News Releases

Chief Judge John Lowry reiterated the ongoing necessity of the Court’s public health precautions, and consistent with Administrative Order 2021-15, urged all attorneys and court patrons to use available online services and virtual court hearing options as permitted in their individual cases. Virtual attendance is generally permissible for attorneys and litigants for most court hearings unless a judge has specifically instructed an attorney or party to attend a proceeding in person.   Represented litigants should check with their attorney for direction on whether their presence is needed in person for particular court hearings. Visit the Court’s website at http://tinyurl.com/virtualcourt17 for more information about participating in virtual court proceedings.

“The Court is carefully monitoring its operations in light of the surge in Covid-19 cases caused by the omicron variant,” said Chief Judge Lowry. “We have invested in the necessary technology to offer virtual court options in all of our courtrooms, and as warranted, can easily transition to place greater reliance on virtual court hearings in response to this ongoing pandemic. I strongly urge attorneys and litigants to attend court hearings virtually whenever permissible and possible. This supports public health objectives by reducing the potential for Covid-19 case transmission in our community.”

All persons are required to wear a mask or face covering within public areas of all court facilities. Masks are to be well fit and worn properly covering both the mouth and nose. If visiting any court facility, please remember to bring a mask or face covering with you.

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Marcia M. Meis, Director of the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts, and John S. Lowry, Chief Judge of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court, are pleased to announce that the 17th Circuit Judges have selected Attorney Todd A. Ramlow as an Associate Judge of the 17th Judicial Circuit.  This associate judge vacancy is based on the impending retirement of Associate Judge Joseph J. Bruce, effective January 30, 2022.   Mr. Ramlow will take his oath of office on Monday, January 31, 2022.

“Together with his substantial courtroom experience, Todd Ramlow’s work ethic, ability and professionalism will enrich the Circuit Court,” said Chief Judge John Lowry.  “We are confident Mr. Ramlow will serve in this role with humility and respect. He is a welcome addition to the bench.”

Mr. Ramlow received his undergraduate degree in business administration and economics from Rockford College in 1991, and his Juris Doctor from Marquette University of Law in 1994.  He is licensed to practice law in both Illinois and Wisconsin, and is admitted to appear before the United States District Court – Northern District of Illinois and the United States Court of Appeals – Seventh Circuit. Since 1999, Mr. Ramlow has been employed with the law firm of Brassfield, Krueger & Ramlow, Ltd.

Commenting on his selection, Mr. Ramlow stated, “I am extremely humbled for the opportunity to serve our community as an associate judge. The 17th Judicial Circuit is a strong court system, and I’m honored to join such a respected group of legal minds.” 

Todd Ramlow is a current member of the Winnebago County Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Wisconsin State Bar Association. His involvement with community and civic organizations includes association with Delta Theta Phi Law Fraternity and volunteer work with the Northern Illinois Food Bank and the Salvation Army.

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John S. Lowry, Chief Judge of the 17th Judicial Circuit Court announced the following list of candidates who have applied to fill the position of Boone County Public Defender:
Kathryn Cross
Matthew Jura
John Palmer
Frank Perri
Derrick Schmidt 
The Circuit Judges of the 17th Circuit are inviting written comments regarding these candidates from any interested individuals and organizations.   Comments must be in writing and received by the Chief Judge no later than 5:00 p.m. on January 14, 2022.  Anonymous letters will not be accepted.
Anyone wishing to comment should direct their correspondence by U.S. mail to Chief Judge John S. Lowry, Winnebago County Courthouse, 400 West State Street, Suite 215, Rockford, Illinois 61101 or by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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Marcia M. Meis, Director of the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts, and Eugene G. Doherty, Chief Judge of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court, are pleased to announce that the 17th Circuit Judges have selected Attorney Erin B. Buhl as an Associate Judge of the 17th Judicial Circuit.  This associate judge vacancy is based on the impending retirement of Associate Judge John H. Young, effective January 3, 2022.   Ms. Buhl will take her oath of office on Tuesday, January 4, 2022.

“Ms. Buhl brings unique experience to the Circuit Court,” said Chief Judge Eugene Doherty.  “In addition to her time as an attorney, she has invaluable experience as an administrative law judge that will translate well to the job of an associate judge.  We are confident that Ms. Buhl’s abilities, as well as her excellent temperament and demeanor, will make her an outstanding member of the bench.”

Commenting on her selection, Ms. Buhl stated, “I am truly humbled by the opportunity to serve as an associate judge and I look forward to serving our community in this roll. I would like to thank my family, friends, and colleagues for their continued support.” 

Ms. Buhl received her undergraduate degree in Political Science from Rockford College in 2003, and her Juris Doctor from the DePaul University College of Law in 2007.  She has been employed with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services since 2013, and has served as a DCFS Administrative Law Judge since 2018. Her prior work experience includes family law practice at the law firm of Laura A. Epstein & Associates, LLC, and service as an assistant public defender with the Winnebago County Public Defender’s Office.

Erin Buhl is a current member of the Winnebago County Bar Association, the Illinois Association of Administrative Law Judges, and the National Association of Administrative Law Judges. Her involvement with community and civic organizations includes serving on the Winnebago County Kids’ Place Board of Directors, volunteering at BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center, and assisting with Winnebago County CASA trainings.

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Eugene G. Doherty, Chief Judge of the 17th Judicial Circuit, has officially posted a Notice of Vacancy for the position of Boone County Public Defender.

Employment responsibilities, qualifications, and instructions on how to apply are provided in the Notice of VacancyApplications must be received by 5:00 pm on Thursday, January 6, 2022. The vacancy will be filled by vote of the Circuit Judges in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit.

Application for Appointment for the Office of Boone County Public Defender

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Chief Judge Eugene G. Doherty and Problem-Solving Courts Division Presiding Judge Janet R. Holmgren are pleased to announce that the 17th Judicial Circuit Court has been awarded two grants totaling $1,042,889 to fund treatment and recovery support services for the Winnebago County Drug Court program and the Therapeutic Intervention Program (TIP) mental health Court for fiscal year 2022.

The first grant was awarded by Adult Redeploy Illinois (ARI). ARI provides funding for counties and judicial circuits to implement or enhance community-based programs that provide services and interventions that target the underlying reasons why people commit crimes to reduce recidivism in a cost-effective manner and improve the quality of life for the individuals and the community. Winnebago County has been an ARI site since 2013 and has been awarded $648,048 for fiscal year 2022 to provide substance use disorder and mental health treatment services for the Winnebago County Drug Court program and the Therapeutic Intervention (TIP) Mental Health Court program. The Winnebago County Drug Court program has also been awarded $394,841 in funding from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for fiscal year 2022. This grant award provides funding for substance use disorder treatment services to the Winnebago County Drug Court program and program evaluation services in partnership with Northern Illinois University. “The 17th Judicial Circuit has received competitive SAMHSA grant funds since 2006 due to the successful outcomes for the individual participants and the community through reductions in crime and cost-savings to the community”, stated Deputy Trial Court Administrator Emily Behnke.

“We are very grateful to ARI and SAMHSA for providing the Winnebago County problem-solving courts with significant funding that has allowed these courts to provide a full continuum of treatment services and wrap-around case management and supervision resources that are essential to the successful rehabilitation of the court participants. These critical resources directly address and positively impact the untreated or undertreated behavioral health and basic needs that cause people to become involved in the justice system” stated Judge Holmgren.

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The Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts announced the following certified list of candidates who have applied for the associate judge vacancy in the 17th Circuit based on the impending retirement of Associate Judge Joseph J. Bruce:

Erin B. Buhl  Richard M. Butera   Jessica A. Cushard
David M. Gill    Roger H. Gustafson Erin C. Hannigan
Erik K. Jacobs Joseph B. Kosek    Maureen M. Lawson    
Lise M. Lombardo  John J. Palmer  Amy K. Peterman   
Todd A. Ramlow Scott P. Robinson Derrick J. Schmidt  
Andrew T. Smith    Kelly A. Vecchio     Paul R. Vella    
Tamika R. Walker    Timothy K. Whitham Jeffrey J. Zucchi
     

The Circuit Judges of the 17th Circuit are inviting written comment regarding these candidates from all interested individuals and organizations.   Comments must be in writing and received by the Chief Judge no later than 5:00 p.m. on December 23, 2021. Anonymous letters will not be accepted. Letters will be placed in each of the candidate’s files. There shall be no other direct or indirect contact with any Circuit or Associate Judge regarding an individual’s candidacy.

Anyone wishing to comment should direct their correspondence by U.S. mail to Chief Judge Eugene G. Doherty, Winnebago County Courthouse, 400 West State Street, Suite 215, Rockford, IL 61101 or by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Judge Janet R. Holmgren, Presiding Judge of the Problem-Solving Courts Division, is pleased to announce that the Winnebago County Adult Drug Court will hold its 48th graduation ceremony on November 17, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. Eleven Drug Court participants have successfully completed all of the Drug Court program requirements and will be honored at this graduation ceremony. Including these upcoming 11 graduates, a total of 721 participants have successfully completed Drug Court since the program began in 1996.

Drug Court is an intensive problem-solving court program that targets persons in the criminal justice system who are physically dependent upon drugs and/or alcohol. Participants voluntarily consent to participate in the program which provides them with a full continuum of substance use disorder treatment services in order to successfully achieve and maintain sobriety. A multi-disciplinary team of clinical and justice professionals closely supervise each participant’s compliance with treatment and probation supervision requirements and hold them accountable through frequent court appearances before Judge Holmgren, random and frequent drug testing, and intensive probation supervision.

“The purpose of Drug Court is to improve the quality of life for the individual participants, their families and our community by restoring them to a safe and sober lifestyle which in turn dramatically reduces the likelihood that they will commit new offenses because of their addiction,” stated Judge Holmgren. “Each of our graduates has a compelling story about the destructive impact and struggles caused by their disease and how they utilized the resources and supports of Drug Court, make it possible for them to restore and rebuild their health and relationships with their families, keep and retain employment and/or pursue their education and overall, giving them the opportunities to be positive, contributing members of our community.”

This achievement comes following National Drug Court Month in May and highlights the powerful impact that Drug Courts have on the community. Over the past year, the Drug Court program has adapted to virtual court and treatment services to continue this vital program during the pandemic.

For more information about Drug Court and this upcoming graduation ceremony, please feel free to contact Emily Behnke at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (815) 319-4834.

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The Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts announced the following certified list of candidates who have applied for the associate judge vacancy in the 17th Circuit based on the impending retirement of Associate Judge John H. Young:

Erin B. Buhl  Richard M. Butera   Jessica A. Cushard
David M. Gill    Erin C. Hannigan Erik K. Jacobs
Joseph B. Kosek    Maureen M. Lawson     Matthew R. Leisten   
Lise M. Lombardo  Andrew J. Mertzenich    Nathan J. Noble
Amy K. Peterman    Todd A. Ramlow     Tina L. Rippy
Derrick J. Schmidt     Andrew T. Smith     Kelly A. Vecchio      
Paul R. Vella     Tamika R. Walker    Timothy K. Whitham
Jeffrey J. Zucchi    

 

                                                     

                                       

                                                          

                               

 

The Circuit Judges of the 17th Circuit are inviting written comment regarding these candidates from all interested individuals and organizations.   Comments must be in writing and received by the Chief Judge no later than 5:00 p.m. on November 23, 2021. Anonymous letters will not be accepted. Letters will be placed in each of the candidate’s files. There shall be no other direct or indirect contact with any Circuit or Associate Judge regarding an individual’s candidacy.

Anyone wishing to comment should direct their correspondence by U.S. mail to Chief Judge Eugene G. Doherty, Winnebago County Courthouse, 400 West State Street, Suite 215, Rockford, IL 61101 or by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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The Illinois Supreme Court has authorized the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court to post a notice of vacancy for the office of Associate Judge. This vacancy is based on the impending retirement of Associate Judge Joseph J. Bruce, effective January 30, 2022. The application period for this vacancy will remain open until December 8, 2021. A copy of the notice of vacancy is below and is accessible at: http://illinoiscourts.gov.

Notice of Vacancy

In 1995, November was proclaimed to be National Adoption Month. The month includes National Adoption Day, the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving, when many families decide to finalize their adoptions. Since 2004, 392 children in Winnebago County finalized their adoptions on National Adoption Day.

In light of the pandemic, Chief Judge Eugene G. Doherty announces that the 17th Judicial Circuit Court, in partnership with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, will celebrate National Adoption Month. National Adoption Month and National Adoption Day are collective national efforts to raise awareness to the more than 120,000 children in foster care that are ready for adoption and waiting for a family.

Those personally appearing at the courthouse to finalize an adoption throughout the month of November will receive a small National Adoption Month remembrance token. We also invite families to a family photo area made available at our Juvenile Justice Center in Winnebago County, just prior to passing through Security.

Chief Judge Doherty stated, “This is our 17th year celebrating with the children who have found their ‘forever’ homes and bringing awareness to the children in foster care waiting for permanent homes. The courts have a great, but limited, responsibility to support and protect our youth, and it is truly a privilege to be a part of celebratory moments.”

If you are involved in an adoption occurring in November in either Winnebago County or Boone County and wish to participate, please contact Kim Ackmann at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Chief Judge Eugene G. Doherty is pleased to announce that the 17th Judicial Circuit Court, in partnership with Northern Illinois University, been awarded a Research and Evaluation Initiative grant from the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women. The $413,000 award provides funding to conduct research to measure the efficacy of Winnebago County’s Domestic Violence Coordinated Court and its impact on survivor safety and engagement.

Nicole Ticknor, Deputy Court Administrator of the Domestic Violence Coordinated Court commented, “We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in a study that will provide findings that can be used to inform the practices of domestic violence courts throughout the country, and thankful for the ability to partner with a local university to conduct this research.”

Dr. Julie Crouch, Director of the Center for the Study of Family Violence and Sexual Assault at Northern Illinois University stated, “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the 17th Judicial Circuit Court and are grateful for the support from the Office of Violence Against Women, which will enable us to pursue this important work.”   

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ADMINISTRATION OFFICE OF
THE 17TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT COURT

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400 W State St
Rockford, IL 61101