Please provide a snapshot of your legal career prior to joining JAMS.
In law school, I was doing part-time work at a big law firm when I was recruited by the Cook County State Attorney’s Office to be a criminal prosecutor. I served as first chair in the Night Narcotics Division, first chair in a felony trial courtroom, deputy chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Division, family issues coordinator and on the executive staff. I loved doing jury trials, but more than that, I found it rewarding to try to bring a small degree of justice to crime victims and their families. It was truly humbling to witness their strength and courage. Just as important, however, was recognizing when more investigation needed to be done.
At a certain point, I decided I wanted to do more than litigate; I wanted to be on the bench. I sought an appointment to the bench and was initially unsuccessful. This initial failure, however, proved very useful in preparing me for my second attempt. I was also able to share the experience with groups of college and high school students in motivational presentations, emphasizing the importance of perseverance in the pursuit of your goals.
My second attempt for a judicial appointment proved successful, and I joined the bench in the Circuit Court of Cook County. I often said a silent prayer of gratitude for all the excellent jurists before whom I had practiced, and from whom I learned, when challenging situations arose on the bench.
The majority of my time as a judge was on my assignment as a trial judge. I also enjoyed writing the judgments after each trial, always carefully setting forth the reasons for my decision. Despite my love of trials, however, I settled the vast majority of the trials that came before me, and it was always gratifying to see parties reach a resolution without having to proceed with the expense and uncertainty of a trial.
How did you become interested in ADR?
The Circuit Court of Cook County offered training a few years ago, and I attended. I found it very interesting and thoroughly enjoyed being the mediator in various legal scenarios. I learned how mediation skills could be used in almost any legal scenario. The keys were preparation, listening and making sure to understand each party’s goals. When I retired from the bench, JAMS reached out to me.
How would you describe your mediation and arbitration style?
As a judge, I always liked to be thoroughly prepared, take control and cut to the chase. As a mediator, it’s equally important to be prepared, but it’s most important to listen carefully and be sure you understand everyone’s position as you help guide them toward resolution.
Are there any practice areas that you are particularly interested in developing at JAMS?
With much of my experience being in family law before I became a neutral, I continue to enjoy mediating and arbitrating cases in family law, but I’m open to new areas.
What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
I’m sure this is true for all trial judges, as well as all prosecutors, but it has been very rewarding to feel that I have made a difference in the lives of so many who are going through one of the most challenging times of their lives.
What do you think ADR professionals can do to support diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts?
Be inclusive and be respectful of everyone. Elevate those who deserve a seat at the table.
What DE&I initiatives have you participated in?
Throughout my career, I have spoken at events and conducted training sessions for underrepresented groups, many of them in Spanish and English. I made presentations on dissolution of marriage, laws that protect children and domestic violence. I also presented on how cases proceed through the legal system, how bond is set and how Illinois laws on domestic violence are gender neutral, just to name a few. When I was a prosecutor, I often appeared on television news programs to discuss stalking legislation, domestic violence laws and laws regarding other crimes. I also presented to police groups on report writing and evidence. As a judge, I appeared on cable TV shows discussing mortgage foreclosure and divorce, as well as diversity in the judiciary. I’ve also served on the boards of various diverse affinity bar associations and on a scholarship committee. It was so inspiring to interview so many diverse and talented law students, many of whom had overcome tremendous hardships to get to law school. Making motivational presentations to students remains one of my favorite things to do, and I have especially enjoyed mentoring many of my judicial law clerks.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to spend time with my huge extended family, watch film noir with my husband (who chatters throughout), read mysteries, play catch-up with my sister and closest friends, spoil the kids at the movies, and take frequent weekend getaways. I also enjoy just sitting and talking to my mom, who lives with us. Although her memory is failing, she remains a treasure-trove of knowledge and can still quote entire chapters of the Bible as she shares her motherly advice. She is a blessing.
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