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Carla Barnes named first Black woman to serve as judge in 11th Judicial Circuit Court

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BLOOMINGTON — McLean County Public Defender Carla Barnes has been appointed as the first Black woman to serve as a judge in the 11th Judicial Circuit.

Barnes will fill the vacancy left by Judge Scott Drazewski, who retired at the end of 2020.

“The screening committee found Carla Barnes to be extremely well-qualified for the position of circuit judge in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, and I am pleased that the Court unanimously agreed with that assessment,” said Justice Rita Garman of the Supreme Court of Illinois.

Barnes has served as the county’s chief public defender since 2014, where she was the first Black attorney to hold the position and the first Black administrator in McLean County, according to the state Supreme Court. She started in the Public Defender’s Office in 2001 and previously served as an Assistant State’s Attorney in Cook County and McLean County.

Barnes said she is “honored and humbled” to have been chosen to fill the vacancy in the circuit that includes Ford, Livingston, Logan, McLean and Woodford counties.

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“I have been with the Public Defender’s Office for 19 years and serving the indigent clients of McLean County has been a highlight of my career,” she said. “I was appointed as Chief Public Defender six years ago and I enjoyed serving clients in that capacity. Now another opportunity has presented itself and I will do my best to serve the residents of the 11th Judicial Circuit.”

Her appointment as an at-large circuit court judge will take effect Feb. 11 and end Dec. 5, 2022 when the vacancy will be filled by the person elected in the November 2022 general election.

Barnes serves as a board member of the Juvenile Justice County and is an active member of the McLean County veterans court and drug court. She was appointed by former Gov. Bruce Rauner to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority in 2017 and reappointed by Gov. J. B. Pritzker in 2020.

“Considering her diverse background and her experience in the courtroom, I am confident that she will be an excellent member of the judiciary,” Garman said.

Seven additional applicants were considered for the position: attorney Timothy Bass; attorney Danielle Kays; Associate Judge Sarah Duffy; Associate Judge Scott Kording; Associate Judge Amy McFarland; Associate Judge William Workman; and attorney Joseph Foley.

The screening committee consisted of retired Judge Steve Pacey of Paxton; Catherine Pratt of Bloomington; Millicent Roth of Bloomington; John Kelly of Pontiac; Dr. Jeffrey Lowe of Hudson; Andrea Markert of Bloomington; and Kathy Schmidt of Lincoln.

Photos: Courts learn to socially distance in the time of COVID-19

Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.


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Barnes has served as the McLean County chief public defender since 2014, when she became the first African American to hold that position and the first African American administrator in McLean County. She had started her time with the McLean County office as an assistant public defender in 2001.

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