MOUNT VERNON - A standing-room only crowd welcomed Judge Nicole L. Villani to the 2nd Judicial Circuit during a swearing-in ceremony Tuesday at Jefferson County Courthouse.

Villani gave up her position as the Jefferson County state's attorney to accept the appointment as resident circuit court judge, a seat vacated by the Dec. 31st retirement of Judge Terry H. Gamber.

She was appointed to the bench after an application process that included review by a screening committee appointed by Supreme Court Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier, who recommended her for the seat and presided over the swearing-in ceremony.

Villani, who received her juris doctorate from SIU School of Law in 1995, has experience in private practice and previously served as an assistant state's attorney in both Jefferson and Franklin counties.

Her experience will serve her well in the judiciary, Karmeier said.

"Trial judges are the face of the judiciary. How a trial judge is perceived by the general public greatly affects how the entire system is perceived," Karmeier told Villani. "I know you will bring your respect for and devotion to the rule of law to the bench as a circuit judge. I know you understand the grave duties and the responsibilities that go with this calling for the bench: It is to be fair and impartial and make sure people from all walks of life who appear in our courts feel they are fairly and justly treated by our judicial system, no matter what may be their religion, race, national ancestry or political beliefs."

Villani, 41, said she appreciated the trust Karmeier and the Supreme Court placed in her and she thanked the audience, which in-cluded family, friends, legislators, fellow judges, lawyers, law enforcement officers and courthouse staff, after the ceremony.

She is looking forward to the opportunity to continue her service to the community, she said.

"This community has given me so much, the opportunity and privilege of serving as state's attorney. I feel this transition to a new role is just another opportunity to serve the community," she said.

Villani's appointment will end Dec. 3, when the position will be filled by the winner of the general election. She previously an-nounced she will run for the seat.

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