With approximately two and a half months until election day, the issue of judge drug testing remains a hot button topic between candidates for circuit judge in St. Clair County - Chief Judge John Baricevic, a Democrat, and Belleville attorney Ron Duebbert, a Republican.
Baricevic released results of drug tests he took in August 2015 and more recently Aug. 2, and maintains that a voluntary drug screening is in place and working in the Twentieth Judicial Circuit.
Duebbert, on the other hand, is campaigning that Baricevic does not believe judges should be tested. A Duebbert campaign video blasts Baricevic for not having effectively dealt with a court drug problem in the wake of the Michael Cook scandal that began playing out in 2013.
He claims that Baricevic's public position on drug testing is at odds with statements he has made privately.
The St. Clair County drug scandal involved the cocaine overdose death of associate judge Joe Christ in March 2013, the subsequent arrest and conviction of former circuit judge Cook on heroin possession and gun charges and the arrest and conviction of probation officer James Fogarty who admitted to supplying the judges with drugs.
Baricevic says that Duebbert is "misrepresenting the facts" related to his position on drug testing.
"Integrity of the courts is always an appropriate issue in elections,"
he told the Record
about whether he thinks drug testing is a fair issue in this election. “The issue of integrity and competency of judges is fair, but for a lawyer to intentionally misrepresent facts is not only unfair, it’s an ethical issue.”
Duebbert fired right back.
“We did not misrepresent," Duebbert said. "We used his own words. John Baricevic has refused to discuss the issues in this campaign since August of last year."
By making his drug results public, Baricevic said he hopes to end the argument that he is opposed to drug tests in the court.
“He is telling everybody that I’m opposed to drug testing of any kind and he’s telling the public we don’t do drug testing,” Baricevic said. “How could I be opposed to drug testing if I’ve had myself drug tested? It’s evidence that Ron Duebbert is intentionally misleading the public.”
Regarding Baricevic’s release of drug test results, Duebbert responded: “He waits to less than 90 days before the election, approximately, and releases his own drug test results. What the judge should have done to make sure the public knew that the judges were not using drugs back in 2013 was to take an immediate drug test and publish the results at that time."
Baricevic told the Record in a previous interview that the participants of the drug testing program are confidential too.
Duebbert said he believes that an existence of a drug testing program for judges and what the provisions of the program are should not be confidential..
"John Baricevic is misleading the public and he’s actually flimflamming the public when he says a drug screening program exists when he won’t tell them what that program is, when it was [started], who participates and what are the parameters of participation,” Duebbert said,
Baricevic said he wants the campaign to get down to the merits of the election and discuss the responsibilities of the position.
“There’s really no issue here,” Baricevic said. “It appears that Ron Duebbert has nothing else to run on. Let’s talk about if I’m doing my job. This is really a phony issue. I do not suggest that it’s not important issue. I expected that the integrity of the courts would be an issue not that I don’t support drug testing. That’s all he wants to talk about. He makes all these allegations so what I say to the public is would you vote for somebody that intentionally misrepresents facts about serious issues.”