May 2019Volume 49Number 9PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)

Help is on the way

On February 28, 2019, I spoke by phone with Judge John Pavich, an associate judge in the circuit court of Will County, Illinois. Although we never met or corresponded he was extremely gracious and agreed to meet in the near future to discuss his interesting and unique experience before becoming a judge. Interestingly, he was employed by the CIA after law school and later by a small but impressive firm doing national and international law. To say I looked forward to the interview would be an understatement—would we meet on a park bench, would he wear a disguise? Just kidding, the conversation was memorable.

Shortly after our phone conversation we met in his chambers in Joliet. Judge Pavich was somewhat hard to locate since most people I approached for directions had never heard of him. He was on the bench only two weeks when we met in early March. As Paul Harvey would say, “Now for the rest of the story.”

Judge Pavich was raised in Lynwood, Illinois—population 9,000 located about 28 miles south of Chicago on the Indiana border.  He has two sisters and one brother. He attended St. Norbert College in DePere, Wisconsin where he met his wife future wife, Kelly. After graduation, she went to the Peace Corps in Lithuania, and, he took a job teaching English in the same town she was assigned in the Peace Corps. Married in 2000 they now have two sons. John had been prepared for Foreign Service in college where he majored in International Studies with minors in Russian and Economics. During his junior year in college he was in Kharkov, Ukraine studying Russian.

Following college John enrolled in Loyola University School of Law in Chicago.  During his third year of law school and after graduation in 2002 he worked as a legal consultant assisting his father at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands as a member of the defense team of the former President of the Balkan country, Republika Srpska.

Always curious about how governments worked since the age of seven there is no surprise that his interests affected his studies in college and law school and directed him to a career interest in foreign affairs. This interest seemed to run in his genes since his father was in military intelligence and his uncle a Chicago police officer and a war crimes investigator for the United Nations.

After the terrorist attack in September, 2001 John resolved to join his country in public service. He applied for and was accepted in a position for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as a Staff Operations Officer/Special Operations Officer—Directorate of Operations, aka Clandestine Case Officer. For the following two years and five months he describes his activities vaguely but interestingly.  The nature of the work in the Directorate of Operations requires officers to develop plans to identify and recruit individuals with access to information critical to U.S. policy makers. This work is often quit difficult, as it is usually against the better interests of these potential assets to have any overt affiliation with the United States government.

Judge Pavich describes the training he received as incredibly stressful and eighty five percent mental and fifteen percent physical. The training was divided between Washington, D.C. and another location that must remain unidentified.

As expected, no specifics were divulged as to time, place, persons and his description and duties as a CIA officer were not divulged or hinted. However, reading between the lines I have the feeling that Judge Pavich may have been uncomfortable with certain foreign policy and national security decisions made at the time which could be the basis of his decision to leave after a relatively short time. 

So, what does a former CIA officer bring to the bench? Is it something unique for judges, cloak and dagger procedure, intrigue? Maybe some, maybe all of the above will be used. What he does bring is a proven intellect and work ethic. These attributes combined with his sense of right and wrong that I sensed from our discussion indicate a successful tenure as a judge.  Pavich looks to his tenure as a judge as an opportunity to render public service and promises to maintain the hallmarks that he considers those of a true judge: knowledge of the law; skill to apply the law to facts; politeness; good listener; a student of the law. Help is surely on the way.

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