SPRINGFIELD — A veteran of the bench who grew up in Kendall County will take over next month as the new chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.
Justice Rita B. Garman, 69, will be the second woman to serve in that role on the state’s high court.
The Danville resident will take the reins Oct. 26 from Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride as he completes a three-year term. In January, Garman will mark 40 years on the bench in Illinois. Her rise through the ranks started at age 30, with her first position as an associate judge. She joined the state Supreme Court in February 2001. She has served on the bench longer than all but one of the more than 950 jurists throughout the state, officials said.
Garman also follows in the footsteps of first woman to head any of the three branches of Illinois government, the late Chief Justice Mary Ann McMorrow of Chicago, who became chief justice in 2002.
"I am honored and humbled to have been chosen by my colleagues to serve as chief justice," Garman said in a statement. "This office has been held by many great jurists, several of whom I have served with and count among my friends. I welcome the challenges and the responsibility that go with the role of chief justice because I know that I can count on the support of my colleagues at all levels of the judiciary and the members of the Illinois bar."
Kilbride said Garman, who was chosen on a unanimous vote, has an “extraordinary combination of intellect, temperament, and experience that will serve well our court, our judiciary and our state.”
Along with Kilbride, who hails from the Quad Cities area, two other members of the seven-member court have served as chief justice: Charles Freeman, a Chicago Democrat, and Robert Thomas, a DuPage County Republican and former Bears kicker. In Illinois, Supreme Court justices first run for election from a judicial district and then are up for a retention vote every 10 years.