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Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman announces retirement

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Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman listens to oral arguments being made by Assistant Appellate Defender Zachary Rosen in the People v. Morger case Sept. 18 at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey during a public event held to “raise the profile of the judicial branch.” 

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman announced Monday that she will retire in July after serving on the state's high court for more than two decades.

Garman, a Republican from Danville, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2001 representing the Fourth District, which covers much of Central Illinois. She was elected in 2002 and retained in 2012. She would have faced another retention election in November.

Rita Garman

Garman

"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," Garman said in a statement released by the court. "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."

Garman, 78, a native of suburban Oswego, graduated from the University of Illinois and received her law degree from the University of Iowa.

She was an assistant state's attorney in Vermillion County before being appointed to the bench in 1974 as an associate judge. In 1986, she was elected circuit judge and was later appointed presiding judge for Vermillion County. In 1996, she was elected to the appellate court.

From 2013 to 2016, she served as Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Garman, currently the longest-serving judge in Illinois, said she faced many uphill battles during her career, including sexism, once being told by a law professor that she should give up her seat to "a more deserving male candidate, who would have a family to support.”

"Today, I am proud that these opinions are a relic of the past," she said, pointing to the fact that 40% of lawyers in Illinois are now woman.

Since Garman's retirement will come after the June 28 primary, members of the Illinois Supreme Court will appoint a replacement who will serve until the vacancy is filled in the 2024 election cycle, confirmed Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections.

082218-blm-loc-1officials

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman, left, administers an oath to Jason Chambers during his swearing-in as an 11th Judicial Circuit judge Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, at the McLean County Law and Justice Center, Bloomington.

Since state law requires a replacement to be a member of the same political party, Garman's seat will be filled by a Republican. Candidates interested in a full 10-year term will run in primary elections to be held in 2024.

An added wrinkle to Garman's retirement is the change in Supreme Court district lines. State lawmakers successfully redistricted the court's five districts for the first time since the 1960s last year, an attempt by the legislative Democrats to keep the party's narrow 4-3 majority on the court while accounting for significant population disparities that developed over the years.

As part of that, Garman's Vermillion County home was drawn out of the new Fourth District. The district still includes Central Illinois population centers like Bloomington-Normal and Springfield, but now picks up Peoria, the Quad Cities, Rockford and wider swaths of western Illinois as well.


Contact Brenden Moore at brenden.moore@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendenmoore13

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