Ronald M. Jacobson has officially passed the 15th Circuit Court judge’s gavel to his successor, Jacquelyn D. Ackert.
Jacobson, 61, announced his plans to retire from the bench this fall after more than 12 years as a judge in the 15th Judicial Circuit, which includes Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle and Stephenson counties.
Before his final day on the job on Nov. 30, Jacobson told Sauk Valley Media that “It’s not easy to walk away from a job you love and think you do well.” It also will be difficult for a while not having Jacobson’s steadying influence at the Lee County Courthouse.
Jacobson came to Lee County in 1988 as an assistant state’s attorney, and in 2006 was appointed to fill the judicial vacancy created by the retirement of David T. Fritts. He has earned high marks ever since, receiving 83.7 percent of the voted when last retained in 2014.
While Jacobson was certainly knowledgeable, his character is what really stood out. Life as a judge is a high-stress calling that can be impossible to leave at the courthouse. In addition to seeing graphic details of felonies you’d rather forget, the docket is full of cases that tear families apart.
It’s easy to become hardened and cynical – to a point in which each day is centered around case numbers and the faces disappear.
When Jacobson was sworn in, he included part of a Bible passage, Micah 6:8, as a reminder “to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
During his years in the courtroom, he never forgot that verse. He strongly believed in the power of alternative courts, which offer sentencing options designed to help specific groups such as the mentally ill, the drug and alcohol dependent and veterans. Some of his fondest memories are the letters he has received from nonviolent defenders who have turned their lives around through treatment and support programs – not jail time.
Jacobson still is pondering the exact direction his future will take, but we are happy to hear that he might still be involved with the law. He is interested in doing mediation work and participating in some projects focused on pretrial detention issues.
Based on what we’ve seen from Ackert, a former associate judge, it appears she has many of the same character traits as her predecessor.
Like Jacobson, she is active in the community. She volunteers a great deal of time to youth programs and is a former Kiwanian of the Year. Her experience as presiding Drug Court judge bodes well for the future success of the alternative court programs.
It’s good to know that some judges are continually gaining life perspective as community servants rather than becoming insulated in their chambers.
We’re confident that Jacobson will continue to find new ways to make a difference in the community and Ackert will carry on his tradition of compassion in the courtroom.