Mary Jane Theis sworn in as Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice

Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 5:58 PM CST
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QUINCY (WGEM) - Monday was a historic day for the Illinois Supreme Court. Mary Jane Theis became the fourth woman to be installed as Chief Justice of the state’s highest court.

Chief Justice Theis said she is proud of the nonpartisan sense of the Supreme Court. She served in circuit and appellate courts in Cook County before an appointment to the Supreme Court in 2010. Theis said the Illinois Supreme Court is charged with administering justice for the state.

Theis explained the power of the Supreme Court comes from the trust and confidence of the people. She stressed that the United States is currently in a time of crisis.

“We know that trust and confidence in institutions generally have been falling,” Theis said. “We know that today polls show that the United States Supreme Court is held in its lowest approval rating since polling began.”

The Chief Justice said the people of Illinois just went through a brutal election cycle where they were told the Judiciary is another place for partisan politics. Theis argues that the assumption isn’t true because each justice embraces the rule of law and comes to Springfield with different perspectives.

Theis has served as a judge for nearly half her life and said she is excited for the future of the highest court. The new Chief Justice will soon work with two more women who won elections to the court during the midterm. The 5-2 majority of women is groundbreaking for the court, even though Theis noted that Justice is frequently depicted as a woman. She asked people attending Monday’s ceremony to look at a painting on the back wall of the Supreme Court showing three women together.

“For the 12 years that I’ve sat here, I’ve always thought that was Rita Garman in the middle, and Anne Burke was the blonde,” Theis said. “I’ve always wanted to have red hair like my children so that’s who I think I am.”

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Seth Perlman/AP/Shutterstock (6120849d)
One of many murals and...
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Seth Perlman/AP/Shutterstock (6120849d) One of many murals and paintings are seen inside the courtroom during a media tour of the Illinois Supreme Court building, in Springfield, Ill.(Seth Perlman/AP/Shutterstock | Seth Perlman/AP/Shutterstock)

Theis asked each of the justices to commit themselves to the core values of the judicial branch. She said the Illinois Supreme Court will be impartial in actions and decisions while demonstrating fairness. Theis also stressed that the court will be committed to the highest ethical standards and justices will be accountable for their actions.

“We will treat everyone with dignity, courtesy, and respect,” Theis said. “And we will work every day to earn the people’s trust.”

The Illinois Supreme Court will hear 16 oral arguments over the next four days. Theis thanked retiring Chief Justice Anne Burke for leading the effort to administer justice throughout the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. She explained how challenging that job could be for judges across the state when courtroom doors were locked.

“It was terrifying,” Burke admitted. “It was the leadership of Justice Anne Burke who brought not only the members of the court but the members of our community and the legal profession to come together in a collaborative way to find ways to bring justice to the people we serve. Within a few days after the courthouses were locked, the courts in Illinois were fully functioning.”

Theis will serve as Chief Justice for a three-year term. Burke will retire at the end of November.

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