BENTON — A longtime federal judge in southern Illinois says he'll retire from active duties early next year.
Marking his 21st year on the federal bench Thursday, U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert told the Southern Illinoisan that he'll be stepping down next March, when he turns 65.
"It has been an honor and privilege for me to serve the people of the Southern District of Illinois for over 20 years and it is my intention to continue my public service by rendering substantial judicial service as a senior judge," he said in a letter of retirement submitted to President Barack Obama this week.
Gilbert, who serves primarily at the federal courthouse in Benton, has sent a letter to President Barack Obama announcing his intentions, saying he'll continue his public service by taking on the role of senior judge. That status would give him a reduced caseload.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois calls Gilbert "one of the most committed, hard-working Illinoisans I know." He thanked Gilbert for his service to the state and the federal judiciary.
Gilbert was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. A lifelong Carbondale resident, Gilbert served as chief judge of the Southern District of Illinois from October 1993 to September 2000.
Gilbert is a graduate of University of Illinois and Loyola University of Chicago Law School.