Belleville plaintiff attorney William D. Stiehl Jr. was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to fill the circuit judge vacancy left open following the death of former judge Robert LeChien roughly one year ago.
Stiehl’s appointment to the Twentieth Judicial Circuit was announced Thursday, which encompasses five counties – Monroe, Perry, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington.
Illinois Supreme Court Chief justice Lloyd K. Karmeier recommended Stiehl’s appointment to LeChien’s vacancy after St. Clair County Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson requested the vacancy be filled due to staff shortages.
Gleeson has maintained for the past year that he does not have the authority to request a replacement following LeChien's death on Aug. 31, 2017.
However, Illinois Supreme Court Communication Director Chris Bonjean said Gleeson requested the position be filled on July 17.
The position is now filled three months before the general election.
Stiehl is a Republican, and lives in Belleville.
“The timing of Chief Judge Gleeson’s request, coming as it did so close to the upcoming elections, presented a unique challenge for the Court,” Karmeier stated in a press release. “We did not want to interfere in the fall judicial races by favoring any of the current candidates with the head start this interim appointment might provide. At the same time, there were obvious, practical difficulties in finding a competent attorney with the flexibility and desire to accept what will be an extremely brief appointment.
“The court was therefore very pleased to be able to call on someone of Mr. Stiehl’s experience and ability. We are confident that he will do an excellent job. We are also very grateful that he was willing to put personal inconvenience aside in order to help ensure that the local circuit court will be able to meet its responsibilities to the citizens of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit until the electoral process runs its course this fall.”
The appointment takes effect Aug. 20 and will run just over three months until Dec. 3 when then vacancy will be filled by the winner of the November 2018 general election.
Stiehl is not a candidate in any general election race.
Former St. Clair County Associate Judge Laninya Cason is running on the Republican ticket for LeChien’s vacancy, and current Associate Judge Chris Kolker is running on the Democratic ticket for the vacancy.
Another upcoming vacancy in the Twentieth Judicial Circuit is that of Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot, who is retiring. O’Fallon attorney Paul Evans is running on the Republican ticket for the open seat with Associate Judge John O’Gara running on the Democratic ticket for the circuit judge vacancy.
Stiehl has worked in private practice for nearly 40 years and has appeared in every courtroom in St. Clair County, his bio states.
He began his career as a St. Clair County assistant public defender before spending 27 years as a partner at law firms in Belleville.
He then began working as the sole practitioner of the Law Offices of William Stiehl Jr. in 2011, where he handled civil and criminal cases in both state and federal courts.
Stiehl earned his bachelor of arts degree from Vanderbilt University and his juris doctorate from the Tulane University School of Law.
Stiehl has provided pro bono representation of indigent clients for the Land of Lincoln Legal Foundation, and serves as a board member for Family Hospice in Belleville.