April 2020 • Volume 108 • Number 4 • Page 8
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Recognizing a few special contributions from members of our evolving Supreme Court.
For a number of years, the Illinois Supreme Court has enjoyed several significant confluences of events that have benefitted the citizens of Illinois. In a time of unprecedented incivility in our nation’s political life, including the continuing polarization of our judiciary, the justices of the Supreme Court of Illinois lead by example as they promote civility and the application of the rule of law based on facts and precedent. In the tradition exemplified by the friendship of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late Justice Antonin Scalia, our Illinois Supreme Court continues to honor civility and collegiality.
One of the great experiences (but certainly not an exclusive privilege) of leadership in the ISBA is meeting and getting to know our Supreme Court justices. Every justice on the court truly cares about access to justice. They understand justice is not about party, electability, or any other political noise. Every justice has a background of practice and experience in the practice and is concerned about the real problems of Illinoisans. Every justice also supports the ISBA and its mission; is approachable; and understands the challenges attorneys face as they provide quality services to clients, support their families, retire their loans, and lead their communities.
As the court evolves, we eagerly anticipate what is to come and honor what already has been accomplished. While the following three justices are recognized by this column, the entire Court continues to support the ISBA.
Justice Anne Burke assumed the office of chief justice several months ago. She truly cares about all of the things that are important to ISBA members. I have accompanied her on the beginning of an unprecedented and truly visionary tour throughout Illinois. It is not a speaking tour, nor one simply organized around a scripted presentation. Rather, Chief Justice Burke has inaugurated a “listening tour” to learn about public access to courthouses, our multiple e-filing systems, and the variety of local court rules among Illinois’ 102 counties. These are topics of concern to me as ISBA president and will continue to attract the attention of President-Elect Dennis J. Orsey and Vice Presidents Anna P. Krolikowska and Rory T. Weiler. As the tour progresses, we will continue to meet with Chief Justice Burke, chief justices in our judicial districts, bar leaders, law enforcement officials, and community leaders to discuss ways to improve the administration of justice.
Justice Robert Thomas, who retired in March, served the Supreme Court for many years with distinction. His opinions are clear, crisp, and advanced the cause of justice. While Justice Thomas represented the 18th Judicial District on the bench, his party designation was not relevant or important. As a justice, he applied the facts to the law. DuPage County Circuit Judge Richard Felice says of Justice Thomas, “Justice Thomas exemplifies the qualities that we look for in a judge: intelligence, clear thinking, the ability to articulate a well-thought-out decision, … [and] a degree of humility ….” Under Justice Thomas’s leadership, Illinois joined the vast majority of states requiring continuing legal education for lawyers. But unlike what has been done in other states, he oversaw the implementation of a system that involves a board of practicing lawyers that treats attorneys as honorable and capable of self-reporting. Justice Thomas also spearheaded the creation of the Committee on Professionalism, which seeks to improve the abilities and public image of Illinois lawyers. As Justice Thomas joins private practice, we thank him for his professionalism and integrity.
Finally, Justice Lloyd Karmeier also announced his retirement, which will take effect at the end of 2020. Those who know Justice Karmeier can attest to the fact that he has remained the same compassionate, friendly, and caring person throughout his distinguished career as a lawyer, a circuit judge, and a distinguished justice and chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. His accomplishments on the Supreme Court have been many. Justice Karmeier led the necessary implementation of e-filing in Illinois. While difficult to implement and painful for some at the outset, e-filing brought our court system into the 21st century. Undoubtedly, due to a court that is truly receptive to the ideas of the organized bar and its members, the e-filing initiative will only improve with time. Justice Karmeier led the reconstitution of the Illinois Judicial Conference and continued to promote civility in our profession at all levels. He has been an unwavering supporter of practicing lawyers and the bar associations in which they participate. Most importantly, so many Illinois lawyers consider Mary and Lloyd Karmeier as dear friends. For so many reasons, we wish him well in retirement from the bench and hope to see him at our ISBA events for many years.