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Illinois’ longest-serving judge to retire from state’s highest court

Justice Rita Garman
Justice Rita Garman(Illinois Supreme Court)
Published: May. 10, 2022 at 1:21 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP and Heart of Illinois ABC) — The longest-serving jurist in Illinois is stepping down.

State Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman announced Monday that she will retire, effective July 7.

Garman, who’s been a judge for 48-years, had expected to seek retention to a third 10-year term in the November election.

Garman, 78, holds the Fourth Judicial District seat on the Supreme Court, which includes Central Illinois. Among her responsibilities is to choose circuit judges when vacancies occur.

In January of 2021, Garman appointed Carla Barnes to become the first African-American judge in the 11th Judicial Circuit serving McLean, Woodford, Logan, Livingston, and Ford Counties.

A statement from the Garman, a Danville resident, said it’s time for someone new on Illinois’ highest court.

“There is no doubt that I have had the role of a lifetime, a privilege to serve the people of the state of Illinois as a member of the court system at every level. But this is the right time for me to step back from my public role and allow someone else to assume this all-important position,” said Garman.

Justice Garman recalled having a difficult time getting hired as a lawyer after graduating from law school

“I was turned down for a number of open positions, once being told “I don’t know what I would do with you because no one wants to talk to a woman lawyer.” Today, I am proud that these opinions are a relic of the past. I am also pleased that 40 percent of Illinois lawyers are now women, and the number of women in many law classrooms outnumber men.”

The Constitution provides for vacancies to be filled by Supreme Court appointment. Garman’s successor won’t have to run a campaign this year, however. The replacement will serve for two years and the November 2024 election for a 10-year term will decide the seat’s future.

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