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WJBD - Local News - McHaney Named Chief Judge of Fourth Judicial Court

McHaney Named Chief Judge of Fourth Judicial Court

By Bruce Kropp, WJBD News

Fourth Judicial District Circuit Judge Michael McHaney has been named the Chief Judge of the nine county circuit that includes Marion, Fayette, Clinton, Clay and Effingham Counties.  He replaces Gene Schwarm of Fayette County who was sworn in Tuesday as the new Appellate Court Justice.  McHaney ran unopposed for the position.

"I'm very humbled by the election. I think the fourth circuit is known for having excellent judges, and I'm proud to be one of their colleagues" said McHaney.

McHaney looks forward to overseeing new programs.

"I see an ever expanding place for specialty courts as an alternative to incarceration. Tons of studies have been done, and I think we're finding that they work and save the taxpayers money" said McHaney.

Most counties in the circuit now have drug courts.  McHaney would like to see the veterans and mental health courts now in Effingham County expanded to other counties.   

On cameras in the courtroom, McHaney says he favors transparency but there are issues that would have to be addressed.  He feels final decisions should be left to the resident circuit judge of each county.  The State Supreme Court is currently allowing about 20 county court systems to pilot the use of cameras in the courtroom.  

McHaney expects the chief judges office to remain in Vandalia because they have room to house it.   

He notes there will also be challenges because the court system is currently two judges short due to the resignation of Schwarm and the retirement of Judge Sherrie Tungate.   An appointment will be made to replace Schwarm, but Tungate's position will be left open until the November general election.    

McHaney was elected as a circuit wide judge in 2010.  He had been appointed as an Associate Judge in 2006 and had served as Marion County Public Defender from 1998 to 2006.   

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