Chief Judge Kevin Fitzgerald said Thursday he’ll move up his retirement date to this summer so the Eleventh Judicial Circuit avoids having too many vacancies on the bench later this year.
Fitzgerald will now retire July 6, instead of Dec. 2. The Illinois Supreme Court is then expected to appoint Bill Yoder, now an associate judge, to Fitzgerald’s circuit judge position.
Just a few days after Fitzgerald announced his retirement, Yoder announced plans to run for his spot. Yoder, the former McLean County state’s attorney, won the March primary and would be headed toward election in November anyway.
Two associate judges—Lee Ann Hill and David Butler—are planning to retire in December. The Illinois Supreme Court faces a new 30-day delay in filling judicial vacancies, for budgetary reasons, Fitzgerald said.
“If I waited until December to retire, that would mean three brand new associate judges taking the bench at the same time (three out of five associate judges), all likely handling volume calls,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “In addition, the Supreme Court’s recent policy would result in the three judicial positions being vacant for virtually the same 30-day period. Neither of those situations would serve the citizens and the litigants of the 11th Circuit well.”
Circuit Judge Robert Freitag also plans to retire in July.
Fitzgerald has been a judge since 2000 and chief judge for the Eleventh Circuit since 2014. Fitzgerald was eligible to seek retention and re-election in 2018. He opted to retire instead. The Eleventh Circuit’s remaining judges will elect a new chief judge next December.
The Eleventh Circuit includes McLean, Woodford, Logan, Livingston, and Ford counties.
People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.