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McLean County Judge Paul Lawrence to retire Dec. 31

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Circuit Judge Paul Lawrence gives his presentation, "A Judge Looks Back at 20 Years of Interpreting the Constitution," during a commemoration of the U.S. Constitution hosted by the General Joseph Bartholomew Sons of the American Revolution and the Letitia Green Stevenson Daughters of the American Revolution at Grace Church in Normal on Sept 17. 

BLOOMINGTON — Circuit Judge Paul Lawrence, a lifelong Bloomington resident who has immersed himself in the McLean County judicial system for over 35 years, will retire Dec. 31, he announced Monday.

Lawrence, 61, has served as an 11th Judicial Circuit Court judge primarily hearing civil cases since he was appointed in 2011 and won re-election in 2012. He was appointed as an 11th Circuit Court associate judge in 2002.

McLean County Associate Judge Amy McFarland announced Monday she will run for the position in next year's election.

Lawrence said his wife, Helen Ogar, of Bloomington Law Office of Ogar & Miller, plans to retire the same day. She has practiced law for more than 35 years.

“We just wanted to move onto something else, move onto retirement,” Lawrence said in a recent interview with The Pantagraph.

“I think Jan. 1 we’re going to hop in the car and we’re going to travel for a couple months, but other than that we don’t really have any plans,” he added.


Eleventh Judicial Circuit Judge Paul Lawrence, left, visits with Bloomington High School English and Social Studies teacher Tim Coughlan at the close of a mock murder trial, as part of the McLean County Bar Association Lawyers in the Classroom Program which featured mock trials in Courtroom 5A of the McLean County Law & Justice Center, Bloomington, Friday, May 3, 2013.

Raised in Bloomington, Lawrence earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his law degree at the University of Missouri, where he met his wife. He returned to Bloomington after law school and he became a lawyer with his father, William Lawrence, for 17 years.

Said Chief Judge Mark A. Fellheimer: “Judge Lawrence is a home-grown judge, having been born and raised in Bloomington, including graduating from Bloomington High School. He and his family are pillars of the local legal, civic and religious communities and graciously give of their time to others and we thank them. His calm and gentle demeanor will be missed as much as his broad legal knowledge and experience.”

Lawrence credits his part-time work with the McLean County Public Defender’s office for much of his early experience. That also was when he became intrigued to become a judge.

“That’s where I really learned how to do trial work. I tried about 90 jury trials during that time,” Lawrence said of the public defender’s office. “That’s when I figured I think I’d like to be a trial judge. I had a couple judges at the time tell me that I should apply for the position and so I did and I ended up getting it.”

Voters will choose a new judge for the vacancy in the 2022 election cycle.

Contact Kade Heather at 309-820-3256. Follow him on Twitter: @kadeheather


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Barnes has served as the McLean County chief public defender since 2014, when she became the first African American to hold that position and the first African American administrator in McLean County. She had started her time with the McLean County office as an assistant public defender in 2001.

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