Kane County Circuit Judge Judith M. Brawka will be the next chief judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit, the first woman to hold that position.
Circuit judges elected her Thursday night. The vote by the 19 judges was unanimous and announced Friday.
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She will fill the remainder of the two-year term of Chief Judge Robert Spence, who has been assigned to the 2nd District Illinois Appellate Court. Brawka starts her duties Saturday. Spence's term expires Dec. 1, 2013, and Brawka could then seek a two-year term.
"It is very exciting," Brawka said Friday afternoon. The unanimity "makes it especially rewarding."
"This is a historic vote," Spence said in a news release. "Judge Brawka has served in every division of the circuit with distinction. She has heard every type of case and she knows the court system and the needs of the court system well.
"She will be an excellent chief judge."
Brawka, 57, was appointed an associate judge in 1991, and elected as a circuit judge in November 2002. She has presided over the Civil Division since 2009. She has also been presiding judge of the Juvenile Division.
As a lawyer, she started her career in the Kane County Public Defender's Office in 1978, and became the county public defender in 1986. She was the second woman appointed to the 16th Circuit bench. "I feel like that had been a real step forward," Brawka said, estimating that now about 30 percent of the judges are women.
Brawka said she has two priority projects she would like to work on as chief judge. The first is establishing a foreclosure mediation system for residential, owner-occupied properties. She has already started work on that with lawyers for lenders and borrowers. It needs Illinois Supreme Court approval, then the approval of the Kane County Board. Secondly, she said she looks forward to working with the board on long-range planning for the judiciary's needs, including studying data on population and case trends.
"We're just really trustees of our courtroom and public trust while we are here on the bench," she said, preserving it for future judges and the public.
The 16th Judicial Circuit includes Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties. In December, Kendall and DeKalb counties will form the new 23rd Judicial Circuit.