It is with great honor that I accept the privilege bestowed upon me to serve as the 38th president of the Illinois Judicial Council.
I stand on the shoulders of many strong men and women who served before me. I want to thank the members of the organization for trusting in me to lead us forward. I want to thank the Installation committee (formerly known as the banquet committee due to COVID) for all of its hard work putting on this program.
I grew up in a small rural town, where the village really did raise the child. Everyone was looking out for you, after you and around you, to ensure both your safety, good manners and success. I want to thank my parents and my siblings for their love and support in propelling me forward.
I also want to thank my former law partner, attorney Howard Brookins Jr. for giving me my first job of my legal career and I want to thank Justice Charles E. Freeman for recommending me for an appointment to serve on the bench.
It is very difficult do the job of a judge without (as they say in boxing) a very good “cut-man” in your corner. A dedicated individual or group who fix you up, bandage your wounds and encourage you to continue the fight. For me, that corner is my family. I want to thank my wife and daughters for being my support and for being the “cut-women” in my corner. I also want to thank them for putting up with me in general and for sharing me with my duties on the bench, in the community and for the IJC. And, for maneuvering around the countless boxes of IJC merchandise, signs, banners and supplies crowding out our home. My family, both near and far, is my bedrock and I love them with all my heart.
Despite these most challenging times, the mission of the Illinois Judicial Council must carry on. We must continue to enhance the image of the judiciary by serving as a collective voice. We must encourage judicial participation within the greater community in which we live. And, we must encourage others like us to pursue a judicial career.
This year we will redouble our efforts towards – – making justice just. As the community at-large pushes forward on this front, we will conduct seminars and meet-and-greets (mostly virtually) that push us to look inward at ourselves and the institution that is the judiciary.
Some of you may say, what is he talking about making justice just. You may say if it’s justice then it is necessarily. However, if that were true, there would be no need to demand equal justice. It would be redundant.
In my opinion, justice is only a concept. Justice is not just all by itself. Justice must be made just. Justice must be encouraged to be just. Justice must be educated to be just. Justice must be forced to be just.
Justice once said that it was okay for Blacks to be slaves. Justice had to be made just.
Justice once said that women couldn’t vote or receive equal pay. Justice had to be made just.
Justice once said that a person could be mistreated simply because of their race, orientation, religion, or creed. Justice had to be made just.
Justice once said that separate but equal was satisfactory. Justice had to be made just.
In order to form a more perfect union, we must all work hard to make the concept of justice more of a reality – – a reality, not just for some, but for all. We must push for justice to be:
- Actually just
- Morally just
- Socially just
- Educationally just
- Technologically just
- Economically just
- And, yes, racially just.
We must all reflect on our implicit biases. None of us are immune. None of us get a pass. We all must do our part. We must challenge those beliefs that formed our upbringing. They were not JUST simply because they were the misguided norms of that day and era.
As judges, we must be responsive, but we cannot pander to the demands of any one voice or any particular group. However, we must still roll up our sleeves, ante-up and pitch in. We all must do our part – – to make justice just.
Be nice. Stay safe. Remain healthy.