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CONSTITUTION DAY

Watch now: McLean County groups celebrate Constitution Day

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Normal Police officers Kylie Hepler and Dylan Miller were recognized by the SAR and DAR for their efforts to save a gunshot victim. READ MORE HERE.

NORMAL — The COVID-19 pandemic has been a change like no other during Circuit Judge Paul Lawrence’s 19 years on the bench, he told a joint meeting of the local Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution on Friday.

From delays in criminal trials to Zoom hearings for civil cases, the pandemic has led to a fundamental shift in how the courts work. McLean County adapted well, Lawrence said, and he expects the changes to be around for a while.

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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. 

“I anticipate we will continue doing (Zoom hearings) here in McLean County for some time,” he said.

The Zoom hearings and other changes do make things quicker and generally easier, Lawrence said. There have, of course, been downsides too.

“We’re not seeing folks in the courtroom and that does hurt,” he said.

The joint meeting of the General Joseph Bartholomew Chapter of the SAR and the Letitia Green Steven Chapter of the DAR was held to mark Constitution Day, which commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.

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Steve Kern, chairman of the public service heroism committee, presents retired interim Bloomington Police Chief Greg Scott with a distinguished service certificate, during a commemoration of the U.S. Constitution at Grace Church in Normal on Friday. The event was hosted by the General Joseph Bartholomew Sons of the American Revolution and the Letitia Green Stevenson Daughters of the American Revolution. 

Lawrence was invited to give the keynote speech and spoke about how he has interacted with the Constitution over his career as a judge. 

Court cases, especially the civil cases he has been overseeing for the past 10 years, often come down to differing opinions of experts, all of whom are being paid by their respective sides.

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“Like in most cases, it comes down to a battle of the experts,” Lawrence said about eminent domain cases.

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Steve Kern, chairman of the public service heroism committee, left, recognized McLean County Sheriffs detective Bryan Hanner, McLean County assistant states attorney Aaron Frederick and Bloomington Police officer Matthew Russel as chapter President Gordon Bidner, right, looks on 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, Friday, Sept. 17, 2021.

Those eminent domain cases are one of the places Lawrence comes into most direct contact with the Constitution. In the first ten years of his tenure as a judge, Lawrence oversaw criminal cases, in which question of the Fourth Amendment and its right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure featured prominently.

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Steve Kern, chairman of the public service heroism committee, left, presents Normal police officers Dylan Miller and Kylie Hepler with a life saving commendation 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, Friday, Sept. 17, 2021.

The SAR chapter also recognized nine first responders for their service to Bloomington-Normal and surrounding communities. That includes distinguished service certificates to retired Danvers Police Chief Michael Kemp, retired Bloomington Interim Police Chief Gregory A. Scott and retired Normal Assistant Police Chief Eric Klingele.

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Bloomington officer Matthew Russell, McLean County States Attorney’s Office prosecutor Aaron Frederick and McLean County Sheriff’s Office detective Bryan Hanner all received law enforcement commendations. El Paso EMS Randy Stroud received an EMS commendation and Normal police officers Kylie Kepler and Dylan Miller received a lifesaving commendation for giving first aid for a gunshot victim in March of this year.

DAR participates in Bells Across America

Members of the Letitia Green Stevenson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution ring bells and hand out copies of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution to celebrate Constitution Day on Sept. 17, 2021 on the steps of the McLean County Museum of History. The national DAR encouraged all chapters to ring bells at 3 p.m. central time as part of Bells Across America. 

Later in the day the DAR participated in a nationwide event to commemorate Constitution Day. Chapters from across the country rang bells at 3 p.m. Central time, including the Letitia Green Stevenson Chapter who took to the McLean County Museum of History steps for their ringing.

The DAR holds events every year for Constitution Week, including outreach like going to schools, said chapter regent Paula Garrett.

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Speaking at the opening of the event, Garrett read from President Joseph Biden’s proclamation of Constitution Day for this year. She also spoke about the importance of the amendments and continued adaptation of the Constitution to new challenges.

“These amendments show strengths and struggles that our country has endured to keep our founding document in line with changes to our society and our ideas,” she said.

Contact Connor Wood at (309)820-3240. Follow Connor on Twitter: @connorkwood

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