Retiring Madison County Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn won't be kicking back and relaxing after he leaves the bench in December.

Mendelsohn, 66, is already searching for work in private practice.

Mendelsohn's Dec. 21 retirement was announced last month by Chief Judge Ann Callis' office.

Mendelsohn said in an interview with the Madison County Record Tuesday that he was retiring before the end of his 2011 term because he had topped out his judicial retirement account.

Mendelsohn's 20 years as a public defender added to the monies he had accrued in a decade as an associate judge.

Even though he could retire completely, Mendelsohn said he wants to continue working, perhaps as an arbitrator, after leaving the bench.

"I think it's important to stay busy," he said.

In looking back over his decade as a judge, Mendelsohn said he was grateful to have handled many complex lawsuits and class actions, such as a 2006 nationwide case against Paxil -- a drug used to treat depression.

Attorney Stephen Tillery represented a class who claimed drug maker GlaxoSmithKline withheld negative information about the safety and effectiveness of Paxil. Mendelsohn approved a $69 million settlement in which class members were to receive $15 or their actual drug costs if they showed proof. Tillery stood to collect a $16.8 million fee.

Mendelsohn said he had enjoyed trial work although at times it has been "taxing."

He counts Madison County's highly successful arbitration facility at Wood River as one of his greatest judicial accomplishments. The arbitration center has the highest rate of success in the state and Callis, in past interviews, has credited Mendelsohn with its success.

Mendelsohn took his seat as an associate judge after Callis was elected to her former circuit judgeship. Prior to becoming an associate judge, Mendelsohn was in private practice in addition to his work as a public defender. He received his law degree from the University of Illinois's School of Law.

Mendelsohn is married with two daughters.

Raised in Alton, he now lives in Glen Carbon.

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