Asbestos attorney Julian applies for Madison Co. judgeship; Critic says enough with Dems crowding bench - try 'diversity of thought'

By Ann Maher | Jan 22, 2019

Julian and Donohoo  

Twelve area attorneys have applied for the associate judge position that opened after Sarah Smith was elected circuit judge in Madison County in November, including the co-founder of what has become a national asbestos law firm.

Dentist-turned asbestos attorney John Barry Julian, of Gori & Julian in Edwardsville, is one of at least nine Democrats seeking to be seated on an already heavily Democratic bench at the Third Judicial Circuit.

According to his bio on the firm’s website, Julian was a successful dentist for around 20 years until he went into law after receiving his J.D. from St. Louis University School of Law in 1995.  

In the last few years, Gori & Julian has become the top filer of asbestos lawsuits in the country – eclipsing the Simmons firm of Alton in 2017 as the nation’s biggest asbestos firm. Most of Gori & Julian’s cases originate in Madison County, however, recently, the firm has favored venue in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

Associate judges are picked by a secret vote among the circuit’s nine elected judges. A prospective appointee needs at least five votes to get seated to a four-year term, but if there is no clear winner, run-off balloting is conducted.

Only two of the dozen seeking Smith’s vacancy are Republican – Mark Rabe, 62, of Edwardsville, who lost his race against Smith in the November general election, and Andrew Carruthers, 39, of Edwardsville and partner at HeplerBroom.

Of the 22 total judgeships at the Third Judicial Circuit, which includes Madison and Bond counties, only two are held by Republicans – Circuit Judge David Dugan, who was elected in November; and Associate Judge Stephen Stobbs, appointed in 2006.

The current 19-2 Democrat to Republican balance has Madison County GOP Chair Jeremy Plank calling for more “diversity of thought” on the bench.

 “It really is hard to believe that in a county where Republicans are in the majority less than 10 percent of the judges are Republicans,” Plank said.

Associate judges serve four-year terms after which they can be reappointed by circuit judges or be removed by them in another secret vote, Plank pointed out. Associate openings can also occur for other reasons due to retirements or career changes, for example, he added.

In May, all associates judges in Illinois will be up for reappointment.

The last time the slate of associate judges were up for reappointment in Madison County in 2015, the circuit’s elected judges refused to reappoint five of them.

Nearly 50 candidates applied for the vacancies, however no Republican was chosen for any of those five openings.

And, last year when there were two associate judge vacancies, both were filled by attorneys who were “active in the Madison County Democrat Party and employed by plaintiff’s law firms,” according to Plank.

“If our county is going to shake its reputation as a judicial hellhole the judiciary needs more balance,” Plank said.  “Two Republican judges out of 22 total does not reflect the political makeup of a county with a Republican majority.”

Plank added that Republican applicants have not been passed over now 16 times in a row, with only two appointments in the past 24 years and none in the past 13 years

“It seems that nearly all of the associate judges appointed in the past 13 years have come from either the State’s Attorney’s office or one of the local plaintiff’s firms owned by wealthy Democrat attorneys,” Plank said. “Republicans are simply underrepresented on the bench in Madison County and our elected Circuit judges need to use these vacancies to show the electorate that they value balance in the judiciary and want to improve the image of our court system.”

In addition to Julian, Rabe and Carruthers, the other applicants for Smith’s seat are:

Ellen R. Burford, 32, Democrat of Granite City, affiliated with Burford Law Office in Granite City.

Angela P. Donohoo, 41, Democrat, of Bethalto, partner at Levo-Donohoo in Troy.

David J. Ezra, Democrat, affiliated with Ezra & Associates in Collinsville.

Derek Filcoff, 43, Democrat, of Granite City, solo practitioner.

Eric D. Jackstadt, 62, Democrat, of Collinsville, solo practitioner.

Peter J. Maag, 38, Democrat, of Carlyle, affiliated with Maag Law Firm in Wood River.

Ronald S. Motil, 62, Democrat of Maryville, Beatty & Motil in Glen Carbon.

Robert S. Robinson, 44, has not voted in a primary election from his address in Bethalto. The Attorney Registration and Discipline Commission lists his registered business address in Downers Grove.

Kelly C. Sullivan, 52, Democrat, of Collinsville, partner at Sullivan & Vonbokel in Fairview Heights.

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Granite City HeplerBroom Madison County

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