Gordon Broom

Once again, a Madison County defendant has strained to provide Circuit Judge Don Weber with grounds to keep a case, and for at least the 71st time, Weber has signed the case away.

Weber signed a substitution order March 17 for attorney Lanny Darr in a medical malpractice case, over attorney Richard Hunsaker's objection.

Hunsaker argued that all parties lost the right of substitution when Weber admitted a foreign attorney - one without an Illinois license - to work on the case.

That counted as a substantial ruling, according to Hunsaker, and in Illinois the right of substitution ends when a judge makes a substantial ruling.

Ten days earlier attorney Gordon Broom had argued in another case that plaintiff's counsel waived the right to substitution through improper judge shopping.

In that case Weber signed a substitution order but asked the Fifth District appellate court if a party could waive the right through judge shopping.

In five months Weber has signed an an extraordinary number of cases away on plaintiff motions.

In the medical case, Darr sued dermatologist John Chanasue last year on behalf of Shirley Novitske, widow of Frances Novitske.

The widow claimed that 13 years of skin treatments caused tumors that spread through her husband and killed him.

She added claims against physician George Bollozos and Quest Diagnostics.

Chief Judge Edward Ferguson assigned the case to Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron.

Jeffrey Glass of Belleville answered for Chanasue. Hunsaker answered for Bollozos and Quest Diagnostics.

Hunsaker moved Dec. 19 for substitution. Byron allowed it, and Ferguson assigned the case to Weber.

Hunsaker moved Jan. 18 to admit Constantine Passodelis of Pittsburgh as counsel for Quest Diagnostics. Weber granted the motion Jan. 24.

Darr moved Jan. 27 for substitution.

Weber had signed almost all his substitution orders without holding hearings, but he set hearings March 17 on Darr's motion and others.

Hunsaker entered his objection but it offered a reed too slender for Weber to grab.

Weber's docket calls for further substitution hearings March 24 and March 31.

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