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‘And it will be a challenge,’ new La Salle County judge says of road ahead

There’s usually a hiccup on the Big Day and there was: No black robe. Judge Christina Cantlin-VanWiggeren sent away for her judicial robes but they weren’t available in time for her Monday swearing-in.

To the rescue came one of her new colleagues on the bench. Judge Michelle A. Vescogni reached into her closet to lend Cantlin-VanWiggeren one of hers.

“It was a natural fit,” observed Vescogni, anticipating an equally seamless transition for the longtime Ottawa attorney.

Christina Cantlin-VanWiggeren takes the oath as she is sworn in as a judge to the circuit judge of the 13th Judicial Circuit at the La Salle County Courthouse downtown Ottawa on Monday March 22, 2021.Attorney John Cantlin hugs his daughter Christina Cantlin-Van Winggeren after Van Winggeren was sworn in at the La Salle County Courthouse downtown Ottawa on March 22, 2021.John Cantlin places the judicial robe on his daughter Judge Christina Cantlin-Van Wiggeren shortly after VanWiggeren accepted the oath at the La Salle County Courthouse downtown Ottawa on Monday March 22, 2021.Justice Christina Cantlin-VanWiggeren (center) officially begame a judge Monday March 22, 2021, during a swearing in ceremony at the La Salle County Courthouse downtown Ottawa.Judge Christina Cantlin-VanWiggeren gives her remarks to her family and other justices after being sworn in as a justice at the La Salle County Courthouse downtown Ottawa on Monday March 22, 2021.Circuit judges of the 13th Judicial Circuit attend the swearing-in ceremony of Judge Christina Cantlin-Van Winggeren at the La Salle County Courthouse downtown Ottawa on Monday March 22, 2021.Justice Eugene Daugherity gives remarks and the call to order during the swearing-in ceremony for Christina Cantlin-Van Wiggeren at the La Salle county Courthouse downtown Ottawa on Monday, March 22, 2021.

Cantlin-VanWiggeren was tearful as father and law partner John Cantlin helped her don the borrowed robe and as she made her first public remarks as a circuit judge in La Salle County’s civil division. From the podium, she likened her post to a hike she’d taken into the Grand Canyon: The hike down was a cinch, but the eight hours back up was arduous.

“That’s how I’m looking at this new opportunity,” said the married mother of five. “I didn’t go looking for this opportunity. I was encouraged to challenge myself, to stretch myself and accept this challenge. And it will be a challenge.”

It’s also a useful analogy for the electoral challenge ahead. Getting the seat vacated by Eugene P. Daugherity, now an appellate justice, from a crowded field of suitors was a challenge in its own right. Now comes the more daunting task of mounting a campaign to keep her new post. The election is less than 600 days away.

Cantlin-VanWiggeren’s judgeship is circuit-wide, meaning she will appear on the 2022 ballot in all three counties that comprise the 13th Judicial Circuit. La Salle, Bureau and Grundy counties have a combined population of more than 192,000 and nearly 2,452 square miles. It’s a lot of ground to cover while persuading voters to give her a six-year term of office and not to a challenger; multiple contenders could emerge.

Cantlin-VanWiggeren will, of course, be the incumbent and have the word “judge” appear next to her name. She comes with a lengthy resume: After graduating with honors from Northern Illinois University College of Law, she amassed 20 years of civil experience at The Cantlin Law Firm, which she joined in 2001.

Cantlin-VanWiggeren wasn’t the only one crying Monday. Her father’s voice trembled as he lamented not being able to say good morning and good night to his law partner daughter at the office. Were they tears of joy, pride or sorrow?

“All of the above,” the elder Cantlin admitted.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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