Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack said there is a "slight possibility" he would retire before the end of his current term, which expires in December 2010.
Last week, Stack, a Democrat, announced he would not seek retention in next year's general election. He cited his 60th birthday in November 2010 and discussions with his wife and friends as factors in his decision to retire at the end of his term. Stack said it was "only fair" to announce his retirement this far in advance to allow others to enter the race for the seat and to gain endorsements.
In an interview Tuesday, he said he would consider stepping down early if he "needed to take" an opportunity in the private sector. He said he is interested in mediation work, for which he has taken 40 hours of training, and arbitration.
"I have a great relationship with labor," he said. "They say I am fair, and business says I am fair."
Stack said his decision to step down also had to do with his retirement pay. He said it would be the equivalent of his paycheck today because a current portion directed toward retirement would no longer be deducted.
In Illinois, annual pay for circuit court judges is $163,348; for associate judges it is $155,181. The maximum pension payable to a retired judge is 85 percent of final salary.
Stack, who presides over one of the busiest asbestos dockets in the nation, said he has been encouraging both sides of the asbestos bar to think about his successor.
The last time there was a change in asbestos management, in 2004, the docket went from Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron, now retired, briefly to Circuit Judge Phil Kardis, now retired, before Stack took it over. According to Stack, Kardis's stint was so short-about a week-because lawyers indicated he would be substituted.
In Illinois any party to a lawsuit can substitute a judge once without cause.
"I'm recommending they start thinking about who they won't take a change from," Stack said.
Though he declined to name them, Stack said there are three civil law judges being considered as his replacement as asbestos chief.
"It would be nice to get that person involved five-to-six months" before his retirement, he said.
If he was to vacate his seat before the end of his term and there was only one name on the ballot, it would be a "no brainer" as to who should be appointed to fill his spot, Stack said. But if it were a contested race, he said perhaps the Illinois Supreme Court would call up a retired judge until the election, as the high court did when, in 2006, Circuit Judge George Moran, Jr. resigned nine months before the end of his term.
Lola Maddox, who retired in 2004 after serving 25 years as a Madison County associate judge, came out of retirement to fill Moran's remaining term.
In the meantime, Stack, who presides over many major civil law cases, including class actions, said he has been in conversations with Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis and the other civil law judges about "divesting" himself of his law docket, excluding asbestos, and hopefully within a couple of months.
"It already was too much," he said.
Stack was appointed to the 3rd Circuit Court in February 2003 to succeed retired judge Circuit Judge P.J. O'Neill. Stack was elected to fill O'Neill's vacancy in 2004.
On the same day Stack announced his retirement, Madison County State's Attorney Bill Mudge, a Democrat, unveiled his plans to run for Stack's post.