Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder could become the court's next asbestos judge when Circuit Judge Daniel Stack leaves the post he has held since 2004.

Stack, whose term ends in December 2010, is retiring to work in the private sector as a mediator/arbitrator.

Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis said last week that Crowder will "most likely" be tapped to preside over Madison County's asbestos docket -- one of the busiest in the country.

Crowder has overseen at least one asbestos hearing in Stack's absence in recent months.

In an earlier interview, Stack indicated he wanted both sides of the asbestos bar to consider a successor "who they won't take a change from," he said.

Under Illinois law, any party can substitute one judge for cause, if the judge has not made a significant ruling.

If Crowder succeeds Stack in asbestos, she will inherit a docket that has been growing in recent years with claims filed by plaintiffs from all over the country.

In 2009, a total of 814 asbestos cases were filed, representing a 27 percent increase over the previous year's total of 639.

A record number of asbestos cases – 953 – were filed in 2003. During the next three years the number of new cases tapered off, but then resurged in 2007.

Stack has maintained that Madison County is a convenient, efficient and fair place for asbestos litigation.

Stack, a Democrat, 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.

Crowder, a Democrat, was elected circuit judge in 2006. Before her election she served as an associate judge. Crowder defeated James Hackett, a Republican. Hackett was then and still is an associate judge.

Madison County State's Attorney Bill Mudge, a Democrat, is running unopposed in November 2010 to succeed Stack.

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