Four judges to fill in for Ford's Pacey

PAXTON — Four judges in the 11th Judicial Circuit have been assigned to fill in for Ford County Circuit Judge Steve Pacey after he retires on Dec. 31.

Elizabeth A. Robb of Bloomington, chief judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit, met with Ford County Circuit Court officials Friday to discuss the temporary assignments and their schedules, according to William Scanlon, trial court administrator for the 11th Judicial Circuit.

Scanlon said the judges filling in for the 65-year-old Pacey, who announced his impending retirement earlier this month, will begin their assignments in Ford County on Jan. 6.

"They're coming as needed, and they're going to serve our needs so we can keep going," Ford County State's Attorney Matt Fitton said after meeting with Robb.

Scanlon confirmed that Judge Paul G. Lawrence of Bloomington will be the temporary presiding judge, handling all trials and presiding over all felony cases and most of the criminal cases in Ford County.

Meanwhile, resident Judge Jennifer Hartmann-Bauknecht of Pontiac and Associate Judge Mark A. Fellheimer of Pontiac will handle criminal misdemeanor and traffic cases, Scanlon said.

Resident Judge Kevin P. Fitzgerald of Bloomington will be in Paxton as needed for juvenile cases, family law and divorces.

Scanlon said the judges will fill in for Pacey as long as they are needed. The Illinois Supreme Court could appoint a temporary full-time replacement prior to the March 18 primary election, but the 11th Judicial Circuit has not been informed that will happen, Scanlon said. The Supreme Court could also appoint the winner of the primary to fill the judgeship prior to the November election, but court officials have not heard that will happen either.

All three Republican candidates for the Ford County judge vacancy — Fitton of Paxton, attorney Ellen Lee of Paxton and Ross Sorensen of rural Buckley — filed nominating petitions on Dec. 16 at the State Board of Elections to appear on the March 18 ballot. Petitions will be accepted until Dec. 23, although no other candidates are expected to file.

Pacey, of Paxton, is the resident judge in Ford County and serves the 11th Judicial Circuit, which includes Ford, Livingston, Logan, McLean and Woodford counties. Pacey was first appointed as circuit judge in July 1996, then was elected to the position in 1998 and retained in 2004 and 2010 for six-year terms.

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