Julie Gomric was sworn in Monday as an associate St. Clair County judge; now the seat vacated by the death of Associate Judge Joseph Christ must be filled.
The NAACP is hopeful that one of the three qualified African-American candidates who previously applied will be selected to fill the seat left vacant by Christ's death.
Stanley Franklin, president of the East St. Louis branch of the NAACP, said William Clay III, Ethan Skaggs, and Levander Smith are all qualified candidates.
He said the NAACP believes the judicial bench should reflect the population as a whole.
"At this point, we're looking for Chief Judge John Baricevic and all of the voting judges in the 20th circuit, when making the decision, to be reflective of the community where they serve."
Franklin said it's unfortunate that Christ died, but because the process must move forward, "it is our position that we want diversity on the court.
"St. Clair County is 30 percent African-American and the associate judgeship should be reflective of the community in which they serve," Franklin said.
Currently, there are two black associate judges -- Laninya Cason and Walter Brandon. The other African-American on the bench is Circuit Judge Zina Cruse. She was elected to the seat vacated by retired Circuit Judge Milton Wharton, who also is black.
James Ingram, a lifetime East St. Louis resident, agreed that a qualified African-American should be chosen for the newly vacant seat, But he isn't surprised that more East St. Louis politicians and community leaders have not spoken out because many are part of the St. Clair County Democratic machine.
"It is their role (black leaders) to remain silent in hopes that they will receive crumbs from Belleville and the powers that be in St. Clair County," Ingram said.
Any associate judgeship vacancy is governed by Supreme Court rule 39, according to Mike Tardy director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts.
Tardy said the process includes posting the vacancy for 30 days, and any attorney who seeks appointment must be a U.S. citizen, have a license to practice law and live in the 20th circuit.
When the posting closes: "We forward the applications to the chief circuit judge. They have a list and the chief judge requests a ballot be issued by the administrative office," Tardy said. Then the ballots are sent to all 12 circuit judges in the 20th Circuit, who then vote in secret.
Baricevic has said in the past there is no quota and the judgeship should go to the most qualified candidate.
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.