Illinois Chief Justice Anne Burke Discusses 40-Year Legal Career as She Nears Retirement

Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Burke has announced that she is retiring next month after a 40-year legal career, and she’s speaking out about her experiences on the bench, and how she hopes her legacy will be viewed.

In an interview with NBC 5 Political Reporter Mary Ann Ahern, Burke says others will decide what her legacy will be, but she points first to her work to help power the birth of the Special Olympics movement when she was just 19 years old.

Then a gym teacher, Burke recalls reaching out to Eunice Kennedy Shriver who told her to broaden the scope of her mission.

“She said ‘it’s unacceptable, because it’s only for Chicago, not the country,’” Burke recalls Shriver saying. “’(You) go back and rewrite it, and I will give you the $25,000 so you can put on the first Special Olympics in Chicago.’” 

Burke was instrumental in the staging of the first Special Olympics, which was held at Soldier Field in 1968.  

From the Special Olympics, Burke transitioned into a law career that saw her at the crossroads of many of the most intense legal sagas in the country. In 2002, Burke was selected by Catholic bishops for the first ever Lay Review Board to investigate the priest sex abuse crisis in America. 

“We suggested that they deal with outside agencies and investigations at all times, and they haven’t done that yet,” she says.

Burke was appointed to the Illinois Appellate Court in 1995, and was later appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court in 2006. She was named the chief justice of that court in 2019.  

Now, Burke will be stepping aside from her court seat at a time when control of the court will be up for grabs. In the November election, Judge Mary Jane Theis will be up for a retention vote, and the seats in the second and third districts will also be up for election, meaning that conservatives could have an opportunity to swing the controlling seats on the court.

“(I’d support an amendment to) make the constitution require who can be a judge, someone who is practicing law for a minimum of 10 years,” she says.

Burke also addressed controversy surrounding her husband, Chicago Ald. Ed Burke, who is facing a federal corruption trial next year.

She says that the trial “absolutely did not” influence her decision to retire.       

“My decision was my decision,” she says. “We’ve been married for 54 years and as I always said, for better or worse, but not for lunch. We have to figure out how to do lunch now!”  

When asked about how well she did in fulfilling her promise to keep her work separate from her husband’s, Burke says “perfectly. Well, not perfectly, but the best I could.”

The relationship has long been subject to public scrutiny, including in a 2019 study by WBEZ. The study, entitled “The Justice and the Alderman: The Ethical Conundrum of a Longtime Power Couple,” identified 10 cases that Burke participated in at the same time that the alderman’s law firm was being paid by those who wanted their property taxes cut.

The publication did find that “there is no evidence to suggest Justice Burke swung cases to benefit her husband’s clients.”  

Now, as she looks ahead, Anne Burke’s advice to area residents is to choose a career you love.

“I loved being a gym teacher, I loved being a teacher, I love children, I love making things better. So, I love everything. I love the idea that I’m going to retire, it’s a new world,” she says.

Burke remains on the Illinois Supreme Court through the end of November. At that time, the remaining justices will choose her replacement, and then that justice will face a Nov. 2024 to determine whether they will receive a full 10-year term on the court.

Region: Chicago,Local,City: Chicago

via Local – NBC Chicago

October 11, 2022 at 04:27PM

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