DANVILLE — A longtime member of the Vermilion County legal community officially became a part of judicial history Monday as Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman was sworn in as the the second female chief justice of the state’s high court.
A crowd of almost 200 friends, family, legal colleagues and fellow judges packed the fourth-floor courtroom of the Vermilion County Courthouse for a ceremony late Monday morning as Garman officially was sworn in as the newest chief justice of the state supreme court.
The courtroom provided an appropriate backdrop for the ceremony as Garman worked for 12 years as an associate judge in Vermilion County before becoming a circuit judge and presiding judge in the county from 1986-1995. Garman was appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court on Feb. 1, 2001.
Despite having served at every level of the court, Garman acknowledged the idea of a woman entering the legal field as an attorney was not always an accepted idea.
“I can certainly attest from my own career that I couldn’t have dreamed, I couldn’t have dreamed, that I would ever end up as a judge and most certainly not end up as the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court,” she said following the morning ceremony.
“When I was a young girl, if went to school and said I want to be a lawyer, people would have thought I was a little strange for making statement like that,” she added. “They just didn’t think that was possible.”
With Monday’s installation ceremony, Garman follows in the footsteps of the late justice Mary Ann G. McMorrow, who served as the first female chief justice from 2002-2005. In addition, Garman’s four decades on the bench make her the second-longest running active official among the state’s 950 active judges.
Among Monday’s speakers was fellow state supreme court Justice Anne M. Burke, who related the hurdles Garman faced as she tried to study law at the University of Iowa.