Associate Judge Mark Stanley of the 2nd Circuit Court in Carmi is facing scrutiny and possible sanctions for presiding over a court hearing involving his brother-in-law Gary Evans on June 14, 2018. A circuit court clerk may also be under the microscope for allegedly altering court records at Stanley’s request.
Stanley, instead of recusing himself, as is the normal procedure where family members are involved in court cases, presided over a hearing in a lawsuit of Peoples National Bank (headquartered in Mt. Vernon, Ill.) vs. Evergreen Energy, LLC, and other entities which Evans was a part of or controlled. Evans is the brother of Stanley’s wife Rebecca. Stanley has been an associate judge in White County since 2008; prior to this, he was a private attorney along with his brother, John Stanley, and subsequently, Rhonda Blades, the current public defender in White.
On July 10, 2018, Grand Rivers Community Bank, represented by Mellisa K. Sims, filed motions to intervene and to vacate the orders that were entered by Judge Stanley on June 14, alleging impropriety. She also filed a motion for sanctions. Then came a flurry of pleadings from the defendants attempting to supplement, correct and add purported “remittals” to the June 14th proceeding, alleging that the judge did disclose his relationship outside the courtroom, and that all parties had agreed to keep him on the case. There was no court reporter present, hence no record. Grand Rivers Community Bank is also a plaintiff in another complaint against Gary Evans, alleging fraudulent property transfers to avoid loss in a lawsuit, filed in October 2017.
Illinois Supreme Court Rule 63 prohibits “first-degree” relatives from appearing in front of their relative judge unless the relationship is previously disclosed in open court and all parties agree; then in limited circumstances, they can proceed. The problem is that the initial record had none of this information. Grand Rivers Community Bank maintains that the judge was immediately disqualified by his close relationship to the defendant and because of prior lawyer client relationship. It is even alleged there is a current advisory relationship in this particular cause.
An affidavit from lawyer Melissa K. Sims, representing Grand Rivers Community Bank, states that she witnessed the destruction of the proceeding’s record in the White County Circuit Clerk’s office and that prior to said destruction, she took a photo of the document after viewing it and before it was thrown in the trash. Lawyer Sims’ affidavit claims the Judici.com record was at odds with the official record and includes the photo of the official record she witnessed being destroyed.
On August 14, 2018, Chief Judge Tom Tedeschi of the 2nd Circuit Court was made aware that Associate Judge Mark Stanley and Official Court reporter Robin O’Neill had received subpoenas to appear in the case which was to be heard on August 20, 2018 in the White County Courthouse. In order to avoid the appearance of any impropriety, the Court requested that the Supreme Court of Illinois assign a judge to preside over the case, someone who was not assigned to the 2nd Circuit. The Circuit Court then vacated the August 20, 2018 setting while the Supreme Court of Illinois considered the request.
Because of other filings by Peoples Bank, a November 26th hearing on Grand Rivers’ proposed intervention was scrapped to become a status telephone conference. Peoples National Bank, the original plaintiff in the case, is seeking to seal a memorandum to Grand Rivers Bank. Grand Rivers will have 21 days to file a response; then Peoples has 21 days to file a reply. Oral arguments are to be held via telephone conference in the presence of a court reporter. That remains to be scheduled. The hearing in Grand Rivers’ proposed intervention is to be scheduled after the motion to seal is resolved. A conference call has been set for 02-01-2019.
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