DANVILLE — Two attorneys and public office holders are circulating nominating petitions to run for a resident circuit judge post that will be open in the November 2014 general election, and at least one more attorney is considering a run.
Thomas O'Shaughnessy, a Catlin Republican and the Vermilion County recorder of deeds, and Edwin Barney, a Westville Democrat and District 4 representative on the Vermilion County Board, are circulating petitions to run for the seat that's currently held by Circuit Judge Michael Clary.
Dan Brown, a Danville Democrat, said he was approached to run for the seat and is still deciding whether to do that.
Clary is retiring on Oct. 31, bringing his 34-year career — including the last 15 years as a judge — to a close. Election officials said the judicial race could be one of the most competitive local races in the election, which also features races for governor and other statewide offices.
Other local seats that will be open are county clerk, sheriff, treasurer, supervisor of assessments, regional superintendent of schools, Board of Review Districts 1, 2 and 3 seats and half of the county board seats.
Candidates for the countywide offices and county board could begin collecting signatures of registered voters for their nominating petitions in September. Judicial candidates couldn't begin until last week when Clary's seat was declared vacant.
Judicial candidates must file their nominating papers with the Illinois State Board of Elections in Springfield between Nov. 25 and Dec. 2. All other candidates must file their paperwork with the Vermilion County clerk's office in Danville during that same time frame.
A Catlin native, O'Shaughnessy, 55, has 31 years of legal experience and is a longtime partner with Acton & Snyder LLC in Danville. He was elected Vermilion County recorder in the 2012 election and has served as a county election judge since 2007.
O'Shaughnessy also served on the Catlin school board for 18 years, including 10 years as president, and resigned that seat this summer. In addition, he served as a Vermilion County precinct committeeman from 1999 to 2005.
"I think any attorney should consider whether judicial service is a way in which they can make contributions to their community for the common good," O'Shaughnessy said, when asked why he's considering a run.
O'Shaughnessy said he has formed an exploratory committee, which is scheduled to meet Wednesday evening.
"I'll have a better feel" after the meeting, he said Tuesday. He said committee members include not only "individuals who expressed a willingness to serve but also people who have been actively involved in prior judicial campaigns. So, we can learn from people who have gone through this before as to what to expect and how to present a campaign."
Barney, 39, is a Westville native and has been an attorney for about 14 years, practicing everything from criminal law to family law to collection cases. He is a partner with Saikley, Garrison, Colombo & Barney LLC of Danville.
Barney said he knew he wanted to practice law at a young age and became interested in serving as a judge after becoming an attorney.
"As a private attorney, you have to advocate for one side" of a case, he said, adding that a judge must listen to all sides. "As a judge, you want the people who are involved to feel that they received a fair hearing and win or lose that justice was served."
A Danville native, Brown has had a general law practice for about 30 years and has run his own firm for 25. Prior to becoming a lawyer, he served as a Vermilion County probation officer.
Brown served on the Danville school board for eight years.
He ran unsuccessfully for circuitwide judge seats in 1996 and 1998. He said he's currently weighing the impact a campaign would have on his family, among other things, but feels he would be a strong candidate.
"Because I've been doing this for 30 years, I think I have a very good grasp of the law and how it should be applied to a particular situation," Brown said. "I have tremendous respect for the court and the judicial process, and I think it's inviting to have the opportunity to participate in a different role.