Earlier today, I attended a routine hearing in the Douglas County Courthouse to close a Decedent’s estate. The hearing took place in Courtroom 2, the smaller of the building’s two courtrooms, which is usually reserved for the traveling associate judge or for visiting Circuit Judges. Today, it was a visiting Circuit Judge who held Court, addressing cases in which the presiding judge had a conflict of interest.
I enjoy appearing in Courtroom 2, mainly because this was the room in which I conducted my first hearing back in November, 1998, less than 2 weeks after being admitted to practice. That hearing was the approval of an interim accounting in a guardianship case.
The hearing was heard before the Honorable Art Powers, the then-traveling Associate Judge who heard cases in Douglas, Dewitt, Moultrie and Piatt Counties, one day a week for each. I was very nervous in the moments that lead up to that hearing! Here is an excerpt the docket entry for the hearing I appeared for that day:
The Guardian ad Litem (which is what they call the attorney who acts as the “eyes and ears” of the Court in cases like this) who appeared that day with me was Tuscola attorney Michael G. Carroll. This was a prophetic first encounter, for less than 8 years later, I would find myself working again with Mike; first, during his brief tenure at Beckett & Webber in its new Tuscola office, and then for the next 8 years before Mike in his capacity as the elected Resident Circuit Judge of Douglas County. Talk about a coincidence!
While that first hearing introduced me to a future judge, it was pictures of former judges hanging on the wall that caught my interest:
These pictures display every county judge for Douglas County from 1859 to 1964. As I noted in my earlier post on the history of Illinois judges, 1964 was the year when the position of county judge was abolished, and when Illinois started the Circuit/Associate Judge system that continues to the present day.
I am always inspired by these photographs of past jurists, and their simple brief to handle whatever routine matters came before them in this rural county. Their efforts are now filled by another Judge, still traveling Circuit, still continuing a tradition in this county that began 158 years ago.