Thompson Coburn LLP hosted a Citywide Pride virtual tea event May 26 that featured Cook County Circuit Court Judge Jill Rose Quinn.
Quinn made history last November when she became Illinois' first transgender elected official. She previously worked as a community organizer and neighborhood lawyer, starting her own practice in 1997. Quinn is also involved with the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago and the Alliance of Illinois Judges (an LGBTQA association).
Thompson Coburn LLP Business Litigation Associate and LGBTQ+ Affinity Group Co-Chair Drew Moore moderated the discussion with Quinn. He spoke about being a part of the judicial evaluations process which gave him a window into Quinn's background and the first time he met her.
When asked what inspired her to become a lawyer, Quinn said she was born in 1954 and came of age during the civil rights movement and that informed her world view. She added that in a conversation with her father she told him that she wanted to become a lawyer to change society for the better and help marginalized people, not rich people. Quinn said that her father told her she would be brokebut that did not deter her from pursuing a law degree.
Quinn added that her role models were Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because of their principles, oratory and passion to do good works.
In terms of what being a judge means to her and why she ran in the first place, Quinn said that as a practicing attorney she always looked up to judges and wanted that for herself. Quinn added that when she first ran for judge she had been out as a trans woman "for about 10 years and never thought I would be accepted by the electorate or the bench."
Quinn spoke about going to her first national LGBT Bar Association gathering in 2012 and meeting the Honorable Phyllis Freyan out trans person who was appointed as a judge in Houstonand how much of an inspiration she was to her. This meeting also caused Quinn to be open about her trans identity in a professional setting and set her off on her path toward becoming a judge.
As for what it takes to run for office, Quinn said the judicial application is 57 pages and asked a lot of detailed questions about a candidate's professional life. She said that if anyone wants to run for any office they need to keep track of what they did in the workplace and for lawyers this means who they worked with and the cases they took on. Quinn added that there are three ways of becoming a judgegetting appointed as an associate judge by the Chief Judge, run for judge or get appointed to fill out another judge's term and then run for that seat in the next election.
For Quinn, running to be a judge was easy because she likes meeting people. She said that getting to know people in local government is very important so they will support your candidacy. Quinn added that the hard part was campaigning while continuing to be a lawyer to pay the bills.
Other topics of discussion included her relationship with her campaign manager/wife, Stephanie Marder; and her transition process and how that impacted her personal and professional life. Regarding the process, Quinn said most of it has been a positive experience, stressing the importance of being one's authentic self at all times.