Belleville City Clerk Dallas Cook has filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court to overturn lower court rulings that allowed three St. Clair County judges to run for election rather than retention.
“It’s important to not let it die right now,” Cook said. “What happens here is going to determine the way judges are elected in the state of Illinois for the rest of time.
“If this ruling stands and I don’t appeal this, then that’s the law. Judges don’t have to run for retention anymore. That’s what’s so crazy about the whole situation.”
Two judges could not be reached, one declined comment and their attorney could not be reached.
It’s important to not let it die right now. What happens here is going to determine the way judges are elected in the state of Illinois for the rest of time.
Belleville City Clerk Dallas Cook
Instead of seeking retention to stay on the bench, St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic and Circuit Judges Robert Haida and Robert LeChien announced their resignations last year and then later filed to run for election. Judges usually run for “retention” to the bench, which requires a judge to get 60 percent of the vote to stay on the job. However, in an election, a candidate only needs a simple majority to win.
Cook filed a lawsuit in an effort to require the three judges to run for retention but a Sangamon County judge in February and the 4th District Appellate Court in July have ruled Baricevic, Haida and LeChien can stay on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Cook believes the state constitution calls for Baricevic, Haida and LeChien to run for retention rather than running for election while the judges argue the constitution says they “may” run for retention.
Baricevic and Haida could not be reached for comment Friday. LeChien said as a judge he could not comment on the pending case and referred questions to Chicago attorney Michael Kasper, who is representing the three judges. Kasper could not be reached for comment on Friday.
The Appellate Court in their order affirmed that we were following the constitution. I’m pleased with that decision. The voters will decide. That’s all we ever wanted was for the voters to have the choice.
St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic
After the 4th District Appellate Court issued its ruling, Baricevic said he was pleased with the decision.
“Judges get elected to follow the constitution. Every day when we go to work, we try to follow the constitution. As candidates, we try to follow the constitution,” Baricevic said at the time. “The Appellate Court in their order affirmed that we were following the constitution. I’m pleased with that decision. The voters will decide. That’s all we ever wanted was for the voters to have the choice.”
Baricevic, Haida and LeChien are running as Democrats. Haida filed to run for the Baricevic vacancy and does not have Republican opposition. However, Republicans have filed to run in the other two races. Baricevic faces Ronald Duebbert for the Haida vacancy and LeChien faces Laninya Cason for the vacancy caused by LeChien’s resignation.
Cook has been seeking donors to help pay for his legal bills. So far, the bill is $77,000 and he expects to be charged another $10,000 to $15,000 for the high court action.