Savoy family-law attorney selected to fill retiring judge's post

Savoy family-law attorney selected to fill retiring judge's post

URBANA — Champaign County's newest associate judge shouldn't have much of a learning curve in her first judicial assignment.

Anna Benjamin, who practices family law in her capacity as a shareholder in Meyer Capel, one of Champaign's pre-eminent law firms, will fill the vacancy created by the upcoming retirement of Judge Brian McPheters.

"She is a star in this profession who has every quality the public should look for in a judge. We are all very exited to have her join the bench," said Circuit Judge Mike Jones, who phoned Benjamin early Wednesday with the news of her selection.

A lawyer since 2008, Benjamin, 35, has worked only for Meyer Capel, beginning there in 2006 as a law clerk while she was attending law school at the University of Illinois.

"It took my breath away," Benjamin said of the news of her selection from a field of 21 applicants.

Benjamin's nine-year career has concentrated on family law, including marriage dissolution, custody, child support and guardianship. Stepping in to McPheters' post, she will hear those kinds of cases, Presiding Judge Tom Difanis confirmed.

"I think there are many areas of that assignment I would be familiar with and will be able to hit the ground running," she said. "I am just very thankful to have this opportunity."

Benjamin is scheduled to be sworn in on the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 12.

She is married to Anthony Benjamin, a co-owner of Triptych Brewing in Savoy. The couple lives in Savoy with their son, A.J., 6.

Outside of work, she enjoys playing league volleyball, reading and spending time with her family, she said. She is also on the board of the Champaign County Humane Society. Her family just adopted a dog, Otis, a few weeks ago, from there.

Jones said Benjamin was the unanimous selection of the circuit judges. Although the elected judges from all six counties in the circuit vote on the new associates, it's common practice that judges from outside Champaign County defer to the wishes of the judges in the county where the associate will sit.

Jones paid Benjamin a high compliment by comparing her skills in family law to those of his fellow Circuit Judge Heidi Ladd, widely regarded as an expert in criminal law. Ladd was a prosecutor for many years when she was first appointed as an associate in 1999.

Benjamin attended the University of Missouri at Columbia, receiving her undergraduate degree in anthropology in 2004.

Not exactly overwhelmed with job offers, she chose to attend law school at the UI, graduating with honors in 2008. She began her duties as a law clerk at Meyer Capel in 2006.

In law school, she was a Lincoln Scholar, teaching assistant, moot court editor and a case law update writer for the Illinois Bar Journal. She also participated in the college's trial team, and earned award for her legal writing, analysis and trial advocacy skills.

Benjamin has applied for the associate position twice before, both times in 2015.

In her new post, she will earn about $184,000 a year. Associate judges serve at the pleasure of the circuit judges, who are elected. They are typically evaluated every four years.

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Illinimac wrote on November 15, 2017 at 9:11 am

I have a slight quibble with the article which has nothing to do with Ms. Benjamin who seems eminently qualified.  Associate judges serve four-year terms.  An officer who serves at the pleasure of an appointing authority can be dismissed at any time.  One such officer is the public defender who serves at the pleasure of the circuit judges.  An associate judge, however, could not be dismissed prior to the expiration of her term absent some sort of disciplinary violation leading to a proceeding before the Courts Commission.