For legal eagles and passionate politicos, the much-anticipated announcement of who will replace retired Judge Phillip Kardis in Madison County's Third Circuit is a real nail-biter.
If the appointee is a Republican--as it is generally expected to be--whomever Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier taps will enjoy incumbency when facing the likely Democratic challenger Dave Hylla, an Edwardsville attorney, in the November 2006 general election.
Hylla, a partner with the Edwardsville plaintiff's firm Bilbrey & Hylla, was endorsed by members of Madison County's Democratic Central Committee at a meeting in Alton on Monday night over Associate Judges Ellar Duff, Clarence Harrison and Barbara Crowder.
Harrison, son of former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Moses Harrison, told the Record he was withdrawing his candidacy and would not contest Hylla in the March Democratic primary. Last month Harrison held a press conference announcing he would seek election to the circuit in 2006.
Duff and Crowder could not be reached for comment.
Kardis retired Sept. 2 after serving as a circuit judge for 16-and-a-half years.
While there is no timetable for filling the judicial vacancy, several sage legal observers say the time is near and the short list of prospective appointees includes Madison County Republican attorneys Don Weber and Steve Stobbs.
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.
Stobbs, of Godfrey, is a partner and general practitioner with Stobbs & Sinclair. A Madison County Board member since 1998, and chair of its Judiciary Committee, Stobbs introduced legislation for electing the county’s chairman at large which passed in 2002.
During Karmeier's campaign, Stobbs' political committee spent $565.19 for postage to mail an endorsement post card to constituents in October 2004.
On March 23, 2000, his Alton law firm donated $200 to Judge Ann Callis, who was seeking election for the first time to the circuit. On the same date the firm also donated $200 to State Sen. Frank Watson.
Fellow Republican County Board Member Bill Meyer of Hamel received a $300 donation from Stobbs' firm in May of this year.
Weber, of Troy, is an assistant state's attorney and household name in Madison County. 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.
Weber was elected Madison County State’s Attorney in 1980 and served until 1984.
He is an avid, three-times-a week tennis player and member of the U.S. Tennis Association. In 1984, Weber was named the Granite City Republican Women’s Man of the Year.
A renowned short stop and accomplished accordion player, Hylla is professionally known as an asbestos plaintiff’s attorney.
In addition to his private practice, Hylla serves as city attorney of Venice and leads a polka outfit dubbed the “Good Times Band.” He mounted a failed campaign to replace Judge Robert Hennessy as an associate judge in 2001.
While Hylla, of Granite City, has not been a major contributor to local Democratic committees, he was a generous donor to the Democratic Party of Illinois in 2004.
Federal campaign expense reports indicate Hylla donated a total of $6,000 to the state party last year.
On Oct. 3, 2004, he donated $5,000 and on June 8, he contributed $1,000.
In 1998 and 1999, Hylla made donations of $300 to the Democratic Party of Illinois.
His partner, Mike Bilbrey, a former Madison County Board member and owner of an Edwardsville bed and breakfast, is a frequent Democratic fund-raising host.