Chief Judge Callis resigns; Gill declines to run in 13th District again

News-DemocratMay 3, 2013 

— Chief Judge Ann Callis announced her resignation on Friday from the Third Judicial Circuit bench and will be replaced by Judge David Hylla.

Callis is rumored to be considering a run for Congress in the 13th District, currently represented by freshman Republican Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville. Callis attended a Champaign County Democratic dinner Sunday that was billed as a chance for voters to meet potential candidates for the 13th Congressional District, although she did not speak at the event.

Callis could not be reached for comment Friday. Any announcement about Callis' plans will be made on Monday, according to her office. Under the Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct, Callis must resign her office if she intends to run for a non-judicial office.

Hylla was unanimously elected Friday as the new chief judge by his fellow circuit judges.

Davis defeated Dr. David Gill in the 2012 election, and Gill had been considering a rematch in 2014. However, Gov. Pat Quinn announced Friday that he is naming Gill as assistant director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, and Gill confirmed that he will not seek the 13th District seat again.

Gill said Quinn had approached him a few months ago about the post, and he told the governor he'd have to give it some thought; he said he had been considering another Congressional campaign since his narrow defeat on election night. But, he said, he knew he couldn't do both.

"Ultimately it boiled down to deciding which of the two seemed to fit better for me now," Gill said. "I think I can make a significant impact in terms of helping people access health care and implement the Affordable Health Care Act in Illinois."

Earlier this week, Davis said he was not surprised that names were already floating about his possible replacement. He said a week after he was elected and before he took office, he saw his name on a list of potential targets for the Democratic Party in 2014.

He declined to speculate about Callis as a potential opponent. "It seems like the campaigns never end, and that's unfortunate," Davis said. "I'm just working on governing."

Callis, 48, lives on the outskirts of Troy, currently in the 15th Congressional District. To run there would mean facing veteran U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville. However, a candidate technically does not have to live within a congressional district in order to represent it.

Still, Callis has reportedly considered moving before, when she was asked in 2011 to consider running for the 12th District seat that was to be vacated by now-retired Congressman Jerry Costello. At the time, Callis declined.

First sworn in as an associate judge in 1995, Callis was named a circuit judge in 1999 and chief judge in 2006. She then earned a reputation as a reformer, and opened special court programs for veterans and nonviolent drug offenders as well as a diversion program for youthful offenders.

"Ann Callis has done a tremendous job as chief judge," said Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan. "She's changed the image of Madison County a lot in terms of the judiciary. I've worked with her very well in the past and wish her the best in the future."

Among Callis' endorsements in her most recent judicial retention campaign: Shimkus, who had nominated her veterans court program for a national award. Shimkus said at the time that Callis had earned the respect of both parties for her reforms in the court system.

Hylla was raised in Madison and now lives in Granite City. He is a graduate of Assumption High School, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and St. Louis University Law School.

Hylla practiced law for 21 years and served as city attorney for Madison and Venice before he was elected circuit judge in 2006. He has served as chief judge of the civil division and chaired the committee to establish a mediation system for medical malpractice cases.

"I am honored that my colleagues have placed their confidence and trust in me to be the next chief judge," Hylla said. "We have a very fine team of judges and I look forward to working with all of them to serve the people of Madison and Bond counties by continuing to provide an efficient, fair and impartial court system."

He also cited Callis' reforms during her tenure as chief judge. "Judge Callis is to be commended and I am proud to have served with her," Hylla said.

The 13th U.S. House District covers parts of Madison County, and includes Collinsville, Maryville and Edwardsville, runs eastward to Champaign County, and covers 13 other counties. Serving in Congress would actually be a slight pay cut for Callis; as chief judge, she earned $181,479. A rank-and-file member of Congress earns $174,000.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 239-2507.

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