Metro-East News

Three associate judges announce they will run for circuit positions

Three St. Clair County associate judges have announced they will ask voters to make them circuit judges.

▪  Associate Judge Christopher Kolker will run for the vacancy left by Circuit Judge Robert LeChien’s death.

▪  Associate Judge Heinz Rudolf will run for the vacancy left by Circuit Judge Jan Fiss’ retirement.

▪  Associate Judge John O’Gara will run for the vacancy left by Circuit Judge Vince Lopinot’s retirement.

All are Democrats.

Three current circuit judges will ask voters to keep their jobs. They are Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson, Circuit Judge Zina Cruse and Washington County Circuit Judge Daniel Emge. Sixty percent of the voters must vote for retention for Gleeson, Cruse and Emge to return to their jobs.

Christopher Kolker

Kolker, 51, was appointed to the bench as an associate judge in 2013. He has worked all dockets within the circuit, including family, civil and criminal. He has worked in all five counties that comprise the 20th Judicial Circuit, Washington, Monroe, Randolph, Perry and St. Clair. Kolker lives in Fairview Heights with his wife and two children.

Kolker received his undergraduate degree from Arizona State University in 1989 and earned his J.D. in 1998 from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, graduating with honors, magna cum laude. He was in private practice for 14 years before he was appointed to the bench.

When asked why he was interested in a resident circuit judge position, Kolker stated that he fells lucky every day to serve St. Clair County as a member of the judiciary, he is even more honored to be considered as a resident circuit judge in 2018. One of his goals is to change the perception of the judicial branch by displaying “the integrity and ethical standards that St. Clair County residents deserve.”

John O'Gara
John O’Gara

O’Gara, 56, is a St. Clair County native and Althoff Catholic High School graduate. He graduated from Quincy College and St. Louis University Law School. He and his wife currently live in Belleville. The couple has two adult daughters.

O’Gara served as St. Clair County’s Public Defender. He has tried close to 100 jury trials in Illinois and in federal court. He has argued appeals in the state appellate and supreme courts and in the federal appeals court.

O’Gara was appointed as an associate judge in April 2016.

“It has been an honor to serve the public in a very busy courtroom. My goal is always to give the parties and the lawyers a forum to try their cases and to respectfully rule in a fair and just manner. I hope to be elected as a circuit judge and continue my efforts to bring justice for all,” O’Gara said.

Heinz Rudolf
Heinz Rudolf

Rudolf, 47, has a undergraduate, master’s and law degrees from St. Louis University. He currently is assigned to the civil division which includes the mandatory arbitration docket, landlord-tenet disputes, mortgage foreclosure matters. He is a lifelong resident of St. Clair County. He lives in Belleville with his wife, Sally.

Rudolf was appointed to the bench in February 2006. He has presided over 55 jury trials, including seven this year. Rudolf received among the highest ratings in the Illinois State Bar Associations scores from attorneys who practice before him.

Rudolf has served as a prosecutor, public defender and a St. Clair County Board member. He helped develop the Stookey Township Park.

Gleeson announced last month that he formed an exploratory committee to advance the implementation of a voluntary drug testing program for the 20th Judicial Circuit.

Gleeson stated that the mission of the exploratory committed is to establish rules and procedures for a voluntary drug testing program and forward those suggestions to the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts and Conference of Chief Judges.

He voluntarily participates in random drug testing since 2013.

“I believe in drug testing and that is why I have voluntarily submitted to drug testing for the past four years,” Rudolf said. “Public confidence in judges is paramount. I am happy to share my drug test results with the public.”

Candidates will file for election next month.

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer