SPRINGFIELD — A veteran Douglas County lawyer has been chosen as the newest associate judge for the 6th Judicial Circuit.
Richard L. "Rick" Broch, 56, of Tuscola will be sworn in Jan. 2 in a ceremony in Tuscola.
He'll have to hit the road right after to begin an assignment that will require a calendar with large blanks and a fuel-friendly vehicle.
Broch will hear a variety of cases in the four smaller counties of the circuit: DeWitt, Douglas, Piatt and Moultrie. The other counties in the 6th Circuit are Macon and Champaign.
Broch is filling the vacancy created by the Dec. 2 retirement of Associate Judge Chris Freese of Sullivan. His selection was announced late Monday afternoon by the Illinois Supreme Court.
Associate judges are selected by and serve at the pleasure of the elected judges in a circuit. They earn about $173,300 a year.
6th Circuit Chief Judge Dan Flannell, who sits in Moultrie County, said his current plan is for Broch to sit in DeWitt or Moultrie counties on Mondays; in Piatt County on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; and in Douglas on all Fridays but the third Friday of the month. On that day, he'll sit in Moultrie County while Flannell attends his monthly chief judges meeting.
Broch will spend the bulk of his time in Piatt County because newly appointed Piatt County Circuit Judge Hugh Finson of Monticello is prohibited from hearing criminal cases there because his niece, Dana Rhoades, is Piatt County state's attorney.
Consequently, Flannell has had to reassign Finson to other counties as well, a situation that will have to continue for at least the next four years since Rhoades was just re-elected to her post as state's attorney.
"We'll probably be passing each other on the road," Broch said of Finson.
Broch said traveling for work is not new to him. As a solo practitioner since 1996, he said he's represented clients in several counties. Although he has a general practice, his focus has been on criminal and traffic cases, he said.
"I had a real good idea as to what the schedule would be. I may look for a smaller car," said Broch.
Broch started his legal career in the Champaign County public defender's office where he worked from 1982 to 1983. He was elected as state's attorney in Douglas County in 1988 and served there until going into private practice in 1996.
Broch was one of 26 applicants for the position.
Because of Finson's conflict, Flannell said, the judges were looking for an attorney familiar with many areas of the law.
"We were looking for someone that had a range of experience in the criminal and civil fields. That narrowed our search among the applicants. We passed on some highly qualified people," Flannell said.
Broch is married to Nancy Broch. They have one son, Jeffrey Broch, a freshman at Eastern Illinois University.