The Alton chapter of the 100 Black Men of America calls the recent move to not retain five Madison County associate judges a “smoke screen” to cover an alleged racially motivated act.
A June 20 letter penned by Bobby Collins Sr., president of the local chapter, blasts Chief Judge Hylla and the Madison County circuit judges for not retaining associate judges Ben Beyers and Duane Bailey, who are referred to as “highly respected members” of the group.
“[T]he news was met with both shock and disgust, and the un-precedented [sic] removal of five judges was viewed as a mere smoke screen to avoid any racial connotation,” the letter states.
Collins made it clear that the letter is not a threat, but is their attempt to convey their concerns over the recent associate judge election. He added that 100 Black Men was contacted to provide support for the two former associate judges, but did not specify who contacted the group.
Collins urges the court to reconsider their choice to not reappoint Beyers and Bailey.
“Your actions have required the 100 Black Men to review minority employment in the county government and the judicial system in particular, and it has been found to be less than desirable and wanting.”
“We are not and must not conflate the many social issues of the world today with your actions, but in the context of everything we must ask where is the justice.”
Associate judges are appointed to their positions through a vote by the circuit’s elected judges. In the Third Judicial Circuit, which includes Madison County, there are nine elected circuit judges – meaning it takes a minimum of four judges to vote against retaining an associate judge.
“We the 100 Black Men are very much aware of the retention process. We understand the courts desire to promote diversity, but it should not and can not [sic] be at the expense of Mr. Bailey and Mr. Beyers,” Collins wrote.
The group argues that Bailey was just months away from full retirement eligibility and urges the court to allow him to “retire with dignity.”
They also urge the court to retain Beyers to give him the chance to “progress into a great judge and role model,” arguing that he is a young judge with a young family.
Collins requested an opportunity to address the group’s concerns in person, saying “there is a way forward and we would be glad to meet and discuss that forward method.”
Beyers and Bailey were among five associate judges who were not retained after elected Third Judicial Circuit judges voted to reappoint eight of the 13 associate judges. Those not retained included Beyers, Bailey, Donald Flack, David Grounds and Elizabeth Levy.
While they each received evaluations above the threshold of 65 in a judicial evaluation poll conducted by the Illinois State Bar Association, the five judges were among those who received the lowest ratings in the Third Judicial Circuit. Beyers, first appointed in 2011, was rated 65.36. Bailey, first appointed in 2007, was rated 71.93.