Candidate Profile: Robert P. LeChien

Robert LeChien
Robert LeChien znizami@bnd.com

Name: Robert P. LeChien

Age: 64

Occupation: St. Clair County Resident Circuit Judge

Office Sought: 20th Judicial Circuit Judge

Party affiliation: Democrat

Previous elected positions and years served: Elected Resident Circuit Judge-1998 Retained-2004, 2010

Why are you running?: I have had the honor of serving as an elected circuit judge for 18 years. I want to continue in service to the people of St. Clair County and the State of Illinois.

Do you believe judges should be able resign in order to run for election, rather than retention? Why or why not?: Yes, I believe it was the intention of Illinois voters to allow an elected judge to either run for retention or to resign and run again for the same office. In fact, Illinois voters passed the present day Article Six of the 1970 Illinois Constitution that allows sitting judges to seek retention or to resign and run for office. The alternative scheme that allowed the governor to select all judges in the first place and mandated a retention vote thereafter, was considered by the voters and soundly rejected. In September, the Illinois Supreme Court left standing the Fourth District of the Appellate Court ruling: “Article VI, section 12, of 1970 Constitution sets forth both the election of and retention of Illinois supreme, appellate, and circuit court judges and contains no limitations preventing an elected judge from running for his or her own vacated judicial office instead of retention.”

Do you plan to serve the full term?: Yes, I plan to serve the full term.

There’s an opioid and drug abuse problem in the area. How should law enforcement approach the issue to stem the tide of drug abuse?: One very promising approach is the landmark legislation passed by the United States Congress this past July -- the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). The over-all philosophy is harm reduction. CARA promotes many evidence-based interventions that have the potential to more effectively address opioid and heroin dependence and save lives. The measure supports expanded use of diversion from the criminal justice system for drug law violations, medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction and naloxone to reverse opioid overdose. Medication-assisted treatment as envisioned in the legislation consists of the expanded provision of buprenorphine, methadone and other forms of medication-assisted treatment, including to people involved with the criminal justice system. Buprenorphine is a medication that blunts the sickness and symptoms of opioid withdrawal and successfully keeps many opioid abusers from relapse.

CARA contains many interventions crucial for turning the tide on the opioid and heroin crisis, provided these interventions are fully funded by Congress. When federally funded, CARA authorizes the Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to address the prescription opioid abuse and heroin use crisis. In time, St. Clair County will be eligible to apply for grants on behalf of local law enforcement to pursue these new strategies for the treatment of opioid addiction and prevention of overdose deaths. Hopefully funding will follow soon.

What is the biggest issue facing our court system, and how would you address it?: The most important concern is securing justice for all under law. Justice and fairness go hand in hand and, as a judge, I strive to ensure that justice is served. This is sometimes difficult when costs and complexities hinder access to the court system.

In recent years the courts have made greater efforts to address this situation and continue to look for constructive ways to allow every person access to the courts, regardless of the circumstances. The continued use of court-annexed mediation and arbitration systems help reduce costs and accelerate results. With the creation of specialized courts for victims of the domestic violence, for veterans, for drug offenders and for those in need of mental health services, the St. Clair County judicial system continues to address issues that might otherwise be overlooked. The judges continue to work together to develop innovative solutions to address the concerns of access to the courts.

Also, the jury system is the bedrock of our judicial system and must be preserved. Therefore, it is important that jurors are representative of our diverse community. To this end, I continue to encourage all of those who are called and are capable of doing so, to participate in this process. This will insure that our system, which provides for a jury of our peers, endures.

Why should people vote for you?: I have served as a judge in St. Clair County for 28 years and during those years, I have presided over every division in the courthouse. In a recent poll conducted by the Illinois State Bar Association, I was recommended for the office of circuit judge. The lawyers did not recommend my opponent. My experience and knowledge of the law make me professionally qualified for this job.

Also, my roots are in St. Clair County. My paternal grandfather was a farmer in what is now the Village of Sauget and my paternal grandfather was a blacksmith and vaudeville musician in Belleville. My father was a small businessman in Belleville. My brothers and sister, along with my nieces and nephews, continue to work in this community and have done the family name proud. I raised my children in this community and my wife, siblings and many of my extended family members continue to work and carry on our family traditions here. (Ask me about my grandkids.)

With these professional skills and civic perspective, as a judge I carefully consider those involved, listen to and analyze the facts and arguments presented, and apply the law according to the laws of the State of Illinois. Those many years ago, I took an oath to support the constitutions of the United States and the State of Illinois and to faithfully discharge my duties as a judge of the St. Clair County Circuit Court according to the best of my ability. Every day I work to uphold that oath and, if elected, I will continue to serve as an honest servant of justice.