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Theis takes over as Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice

IL Supreme Court

Justice Mary Jane Theis started her three year term as the new Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Wednesday.

Theis succeeds Anne Burke, who will retire from the court in November.

She is the fourth woman to serve as Chief Justice following the late Justice Mary Ann McMorrow, Justice Rita B. Garman, and Justice Burke. She will be the 122nd Chief Justice in Illinois history.

“I would like to thank my colleagues for giving me this opportunity to serve the people of Illinois as Chief Justice. I also would like to congratulate Justice Burke for her successful term as Chief and her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Theis said. “I look forward to working with the bench, bar and community at large to further the Court’s mission of providing access to equal justice, ensuring judicial integrity and upholding the rule of law. Our goal continues to be increasing public trust and confidence in the courts.”

As Chief Justice, Justice Theis will serve as the chief administrative officer of the Supreme Court, which is constitutionally vested with general administrative and supervisory authority over the more than 900 judges in the statewide judicial system.

Among other duties, the Chief Justice selects the items to be placed on the Supreme Court's agenda for the Court’s consideration during its constitutionally-mandated five terms each year; supervises all appointments to Supreme Court committees, serves as chairperson of the Executive Committee of the constitutionally-mandated Illinois Judicial Conference and presents the Court’s annual budget request to the General Assembly.

Theis, 73, began her career as an Assistant Public Defender in Cook County and served in that role until 1983. She began her judicial career in 1983 when she was selected as a Cook County associate judge. In 1988 she was elected as a circuit judge and assigned to both the Criminal and Chancery Divisions.

In 1993, Theis was assigned to the First District Appellate Court and elected to the position in 1994. In 2010, the Supreme Court appointed her to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald. She won election to a full term on the Supreme Court in 2012.

Theis has chaired both the Committee on Judicial Education and the Committee on Judicial Conduct of the Illinois Judicial Conference, and was a member of the Supreme Court Rules Committee. She previously served as the Supreme Court liaison to the Illinois Judicial College.

She was President of the Illinois Judges Association (IJA), as well as President and founding member of the Illinois Judges Foundation. She was also President of the Appellate Lawyers Association and served on the Board of Governors of the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) and the Board of Managers of the Chicago Bar Association (CBA) and is a member of the Women's Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI).

She is married to John T. Theis, and they have two children, Jack (Uma Amuluru) and Claire (Joshua) Merok, and seven grandchildren.

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