MONTICELLO — The Sixth Judicial Circuit in Illinois welcomed its newest member to the bench in a brief ceremony Tuesday.
William Hugh Finson, 64, of Monticello, has practiced law his entire career in Piatt County since graduating in 1972 from the University of Illinois College of Law.
"This is the peak of my legal practice and one of the peaks of my life," said Finson, after being sworn in as the resident circuit judge for Piatt County.
Finson fills the vacancy created by the July death of John P. Shonkwiler, 79, who was a judge for 47 years.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman administered the oath to Finson in a courtroom packed with legal colleagues, friends and family, including Finson's wife and his parents.
Garman said she hoped that Finson would embrace the notion of "procedural justice — the idea that every party to every case should leave the courtroom with the feeling that they've been treated fairly," no matter who prevails.
"Treat everyone in your court with dignity and respect. Recognize your role is that of public servant. Act with patience and humility. Maintain your body of knowledge. Be scrupulously fair," said Garman.
Garman noted that Finson has had many varied interests outside the practice of law, including being active in the Rotary Club and the Piatt County Museum.
"You're probably the only member of the Illinois judiciary who plays the tuba," she said.
Finson's wife Gloria helped him into his new uniform — his judicial robe.
Having difficulty getting it zipped, Finson deferred to his wife, saying: "I'm not nervous at all. We had trouble getting your ring on, too."
At 10:15 a.m., Finson joked: "Judge Flannell has told me I have a hearing in Clinton at 10:30."
Finson is going to have to ride the circuit for the immediate future, hearing cases in the smaller counties of the circuit because his niece, Dana Rhoades, is the Piatt County state's attorney and he may not hear criminal cases brought by her office because of a conflict of interest.
Finson will serve out the remainder of Judge Shonkwiler's term until 2014 and will have to run for election in Piatt County if he wants to continue in the post.