News

Wellborn to fill open seat on Eighth District bench

Posted: Nov. 17, 2014 9:53 am Updated: Dec. 1, 2014 11:15 am

By DON O'BRIEN
Staff Writer | 217-221-3365
dobrien@whig.com | @DOBrienWHIG

QUINCY -- Debra Wellborn's favorite parts about her job in the Illinois attorney general's office are being in court and helping people.

When she heard that there was an opening for an associate judge in the Eighth Judicial Circuit, Wellborn decided to throw her name into the ring.

"When I thought about what I do now, I thought a lot of it could transfer over (to being a judge)," Wellborn said.

She has been named to the bench, beating out a field of 19 candidates to replace the retiring Thomas Ortbal. Interviews for the vacancy were held during the past few weeks, with circuit judges making the final selection.

Wellborn will start her new duties Jan. 2. She will be one of five associate judges that work throughout the circuit, which includes Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Mason, Menard, Pike and Schuyler counties.

Wellborn, 52, has a wide variety of experience as a lawyer.

She and her husband, former Adams County State's Attorney Barney Bier, moved to Quincy in 1988. She worked in the Marion County (Mo.) prosecuting attorney's office and held a private practice in Hannibal before moving into a job as assistant state's attorney in the Adams County state's attorney's office under Scott Walden in the early 1990s.

She moved into private practice and was a defense lawyer and part-time public defender for several years before joining the Illinois attorney general's office in 1998.

"I didn't know when I took the job with the attorney general that I would be here this long," said Wellborn, who handles cases related to the state's child support program. "It was a really good fit because it didn't conflict (with her husband's work)."

Ortbal is retiring after 13 years on the bench. He was elected by the other judges of the Eighth Judicial Circuit in 2001, and primarily handles misdemeanor, probate, law minor and domestic violence cases in Adams County.

Wellborn earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri in 1984 and her juris doctor in 1986 from Washington University in St. Louis.

She and Bier have two children, Matthew and Elizabeth.

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