Sixth Circuit judge hanging up his robe for good in March

Sixth Circuit judge hanging up his robe for good in March

URBANA — Champaign County residents are about to lose one of their most laid-back judges to retirement.

"I plan to strenuously engage in leisure activities," Judge Michael Jones told The News-Gazette on Friday.

After 21 years on the bench — four years as an associate judge and 17 as an elected circuit judge — Jones has announced his last day in office will be March 2.

Because there is no opportunity for a primary between March and December 2018, when his term officially ends, it's likely that the Illinois Supreme Court will appoint someone to his post.

"On the assumption that they fill my position, that person would have the office until the 2020 election," he said.

Jones, 70, said his primary motivation for retiring is to follow in the footsteps of his wife, Lyn Jones, who plans to retire Jan. 5 from her position with the Carle Development Foundation.

"The timing is great to go with her," he said. "She gives new meaning to the term 'better half.'"

"I have two big medical malpractice cases set (for trial) for January and February," Jones said of his timing.

After leaving the courthouse, he plans to join Lyn wintering at their Sarasota, Fla., home.

Improving his golf game, honing his bank shots in pool and cheering on his beloved Illini are all on his to-do list.

"All I know is I've really got mixed feelings. I am so blessed to get up in the morning and look forward to going to work. It's going to be a strange feeling all of a sudden not doing what I've done," he said, adding that he has no intention of engaging in the practice of law.

He does plan to continue teaching at required continuing educational conferences for judges in the area of medical malpractice.

Jones presided over the 2016 personal-injury lawsuit that Patricia Marxmiller brought against the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District after she lost both legs as a result of being hit by a bus in February 2015.

Just last week, the Fourth District Appellate Court in Springfield upheld the $9.85 million jury award for Marxmiller and her husband and put its stamp of approval on Jones' rulings in the high-profile case.

He called that one of the more memorable cases of his career.

"My favorite kind of case is what I do now, the bigger civil cases. I'm blessed to be dealing with some great lawyers," he said.

A master of self-deprecating humor, the Alton native has joked that he enjoyed bridge more than legal treatises while in law school at the University of Illinois.

His legal education was interrupted in 1969 by a draft notice, which sent him to Vietnam via the Army for two years. Jones became fluent in Vietnamese and has fascinating tales of his work interrogating the enemy.

He returned to the UI and started over at law school in 1971, then graduated and was admitted to the bar in 1974.

He was an assistant public defender and had a robust private practice for many years before his appointment to the bench in October 1996.

The Joneses have one son, Christopher, who is married and will be moving to Richmond, Va., soon, so visits there are in their plans.

"Another of my many blessings is a daughter-in-law that we dearly love," he said.

Slowing down isn't on the list.

"You get up in the morning and look in the mirror and say 'That guy is a lot older than I am.' I don't feel old and I still enjoy what I'm doing but the time is right," he said.

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