The woman behind the robe: Judge Mary Catherine Marubio
2016 was a tumultuous year that was marked with historic proportions. What came out of 2016, in my opinion, was a refocus on our civil liberties and diversity. The Cook County Circuit Court embraced diversity in 2016 when it appointed Mary Catherine Marubio as one of the thirteen new associate judges for the county. Judge Marubio is currently sitting in a domestic relations courtroom, formally a parentage courtroom, at the Richard J. Daley Center, and I had the pleasure of interviewing her in late December 2016. In preparing for the interview, any Judge I spoke to who knew Judge Marubio commented on her demeanor and excellent skillset as a new Judge. Judge Marubio provides diversity to Cook County’s judiciary not only because she is female, but also because she is a member of the LGBTQ community.
Judge Marubio comes to the bench with just under 20 years of experience in both a private and public practice. The very first case she handled was a death penalty case in federal court that involved 50 other defendants in other prosecutions. “I found a niche in the [capital] case that had nine wiretaps…so I had work for two or three years beyond that due to the wiretaps.” Despite beginning her practice with a career case, she continued to work in criminal defense following the conclusion of the capital case and the other cases associated with it. “I worked in a suite with solo attorneys, and they told me to stay and threw a few files my way.” Through that work and federal appointments, specifically in wiretap cases, the Country of Columbia hired her to consult on a case involving two nationals on death row due to her experience in federal criminal and death row procedure. “That just spiraled into me being general counsel and doing general legal work for Columbia.” Although she mainly dealt with quashing service of summons, Judge Marubio also dealt with some immigration issues and custody cases amongst other areas in her role as General Counsel for Columbian Consulates.
Thereafter, Judge Marubio became a state prosecutor at the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation in 2012 and served as the agency’s Ethics Officer. In 2014, “I was lucky enough to become an Administrative Law Judge for the agency when I knew that I wanted to maybe take that direction.” As an Administrative Law Judge, Judge Marubio gained the background on what is required to be a judge, how to run a call, how to step away from being a lawyer to ruling on what was before her. This background proved essential when she took the bench and was assigned to a high-volume court call in the domestic relations division.
Judge Marubio’s current assignment was not exactly what she signed up for. “I wanted to be assigned to the criminal court doing mental health diversion, since that was my background.” Certainly, the parentage courtroom provided her exposure to mental health issues, and has proven to be an assignment that she has enjoyed. “I came on at a very good time since I never handled cases using the old custody statute; allocation of parental responsibilities makes sense to me with the cases that are before me.”
Judge Marubio is a member of the LGBTQ community, which provides a needed representation on the bench for other members of the community. The fact that the judiciary is composed with female members of the LGBTQ community is no small achievement. Judge Marubio knows that her position on the judiciary is the product of years of progress to compiling a diverse judiciary. Judge Marubio relates the importance of a diverse judiciary to her time practicing criminal defense, “criminal defendants want to see a familiar face when they come to court. Whether it is the clerk or the Judge; just someone that they can relate to.” For the litigants that come before Judge Marubio, her courtroom is one that is “inclusive, not exclusive. An individual’s religion or sexual orientation will not be a persuasive factor [in determining allocation of parental responsibilities] for me.”
For the attorneys that appear before her, know that she is prepared for her call. “I used Judge [Melissa] Durkin’s method of organizing and preparing a week ahead.” What that means for the attorneys appearing before her is that this Judge reads, so make sure to provide courtesy copies in advance. Judge Marubio also will pre-try any issue. She takes the time to listen to the attorneys and the litigants involved. She also takes notes and refers to her notes as the case progresses.
Although Judge Marubio’s parentage call had a large volume of pro se litigants, she works with her staff to not only accommodate the attorneys that appear before her, but also to provide the additional time to the pro se litigant cases. At times it can be difficult to strike a balance, but Judge Marubio works hard to provide her equal attention to the cases that are heard before her.
Starting February 6, 2017, the Cook County parentage cases and the domestic relations cases were shuffled between the Parentage Judges and the Domestic Relations Judges. This re-organization occurred for many reasons, but it directly impacted Judge Marubio who will begin hearing divorce cases in addition to parentage cases. When asked about her feelings on this transition, she was optimistic. “I am interested and ready to handle divorce cases, dividing assets…in addition to the child-related issues.”
When she is not on the bench, you can find Judge Marubio at a concert or at home with her children. She is an avid concert goer, attending several concerts per month when time permits. Judge Marubio unwinds at home with her partner and their children. Each night there is a round table discussion at dinner as to what made them laugh that day followed by nightly yoga. Judge Marubio’s family and children provide her a broader prospective in life and on the bench, especially in her courtroom where child-related issues are prominent.
Although she wears a robe each workday, under the robe she is a mother, daughter and partner. Judge Marubio’s diverse legal experience off the bench provided her the background, ambition and demeanor to proudly serve the Cook County community. Any division within the Cook County court system would only benefit with Judge Marubio being assigned a call; however, I personally hope that she remains in the domestic relations division to continue to provide the division her unwavering commitment to the quality of substantive justice.