Assignment options running thin, chief judge steps in to hear case

By Steve Korris | Mar 22, 2006

Chief Judge Edward Ferguson will descend from the attic of the Madison County courthouse March 27, to hold the integrity of his court in his hands.

Ferguson plans to hear a motion of Lakin Law Firm attorney Gary Peel to remove Circuit Judge Don Weber from a case due to Weber's alleged bias against the firm.

Ferguson had assigned the motion to newly appointed Circuit Judge Lola Maddox, but he cancelled her assignment.

Ferguson assigns cases and normally does not hear cases. He keeps to his office above the third floor of the three story courthouse.

It took a while for Peel's motion to bring Ferguson to the bench.

Peel filed the motion Jan. 5, claiming that Weber held a bias toward the Lakin firm because the firm represented a client who sued Weber in 1992.

Under Illinois law Ferguson had to appoint a separate judge to decide Weber's fitness to hear the case. Ferguson assigned Peel's motion to Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron.

Weber swore in a Feb. 8 affidavit that he paid no claim for damages in the case and that he had forgotten about it until the Lakin firm brought it up.

At a Feb. 10 hearing Byron refused to hear the motion because the defendant, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, had removed him from the case by substitution without cause.

Byron sent the motion back to Ferguson, who on March 1 assigned it to newly appointed Circuit Judge Lola Maddox.

Ferguson then changed his mind. A March 8 docket entry read, "As per Judge Ferguson this case should not be assigned to Judge Maddox."

Another docket entry set a March 27 hearing for Ferguson.

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