The Bar News

Justice Charles E. Freeman Announces Retirement

Justice Charles Freeman
Justice Charles Freeman
Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr.
Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr.

Justice Charles E. Freeman, the first African-American to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court and as Chief Justice, will retire June 14.

Justice Freeman, 84, is the fifth-longest serving justice in Illinois Supreme Court history at 27 years, six months.

The Supreme Court has constitutional authority to fill interim judicial vacancies and has appointed Appellate Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr., to fill Justice Freeman's seat, effective June 15 through Dec. 7, 2020. Justice Neville has been a member of the First District Appellate Court since 2004, and a judge since 2000. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Carl Anthony Walker has been assigned to the First District Appellate Court until further order of the Court. Appellate Court Justice Michael B. Hyman was also reassigned to an Appellate Court seat effective until Dec. 7, 2020.

Born in Richmond, Va., Justice Freeman descended from slaves freed by Quakers before the American Civil War. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Union University in 1954 and a law degree from the John Marshall Law School in 1962. 

He also served as an Illinois assistant attorney general, Cook County assistant state's attorney, and assistant attorney for the County Board of Election Commissioners. He was an arbitrator with the Illinois Industrial Commission and he later served on the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Justice Freeman was elected to the Cook County Circuit Court in 1976, where he served for 10 years. During that tenure he was the first African-American to swear in a Chicago Mayor, when he administered the oath of office in 1983 to Harold Washington. 

Elected to the First District Appellate Court in 1986, Justice Freeman served that same year as Presiding Judge of the Third Division and as a member of the First District Executive Committee. In 1990, in a First Judicial District election to fill the Illinois Supreme Court vacancy of Seymour Simon, Justice Freeman defeated Robert Chapman Buckley.

In 1997, the Supreme Court justices chose Justice Freeman to serve as Chief Justice, succeeding Justice James Heiple to become the first African-American to lead a branch of Illinois government. He won retention to the court in 2000 and 2010.

Justice Freeman oversaw the reorganization of the rotation of assignments of appellate judges in the First Judicial District, ending the practice that allowed appellate judges in Cook County to sit on the same panel for their lifetimes.

Posted on May 17, 2018 by Rhys Saunders
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Member Comments (1)

You will be very much missed, Justice Freeman.

Your esteemed legacy will always be appreciated.

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