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Judge announces run for appellate court
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Staff

Judge Ann Jorgensen


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Published: 5/20/2009 2:11 PM

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A former DuPage County chief judge who pioneered a substance abuse sentencing program is officially kicking off her campaign for higher office.

Justice Ann B. Jorgensen is seeking a 10-year seat on the Second District Appellate Court. The Illinois Supreme Court appointed her to that court in July 2008 to complete a retiring colleague's term.

So far, the Wheaton woman is running unopposed in the February 2010 Republican primary for the Elgin-based court, which encompasses 13 diverse counties in northern Illinois, including DuPage, Kane, Kendall, McHenry and Lake.

Many in the legal community are expected to attend a Thursday night fundraising event in her hometown of Wheaton.

Jorgensen, 54, was a fixture at the DuPage County courthouse for nearly three decades as she ascended to become the first female chief judge. Her colleagues point to her tough-but-fair reputation as testament to why they unanimously tapped her in 2005 to lead Illinois' second-biggest court system during difficult budget constraints.

Before becoming a judge, Jorgensen served as a criminal prosecutor and later went into private practice as a criminal defense attorney. The 20-year judge consistently scores high in judicial bar polls, and voters twice chose to retain her in 2000 and 2006. She handled cases ranging from capital murder to a dispute that received national media coverage regarding a Nolan Ryan rookie baseball card.

But Jorgensen is best known for pioneering DuPage County's drug court program, an alternative sentencing program for nonviolent offenders that since its inception has helped turn around the lives of hundreds of addicts who otherwise might have gone on to commit more crimes.

The nine-member appellate court handled about 1,660 pending criminal and civil cases in 2007, the most current year available, ranging from property disputes to divorce to first-degree murder. The Illinois Supreme Court typically hears appeals in less than 5 percent of requests.

"We are the final word in the vast majority of cases that are appealed," Jorgensen said. "That's why it's so important."