Ann Maher Feb. 4, 2016, 1:21pm


State Rep. Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) filed legislation today to establish that retention is the only option for sitting judges who want successive terms.

The proposal comes in response to decisions made by Twentieth Judicial Circuit Judges John Baricevic, Robert LeChien and Robert Haida to run for election rather than retention.

“I feel strongly that the Illinois Constitution intended for elected judges seeking re-election to only have the option of retention,” said Rep. Meier.

Judges seeking retention must earn 60 percent voter approval to retain their seats. Running in an election only requires a simple majority to win.

In August, the judges submitted letters of resignation to the Illinois Supreme Court, indicating that they intended to seek election to their seats rather than to seek retention.

"The loophole these three judges have chosen to take advantage of certainly questions the integrity of the bench," Meier stated in a press release.

"It reminds me of musical chairs however the music stops when these three judges say so. I think our judges should be held to a higher standard which is why my bill seeks to codify Illinois law by permanently closing the musical chair loophole. If a judge wants to remain on the bench, then he or she will have to face the voters and receive approval from 60 percent of them.”

Meier's bill, HB4673, states that no judge or former judge may submit his or her candidacy for a vacancy in a judicial office by any method other than seeking retention in his or her office, unless that judge or former judge is seeking judicial office in a higher or lower court or he or she has not served as an elected or appointed judge for at least two years.

On Jan. 20, the Illinois State Board of Elections considered a complaint filed regarding the St. Clair County judges decision to avoid retention.

The result, the state board was deadlocked with a vote of 4-4, meaning the three judges will remain on the ballot.

However, a suit filed by Belleville city clerk Dallas Cook remains pending in Sangamon Circuit Court challenging the decision of the State Board of Elections.

In December, Cook initially filed objections to the judges' nomination petitions, seeking to have their names stricken from the March 15 Democratic ballot.

He argues that judges seeking to keep their seats are required by statute to run on their records on a non-partisan ballot in the general election, not for re-election to seats they are vacating by way of resignation.

In the actions brought by Cook, the judges are represented by Chicago attorney Michael Kasper, who has argued that the state constitution does not expressly prohibit the judges from taking the course of action they have.

In the meantime, the State Board of Elections requested Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan for a legal opinion on the matter.

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