Madison County Associate Judge Donald M. Flack, 45, said he is humbled after he was not retained as associate judge and then later selected as one of five to fill the vacancies, but stressed that he respected the circuit judges’ decisions.
“If it’s possible, it might be more humbling,” he said. “I might be more grateful. I might be more appreciative the second time around.”
Flack said he held no hard feelings and appreciated the new opportunity and smooth transition.
“It was really humbling at first. I had to go back to the same judges who just voted on retention and ask to be reappointed,” he said.
“But every single one of the circuit judges were extremely gracious and welcoming. They made the process as easily as possible on me, which I appreciate.”
“It really just became an exercise in patience, as it is for everyone. You apply and make your case, then all you can do is wait it out and hope for the best.”
“It went as well as I could have expected considering all of the circumstances,” he continued.
The five seats were left open when Flack and fellow associate judges Duane L. Bailey, Ben L. Beyers, II, David Grounds and Elizabeth Levy were no retained in the spring to terms that would have begun July 1.
Only three other associate judges failed to get re-appointed in the entire state.
“It is unusual, but if you keep it in perspective, we have nine circuit judges elected by the people, charged with a pretty awesome responsibility of ensuring justice,” he added. “Part of that, or course, is appointing the associate judges. And having the privilege to serve with these nine circuit judges before and serving with them now, I know they take that job very seriously. I have great respect for all of them, so I know that all nine of them are trying to do what is best for the people in Madison County.”
Flack said he felt that the circuit judges did “everything they could to ensure that the best people” were selected to serve as associate judges.
“They all absolutely did what they thought was right with respect to the retention and the new judges,” he said.
Flack attended SIUE in Edwardsville, where he earned a degree in business economics. He then went on to receive his juris doctor at the St. Louis University School of Law in St. Louis.
Flack said his interest in the legal field came from an older cousin who was a practicing attorney in Michigan. But he really began thinking about law as a career while studying business in college. He said he saw how it impacted everyone’s life and realized “there are a lot of situations that develop that someone else is going to solve.” He wanted to be the one to solve those problems.
“The more I saw that, the more I came to believe it was something I wanted to become a part of, because it could have such an effect on people,” he said.
When he began law school, Flack said he got to know new lawyers and began developing new professional relationships with attorneys he had grown up around, but hadn’t paid much attention to their legal careers until he was studying law.
While attending in law school, Flack did summer work with larger firms in St. Louis, where he learned that he preferred trial work.
After graduation, he began working at the Bethalto firm Pratt & Tobin, where he was able to try jury and non-jury trials early on in his career.
He also served as an assistant state’s attorney for about three years and served as council for Madison County Development.
He then left to work for the larger firm Korein & Tillary, where he continued to gain trial experience.
He filed the case in 2005 on behalf of Michael Kelly, who claims his father Everett Kelly died from lung cancer in 2003 after smoking Marlboro Lights cigarettes for nearly 30 years.
Flack was lead counsel in the case until he was sworn in for his first term as associate judge in 2012.
Ten years later, the case is still being litigated (05-L-123).
He eventually opened his own firm in Wood River, where he practiced for four years before being selected as an associate judge in 2012.
His private firm focused on general trial work, where he did everything from defense litigation to plaintiff personal injury litigation. He also did some business litigation.
“If it involved going into a courtroom, I was probably willing to take it on,” he said.
After taking the bench, Flack said he was able to preside in almost every type of division at the Madison County courthouse in some way during his three years there, which he said “was an amazing experience to see all the avenues of the law work.”
Flack said he is passionate about the legal field’s ability to administer fairness.
“I think the biggest thing that drew me and keeps me interested in the law is this sense of justice or fairness,” he said.
“The key to me, my passion about the law is my sense of justice or fairness. The goal for me as a judge is to respect the legal process. I want every lawyer and litigant to feel like they had their day in court. That they were allowed to tell their story and present their evidence and to feel like they were treated fairly regardless of whether they like the result of not,” he said.
He added that he believes the justice system in America is a sound one and his purpose is to make sure it runs the way it was created to work.
“I’m convinced that as far as I knew, no one has come up with a better system than ours,” he said.
“I try my best to work the system in the way it was intended,” he added.
Flack said he plans to continue improving as a judge during his second appointment.
“I intend to demonstrate my gratuity by doing my job the best I can,” he said.
“Regardless of the non-retention, just in terms of continuing to be a judge, I hope I’m always trying to be better.”
“This is a very demanding job and a very important one, I think. So I don’t want to ever stop trying to be better at it,” Flack continued.
Flack grew up in Bethalto, where he currently resides with his wife and three children.
“I grew up in the community and I feel like I have a great connection to it,” he said.
Flack said that when he is not working, his family takes up most of his free time. He said he is active with his kids’ school and sports events and his family is also very active at Cornerstone Church in Bethalto.