County has first full-time assistant state’s attorney

By BETHANNY LAWSON betahnny@prairiepress.net
Posted 1/10/22

Edgar County’s former part-time Assistant State’s Attorney is taking on the position full-time.

Timothy Gilbert is originally from central Kentucky. When he moved to Illinois in 2015, …

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County has first full-time assistant state’s attorney

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Edgar County’s former part-time Assistant State’s Attorney is taking on the position full-time.

Timothy Gilbert is originally from central Kentucky. When he moved to Illinois in 2015, it was for a pastoral position at a rural church. It wasn’t until 2016 he heard of a position for an assistant state’s attorney splitting the role part-time between Edgar and Clark counties and decided to apply for it.

Gilbert has led the life of a jack of all trades. He was raised on a dairy farm in Kentucky and pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Somewhere in the middle of lab work during junior year, Gilbert realized biology was not for him.

While it may seem like a big leap from biology to law, Gilbert was always interested in government and politics. It seemed logical to him to try law school when it appeared biology was not going to work out. Today, it is clear the subject area has stuck.

After attending law school in Virginia, Gilbert did not immediately begin practicing. He moved back to Kentucky to help on the family farm and while he was there began online seminary, a process which took an additional two years of school work.

“I mostly just wanted to learn more about my faith and grow more in that aspect of my life,” said Gilbert. “It was through that education I realized I wanted to preach.”

Five years after graduating law school, Gilbert practiced law for the first time as a public defender in Kentucky while simultaneously preaching on the weekends. Another year later, he received a phone call from a little church in Illinois.

“To this day I still don’t know how they got my contact information,” he said.

What started out as an invitation to preach one weekend quickly turned into a job offer. Gilbert accepted and moved with his family to Illinois.

Since his pastoral job is part-time, Gilbert took the Illinois Bar exam and found the Edgar/Clark position he has been in for the last five years.

“It takes a lot of late nights to fit it all in,” Gilbert said about balancing the two positions, “but the church is very understanding, and they work with me on my time constraints.”

Gilbert officially became Edgar County’s full-time Assistant State’s Attorney on Jan. 1. Having a full-time position is an idea tossed around by the county before, but Gilbert said the Edgar County Board took the issue up in earnest in fall of 2021.

People have known for years there is a backlog of cases in Edgar County’s court system, an issue Gilbert says has multiple causes and worsened when the COVID-19 pandemic came around. The primary aim in hiring Gilbert full-time is to get the backlog resolved and keep future cases moving at a quicker pace.

“With more trial dates and more time to dedicated to working with each other we can better focus our attention on getting resolutions,” said Gilbert.

When he was splitting his attention between two counties, Gilbert had more work to do and spent the majority of his time in court, rarely getting a chance to truly sit and analyze cases. On most court days, he spent half the day in one county and half the day in another. He also points out that any down time on court days is generally spent getting ready for court, rather than doing the necessary desk work.

Now that he is full-time in Edgar County, Gilbert will be able to sit down and give his files the attention he believes they deserve and move them forward in a more effective manner.

Resolving cases in Edgar County offers more variety to Gilbert’s workday than people might think. While it is a common conception in the county that repeat offenders are constantly recommitting the same crimes, cases do stay interesting.

Gilbert said legal systems remain mostly the same, but people never fail to surprise.

“It’s interesting to see different cases and fact patterns are not terribly repetitive” he said. “There are always the issues where you say ‘you can’t make this stuff up.’”

Practicing law also poses new challenges frequently in terms of figuring out how to get evidence in front of a jury and be sure all rules are followed. Every fact pattern presents its own unique set of challenges with regards to this portion of legal practice.

In Edgar County, the Assistant State’s Attorney has a role similar to the State’s Attorney. The primary difference is in the division of labor, or which cases each position handles. Gilbert is responsible for handling traffic, criminal misdemeanors and any traffic related felony cases as the bulk of his work. Larger counties, such as Champaign County, may have entire divisions for each area, such as separate divisions for traffic and misdemeanor cases.

“Our break-down is based on the fact that there are only two of us, which makes us more generalist,” said Gilbert.

In his new position as Edgar County’s full-time Assistant State’s Attorney, Gilbert hopes to make significant progress on the case backlog plaguing the county. There is only so much any one person can do, but as a team with a clear goal in mind, perhaps the progress so long-awaited in Edgar County can finally be made.