GRANITE CITY - Former Chief Judge of the Third Judicial Circuit David Hylla has announced his retirement, leaving the way open for an election battle for a seat on the Madison County bench.
Current Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons, who did not file candidacy papers to retain his position by the Monday deadline, has indicated interest in running to replace Hylla on the Democratic ballot.
A former assistant state's attorney, Amy Maher, confirmed Wednesday she will be running as a Republican.
While the deadline to register for running for most races in the March primaries was Monday, Dec. 2, there is a window for potential judicial candidates to register between Dec. 16 and 23.
Hylla sent his retirement letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Anne Burke last Wednesday, which arrived on her desk on Monday morning, the last day for a judicial vacancy to be open to be contested next year.
In the letter, Hylla, who served as chief judge for six years, stated that "I truly appreciate everything I was fortunate enough to do for the past 13 years."
Hylla, who was first elected in 2006 and retained as a judge in 2012, said he decided to announce his retirement now to allow candidates to put themselves forward for election.
Otherwise, Hylla told the Record, the next election would be 2022 and he was never going to stay on the bench for that length of time.
Retirement was something Hylla said he was contemplating "for a while but it was not an easy decision to make."
He added, "It's a major turning point in...life and I had to give it some consideration, reflect, but I am happy with the decision, comfortable with it.
"But it was a difficult decision to make because I have really enjoyed being a judge."
However, the announcement of a vacancy had not yet been posted by the Illinois State Board of Elections as of end of business Tuesday, so potential candidates remained cautious about making their own bids official.
State's Attorney Gibbons, who had previously stated he was running to retain a position he has held since his appointment in 2010 and answered in detail questions from the Record on why he would be the best candidate, did not file registration papers by the Dec. 2 deadline.
While Gibbons told the Record he has seen the retirement letter sent to the Supreme Court via the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, he is no making an official announcement of a run for a seat on the bench until it is official.
Gibbons noted that two candidates have filed as Democrats to fill the state's attorney position, Crystal Uhe and Susan Jensen. Republican Tom Haine also has filed candidacy paperwork to be the county's top law enforcement officer.
Maher said she is interested in running to replace Hylla on the Third Circuit but was also waiting for an official announcement of a vacancy.
"I am interested in standing but am not sure of the situation," Maher said Tuesday afternoon.
She added that the announcement of an opening is "close to the deadline but that is out of my control."
A former assistant state's attorney under Gibbons, Maher left the office in 2012 and has since worked for Catholic Charities in administrative positions but also as an unofficial legal adviser.
Hylla, who was chief judge for the circuit until this year, said he wanted to create a vacancy to give people the opportunity to run for the position rather than wait for a number of months and allow the position to be filled by appointment.
"I had no intention to stay until 2022," the judge said."Others will now have the opportunity. I wanted that vacancy to be created so people could run."
While he can stay on the bench until December next year, Hylla indicated he may step down earlier, which will mean a possible appointment to serve for a number of months ahead of November's election.
Hylla said that he plans to return to private practice but said he is will to continue public service if still wanted.
He currently serves on the Illinois Judicial Conference, is acting chair of the Supreme Court's e-Business Policy Advisory Board and sits on the court's Commission on Pretrial Practices, which is studying moves from a money based bond system to one that is more risk assessed