Faced with the third judicial appointment since winning the Illinois Supreme Court race last year, Justice Lloyd Karmeier's influence in reshaping local courts is beginning to unfold.
Yesterday's announcement by Madison County Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis that he will retire Sept. 2 may not have surprised seasoned court observers, but it has prompted speculation about his replacement.
Likely contenders among Madison County Republicans include Alton attorney Steve Stobbs and assistant state's attorney Don Weber.
"Yes I will consider it," Stobbs said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Stobbs, of Godfrey, is a partner with Stobbs & Sinclair. He is a Madison County Board member and chairs its Judiciary Committee.
During Karmeier's campaign, Stobbs' political committee spent $565.19 for postage to mail an endorsement post card to constituents in October 2004.
Karmeier will submit a name for Kardis' replacement to the Illinois Supreme Court, which traditionally honors the recommendation of the justice in which the vacancy exists. The new Third Circuit judge would have to run for election in November 2006.
The circuit includes Madison and Bond counties.
Weber, an assistant state's attorney and household name in Madison County, could not be reached for comment.
Renowned for his prosecution of child killer Paula Sims--and the coauthor of Precious Victims which details the case--Weber ran unsuccessfully for the Illinois Supreme Court in 1992, losing to Justice Moses Harrison.
An October 1992 edition of Illinois Issues reported that Weber favored a rule established by the Supreme Court that allows it to intervene in the lower courts.
"'The Supreme Court should intervene,' Weber says, 'when 'it's apparent that the local court system is either incapable of handling the situation because there are powerful lawyers who exert so much influence on the court system or because the judges themselves are just flat out corrupt.'"
In the 2004 general election, Weber endorsed Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian for retention by mailing postcards to voters in Madison County.
Since taking office, Karmeier has formed two advisory panels to screen judicial applicants for vacancies on the 5th Appellate Court and in the 20th Judicial Circuit.
Belleville attorney Stephen McGlynn, a Republican, was selected to serve as appellate judge in the 5th Judicial Circuit, filling a vacancy left by Judge Clyde Kuehn, whose temporary assignment ended July 7. McGlynn was sworn in July 8.
William C. Norton of Sparta, also a Republican, was appointed to fill a vacancy in the 20th Circuit created by the election of Judge James K. Donovan to the Illinois Appellate Court in November. He was sworn in March 7.
The 20th Judicial Circuit consists of St. Clair, Washington, Perry, Randolph and Monroe counties in southwestern Illinois.
Democrats whose names have been mentioned as potential contenders include Madison County Associate Judges Clarence Harrison and Ellar Duff.
Only a year ago, Kardis was named chief asbestos judge in Madison County, although the assignment was a brief one.
Administration of the massive docket passed quick as a baton from former asbestos Judge Nicholas Byron to Kardis to Judge Daniel Stack. It was something of a surprise given that Kardis left the asbestos docket before ever taking it over.
His first day in court was to have been Sept. 9, 2004. Instead, Byron--who had managed asbestos for nearly a decade--presided that day over the asbestos status call.
Stack replaced Kardis on Sept. 10, 2004.
Kardis was first appointed to the circuit court by the Illinois Supreme Court in January 1989 with fellow then associate and now Circuit Judges Nicholas Byron and Edward Ferguson.
The trio filled vacancies left when Circuit Judges Philip Rarick and Charles Chapman were elected to the 5th District Appellate Court in November 1988 and Judge Horace Calvo was elected to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Kardis worked for seventeen years (1972-89) as a trial attorney in private practice (Kardis & Forbes) and before that as a chemical engineer.