Wednesday, Dec 4, 2013
Dirnbeck Sworn in More Than a Year After Judge's Election
BENTON -- A southern Illinois judge is finally sworn in a year and a half after he was elected. Attorney Eric Dirnbeck took the oath of office Tuesday afternoon to become a judge in the second judicial circuit.
It comes after a long legal battle with his election opponent, Kent Renshaw, who challenged the March 2012 primary results.
Dirnbeck beat Renshaw by just 42 votes in the 2012 democratic primary. A judge blocked him from taking the bench until the courts formally declared him the winner this month. But, even though he's been sworn in, the fight isn't over yet.
Dirnbeck will have to get used to putting a black robe on every day as he moves from a chair to the bench.
"I think we have a lot of really good judges in this circuit and I want to do my best to elevate the way people think of the court system," he said.
After a long litigation process of his own, Dirnbeck says he's just glad to pick up the slack the empty seat has left.
"It puts a lot of pressure and has put a lot of pressure on the other judges and you know, any time the court system slows down it means things to people's lives," he explained.
A judge ruled Dirnbeck the election winner on October 4th. Renshaw spent a year and a half challenging the results, including a partial recount of votes in Franklin County.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Renshaw's attorney Lane Harvey said his client is not giving up.
"Of course we're disappointed," said Harvey. "We believe that the judge is mistaken about his ruling. And of course, we plan on bringing that issue to the appellate court," he added.
Harvey says Renshaw will keep fighting because he believes he earned the spot. After challenging 8 of 35 Franklin County precincts, he says his team found substantial issues with the validity of a number of voter registrations.
"The voters that we challenged were not registered properly and at most, should have been allowed to vote for federal offices only," insisted Harvey.
Regardless of what happens in the Renshaw versus Dirnbeck case, both parties agree something should be done to ensure the integrity of the election process.
"There should be some efforts made to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again," added Dirnbeck.
Renshaw has already filed for an appeal. The second circuit covers 12 counties in southeastern Illinois.
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