Two long-serving judges in Kane County -- Timothy Sheldon of Elgin and Robert Janes of St. Charles -- will be retiring from the bench in coming months.
Robert Spence, chief judge for the 16th Judicial Circuit, said Janes' retirement will take effect Oct. 1 and Sheldon's Dec. 3.
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Janes, 63, was appointed an associate judge in 1996, and Sheldon, 65, was appointed an associate judge in 1986 before his election as a circuit judge in 1996, Spence said.
"I think they both felt it was the right time," Spence said.
Janes has presided over traffic court, DUIs, divorce and child support cases; Sheldon oversees felony criminal cases now.
Spence said Janes, who could not be reached for comment Monday, was well versed and was always willing to take on new assignments.
Sheldon said he became an attorney and then a judge so he could help people.
One change Sheldon initiated while handling divorce court early in his career was to schedule attorneys' motions in 15-minute periods in an effort to move cases forward and avoid unnecessary continuances. Sheldon also said that in 1991 he started a victim's impact panel for those convicted of a DUI in a crash.
People on the panel talk about how DUIs have affected them and their loved ones, and defendants must listen to their stories.
"I've sat in every court. I've done all of the cases. It's been extremely interesting. It's time to turn court over to some young, enthusiastic lawyers who want to be judge," said Sheldon, who was 39 when he first became judge.
"I wish I could have started on Day 1 with the patience, wisdom and understanding I had on my last day."
Sheldon also was instrumental in establishing the county's mental health court in 2004. In it, people accused of felonies who have mental disorders can apply for the program. If accepted, a defendant pleads guilty and agrees to random tests for illegal drugs, to participate in treatment and to take the medication. If successful after two years, the state will vacate the guilty plea and expunge the felony from the person's record.
"I personally find that very gratifying because we're dealing with people who are disadvantaged. Life is hard enough even if things are working well," Sheldon said.
Sheldon has been criticized by some for being too lenient on teen drunken drivers, especially those who hurt or kill someone while driving under the influence but otherwise have lived law-abiding lives and are good students. While not commenting on a specific case, he said instances where a young person makes a tragic mistake are more difficult to handle and issue a sentence for than a crime like a gang shooting.
"The public wants blood and wants that person punished severely," he said. "Our society encourages young people to drink, and they're not mature enough to understand they're taking a really risky step. Those are the hardest cases."
After Sheldon steps down, he plans to spend more time with his granddaughters, as well as ski, hunt, sail and golf. He also is considering doing some pro bono work.
Spence said the state's Supreme Court on Monday appointed Kane County Associate Judge James Hallock to become a circuit judge effective Jan. 1, 2013.
The move means the circuit judges in coming months will meet and appoint two new associate judges to replace Janes and Hallock.
Spence said Judge Clint Hull will be moved to oversee the mental health court.
Retire: Judge plans to spend more time with granddaughters, on his hobbies