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Judge Mary Trew
by Erica Demarest, Windy City Times

This article shared 6210 times since Wed Mar 14, 2012
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In October 2010—just eight months after losing a Democratic primary in the same district—Mary Trew was appointed judge of the 9th Subcircuit by the Illinois Supreme Court.

"I've been trying to do this [ become a judge ] for 13 years and, all of a sudden, it just popped," Trew said at the time.

The longtime lawyer and out lesbian has since presided over an area that includes Evanston, Niles, Skokie, Lincolnwood and Rogers Park. On March 20, Trew will face three challengers in a primary race to hold onto her seat for another six years.

Windy City Times caught up with Trew to discuss her new career, busy civil union schedule and prospects for 2012.

NOTE: View downloadable election guide charts at the following link. This election chart was updated online on Tuesday March 13 with corrections and updates. .

Windy City Times: Can you tell us how you got started in law?

Mary Trew: My entire background has been in public interest law. I started out as a public defender in Detroit. [ When I moved to ] Chicago, I worked for an agency called the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic, where I ultimately became executive director. That agency provides services for victims of domestic violence, as well as other family law services like orders of protection, divorces, and custody help.

In my role as executive director, we started one of the nation's first on-site court clinics in the domestic violence courthouse. My whole career has been about providing services to poor people. I didn't enter law to make money, because I never did. [ Laughs ] My reason was to increase access to legal services and alleviate the injustices in the world. There's a lot of [ injustice ] still, but I see a little bit of a difference.

It's been a 30-year career; I hate to say it. [ Laughs ] Time flies.

WCT: And did you work at the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic right up until you were appointed judge?

Mary Trew: Yes. When I first got appointed, I was in traffic court like everyone else. After about three months, I got promoted to the domestic relations division. I'm in custody and parentage court, which is a specialized court dealing with children and people who aren't married to each other, essentially. It's a pretty good match for my background.

WCT: You've said in earlier interviews that you wanted to be a judge even more than a lawyer. Does that still stand up?

Mary Trew: Oh, absolutely. One of the things I had feared when I first became a judge was: What if I don't like this after all this time? [ Laughs ] It is a little scary at first, when you first take the bench. Everybody's looking at you, and you're in charge. But I was like a duck to water. My sense that this was something I wanted to do and would be good at is bearing out. I just love it.

WCT: Any exciting moments so far?

Mary Trew: I performed a lot of the civil unions when [ the Civil Unions Act ] first went into law last year. I've probably done about 60 or 70 of them. It's really a nice feeling to be able to do that. As a judge, I do so many things that make people mad or make one person mad. So it's really nice to do something that makes people happy.

And my partner and I got civil-unionized, or whatever you want to call it, in December. We've been together 15 years.

WCT: Do you think there are any areas of the law where LGBT people are particularly discriminated against?

Mary Trew: What's a little bit difficult is all the hodgepodge of state-to-state laws. It's pretty exciting for someone of my generation—I'm 56—to see all the change that's come in the last 5-10 years, which I regard as being kind of generational. I think young people are causing it to happen. There's a real divide for gay people between generations.

What's a little bit difficult is that bans on discrimination don't come from the top-down. In other words, it's going from state-to-state. So that does make it challenging. It's not just the marriage laws; its all the civil area laws…. the right to travel, the right to relocate. One state's laws might be very discriminatory, and another's not so much. Other minority groups have had that [ protection ] at a federal level. I think ultimately that will happen for us; it just takes time.

I've seen a change in how courts and judges react to LGBT people; it's gotten much, much better… at least in [ Cook ] County.

WCT: How so?

Mary Trew: Just an attitude, really. It's completely different. When I was much younger, there was a great deal of ridicule in the court system for anybody who was gay or perceived to be. It's changed remarkably in the last few years. And I'm not saying the discrimination isn't' still there. Of course it is. But it's not so institutionalized.

WCT: There are four candidates in your primary. What sets you apart from the rest?

Mary Trew: We're all good people. What makes me a little different is that I was appointed by the Supreme Court. I've been endorsed by organizations—not politicians or anything to do with politics. I was endorsed by the Chicago tribune; and I was found qualified, recommended, or highly recommended by all of the evaluating law firms.

I was endorsed, appointed and vetted by people in the know. You hear repeatedly from voters that they don't know who the judicial candidates are. Well, the Supreme Court knows who they want to put as judge. The Tribune, the bar associations—I've been through a really lengthy and excruciating vetting process by all those entities. Those people have given me a "thumbs up," so I'm hoping the voters will, too.

To learn more about Mary Trew, visit .

This article shared 6210 times since Wed Mar 14, 2012
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