by Ryan Wells
Seven candidates in total are running for the Kane County vacancy in the 16th Judicial Circuitâ€”five Republican candidates (Thomas Patrick Rice, Robert L. Janes, D.J. Tegeler, Leonard J. Wojtecki and David R. Akemann) will run to see who will face the winner of a two-person Democratic race (John G. Dalton and Michael C. Funkey).
Thomas Patrick Rice
Beginning his career as a history and social sciences teacher in the St. Anne School District, Thomas Patrick Rice, of Batavia, went on to have a 25-year law career. Throughout the progression of his career, he has assumed various leadership positions, and feels that his leadership and professional experience serve him well in this race.
â€œI have the credentials and experience to be a circuit court judge,â€ he said. â€œI am not a politician, and frankly, believe in merit selection of judges rather than public election.â€
To Rice, those qualifications mean someone who possesses extensive trial experience, pertinent life experiences and common sense.
â€œIf you look at my resume, I believe you will see that my peers have elected me to leadership positions in every aspect of my professional life,â€ Rice said.
In addition, Rice said his credentials led the Illinois Supreme Court to appoint him to a Select Committee on Ethics and Civility. He also serves as an adjunct professor of law for trial advocacy at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. While serving in these roles, Rice continues to operate his private law firm.
With the recent growth experienced in Kane County, Rice said that the first priority is to determine a way to address the increasing need of the court system.
â€œLitigation will increase, especially that involving crime and domestic issues,â€ Rice said. â€œWe have to address the expansion of the court-house along with the security issues related thereto.â€
Rice said that regardless of the increase in litigation, the court must remain vigilant in ensuring that ethics are never breached.
â€œI think the court must be aware at all times as to the ethics and professionalism of both bench and bar, and their relationships to the public,â€ he said.
Robert L. Janes
Robert L. Janes, of St. Charles, has spent more than 13 years as an Associate Kane County Judge, and currently is a judge in the Kane County Family Court. That, combined with his 22 years as an attorney, is why Janes said he has the most experience of any candidate in the race.
â€œThere is virtually no type of case that I have not handled,â€ Janes said.
While serving on the bench, he initiated a variety of changes and programs that saved taxpayers time and money.
â€œThis is especially important in tough economic times,â€ he said.
He developed video bond calls in Kane County and Elgin courts, which sped up court time and reduced travel and manpower expenses. He also transformed the traffic and misdemeanor court calls in Kane and Kendall counties, which eliminated unnecessary waiting times for citizens to have their cases tried.
â€œThis saved the county money by eliminating overtime for police officers waiting in court to see if they would be have to testify,â€ Janes said. â€œIt also enabled the officers to be on the street rather than waiting around in court.â€
He said that if elected, he plans to continue to focus on being a fair and respectful judge while implementing policies and procedures that will help streamline the legal process and ultimately save the taxpayers money.
â€œIf I am elected circuit judge I will be in a stronger position to push for more changes that will be taxpayer friendly, because I will have a voting voice in the administration of the court system that associate judges do not have,â€ Janes said.
D.J. Tegeler, of Geneva, has been in the legal profession since 1990, and started his own practice in 1997.
He said his focus is what all people running for Circuit Judge should focus on firstâ€”the fair application of the law in relation to all people who appear before the court.
â€œThe Court should not show favoritism toward the state or a defendant, the Court should not show favoritism toward the big corporation versus the little guy, the husband versus the wife in a divorce setting,â€ he said.
He said that he intends to work with the county, residents, and local agencies iin developing a unified campus for all judicial activities.
â€œFor far too long, Kane County has been segregated between the Couny Clerkâ€™s Office, the Courthouse, and until recently the Jail, and other necessary agencies,â€ he said.
He said this leads to an inefficient system that wastes too much time. Citizens wait in line for their cases to be heard in the courhouse and then drive to pay their fines at a clerkâ€™s office. Also, bringing misdemeanor courtrooms to one location, instead of being spread to Elgin, Aurora, and Kane County, would save time and money as well, he added.
Beyond the activities within the courtroom and the move toward efficiency, Tegeler said he believes his priority should be educating the public.
â€œIt is my firm belief that educating the citizens of the 16th Judicial Circuit as to the ramifications of their actions and helping them live better lives is imperative for all Circuit Judges,â€ Tegeler said.
He has already helped accomplish this by assisting in the creation of the Drug Court Rules and Regulations for the 16th Judicial Circuit. He also helped create the 2nd Chance/Diversion Program for non-violent offenders in Felony Court, as well as assist in establishing the Mental Health Court.
â€œI believe these types of speciality courts, which help people not commit crimes, are important and necessary in this community,â€ Tegeler said.
Leonard J. Wojtecki
Leonard J. Wojtecki, of Cary, has served as a judge since 2000. Prior to that, he served as a Cook County prosecutor, a former Kendall County public defender and as a partner in a private law firm.
He said that, in his 10th year as a judge, he has presided over jury trials in all three counties of the 16th Judicial Circuit. He has heard a wide range of cases, both criminal and civil, including serious felonies such as murder and home invasion, as well as large-scale civil lawsuits. For four years, he served as the sole presiding civil judge in Kendall County, where he said he heard virtually all of the civil cases in that county, ranging from probate, child support and divorce, as well as personal injury cases and business litigation.
In addition to hearing a wide range of cases, he has also helped draft local criminal court rules in Kane County.
â€œI think my experience matters,â€ Wojtecki said.
He said he will rely on his experience to perform a critical function of a Circuit Judge, that of participating in the process of selecting and appointing associate judges.
â€œThis is important because judges should be competent and have a wide breath of exper-ience in the practice of law,â€ he said. â€œThey should also have integrity and the right demeanor. As a lawyer and judge for the past 34 years, I have seen lawyers from both sides of the bench, and I believe I can contribute in a meaningful way in the decision of who is best qualified to be an associate judge. â€œ
Circuit Judges are also involved in a wide variety of matters, including setting local court rules and judicial policy as well as organizing and administering the courts in their judicial circuit.
â€œI have participated in this process to a limited extent, and I think my experience and contribution would be beneficial to the judiciary,â€ Wojtecki said.
David R. Akemann
David R. Akemann, a lifelong resident of Kane County currently residing in Elgin, was elected twice to the Kane County Stateâ€™s Attorneyâ€™s Office, in 1992 and 1996. His legal career began in 1977, and then worked his way up in the Kane County Stateâ€™s Attorneyâ€™s Office until his election.
He has also served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Justice Division, Special Prosecutions Bureau, where he served throughout the state as a special prosecutor and managed complex investigations, he said. He was appointed by the Illinois Attorney General as the Executive Director: Illinois Gang Crime Prevention Center, where he managed a statewide multi-disciplinary team to support the Attorney Generalâ€™s efforts at preventing and prosecuting gang crimes.
Currently, he runs his private law firm in Elgin.
With his experience in both the private sector and as an elected official, Akemann said he has the unique background that will serve him best in the 16th Judicial Circuit.
â€œI want to be of service to the public and know this is how I can do it best,â€ Akemann said. â€œPeople want honest, hard-working, common sense judges who will be tough on violent, convicted criminals but compassionate when circumstances dictate. People want judges with broad experience to recognize that in cases of habitual violent offenders, punishment needs to be tough.â€
He said that judges must also maintain judicial independence and remain free from social and political pressure.
â€œThe burden of that falls to each judge to avoid associations which create a perception that impartiality is not possible,â€ he said. â€œâ€˜Equal Protectionâ€™ is not just an empty phrase. I am the candidate that can provide these qualities for the people of Kane County.â€
John G. Dalton
John G. Dalton, of Elgin, has been in the legal profession for the past 22 years.
â€œI’ve worked for prestigious law firms, been a Senior Vice President of a global bank and owned my own practice,â€ he said.
He said he is running for Circuit Judge because the people of Kane County deserve to have judges they can rely on to uphold the integrity of the law.
â€œI will work hard to protect the rights of Kane County citizens, remaining a fair and independent voice for the people,â€ Dalton said. â€œI will use my background as an arbitrator for 10 years and trial attorney for 22 years, to work to preserve a safe and just community.â€
Dalton said that serving as judge is an opportunity to give back to the people of Kane County, and he would focus on putting in place procedures that would save the public time and money. One of his proposals would be to implement an online system that would allow residents the opportunity to pay traffic fines, seek court supervision or request a trial date without having to appear in court.
â€œThe result would be fewer minor, routine cases heard in a courtroom, saving money for taxpayers,â€ Dalton said. â€œWe’d save money on judges, clerks, bailiffs, courtrooms, etc., and the public wouldn’t have to take time away from work to spend the day in court.â€
With years of community service in addition to his legal work, Dalton said his focus would continue to be on the people within the 16th Judicial Circuit. He is a former board member of the Campanelli YMCA, co-founder and former chariman of Elginâ€™s Speak Out Against Prejudice group, former Commissioner of the Elgin Heritage Commission’s Design Review Subcommittee, former Board Chairman and Finance Committee Chairman of Famous Door Theatre Company, member of School District U-46 Handbook Committee, as well as the Elgin Hispanic Network and Elgin Chamber of Commerce.
â€œI have deep roots in the community, a long record of service and I am well prepared for the challenges the bench would present, should I be fortunate enough to earn the votes of the people of Kane County and be elected judge.
Michael C. Funkey
Michael C. Funkey, a former Elburn resident and current resident of Aurora, would bring a 39-year legal career to the bench. He said that even though his career has spanned nearly four decades, he continues to learn.
Each and everyday has provided me with a new challenge and a new learning experience,â€ Funkey said. â€œAs I think about my future, I know I want to continue working in the legal profession. When the seat for Resident Circuit Court Judge in Kane County became available, I realized that I want to take the experience I’ve gained as a lawyer and serve the legal profession and the people of Kane County from the bench.â€
He has also served the public in a variety of ways that are beyond his legal profession. He is involved in the St. Peter, Holy Angels and St. Gall parishes, is a member of the Knights of Columbus, and serves as the attorney to the board of the Aurora Boys Baseball organization. He is also a member of the Marmion Academy Alumni Association, Rosary High School Sports Boosters, Aurora Latin America Club and Phoenix Club, volunteers at the Hessed House, served as chairman of the the Noise Abatement Committee at the Aurora Municipal Airport, and has been the annual Fund Chariman for the Provena Mercy Center for Healthcare Service.
Funkey said he is the only Democrat in the race to receive a â€œRecommendedâ€ rating by the Kane County Bar Associationâ€™s Judicial Evaluation Committee.
â€œAs a Judge, I will strive to provide the same equal access to justice as I have in my private practice over the past 39 years,â€ Funkey said. â€œI have been privileged to represent clients from all walks of lifeâ€”plaintiffs and defendants, individuals and corporations, husbands and wives, adults and children.â€
If elected, Funkey said his top priority would be to honor the oath of the office. He would also focus on interpretting and applying the law, regardless of his personal opinion.
â€œThe people of Kane County deserve fair and impartial rulings made in a timely manner, and I will run my courtroom as efficiently as possible and work hard to resolve disputes quickly yet properly,â€ Funkey said.