Longtime Kane judge valued 'collective wisdom' of juries, variety of roles
Jury duty can be a thankless and disruptive task, especially if a person reports and isn't called to a courtroom to potentially serve.
That's where James Hallock, a judge in the 16th Judicial Circuit of Kane County for nearly 27 years, comes in.
"I don't want them to walk out down those front (courthouse) steps and say, 'Who's running the show here?" Hallock said, adding he seeks to thank members of the jury pool while explaining why they weren't called.
On a recent Monday, four jury trials were canceled or changed when three defendants pleaded guilty and one opted for a bench trial. Inevitably, jurors who reported were sent home -- but not before Hallock addressed all of them.
"They're understanding. 'We don't want this to happen; these are the reasons,'" Hallock said.
After actual trials, he added, he has thanked jurors privately, and many of them have asked if they made the correct verdict.
The 67-year-old Elginite, who will retire today, has never said "no."
"'Yes, you did the right thing. You're the collective wisdom of the community,'" Hallock would say. "'It's not up to me. The finder of fact is the jury. It's up to you, the jury's always right.'"
Hallock was appointed as an associate judge in February 1992, and his nearly 27 years on the bench make him the longest-serving judge in Kane County history, according to his research.
During his time on the bench, Hallock has handled all sorts of court calls, ranging from traffic tickets and DUI court to domestic violence and weekly hearings for mental health patients in Elgin.
"That was a very rewarding assignment," he recalled, saying it helped him become more patient and empathetic for all types of cases. "Being able to help people who, through no fault of their own, are in great need of help."
More recently, Hallock has presided over felony cases involving violent crime. He was selected to preside over the trial in DeKalb of a man accused of kidnapping and murdering 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in 1957 in Sycamore.
"That was a very intense trial and very rewarding," he recalled. "I made a finding of guilty (against defendant Jack McCullough), and it was affirmed by the appellate court."
Hallock said Judges Timothy Sheldon and the late Gene Nottolini were very helpful to him, and he enjoys passing along his "institutional experience" to colleagues when they need it.
Susan Clancy Boles, the chief judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit, has assigned Judge Kathryn Karayannis to take over Hallock's court call and circuit judge seat starting Monday. Hallock's term will expire in November 2020.
Boles said the judicial center won't be the same without Hallock.
"He is an outstanding judge, friend and mentor to all of us in the judicial system, and we cannot comprehend what coming to work will be like without Jim's sense of humor, humility and respect for the system as a whole," Boles said. "He will surely be missed, and the entire circuit wishes him a wonderful, well-deserved retirement."
Hallock said he plans to take more road trips with his wife of 43 years, Barbara. Hallock also wants to spend more time visiting with his three adult daughters and his five grandchildren, fishing for bluegill and crappie, and hunting hogs in Alabama and deer in central Illinois and Wisconsin.
"I love the adventure of going out in the woods," he said. "It's a good time for meditation, it's a good time to be thankful, thankful for your family."