St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert P. LeChien, 65, has died, according to courthouse officials.
LeChien, Democrat, served as a judge for 30 years. He was appointed associate judge in 1987 and served in that role until he ran unopposed in 1998 for the vacancy of Jerome F. Lopinot, a resident circuit judge of St. Clair County.
He has presided over major civil litigation and more recently handled chancery (foreclosures) and miscellaneous remedy cases.
LeChien also was assigned to two high profile cases related to state legislators' failure to approve a budget - one brought by public union workers over payroll and another brought by social service agencies seeking to force payment for services provided.
Illinois had operated without a budget from June 30, 2015, until legislators came up with a plan on July 6; during those two years state employee unions had worked without a contract.
LeChien had granted an injunction authorizing the state comptroller to process a normal payroll in the absence of appropriations. But earlier this year, Attorney General Lisa Madigan moved to dissolve the injunction.
She argued that it had allowed Gov. Bruce Rauner and legislators to shirk their constitutional duty to adopt a budget. LeChien denied the motion.
In 2016, LeChien, as did Circuit Judge Robert Haida and former Chief Judge John Baricevic, took the unusual step of resigning his seat to be effective at the end of his term in December 2016, and sought re-election to the same seat he was vacating.
He defeated Republican Laninya Cason by a margin of 51 to 49 percent, or 58,559 to 56,343 votes in St. Clair County.
Had he run for retention, which is the tradition by which judges in Illinois seek to stay in office, he would have needed to run in all five counties of the circuit, which also include Monroe, Perry, Randolph and Washington.