PAXTON — Circuit Judge Stephen R. Pacey of Paxton Monday submitted his resignation from the bench, effective Dec. 31.
Pacey, 65, has been a judge since 1996.
He is the resident judge in Ford County, and serves the 11th Judicial Circuit, which includes Ford, Livingston, Logan, McLean and Woodford counties.
The Illinois State Board of Elections will post the vacancy and allow candidates to begin circulating petitions of candidacy once the resignation is certified by the Illinois Supreme Court, said Ken Menzel, deputy general counsel at the elections board.
A special filing period for new judicial vacancies is Dec. 16-23, Menzel said.
Candidates from each party would need to have 500 signatures of Ford County residents, an unusually high number considering that 2,673 Republicans — the county's dominant party — voted in the GOP presidential primary election last year.
Although the Illinois Supreme Court could appoint an interim judge to replace Pacey, court spokesman Joseph Tybor said the seat could remain vacant until filed by election next year.
"It's uncertain whether that one would be filled by appointment because the election is virtually upon us," Tybor said.
One candidate for the vacancy, Ross Sorensen of rural Loda, already has surfaced.
Sorensen, 30, is the Paxton city attorney and attorney for the Paxton park district. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois and graduated summa cum laude from the Southern Illinois University College of Law.
He is an associate with the Martensen & Niemann law firm in Paxton.
"Judge Pacey has been a mentor to me and a remarkable jurist for the people of Ford County for many years," said Sorensen. "I hope to take my experience on both sides of the judicial system to provide the best service I can for defendants, plaintiffs and all of Ford County."
Sorensen serves as president of the Paxton Rotary Club and pitches for the Buckley Dutchmasters team in the Eastern Illinois Baseball League.
His wife, Colleen, is a registered nurse at Gibson Area Hospital.
Pacey received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois in 1970 and spent a year as a legislative staff intern.
He returned to the UI Law School in 1971, graduated and was admitted to the bar in 1974. He was in private general practice in Paxton for 22 years, including five years as the Ford County Public Defender and two years as a commissioner of the Illinois Court of Claims before becoming a circuit judge in 1996.
He has been a member of the Illinois State Bar Association since admission to bar in 1974 and a member of its assembly from 1994 to 2000 and since 2004. He served on its board of governors from 2007 to 2013 and was treasurer of the association for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
In addition to hearing cases in the five counties of the 11th Circuit, he has been assigned by the Illinois Supreme Court to hear cases in the 5th, 21st and Cook County circuit courts.