STERLING – In a presidential election year, down-ballot candidates get little attention.
Perhaps the lowest-profile races are those for judge.
In the Sauk Valley, voters either will elect judges or vote on whether to retain them. The Illinois State Bar Association recommends all but two of the judges on the ballots in the five Sauk Valley counties.
Judges must get 60 percent of the vote to survive retention. They rarely lose.
Circuit judges’ terms are for 6 years; appellate judges’ are for 10.
The bar association surveys attorneys about the candidates. The group gives recommendations to those candidates who get a 65 percent yes response rate on whether they meet the requirements for their offices.
Based on the poll results, Joe Birkett, who was appointed to the Second District Appellate Court in December 2010, was not recommended. He is running unopposed for the court, which meets in Elgin and whose district includes Lee, Ogle and Carroll counties. His rating was 57 percent.
At the same time, the bar association’s Judicial Evaluations Committee found Birkett to be qualified for the position. That is based on the committee’s research and interviews.
“As an appellate court justice, he has been described as having an extraordinary work ethic,” the committee’s review states.
In 1981, Birkett joined the DuPage County state’s attorney’s office. He was elected to the top position in 1996.
“Justice Birkett’s influence on legislation and contributions to criminal law are noteworthy,” the review said.
In the 13th Judicial Circuit, which includes Bureau, LaSalle and Grundy counties, the bar association recommended Republican Troy Holland of Mendota but not Democrat Anita Kopko of Ottawa. Seventy-nine percent of attorneys gave Holland a yes response – only 60 percent for Kopko.
For the Third Judicial Appellate Court, which includes Whiteside and Bureau counties, the bar association recommends yes for the retention of Tom Lytton and Daniel Schmidt. The court meets in Ottawa.
For the 14th Judicial Circuit, which includes Whiteside, Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties, the association recommended all four judges up for retention – F. Michael Meersman, Jeffrey O’ Connor, Stanley Steines and Mark VandeWiele.
Meersman, who is presiding over the current Nicholas Sheley murder case, received a 91 percent rating, and Steines, who is based in Morrison, got 96 percent. At 98 percent, Steines received the highest rating for temperament among the four judges.
For the 15th Judicial Circuit, which includes Lee, Carroll and Ogle counties, Robert Hanson, who is running unopposed, was recommended by the association. Judge Michael Bald, based in Freeport, was recommended for retention in the 15th circuit.
Judges on the ballots in the Sauk Valley for Tuesday's election:
13th Judicial Circuit (includes Bureau County)
• Judge vacancy
Troy Holland (Republican)
Anita Kopko (Democrat)
14th Judicial Circuit (includes Whiteside, Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties)
F. Michael Meersman
15th Judicial Circuit (includes Lee, Carroll and Ogle counties)
• Judge vacancy
Robert Hanson (Republican)
Second District Appellate Court
• Judge vacancy
Joe Birkett (Republican)
Third District Appellate Court