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Downstate judge to hear Popejoy's traffic case
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Staff

DuPage Circuit Judge Kenneth L. Popejoy


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Published: 7/23/2010 12:01 AM

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The Illinois Supreme Court issued an order Thursday assigning a downstate circuit to preside over DuPage Judge Kenneth L. Popejoy's traffic case.

Fifteenth District Chief Judge Michael T. Mallon was given the task of assigning one of his judges to the case, while he maintains administrative authority over all related matters. The 15th District covers Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle and Stephenson counties.

Popejoy is charged with reckless driving, failure to give information after striking an unattended motor vehicle and failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. The first two charges are misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in county jail and a $2,500 fine. He is due in court Aug. 3.

DuPage County Chief Judge Stephen Culliton requested the out-of-county judge and, in its Thursday order, the Illinois Supreme Court determined "public necessity so requires" the downstate assignment to avoid a conflict of interest.

Prosecutors said the 59-year-old Popejoy hit an unoccupied parked car in Glen Ellyn about 8:30 p.m. June 29. Afterward, Popejoy is accused of fleeing toward his Wheaton home nearly three miles away without reporting the accident. On the way, witnesses said, he narrowly missed striking a 13-year-old jogger and ran at least one stop sign.

None of the witnesses could identify the driver, police said, but the vehicle description they provided matched Popejoy's Jeep Liberty. Officers from both Wheaton and Glen Ellyn arrived at the judge's doorstep within minutes.

Police did not ask Popejoy to submit to sobriety tests because they said he appeared sober, but they said officers inspected the damaged Jeep in the judge's garage. No one else was home, police said. They said Popejoy declined to answer their questions on the advice of his attorney.

Judge Culliton lives near where the parked car was struck. He declined to comment, citing Illinois Supreme Court rules barring judges from speaking about pending cases. Daily Herald sources said Popejoy had dropped off Culliton before the accident.

Popejoy's legal career spans more than three decades. He was named an associate judge in 1997. In the March 2004 GOP primary, he defeated three fellow DuPage County judges and a veteran trial lawyer, leading to his election as a full circuit judge. He is due for his first retention vote in the November general election.