From Cook County Prosecutor to Cook County Probate Judge: Profile of Honorable Judge Shauna Boliker
Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Cook County Associate Judge Shauna Boliker, currently assigned to the Probate Division. Judge Boliker was appointed to the bench in June 2014. Before her assignment in the Probate Division, she spent time hearing misdemeanor cases in the criminal branch courts. Currently, Judge Boliker is hearing cases in adult guardianship court in the Probate Division. Prior to her judicial appointment, Judge Boliker had a distinguished career as a Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney for over 25 years, having served five years as First Assistant to former State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. Prior to her role as First Assistant, Judge Boliker was Chief of the Sex Crimes Division for eight years and Supervisor of the Traffic Division. While Chief of the Sex Crimes Division, Judge Boliker was instrumental in her efforts with the medical community in securing training for nurses to become Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (S.A.N.E. nurses) leading to further success in sex crime prosecutions.
Judge Boliker shared her personal side as well. She was raised in Gary, Indiana and attended DePaul Law School She and her husband, Dave Andrews, are raising their three sons in Chicago, namely Colin (21 years old), Quinn (19 years old) and Cameron (8 years old). Judge Boliker remains active in the law school community as an adjunct professor at John Marshall Law School. Judge Boliker is also active in many bar associations along with many community organizations. She is member of the Misercordia junior board and is an active volunteer with the Boy Scouts and St. Francis Xavier Warde School.
When asked what her experience as a Cook County Prosecutor has brought to role as judge, Judge Boliker remarked that as a prosecutor, she had the opportunity to meet all facets of life including crime victims, witnesses to crime and people accused of crimes. This experience helped her develop the compassion needed to handle the complexity of cases brought before her on the bench. Judge Boliker reflected that most people entering her courtroom today are advocates for their client and looking to work together with the parties involved for a positive resolution for the alleged disabled person. Unlike criminal law, guardianship court does not center on an alleged crime that was committed but a “crime due to the misfortune of nature.” It is no one’s fault that the alleged disabled is before the Court but instead, the effective approach is to deal with their disability, advocating for that individual’s best interest, which is not always “cut and dry.” Unlike criminal prosecutions, the first recourse is not always to bring the matter to trial when issues arise. Instead, mediation has become an effective tool in resolving issues between parties in guardianship cases. Judge Boliker remarked that she has witnessed through her role as a prosecutor and now as a member of the bench that representation of disabled defendants in the criminal system has given rise to ethical considerations. If a defendant is declared disabled, it affects the defendant’s ability to inform intent which has given rise to the bar and advocates to become more cognizant when assisting disabled adults in the criminal system.
At the end of our interview, I asked Judge Boliker what advice she would give to young men and women entering law school today. Judge Boliker remarked that it is important that young men and women enter an area of law that they will be passionate about and she finds it unfortunate to observe young men and women litigating cases that do not bring forth any passion. Judge Boliker encouraged lawyers to keep developing their trial skills, as they remain important no matter what area of law that attorney practices. A partner or associate may ask one day for coverage on a case and one needs to be ready to put your “best legal foot forward” in representing your client, your firm, organization and yourself (most importantly). To be able to present yourself in any court forum is invaluable throughout your legal career. Judge Boliker’s final comment speaks volumes about her kindness, dedication and compassion towards others both on and off the bench: “Always be respectful of everyone you encounter. Your reputation is that most important thing that you hold. No one can take that away from you unless you violate the rules of decency and ethics.”