Member Groups

The Catalyst
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law

June 2006, vol. 11, no. 4

Ann B. Jorgensen: First Woman Chief Judge of the Eighteenth Circuit

A graduate of Loyola University and DePaul University College of Law in 1980, Judge Ann Jorgensen started her legal career as an Assistant State’s Attorney in DuPage County and in 1984 entered into private practice in the law offices of John F. Donahue, becoming a partner in the firm of Donahue, Jorgensen, Sowa and Bugos. Her judicial career commenced with her appointment as an Associate Judge in 1989 and continued with her election as Circuit Judge in 1994. She has served in the civil and criminal divisions, as the Presiding Judge of the Criminal Felony Division, the Presiding Judge of Drug Court, the Supervising Judge of the Mandatory Arbitration Program, and rotating assignments in the Civil Division and the Criminal Misdemeanor/Traffic Division. On December 5, 2005, Judge Ann Jorgensen was installed as the Chief Circuit Judge for a three-year term.

Leadership comes easily for Judge Jorgensen. She was the President of the Illinois Judges Association from 2002 to 2004 and worked tenaciously to restore the judges’ cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Governor Blagojevich vetoed the legislation initiated by the IJA, resulting in a class-action lawsuit, Jorgensen v. Blagojevich. Ultimately, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s decision reinstituting the COLA. She has also served on the Advisory Board of the Center for Analysis of Alternate Dispute Resolution Systems and the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Conduct. 

Judge Jorgensen is an active member in the Illinois State Bar Association as well as the Illinois Judges Association. She is the Past Chair of the ISBA Alternate Dispute Resolution Section Council and also a Past Chair of the ISBA Criminal Justice Section Council. In April 2006, she graciously served as the Discussion Leader at the 2006 Allerton Conference entitled “Reforming the Jury System in Illinois,” presented by the Civil Practice and Procedure Section Council. 

The DuPage County Bar Association recognized her hard work and dedication by awarding her its Lawyer of the Year Award. In 2003, the DuPage Association of Women Lawyers presented her with its Glass Ceiling Buster Award. 

In an interview conducted by Glenn Gaffney and published in the January 2006 DCBA Brief, Judge Jorgensen responded to the question, “Does it matter that you are the first female Chief Judge of DuPage County,” by stating:

Not any more. Twenty-five years ago it would have mattered, but today, just look at the number of female attorneys practicing today. It is not a big deal any more. Women are joining the bench in greater numbers throughout the state; they sit on the Appellate Court and Supreme Court. Justice Mary Ann McMorrow was the Chief Judge of the Illinois Supreme Court. There are no limits for women lawyers any more.

Judge Jorgensen also stated: 

Being a judge is the best job in the world and I am truly grateful. As a judge, you have the opportunity to deeply impact people’s lives. That is an awesome responsibility. When I see the positive effect of a decision or sentence, for example, when someone is now clean and sober because of the treatment they received, or someone is now living independently or someone has regained trust of their family, that is the very best part of being a judge.

In the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit (DuPage County), of the seven divisions, four women judges serve as presiding judges: Kathryn E. Creswell, Felony Division; Hollis L. Webster, Law Division; Bonnie M. Wheaton, Chancery Division; and Ann B. Jorgensen, Marriage Division. In addition, there are four women associate judges: Blanche Hill Fawell, Dorothy F. French, Jane Hird Mitton, and Elizabeth W. Sexton. Of a total of 41 judicial posts in the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, 8 are held by women, or 19.5 percent. One additional position has now been posted, and 7 women have applied. Perhaps the percentage of women on the bench will increase to 21.4.