Illinois Bar Journal

March 2021Volume 109Number 3Page 10

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ISBA Elections

Get Ready to Vote

It’s ISBA Election Season!

Two candidates are competing to become the ISBA’s next third vice-president, with the winner taking office in July 2021. He or she will help lead major initiatives for the ISBA and will be appointed president in 2024-2025. The two candidates, both of whom live outside Cook County, are Perry J. Browder of Alton and Sonni Choi Williams of Lockport.

Please turn to pages 11 to 13 for biographies provided by the candidates for third vice-president, biographies of those seeking seats on, or reelection to, the Board of Governors, and a list of candidates for Cook County seats on the Assembly.

Paper and email ballots will be distributed on Wednesday, March 29. Voting will close on Friday, April 30, at 4:30 p.m. for all voting methods. For more information, visit the ISBA election page.

As for the Board of Governors: Two candidates are running for a seat in Cook County; one candidate is running for a seat in Area 1 (circuit 18); one candidate is running for a seat in Area 6 (circuits 7, 8, and 9); and two are competing for a seat in Area 8 (circuits 3 and 20). There also are 25 candidates seeking 26 spots on the Assembly.

Casting your vote is easy and only takes a few minutes. Be on the lookout for your ballot and do your part to shape the ISBA’s future!


Perry J. Browder

Perry J. Browder, Alton. Shareholder, Simmons Hanly Conroy in Alton, Illinois (Madison County). Managing partner, Asbestos/Mesothelioma department; plaintiff’s personal injury attorney; former insurance defense attorney, Law Office of William Koziol (Lake County); felony prosecutor (McHenry County); 711 prosecutor (Livingston County). Intern, Gary legal aid clinic (Gary, Indiana). B.S. Political Science and History, Bradley University (1985); president, Sigma Phi Epsilon; intern, Senator Prescott Bloom. J.D., Valparaiso University College of Law (1988); Mock Trial team; president, Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity; president, Christian Legal Society. Licensed: Illinois (1988); Missouri (2011). ISBA participation since 1990: current Board of Governors (circuits 3 and 20); past secretary, Assembly; Budget and Audit Committee; board liaison, Privacy and Information Security Law, and Environmental Law section councils and
Committee on Delivery of Legal Services; member, Tort Law, Continuing Legal Education and Judicial Evaluations-Outside Cook County. Illinois Bar Foundation: past president; past Gala co-chair; program book and fellows committee; Fellows Program; Pillar of the Foundation. Founding membership, Lincoln Legacy Society; Lincoln portrait presentation. Legal Luminary Committee with the Illinois Bar Foundation and Illinois Judges Foundation. Speaker, Southern Illinois Law School admittees ceremony. Other Involvement: Current Board of Directors, Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) and external relations committee; past president, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association; current member, Madison and St Clair County Bar Associations, Alton Woodriver Bar Association, Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, and Justinian Society. Guest speaker Valparaiso University School of Law toxic torts; Perrin co-chair National Asbestos Conference; speaker at Perrin, Harris Martin, ITLA, ISBA. Awards: Martindale-Hubbell AV rating; Illinois Super Lawyer 10+ years; Avvo rating top attorney; Best Lawyers St. Louis;, top 100 attorneys. Perry and Michelle Browder have three children, Amanda, Emily, and Martin Browder, and one dog named Emma. Issue Statement: Build on past, embrace new ideas for the future, and succeed together!

Sonni Choi Williams

Sonni Choi Williams, Lockport. City attorney for the City of Lockport, appointed in-house legal representative for the city and its elected officials and employees. Prior employment: City of Peoria (2000-2017) as a deputy, interim corporation counsel, senior staff attorney, and assistant with focus on litigation of civil, state and federal tort and injunction cases in state and federal appellate courts and the Illinois Supreme Court. B.A., University of Iowa; J.D., Northern Illinois University College of Law. Admitted 1999. Appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to the Commission on Professionalism (2005-2016) and the ARDC Hearing Board (current chair).

ISBA activities: Board of Governors (2012-2018); Secretary (2015-2016); Assembly (2004-2009); Committee on Scope & Correlation (2013-2014 & 2017-2018); board liaison, Health Care Law Section Council; chair, Local Government Law Section Council; vice-chair, Committee on Racial & Ethnic Minorities and the Law (2020-present); member, Leadership Academy Governing Board; former member, Committee on Judicial Evaluations-Outside Cook County; ISBA speaker and newsletter contributor. Current director and Diamond Fellow, Illinois Bar Foundation. Board leadership: board member of the Korean-American Bar; Asian-American Bar; IICLE; Prairie State Legal Services; NIU College of Law Board of Visitors. Member, ABA, NAPABA, WBAI, Justinian Society of Lawyers, Illinois Local Government Lawyers Association (ILGL), Will County Bar, Will County Women’s Bar, Black Bar of Will County, DuPage County Bar, Peoria County Bar, Lockport Rotary Club and Woman’s Club. Awards: NIU College of Law Alumna of the Year (2020); ISBA Diversity Leadership Award (2014-2015); ISBA Board of Governors Award (2010); ILGL Annual Achievement Award (2008); NIU College of Law Young Alumnus of the Year Award (2006). Lockport resident with husband Dick B. (“Rich”) and two sons, Ian and Alex. Avid runner. Issue Statement: Increase ISBA member engagement and awareness of membership benefits, improve access to justice, and expand the ISBA leadership pipeline.


Howard Ankin

Howard Ankin, Chicago. I worked for Peter Ferracutti of Ottawa out of law school. Thereafter, I worked for Jay Janssen of Peoria. I learned to be a lawyer, tried many cases and learned how to help people. I started my own general litigation law practice in 1997 which mostly consisted of trying other lawyers’ cases. The 2008 economy almost did me in. I began to advertise my services and found success conveying an honest assessment of how I can help people. Today I have an office of about 60 people. I confine my practice to workers' compensation, personal injury, and social security. Education: University of Illinois, Urbana (1990); John Marshall Law School (1993). ISBA activities: I am proud to have given lectures and written for the Worker's Compensation Section Council for the ISBA; in addition to having attended other ISBA meetings I was honored to attend the Allerton Conference 2019. Other activities: I was the president of my law school alumni and remain on the alumni council; board of CVLS providing equal access to justice; ITLA Board of Managers and as the WC Section co-chair; AAJ as a governor and its National Finance counsel. While I now live and work in Chicago, I spent a good part of my life living and practicing in smaller communities. Issue Statement: I have the time and the desire to actively help the ISBA. I feel I have depth in understanding what it takes to be a lawyer, run a law practice, and participate in successful law boards. I hope my reputation is someone who helps his colleagues and gives back to our profession. I take great pride in being a lawyer. Technology is changing our practice. Advocating for laws which protect our profession is the issue of our time. 

Ava George Stewart

Ava George Stewart, Chicago. Incumbent. Criminal Justice attorney. Education: B.A. and M.S.C., Northwestern University; J.D., University of Illinois. Admitted 2003. ISBA activities: Board of Governors (2016-present); Secretary (2020-present); Assembly (2007-2012, 2014-2016); standing committees on Illinois Bar Journal Editorial Board (2010-2018), Marketing and Communications (2015-2018), Member Services (2017-2019); section council, Criminal Justice (chair, 2015-2016), Traffic Laws and Courts (chair, 2011-2012); board liaison to the committees on Illinois Bar Journal-Editorial Board, Member Services, Corrections and Sentencing, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Women and the Law; Law Office Management and Economics; section council, Criminal Justice, Human Rights. Illinois Bar Foundation, Silver Fellow and Board Member (2015-present). ISBA Mutual (2005-present). Other activities: IICLE Board of Directors (2016-present); Illinois Judges Association and the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism working group Restoring Confidence in the Judiciary (2020-present); BWLA Board of Directors Member-At-Large (2016-2018); Women Everywhere Board (2011-present); co-chair of the WBAI’s Criminal Litigation Committee (2010-2016); DUI Committee, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (2013-2016); Illinois Delegate, National College of DUI Defense (2010-2015); Chicago Bar Association; Cook County Bar Association; WBAI, Women’s Criminal Defense Bar Association (current); Board of Directors Green City Market (2020-present); Board Alumni, Minority Legal Education Resources (2005). Ava is a frequent state and national presenter, panelist, and author on an array of legal issues including criminal law, trial techniques, and unconscious bias. She teaches Appellate Advocacy and Persuasive Writing at UIC John Marshall Law School. Prior to becoming an attorney, she was executive director of agencies for homeless and disenfranchised women and children. Issue Statement: The ISBA must be innovative, nimble, and responsive to member needs. As a member of the Board of Governors, I will continue to grow and enrich the ISBA through outreach and listening.

(Circuit 18) | (1 TO BE ELECTED)

J. Matthew Pfeiffer

J. Matthew Pfeiffer, Wheaton. Principal, Pfeiffer Law Offices, P.C., a small firm focusing on civil litigation and appeals in state and federal courts, business counseling, employment matters, bankruptcy, estate planning, and commercial real estate. B.S., Purdue University, West Lafayette IN (1997); J.D., Northern Illinois University College of Law, DeKalb, IL (2000). Admitted 2000. ISBA activities: member since 1997; member, Assembly (2010-13, 2016-present); chair, Special Committee on Assembly Governance (2019-20); appointee, Steering Committee on Racial Inequality (2020-present); vice chair, Special Committee on Succession and Transition Planning (2017-20); chair, Civil Practice & Procedure Section Council (2017-18); member, Civil Practice and Procedure Section Council (2002-13, 2015-present); member, Labor and Employment Section Council (2018-present); member, Federal Civil Practice Section Council (2015-18); member, Commercial, Banking and Bankruptcy Law Section Council (2013-16); member, Corporation, Securities and Business Law Section Council (2011-12);multiple-time attendee (invitation-only) Allerton Conference; frequent speaker, moderator, newsletter author for ISBA throughout my 23-year membership. Silver Fellow, Illinois Bar Foundation (2010-present). Other activities: president, DuPage County Bar Association (2018-19); chair, Board of Visitors, NIU College of Law (2018-20); director, DuPage Bar Foundation (2018-19); Delegate of DuPage County Bar Association, American Bar Association House of Delegates (2017-18); director, Loaves and Fishes Community Services (2011-17); founder, Legal Solutions (Loaves and Fishes Community Services program providing bi-weekly/monthly free legal assistance to indigent individuals and families within DuPage County on various civil and criminal issues) (2015-18); president, Alumni Council, NIU College of Law (2010-12). Awards: recipient, Board of Governors Award, ISBA (2020); AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating, Martindale-Hubbell (2011-present); recipient, Board of Directors Award, DCBA (2009). Issue Statement: Work on initiatives to protect Illinois lawyers from outside forces and promote the value of the profession; provide more business development and office management resources; focus on membership and leadership recruitment pipelines to ensure stability and continued ISBA success.

(Circuits 7, 8 and 9) | (1 TO BE ELECTED)

J. Randall Cox

J. Randall Cox, Springfield. Incumbent. Illinois Appellate Court, Springfield; 30 years private practice; partner (21 years), Feldman Wasser, a general trial practice firm, concentrated in federal and state criminal defense, administrative law, probate and commercial collections.

B.A., Knox College; J.D., Southern Illinois University School of Law. Admitted 1991. ISBA activities: Board of Governors (2018-present); Committee on Continuing Legal Education (2001-present; chair, 2015-2017); CLE Committee liaison to various section councils since the liaison program was established; Solo and Small Firm Practice Institute Planning Committee (2014-present, chair 2017-present); Solo and Small Firm Conference Planning Committee (2010-2014); Traffic Laws and Courts Section Council (2006-2012, chair 2010-2011); High School Mock Trial judge; ISBA speaker. Bar Foundation Board of Directors (2018-2020). Other bar association activities: Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Board (2011-present; president 2014-2015); National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; National College of DUI Defense;

Sangamon County Bar Association. Volunteer and Community Service: U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Springfield Division, Reentry Court Program/Court Assisted Program, Private bar representative (2016-2020); Sangamo Club Board (2012-2018; president 2016-2018); Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta appointed graduate volunteer to Knox College chapter (2016-present); Springfield Air Rendezvous legal advisor and board member (1998-2007); Lincoln Library Foundation (2000-2006, president 2005-2006). Awards: Leading Lawyer (2010-present); Commercial Litigation; Criminal Defense Law: Felonies and Misdemeanors; Criminal Defense Law: DUI. Instrument rated private pilot.

(Circuits 3 and 20) | (1 TO BE ELECTED)

Amanda G. Highlander

Amanda G. Highlander, Maryville. Attorney with The Law Office of Jamie Mitchell, LLC, focusing my practice on domestic relations and adoption. Education: B.A., Vanderbilt University; J.D., Washington University in St. Louis, School of Law. Admitted 2010 (Missouri) and 2011 (Illinois).
ISBA activities: representative, Under 37 Outside of Cook County Board of Governors; graduate, Inaugural Class Leadership Academy; chair, Child Law Section Council; member, Standing Committee on Scope & Correlation; board liaison, Family Law Section Council; board liaison, General Practice Solo & Small Firm Section Council; board liaison, Standing Committee on Law Related Education for the Public. Illinois Bar Foundation, Silver Fellow. Other Activities: member, Madison County Bar Association; Board of Directors, Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois; founding member, 100+ Women Who Care from the 618; Board of Directors and past president, Metro East Humane Society. Awards: Super Lawyers, Illinois Rising Star. I reside in Edwardsville with my husband and daughters. Issue Statement: Having lived and practiced in Madison and St. Clair Counties for most of my life, I am dedicated to the ISBA’s involvement and impact in Metro East and downstate Illinois.  I will continue my commitment to the ISBA and its Board of Governors by championing the organization’s dedication to the advancement of the legal profession and advocating for greater inclusion of young and downstate lawyers. I will foster a direct route to participation for these members. The ISBA is a statewide organization and should serve the needs of the entire state bar. Unfortunately, the needs of downstate attorneys have often been underrepresented and underserved. As your Area VIII representative to the Board of Governors, I will continue my work on the Board to strengthen the focus on issues, events, and education that cater to downstate members. My strategy for broadening inclusion and increasing involvement is: Enroll. Enrich. Engage.  

Jennifer A. Shaw

Jennifer A. Shaw, Edwardsville. Southwestern Illinois is my home. I am a Belleville native, living and officing in Edwardsville, fortunate to have practiced in all seven Area VIII counties. Issue Statement: Strong on experience, I am running to represent our lawyers' unique needs, ensuring the Board hears issues and positions specific to our region. I have been a small firm associate, a legal aid lawyer, a solo practitioner, a partner, and an employer of associate attorneys. I will draw on those experiences to represent all Area VIII lawyers, not just a subsection of us. Years of service to the ISBA on the Assembly, section councils, and committees have shown me how well this organization serves all ages, practice types and geographic regions. We are great because we continue to evolve, both naturally and through decisive action. The leaders who have gone before me have asked tough questions to ensure ISBA's continued benefit, growth, and relevance. Like them, I will never stop asking questions and finding solutions to help the Association benefit our lawyers. That means understanding the differences between attorneys who want to become "bar junkies" and those who just want free CLE and access to high quality, affordable malpractice insurance. We are an association comprised of lawyers who retain membership for a panoply of reasons. An effective Board representative understands her role to ensure each reason for continued membership is valued, respected, and voiced. If elected, I will listen to the concerns of lawyers in all career stages and in all types of employment. I will be an engaged liaison between our region and the Board, bringing our issues to the Board, and the Board's decisions and resources to our area. We deserve a strong, informed voice in the room where decisions are being made. I am that voice.


  • Eric J. Anderson
  • Thomas Battista
  • Deidre Baumann
  • Sandra M. Blake
  • James Alward Cook
  • Aja Carr Favors
  • John Fitzgerald
  • Eugene Friedman
  • Lesley D. Gool
  • Matthew R. Huff*
  • Marjorie Rose Kennedy*
  • Donald H. Kiolbassa
  • Dennis Lynch*
  • Ashly McCants
  • Hope Mercado
  • Timothy Moran
  • Ashley Meghan Murray*
  • James C. Murray, Jr.
  • Paul G. O’Toole
  • Robert Oleszkiewicz*
  • Marcos Resendiz
  • Elisabeth Ritter
  • Curtis B. Ross*
  • Evan W. Schanerberger*
  • Mark E. Wojcik

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