Macon County judge appointed to Fourth District Appellate Court
SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Supreme Court has appointed Macon County Judge Lisa Holder White to the Fourth District Appellate Court effective Tuesday.
Holder White, a resident judge, was temporarily assigned in January 2013 to the appeals court in Springfield that serves much of Illinois' mid-section. The vacancy was created by the death of John McCullough.
She is running unopposed for election to the post in November. But it wasn't until after the filing date for independent candidates passed last week that she submitted her resignation from her seat as a Macon County judge.
She first took the bench in 2001 as an associate and was appointed circuit judge in 2008, then elected circuit judge in 2010.
Her appointment to the appeals court means that her resident judgeship in Macon County can be filled by appointment and that may free up Champaign County judges who have been traveling to Decatur for months filling in.
"We've been on the road for getting close to a year," said Champaign County Presiding Judge Tom Difanis. "It started out with (Piatt County Judge) Hugh Finson covering Macon two days a week; then (Sixth Circuit Chief Judge Dan) Flannell reassigned him and asked us to fill in."
Every Tuesday and Thursday for the last several months, Champaign County judges have been making the trip to Decatur to fill in on criminal cases.
"It's preliminary hearings, arraignments," said Difanis of the days, which generally start at 9 a.m. and can stretch to 3:30 p.m.
"The (Macon County) judges appreciate our help and they pitch in when they can. If another Macon judge's calendar opens up, they will relieve us," he said.
Difanis said all of the 11 Champaign County judges have taken turns going to Decatur without complaint. But the travel has meant delays in their cases.
"You're looking to set something for whatever it might be and you find a blank page on your calendar and see at the top Macon County," he said.
Champaign County judges will continue the trek for at least the next couple of months, when the Supreme Court could bypass the committee recommendation process and appoint a sitting associate judge to Holder White's resident judge seat.
Macon County has four circuit judges, including Holder White, and five associate judges. Champaign County has six circuit judges and five associate judges.
The other four counties in the circuit — DeWitt, Douglas, Moultrie and Piatt — have one circuit judge each. And there is one associate judge who serves all four counties, although he is currently assigned to Piatt County four days a week and one in DeWitt.
If the high court is willing to appoint a sitting Macon County associate judge immediately, Flannell and the other circuit judges will then have to select a new associate to serve in Macon.