Stephenson County Circuit Judge Theresa Ursin will assign a new judge to hear a law-suit filed in March seeking to prevent the EcoGrove Wind LLC wind farm from being built northwest of Lena.
“I am going to take this under advisement for the time being,” Ursin said in local court Wednesday.
The lawsuit was one of two civil actions filed to stop two local wind farm projects from moving forward. Attorneys in the EcoGrove suit appeared before Judge Ursin Wednesday to discuss the assignment of a new judge.
EcoGrove Wind LLC is a wind farm being proposed by Freeport-based EcoEnergy LLC, a division of The Morse Group. Officials recently announced that a new firm, Acciona, is also associated with the EcoGrove project. The other farm, Lancaster Wind Farm LLC, is being proposed for the Dakota area by Navitas Energy of Minneapolis.
The wind farms have remained controversial issues. The lawsuits – filed by objecting property owners – seek to invalidate the special-use permits that would allow the wind farms to be built in Stephenson County. The suits were a factor in the County Board’s recent decision not to create a homeowner protection plan for the projects.
The EcoGrove lawsuit was originally assigned to Associate Circuit Judge David Jeffrey. However, Jeffrey recused himself from the case on May 10, and the matter was referred to Ursin for reassignment. Ursin then assigned the case to Circuit Judge Michael Bald.
Jeffrey said he recused himself because many members of his wife’s family work for Morse Electric, a company that has a financial interest in the case.
“I thought it would be inappropriate for me to hear this case,” Jeffrey said.
On Wednesday, attorneys initially appeared before Judge Bald. At that time, Dan Fishburn, an attorney for EcoGrove Wind, was granted a motion to substitute judges. He did not provide a reason for filing this motion. Attorneys then appeared before Ursin Wednesday to discuss the case further.
Ursin told the attorneys that she will decide in the near future whether to hear the case herself or assign it to a new judge. A follow-up court date has not yet been scheduled in this case.
“She’s the chief judge so she has to make a decision whether she’ll keep the case or assign it to someone else,” Fishburn said of Ursin.
Matthew Logan, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the EcoGrove suit, declined to comment at length Wednesday, saying the case was in a “procedural” stage at this point.
The lawsuit against the Lancaster Wind Farm is scheduled for a hearing at 9 a.m. today. Charles Muscarello, an attorney for the plaintiffs in this suit, said he expects new dates to be set at today’s hearing.
By Travis Morse
16 May 2007
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