Editorials

New judge helping a felon Christian? Likely. Smart? Not very. Judicious? Nope.

Republican Ron Duebbert will replace St. Clair County Circuit Judge John Baricevic in the 20th Judicial Circuit.
Republican Ron Duebbert will replace St. Clair County Circuit Judge John Baricevic in the 20th Judicial Circuit. dholtmann@bnd.com

Welcome to the 20th Judicial Circuit, newly elected Judge Ron Duebbert. By the way, your judgment is already in question.

Duebbert, a Republican, narrowly defeated Chief Circuit Judge John Baricevic, a Democrat. His votes in the rural counties put him over the top.

Now even the most cosmopolitan, welcoming and accepting among us has trouble believing Duebbert would have beaten an entrenched incumbent had the fact that he had a violent young felon living with him come to light before the election. His first meeting with the new chief judge, Andrew Gleeson, led to felony cases being removed from Duebbert’s courtroom and a suggestion that the state oversight folks look into the matter.

Baricevic, at least in part, lost because he was facing voter ire for the legal ploy of resigning and seeking election rather than retention as the Illinois Constitution intends. It also didn’t help that Baricevic failed to notice he had a judge hooked on heroin who wasn’t caught until after a new judge’s overdose death at the addict’s family lodge.

But whatever flaws you may see in Baricevic, you know that he knew all about Duebbert’s live-in felon and Duebbert’s sexuality. There was no public outing or mass mailings hammering that issue, and you know the Democrats were well aware of the weapon they had in their hands.

Baricevic showed character in his restraint, even though it cost him his judgeship. That was a worthy act.

Duebbert said he was helping a friend and was not in a romantic relationship with the young man, David E. Fields. Fields, 20, was convicted of aggravated battery, which prosecutors initially said was a sexual attack, on a 17-year-old pregnant woman when he was in high school. He served about three years at Menard Correctional Center and must register as a violent offender.

Fields was at Duebbert’s house between his Oct. 24 parole, through the Nov. 8 election and moved out Dec. 2, just before Duebbert was sworn in as a judge.

Even if the state courts administrator and the Judicial Inquiry Board do nothing, the court of public opinion finds Duebbert has failed to realize there was an appearance of impropriety. Gleeson was right when he said that is the standard by which a judge lives.

Let’s hope the next time Duebbert sees a youth in need, his Christian act is to hand the person hotel money instead of the keys to his house.

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