Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Leo Lion of the Illinois Supreme Court - Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald Retires in October

Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court Thomas Fitzgerald will retire. Chie Justice Fitzgerald is the most respected justice in Illinois - Supreme and otherwise.

A 1959 Leo High School graduate and Leo Hall of Fame Inductee, Thomas Fitzgerald is an exemplary Christian gentleman and first-rate legal scholar.

Fitzgerald was one of four Supreme Court justices on the Nov. 2 ballot seeking retention to 10-year terms. The others are Justice Robert R. Thomas, a suburban Republican; Justice Thomas L. Kilbride, a Quad Cities-area Democrat; and Justice Charles E. Freeman, a Chicago Democrat.

"I just think he's a man of integrity, wisdom and professionalism," said Thomas, a former chief justice. "I was blessed to have him as a colleague the last 10 years. I was doubly blessed to be able to call him a good friend."

Fitzgerald began his law career in the Cook County state's attorney's office. He was first elected to the bench in 1976 — at the time the youngest elected circuit judge in the county. He was elected to the Supreme Court in 2000. He became chief justice in 2008.

Even before he went to the high court, Illinois Supreme Court justices had made him co-chairman of a commission reviewing the death penalty in Illinois. Fitzgerald set out pioneering recommendations calling for defense lawyers to be well-experienced and for judges to be well-trained.

Fitzgerald also played a significant role in cleaning up the Cook County traffic court after the Operation Greylord scandal. For years, he was a fixture on the county bench, where he was known for running his courtrooms with a cool hand and civility.

The chief justice also won strong reviews for his role as the presiding officer in the Illinois Senate overseeing the trial of Blagojevich, who was ousted from the governor's office in January 2009 on a 59-0 vote.

Fitzgerald's resignation is effective Oct. 25. Theis will enter the position the next day, giving up her seat on the appellate court.
Ray Long

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