Judge James Campanella was born and raised in Du Quoin where his parents, Carl and Lenora Campanella, ran a popular mom and pop grocery store known as Campanella’s (Campy’s) Market for 54 years.
Carl was disciplined, but playful at the same time. I remember one time he got into it with a vendor (I think it was over potato chips) and the bill was “something” and one half-cent. Carl laid a penny on the butcher block, raised the meat cleaver over his head and WHAM!--split the penny in half. “Here! Take it.”
The Campanellas were so family-oriented that Jim told his dad he would stay in Du Quoin to help run the store. But, his mother knew he had a greater calling. She told him to “get your bags packed. You’re going to law school.”
And, after 20 years in private practice and on the eve of his 20th anniversary on the bench--and Tuesday’s retention vote--he enjoys some of the highest peer ratings in Illinois law.
He has heard it all and seen it all in the second floor courtroom of the historic Perry County courthouse--a daily haunt--where wrongs are righted and defendants leave with fair decisions and judicial advice that, on some days, sounds like the lessons his dad taught him.
It’s a daily “battle” where “Blind Justice” might want to cover her ears, as well. He’s not loud. He speaks firmly--doesn’t mince words--and the ever-present fairness of it all cuts through an admitted occasional “crankiness” like a knife. He doesn’t like surprises and he wants attorneys prepared when they enter his courtroom. No nonsense.
His rulings send them on their way. His words of advice: “I don’t want to see you back here.” Most take it to heart.
Circuit judges don’t run against anyone. They run against themselves. Voters go to the polls to cast a vote for something called “retention.” In short, is a judge serving his legal constituency well?
If Tuesday’s vote were the popular television show “The Voice” this judge would turn all four chairs based upon the most recent Illinois State Bar Association judicial advisory poll:
Here is Judge Campanella by the numbers based upon that poll of his peers. The 219 ballots returned by members of the association produced this result:
1. Integrity: Adheres to the high standards of integrity and ethical conduct required of the office--Yes 90.99%.
2. Impartiality: Acts and rules impartially and free of any predisposition or improper influence--Yes 90.99%.
3. Legal Ability: Has adequate legal experience, knowledge and ability-- Yes 94.64%.
4,Temperament: Exercises the judicial temperament to serve with appropriate courtesy, consideration, firmness, fairness, patience and dignity--Yes 91.07%.
5. Court Management: Diligently and promptly attends to the duties of the office and assures the steady progress of court business--Yes 95.54%.
6. Health: Has the physical, mental and emotional health, stamina and stability needed to perform judicial duties--Yes 98.20%.
7. Sensitivity to Diversity & Bias: Conducts self and deals with others appropriately to reduce or eliminate conduct or words which manifest bias based on race, gender, national origin, religion, parties, witnesses, counsel or others--Yes 92.85%.
8. Considering the qualifications of the candidate, do you believe this candidate meets acceptable requirements for the office--Yes 92.79%.
Particularly gratifying is the 98.20% rating on health. Though it was a short-lived challenge in his life, he is a cancer survivor and that thing called “a strong constitution” has been part of his makeup since a high school athlete.
Wife Kathy, a business teacher at the Du Quoin High School for 34 years, retired, is now the legal secretary for their sons, Campanella & Campanella. Brothers-at-Law, in downtown Du Quoin.
The day Leonora Campanella “held court” over 40 years ago in Campy’s Store and told her son he was headed to law school was a good day for justice in southern Illinois.