the Madison County courthouse to watch Dennis Ruth take his oath of office to become Madison County's newest circuit judge.

Richard Tognarelli was also sworn in as a circuit judge in a private ceremony. He has served as an associate judge since 2002.

Both men ran unopposed in the Nov. 4 general election.

Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis administered the oath of office to both new judges.

Ruth, the former chairman of the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission (IWCC) 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.

"I will do my best, so help me God," Ruth said addressing the crowd.

He also thanked his wife, Marie, and recognized his late parents.

Ruth said his experience hearing cases on IWCC will aid him in his duties as a circuit judge.

Arbitrators in Illinois' workers' compensation system serve as administrative law judges, 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 was 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 after the election. "That is really a great program that we have here."

Ruth's docket will consist of cases in the Law Division, which are cases that seek monetary relief in excess of $50,000. His docket has more than 300 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.

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