Long-time Danville resident Justice Rita Garman stepped Monday into the top job of the Illinois Supreme Court. She was sworn in as chief justice during ceremonies at the Vermilion County Courthouse.
If her past record serves as an indication, it’s a job at which she should excel.
“I feel as though I have lived this impossible dream,” Garman said during an interview last month. “I come from a time when women were discouraged from going into law. Being on the Supreme Court, and certainly being chief justice, was out of the realm of anything I could have imagined.”
She first began working in Vermilion County as an attorney for Legal Aid after graduating with honors from the University of Illinois and earning her law degree from the University of Iowa. She also worked as an assistant state’s attorney in Vermilion County before moving into private practice here.
She put on judicial robes for the first time in 1974, serving as an associate and lead judge in the 5th Judicial Circuit, which includes Vermilion County. From there, she served on the state appellate court before moving on to the Illinois Supreme Court.
The experience she put together at all levels of courts and as a practicing attorney serves her well as the new leader of the state’s top court. She now ranks as the judge with the second-longest tenure on the bench among the state’s 950 judges.
Through each step pf her career, Garman has stayed connected to Danville and Vermilion County. Her husband, Gil, also practiced law here for many years. And she even appeared as rather type-cast character as a judge in Danville Light Opera’s “The Music Man” not too long ago.
Garman said she remain committed to bringing about quick decisions from the court, and said she wants to continue the increased use of technology embraced by her predecessor, now former Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride.
Vermilion County residents long ago recognized Garman’s sense of fairness, her knowledge of the law and her commitment to justice. Now the rest of the state will see those qualities, too, during the next three years as she serves as chief justice.