News Releases

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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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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Associate Judge John H. Young has announced that he will retire from his position on January 3, 2022. Judge Young was appointed as an associate judge on April 3, 2007. During his tenure, he was assigned in both Winnebago and Boone Counties, but served the majority of his judicial career in Boone County.  He has presided in all types of courtrooms including civil, family and criminal.      

Eugene G. Doherty, Chief Judge of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, commented, “John Young has had an exemplary career as a judge. He has always demonstrated fairness, diligence and competence.”

Judge Young graduated from Belvidere High School (1978), received his undergraduate degree in political science from Judson College (1982), and received his Juris Doctor from Drake Law School (1985). Prior to taking the bench, he practiced law at the law firm of Reno & Zahm, LLP. He is an active member of the Illinois Judges Association, Illinois State Bar Association, Boone County Bar Association, and the Winnebago County Bar Association.

Judge Young stated, “I have been assisted by so many people: clerks, bailiffs, court reporters, interpreters, state’s attorneys, public defenders, private lawyers, court administration, and of course my judicial colleagues.   It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the citizens of Winnebago and Boone Counties.”

The Illinois Supreme Court has authorized the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court to post a notice of vacancy for an associate judgeship. The application period for this vacancy will remain open until November 5, 2021. A copy of the notice of vacancy is attached and is accessible at: http://17thcircuit.illinoiscourts.gov and http://illinoiscourts.gov.

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Associate Judge Joseph J. Bruce has announced that he will retire from his position on January 30, 2022. Judge Bruce was appointed as an associate judge on October 11, 2006. During his tenure, he has been assigned in Winnebago County and for the majority of his judicial career presided over family law and domestic violence cases. Judge Bruce has taught on domestic violence and family law topics for the Illinois Judicial Education Conference and New Judge Seminars, and is a current member of the Illinois Judicial College Domestic Violence Curriculum Planning Committee.   He was the Chair of the Illinois Judicial Benchbook on Domestic Violence and has been active in Supreme Court Committees developing standardized family law and domestic violence forms.

Eugene G. Doherty, Chief Judge of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, commented, “Judge Bruce has been a valued member of our judiciary and a faithful public servant. He has brought patience, wisdom, and dignity to some of the most difficult cases a judge can face.”

Judge Bruce is a graduate of Lawrence University (1974), and received his Juris Doctor from the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. (1977). He is an active member of the Illinois Judges Association, Illinois State Bar Association, and the Winnebago County Bar Association.

Judge Bruce stated, “I have been honored to serve our community as a Judge for the past 15 years. I hope to stay involved in judicial education and committee work after my retirement.”

A notice of vacancy for the office of associate judge based on the impending retirement of Judge Bruce is anticipated in early November.

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The 17th Judicial Circuit has unanimously selected Judge John S. Lowry to serve as its next chief judge starting January 1, 2022.

“The Circuit has made an excellent selection,” said current Chief Judge Eugene Doherty.  “Judge Lowry has the experience and skills to be successful as chief judge, and he will have the strong support of all of his colleagues.”

Judge Lowry stated, “I am honored to be selected by my colleagues for this position.  I look forward to the opportunity to continue the 17th Circuit’s tradition of excellence.”

The chief judge of a judicial circuit is a position created under the Illinois constitution.   The chief judge has “general administrative authority” over the court, including the assignment of cases.

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Chief Judge Eugene G. Doherty announces that the 17th Judicial Circuit Court has released a podcast entitled "Learning with Laura Youngblut: Domestic Violence in Winnebago County." The nine-part series examines responses to domestic violence in Winnebago County, Illinois through the eyes of the host, Laura Youngblut. Episode guests include:

• Associate Judge Jennifer J. Clifford, 17th Judicial Circuit Court

 • Deputy Chief Kurt Whisenand, City of Rockford Police Department

• Manager of the Mayor’s Office of Domestic and Community Violence Prevention Jennifer Cacciapaglia, City of Rockford

• Clinical Professor Wendy Hinton Vaughn, NIU College of Law

This podcast was created with funds from the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women and is a project under the Winnebago County Domestic Violence Coordinated Court’s role as a national Domestic Violence Mentor Court.

Host Laura Youngblut stated, "I am humbled to be part of this project which provides information about domestic violence and the criminal justice system from the perspective of a person with no previous knowledge about these topics. This resource brings awareness to an important community issue and can provide the listener with information on how to best support those who work in or are going through this process."

Nicole Ticknor, Deputy Court Administrator of the Domestic Violence Coordinated Court commented, "We hope this project provides community members and other professionals with a behind-the-scenes look at our community’s collaborative response to domestic violence. Even those with some familiarity of the legal system will benefit from hearing the individual perspectives of the response to domestic violence in each episode." 

The podcast can be accessed at learningwithlauryoungblut.buzzsprout.com or at the 17th Judicial Circuit’s website. The podcast is also available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

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Chief Judge Eugene G. Doherty is pleased to announce that the Winnebago County Circuit Court has been selected as a recipient of a Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women Justice for Families Program grant award. The $550,000 award will provide continued support for the Winnebago County Domestic Violence Coordinated Court, including funding for survivor advocacy within the court system. To date, 1.4 million dollars in Justice for Families Program funding has been awarded to support and enhance the Winnebago County Domestic Violence Coordinated Court.

Nicole Ticknor, Deputy Court Administrator of the Domestic Violence Coordinated Court commented, “We are thrilled to be selected for continued funding from the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women. This continued federal support for the work of our Domestic Violence Coordinated Courts demonstrates Winnebago County’s ongoing national leadership and innovation in the criminal justice system’s response to domestic violence.” 

Honorable Randy Wilt, Presiding Judge of the Domestic Violence Coordinated Court stated, “The funding provided by the Office on Violence Against Women is integral to the functions of our Domestic Violence Coordinated Court. With this funding, we can continue to expand upon the foundation established by this court which dates back to 2012.”

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Chief Judge Eugene Doherty announced today that, effective Monday, August 30, the Circuit Court will return to the requirement that all persons in the courthouse, regardless of vaccination status, must be masked.

“It’s disappointing to have to take step backwards,” said Chief Judge Doherty, referring to the fact that masks had previously not been required for fully vaccinated persons.  “Still, the court has met its responsibilities during the pandemic and will continue to do so.  I know that litigants, lawyers, and jurors have been extremely cooperative with our measures relating to public health, and I have every expectation that they will continue to be.”

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