Calhoun County judge to assist with criminal court docket in Adams County following Adrian dismissal

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From left, Eighth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Frank McCartney of Pittsfield, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lisa Holder White, and Eighth Judicial Circuit Judge Charles H.W. Burch of Hardin

QUINCY — Chief Judge Frank McCartney has a tentative resolution as to how Robert Adrian will be replaced in the Eighth Judicial Circuit. 

He hopes to have answers soon as to how Adrian’s position will be filled in the future.

Judge Charles H.W. Burch of Hardin, who has been handling the docket in Calhoun County, will be moving into Adams County and will work with Judge Tad Brenner to handle the criminal court docket. 

“It was important to me to have one judge, ideally, to just go into that docket versus piecemealing it,” McCartney said. “I want there to be stability in the court system in Adams County.”

McCartney had been preparing for different scenarios in the wake of a decision from the Illinois Courts Commission regarding Adrian’s fate. The seven-member commission ruled Friday afternoon that the Judicial Inquiry Board proved “by clear and convincing evidence” that Adrian gave untruthful testimony before the board constituting “willful misconduct” and ordered him removed from office immediately.

Adrian is the fourth judge since 2005 — and the 11th ever — to be removed from the bench by the commission.

“I knew there were different possible outcomes here,” McCartney said. “I had reached out to Judge Burch prior to the decision and had a gameplan if something was to happen where he would not be on the bench for a period of time.

“He’s got a lot of criminal experience. He seemed like a perfect fit to buy us some time.”

Burch also had been handling the traffic docket in Pike County, but McCartney will pick up that duty.

Another Eighth Judicial Circuit position remains open as well. Amy Lannerd was assigned to the Illinois Appellate Court’s Fourth District on Dec. 5, 2022, and she launched her campaign for a full term in July 2023. She is running unopposed. Lannerd filled the vacancy when Justice John W. Turner decided not to seek retention.

Both Lannerd and Adrian’s dockets were based in Adams County. Lannerd’s position remains unfilled, and McCartney doesn’t expect her replacement to be named until later this year.

McCartney said Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lisa Holder White reached out to him Friday after the announcement of Adrian’s removal.

“We want to make sure of what the correct procedure is going to be because this is a little bit unusual,” he said. “I think what’s anticipated is (Adrian’s replacement will) be an appointment by the Supreme Court, and it’s a circuit-wide position. It’ll be a judge or attorney living in the circuit who will be the candidate selected. Justice Holder White will form a committee, like she always does for appointments, and then she’ll appoint someone who the Supreme Court will approve.”

A similar situation happened in September 2019 when Judge Mark A. Drummond retired, and Quincy attorney Drew T. Erwin was appointed to fill the vacancy. Erwin then lost to Brenner in the Republican primary, and Brenner ran unopposed in the November 2019 election.

Adrian, a Republican, first earned election to his position in the Eighth Judicial Circuit after defeating Quincy attorney Chris Scholz in the November 2010 election. He replaced Mark Schuering, who retired. Adrian was retained in 2016 and in 2022. 

McCartney said he wants to find out if an election to elect Adrian’s replacement can be placed on the ballot this year, eliminating the need for an appointment.

“But I think that it’s probably going to be an appointment, with an election down the road in November 2026,” he said.

McCartney expects to learn of the plan from Holder White this week, with “the best case” being a replacement will be in place “hopefully in the summer.”

“I think I understand what the process is going to be, but we want to make sure that there’s no way that (an election for Adrian’s position) can be on the ballot in November,” he said. “My guess is it cannot, but I don’t know that for sure until I talk to various election officials, and then we’ll see where that needs to go.”

McCartney also must find a replacement for Judge Debra Wellborn, who has announced plans to retire this summer from her position as an associate judge in the Eighth Judicial Circuit. McCartney said he believed at least a dozen people applied the last time an associate’s position was open.

An already-depleted pool of attorneys in Adams County will shrink even more once those appointments are made. Christopher Pratt, named interim chief public defender for the Adams County Public Defender’s office last week, told Muddy River News last week his first task in his new role is “trying to salvage what is left.” The office at one time had seven attorneys. It is currently down to three, but Pratt is in the process of making hires.

“There’s always going to be a lot of interest in judge positions,” he said. “Granted it’s a little different when it’s a circuit-wide position (like Adrian’s and Lannerd’s). You’re going to need to have resources to run those kinds of races because they are circuit wide.

“(These appointments) deplete that pool of attorneys just a little bit, but I think what we’re doing with the Adams County Board making some adjustments on salaries, we’ll be seeing the public defender’s office hopefully add some attorneys in the coming weeks. We’ve just got to do the best with what we’ve got. I think it’s going to be fine. Hopefully later this year we’ll be back up to full capacity with our judges.”

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