Middendorff (D)

Gruenke (R)

In Madison and St. Clair counties, candidates vying for circuit court vacancies and judges seeking to keep their seats by retention face no opposition.

But an interesting contest in neighboring Clinton County pits an associate judge running on his combined experience as judge and former state's attorney against a business attorney who boasts of conservative values and experience representing regular citizens and municipalities.

Clinton County Associate Judge Dennis Middendorff, a Democrat from Carlyle, seeks to defeat challenger Doug Gruenke, a Republican from New Baden, who won a spot on the November ballot by mounting a successful write-in campaign in February's primary.

Gruenke said his decision to run for the Clinton County resident judge vacancy in the 4th Judicial Circuit came about after the deadline for being placed on the primary ballot passed. He needed 500 votes as a write-in candidate and got 512 in the primary to earn a spot on the Republican ballot in November.

Middendorff has been rated "qualified" in the Illinois State Bar Association poll, having scored better than 90 percent in categories ranging from "integrity" to "sensitivity." In the poll's "temperament" category, Middendorff was rated 76.54.

Gruenke said he was not rated in the poll because of a timing issue with his write-in campaign.

An Illinois Civil Justice League website that features information on judicial candidates across the state shows that Middendorff has the endorsement of Illinois Committee for Honest Government.

At Illinoisjudges.net, judicial candidates have the opportunity to answer a questionnaire on a range of subjects, including civil litigation reform.

Middendorff had not completed the questionnaire as of Oct. 13.

On the question of what civil reforms the candidate would like to see enacted, Gruenke indicated that mandatory arbitration could help alleviate expensive, protracted litigation.

"This system provides for an expedited schedule and can resolve a case within six to eight months, while still protecting the parties' right to have a trial by judge or jury," he answered. "Some of the same principles that have been implemented in the mandatory arbitration system may be able to be implemented in the major civil cases in order to reduce the caseload and time that it takes to get to trial."

On a question about whether our system adequately deters and penalizes frivolous litigation, Gruenke wrote that Illinois Supreme Court Rule 137 provides adequate penalties for frivolous litigation. But, he wrote, that it is very rarely acted upon.

"Frivolous litigation not only affects the parties to the case, it affects the entire judicial system," Gruenke wrote. "An abundance of these cases slow the judicial process for everyone, thereby making it difficult for parties with legitimate claims to have their cases heard."

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