St. Clair County Circuit Judge Annette Eckert, the first woman to don circuit judge's robes in Twentieth Circuit, will step down next year before the end of her second six-year term.

She announced her retirement Tuesday, according to the Belleville News-Democrat.

Eckert was elected circuit judge in 2002 and won retention in 2008. She was first appointed associate judge in 1991.

Messages left for Eckert were not returned Wednesday.

Swansea attorney Judy Cates, who ran for appellate judge last year, announced her intention to seek Eckert's seat the same day.

A message left for Cates was not returned Wednesday.

Eckert, 58, has served in the criminal division of the St. Clair courts since 1991. She has also served in the Family Division and spearheaded a number of court programs.

According to a 2005 interview with the Madison County Record, Eckert said "my job is never dull."

"Each day I sincerely hope that the work I do makes a difference in someone's life," Eckert said in the 2005 interview. "Each day I am consistently uplifted, saddened, humbled, surprised and challenged."

Cates ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary in 2008 against Fifth District Appellate Court Judge Jim Wexstten.

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