Steve Korris Aug. 15, 2013, 7:13am

BELLEVILLE – St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic said he has found no cause to believe former probation officer James Fogarty misused his position while allegedly selling cocaine.

“So far there doesn’t appear to be any indication that he wasn’t doing his job appropriately,” Baricevic said on Aug. 14.

“We reviewed all his files,” he said.

Baricevic said officials have cross referenced cases Fogarty had with former circuit judge Michael Cook and the late circuit judge Joe Christ, who died of cocaine intoxication.

“We are looking at the cases from every angle we can,” Baricevic said.

“Cook dismissed Fogarty’s traffic ticket, and we discovered that. The computer spits out anything with both names.”

He said he sent the information to federal prosecutors.

“There is no reason to believe Cook, Christ or Fogarty used their positions to enhance their drug use.”

Baricevic took questions from reporters after giving a breakfast speech for the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.

He didn’t mention the drug scandal in his speech, and an audience of more than 100 didn’t bring it up when he asked for questions.

Of the two posed, someone asked about class actions.

Baricevic said “we all” get flyers in the mail with a choice to join or not.

“If someone says no, does the defendant spend less?” he said.

An alternative, he said, is to have the court manage the distribution.

He identified it as “cy pres,” and said it was Latin but he didn’t know what it meant.

He called on Circuit Judge James Lopinot to translate.

Lopinot said, “I took French in high school.”

Cy pres awards come from undistributed class action funds. In recent times courts have redistributed residual funds, under provisions of the Cy Pres Doctrine, to charities of their choosing. The French translation is “so near, close.”

Baricevic said the court distributed more than $2.7 million to local charities in six years.

He said class actions draw business.

“Strong lawyers bring good business,” he said.

The other question posed by an audience member related to gun violence and whether a special court could help keep extremely violent offenders off the street.

Baricevic said that the night before, 500 were sleeping in the jail.

“We are rated for 320 beds and we have about 400,” he said. “Where are the other hundred? They’re sleeping on the floor.”

He proposed a sales tax to expand the jail, and told the group to watch for it.

“It’s a dangerous situation,” he said. “If there is a fight, where are you going to separate them? People get released that we would prefer to keep there.

“People with gun charges are not let out.”

Baricevic opened his speech by comparing judges to umpires.

“We want you to think the calls are being made within the lines,” he said.

“We have Catholic, Jewish and Protestant judges. We have Black and White.”

He said judges are state employees and the budget hasn’t increased in eight years.

“We had to lay off eight probation officers.”

St. Clair County has 19 judges and every two years, they all attend 38 hours of training, he said.

“Just like your businesses, we have to keep up with what’s going on,” he said.

He said the county requires arbitration for civil litigation less than $50,000.

“It has worked better than any of us expected.”

He said that eight of 1,700 arbitration cases have gone to court.

Cases are settling at six months instead of two or three years, he said.

He said the county requires mediation of family cases with children.

“That also is working better than expected,” he said.

He said the court has about 140 or 150 asbestos cases.

Plaintiffs and defendants in asbestos cases like to be in the same place, he said.

“About half of these cases could be somewhere else, but they want to be here,” he said. “I hope that means they come here because they can get a fair shot.”

He said six defendants have moved for transfer, with three granted and three denied.

“It’s not accurate that people are forced into St. Clair County,” he said.

On the subject of drug court, he said St. Clair County has four programs to get people off drugs.

“It doesn’t always work but the success is pretty good,” he said. “You have to be drug free for two years before you are excused from the next level of incarceration.”

He said the county has 80,000 misdemeanors, traffic and ordinance violations a year and four judges are assigned to those cases full time.

Four are assigned to family law and three are assigned to major civil cases.

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