Three young boys, a husband due to deploy overseas next fall, but she’s in the race for a seat on the Illinois appeals panel covering 37 counties in the south of the state.
Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Sarah Smith, a Democrat, admits her decision to seek a seat on the Fifth District Appellate will be a challenge.
“But that is what I have been doing for 25 years,” Smith told the Record, referring to her many years in the Army and the Illinois National Guard. “Embrace the chaos, but it is no different from a stay at home Mom with four kids…better be ready at all times.”
Judge Smith may be running against Republican Justice Mark M. Boie – currently on the appellate court by assignment – who recently announced his candidacy for the November, 2020 election to the bench. They are vying for the seat of Justice Melissa Chapman who announced early September she is retiring, effective Oct. 1.
Smith, elected in 2018 to the circuit court after three years as an associate judge, said she was encouraged to run by her family, with her husband as a number one supporter, but also attorneys, both from the plaintiff and defense bars.
“Next Fall, my husband is deploying, and I gave a lot of thought to that,” Smith said, “it will be tough for the family.”
Smith was previously deployed to Afghanistan, and is a Bronze Star recipient.
An Illinois National Guard colonel, Smith is the highest ranking judge advocate general (JAG) in state service. She was the first female judge in the National Guard nationally, and helped draft for the first National Guard Manual for Courts Martial’s, her campaign staff said.
Smith said that she had an eye on the appellate court soon after becoming a judge. The Fifth District she described as extremely important, a forum that is essentially the last chance for most people as few cases are taken up by the Illinois Supreme Court for review.
The judge was taken by surprise by Chapman’s announcement that she was stepping down. But, she added, it is “go time now, all in.”
“It helps that (I) have just run, and have some great support in Madison County,” Smith said. “Absolutely that will help, versus waiting a few years, that my name was recently on a ballot.”
Smith said that she is not sure whether there will be primary opposition, but welcomes any other candidates “for democracy.”
Boie, before he was assigned to the appellate on May 1 this year, was a circuit judge in Union County since 2000.
He said he was running for the Chapman vacancy to make a “long-term commitment to continue that service for the citizens of southern Illinois.”
“I believe I bring a strong work ethic, common sense and over 18 eighteen years of experience as a trial judge to the appellate court,” he stated when announcing his candidature.