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Judge Pirrello quits Vance case

July 1, 1993

Judge Pirrello quits Vance case

By Joe Baker, Senior Editor

Judge Ronald Pirrello has withdrawn from the defamation case of Clarence L. Vance and his wife, Harriet. The case grew out of a bankruptcy proceeding involving the Vances.

Pirrello gave as his reason the fact that Vance did not support his retention on the bench. He assigned the Vance case to Judge Brian Shore, a function normally performed by the chief judge.

The bankruptcy case resulted when Vance was unable to repay a bank loan on his livestock operation. The defamation case, which is a civil matter, arose after Harriet Vance, who owned farmland on Brick School Road north of Pecatonica, put liens against a tenant farmer’s crops, alleging he failed to pay his rent for the property.

The tenant went before Judge Gerald Grubb and obtained a temporary injunction against Harriet Vance. She then placed a second lien against the tenant.

Judge Grubb, without a hearing, converted the temporary injunction to a permanent one. The tenant then retained an attorney and filed the defamation case, contending the actions of Harriet Vance damaged his credit and his reputation.

Although the Vances filed a number of motions and briefs in the defamation case, Judge Pirrello admitted in open court that he did not read them. Instead he ruled in favor of the tenant, awarding him $300,000 and legal fees.

Attorney Janet Fuenty, representing the tenant farmer, asked the judge to require the Vances to attend a deposition to discover their assets. She also asked Judge Pirrello to sentence them to six months in jail. The Vances are both in their 60s.

Vance was also to appear before Judge John Truitt at the same time he was before Judge Pirrello. Truitt denied Vance’s motion to delay the deposition pending his appeal of Pirrello’s ruling. He did so because Vance did not appear before him for the scheduled hearing, scheduled for the same time Vance was actually appearing before Pirrello.

When Judge Pirrello withdrew from the Vance case on Nov. 15, he also signed an order, with no hearing, holding Vance in contempt of court. Vance discovered the order some days after it was signed.

Judge Shore, when he took over the case, threatened Vance with incarceration unless he agreed to give a deposition. Vance continues to refuse.

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