Sarah Duffy, an attorney at Fellheimer Law Firm, Ltd. in Pontiac, was chosen from among 15 candidates to serve as an associate judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit on July 12. Duffy will take over for Bill Yoder, who is moving up to a circuit judge position being vacated by Kevin Fitzgerald, who retired on July 6. Duffy will take office on or after Sept. 6.
    "I'm not sure I get to make the decision of when I'll start," Duffy said. "It is my understanding that I will start on Sept. 6, although some of that is still being decided."
    Duffy was born in Pontiac and graduated co-valedictorian from Pontiac Township High School in 1995. She graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and a B.A. in Spanish and was named to the Senior 100 Honorary Alumni Association program.
    After graduation, she worked as a consultant for Deloitte Consulting, Chicago, and then as a systems analyst at State Farm Insurance Company, Bloomington, before attending law school. Duffy graduated magna cum laude from the University of Illinois College of Law in 2007. She joined Fellheimer Law Firm after her admission to the Illinois bar.
    Duffy explained that the biggest difference between her work as an attorney and her future position as an associate judge is her focus in the courtroom
    "In private practice, being an attorney allows you to be an advocate for your client. So, I have the direct client interaction and I'm advocating for one position in the courtroom," she said. "As a judge, you are deciding those issues that the parties involved in the case are unable to resolve on their own. You're making that decision based on the evidence presented."
    This will be Duffy's first experience serving as an associate judge, but she said her past years of experience as an attorney will be a great benefit to the new position.
    "I think a great deal of my experience will come from observations I've made while working in the courtroom," Duffy said. "But, I also expect to do a lot of learning once I take the position. There will be mentoring opportunities, but I also plan to learn a lot from the other judges that I'm working with."
    Duffy said she doesn't believe she'll be doing much job shadowing for the position. Although she doesn't know for sure, Duffy believes that her position will begin immediately after she is sworn in.
    "I believe the position will begin immediately and I'll be given my own caseload and docket," Duffy said. "I am prepared for this challenge. I will consider each case individually. I am prepared to review the set of facts in each case and make decisions based on the laws that are in effect and the evidence that is presented."
     The Eleventh Judicial Circuit includes McLean, Livingston, Logan, Ford and Woodford counties. Although the details of her new assignment are still being determined, Duffy believes she will be typically working in another county.
    "Regardless of where I work, I will remain living in Pontiac," Duffy said. "But, I will definitely miss the staff, the attorneys and everyone at Fellheimer Law Firm. Ronnie has been a fantastic mentor to me over the years, so that will definitely be a transition."
    Although she doesn't typically identify positions by gender, Duffy recognizes the importance of being a woman in her position.
    "There aren't as many women on the bench these days," Duffy said. "So I am thankful to have the opportunity to serve in this position."
    Although Duffy has the spotlight right now, two other associate judges are expected to retire later this year.
    "I was humbled and honored to be selected among the group of candidates," Duffy said. "I'm excited to serve the public in this role and honored that I was selected."