DANVILLE — Three members of Vermilion County’s legal community are trying to move up the judicial ladder in this year’s election.
Attorneys Dan Brown and Edwin Barney and Associate Circuit Judge Karen Wall are squaring off for an open seat on the bench in Vermilion County Circuit Court. The trio — all Democrats — is jockeying to fill the seat left open by the October retirement of longtime Circuit Judge Michael Clary.
Each of the three filled out questionnaires distributed to candidates in contested races by the Commercial-News.
While the duties of a judge are unlike those of a public office holder such as a mayor or county board member, each of the three candidates contend there still are ways to help the community from the bench.
“Our community wants judges on the bench who will dutifully interpret the law and devoted public servants who will help implement, not make, political decisions, and who know the difference between personal opinion and professional duty,” said Wall, adding she would make decisions “based on the facts of a case and the law.”
According to Barney, his longtime vested interested in the community would assist him in making appreciate case decisions as a circuit judge.
“As a result, I am aware with the issues and concerns that plague our community,” he said. “These experiences will help guide my decisions as a judge — to remember that these are not just legal issues, these are people, and that’s what the trial court is all about.”
Given the heavy caseload faced by the courts, Brown contends the best assistance to the community comes by improving the current system in place.
“We need to expedite criminal matters and insure a prompt and fair resolution of those cases,” he said, noting that civil litigation can be burdensome. “The courts and judges need to devote the time and resources to insure that the judicial process promptly addresses those cases with the proper application of the governing legal principles.”
Among the continuing successes in the Vermilion County Circuit Court is the implementation and continuing use of the Drug Court, which uses supervision and treatment for addiction in lieu of a traditional justice system process.
Both Barney and Wall contend Veterans Court would the best addition to alternative programs. Veterans Court offers a special court system for veterans dealing with substance abuse or mental disorders that being tried for felony or misdemeanor offenses.
“Veterans’ Court programs are intended to give a second chance to veterans in recognition that returning soldiers often have difficulty readjusting to civilian life,” Barney said. “The separate treatment of veterans also is recognition of the extraordinary service these soldiers have provided to their country.”
For Wall, Veterans Court has a unique opportunity to be established in Danville.
“Not only do I have an interest in providing for the unique needs of veterans, but I believe our community has the resources to provide valuable services to veterans,” she said. “The Illiana VA Medical Center, in collaboration with court personal, could provide treatment for veterans and deter future criminal conduct.”
Brown acknowledges the “proactive” stances taken by local courts in adopting programs such as Drug Court and CASA, citing the two as “examples of how our courts have attempted to respond to the needs of the community.”
Brown cites his overall experience as a litigator is among the best qualifiers for a seat as circuit judge in Vermilion County.
“The litigation process can affect every aspect of a citizen’s life,” he said. “It’s important to know that the judge presiding over such matters has the extensive experience necessary to recognize the impact those cases have on the community and the parties involved.”
For Barney, the variety of daily duties and responsibilities that come before a circuit judge on any given day call demands a level of professionalism he possesses.
“As a judge, I would serve the public and encounter people needing help on a daily basis,” he said. “I aspire to treat everyone who appears before me with dignity, respect, and courteousness.”
According to Wall, her current position as associate judges itself speaks to her preparedness to be a circuit judge.
“In 2010, I was chosen by the circuit judges of the Fifth Judicial Circuit to serve Vermilion County as an associate circuit judge,” she said. “ I am familiar with the responsibilities and feel that I can make a greater impact on Vermilion County as a circuit court judge.”