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Former prosecutor Navarro enters race for La Salle judge

Will face Kopko in primary as both bid to replace Lannon

OTTAWA, Ill. — Former La Salle County State’s Attorney Joe Navarro is bidding to replace retiring Judge R. James Lannon on the La Salle County Circuit Court.

A decorated war veteran, Navarro faces recently elected school board member Anita Kopko in the Democratic primary next spring before the winner heads into the General Election in November 2012.

“I’m proud to carry on my family’s unwavering commitment to serving country and community, and I hope the good people of La Salle County will choose me to carry on that commitment as judge,” Navarro said. “I’ll be a common sense judge who upholds the law and our fundamental rights, who doesn’t let politics stand in the way of justice and doing what’s right.”

A lifelong resident of La Salle County, Navarro served as state’s attorney from 1988 to 1996, a career that included six murder cases and two death-penalty cases. He obtained guilty verdicts in all eight.

As a prosecutor, Navarro also pushed for tougher criminal penalties for reckless homicide and aggravated DUI, working closely with State Representatives Dick Mautino, Frank Mautino, Mary Kay O’Brien and Tom Walsh, as well as State Senator Pat Welch.

Navarro’s 28 years of legal experience includes running a small business providing legal help to area families and to victims of negligent products, automobile collisions and workplace injuries.

One of six children of Joe and Delores Navarro, Joe attended Ottawa Township High School, where he played varsity football and wrestled. Following graduation in 1970, Joe entered the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Vietnam, where his leadership on the battlefield earned him numerous decorations, including the Bronze Star with ‘V’ for Valor.

Following his honorable discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1974 at the rank of sergeant, Navarro worked as a union pipefitter with Local 81 and then worked his way through college and law school on the G.I. Bill, all the while remaining active in veterans’ issues. He is a life member and former Junior Vice Commander of VFW Post 2470, member and past Judge Advocate of American Legion Post 33, life member and former Judge Advocate of Illinois Valley Detachment Marine Corps League, and past member of Catholic War Vets Post 1229.

“My dad served in World War II, and my parents raised me to believe that serving your country and community was just what you did as an American,” Navarro said.

Navarro is also former board member of the Ottawa Chapter of the American Red Cross, Ottawa Council for Campfire, and Ottawa Youth Commission. He is currently a member of the La Salle County Bar Association, Illinois State Bar Association, and was reappointed in 2010 by the Illinois Supreme Court to screen attorneys for death penalty cases on the Capital Litigation Trial Bar Screening Committee.

A father of four and grandfather of five, Joe and his wife, Wendi, attend Trinity Lutheran Church in Ottawa.

For more information, to volunteer, or make a contribution, visit or call (815) 431-9211.

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