Ill. appellate court election hinges on type of experience

Saturday, November 4, 2006

By KYLE W. MORRISON

Southeast Missourian

Tuesday's election for Illinois Appellate Court judge comes down not to who has the most experience, but what kind of experience each candidate has.

Judge Stephen McGlynn is hoping to retain his post as appellate judge for the 5th Appellate District, which encompasses Illinois' 37 southernmost counties. He was appointed to the court in July of 2005.

He faces 1st Circuit Judge Bruce Stewart for the position.

Both candidates claim they are the judge with the best kind experience to be on the appellate court, which handles case appeals from the circuit courts.

"They know what kind of appellate judge I'm going to be, because I have a record," McGlynn said. "He doesn't."

Stewart argues that McGlynn's 16-month stint on the appellate court isn't enough experience.

"He's never been a circuit judge," Stewart said. "I don't think you have any business of moving to a position of reviewing a decision of a circuit judge until you've made those decisions."

For the last 11 years, Stewart has been a judge in the 1st Judicial Circuit and is the current presiding judge in Saline County. Before becoming a judge, he practiced law for 19 years.

The appellate court is McGlynn's first foray into a judicial position following nearly 20 years of practicing law.

Stewart said moving to the appellate judge without being a circuit judge first puts McGlynn in a handicapped position.

In McGlynn's eyes, not being a judge before being appointed to the appellate court has allowed him to offer the court a fresh viewpoint.

"It has been helpful for this court to have somebody on with a different perspective who has seen the problems up front, seen through the eyes of a lawyer," McGlynn said.

With McGlynn being one of the five judges elected to the court from the Metro East area, Stewart said the rest of the district needs to be represented.

"I'm arguing for geographical diversity, which also provides a diversity of experience," said Stewart, of Harrisburg, Ill. "Judges sitting in the rural counties have a different overall experience level and hear a different type of case to some extent to those in the urban counties."

According to Stewart, he has heard cases involving issues like methamphetamine and eminent domain that those who have lived and worked in the Metro East area would not be as familiar with.

McGlynn blasts Stewart's geography argument, pointing out that not every state is represented in the U.S. Supreme Court, and he has traveled the 5th District extensively.

Stewart emphasizes the recommendations and support he has received from the legal community. The Illinois Bar Association recommended Stewart over McGlynn, calling the Democrat "highly qualified."

McGlynn said the support and recommendations come from practicing trial lawyers who are profiting from the rising costs of litigation in the appellate court.

kmorrison@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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