Longtime Kane County Associate Judge Patricia Piper Golden, who in 1976 was the first female to win a contested election for a state's attorney post in the state's history, retired this week.
"I was very fortunate to be in a judicial system that really is the envy of people all over the world," said Golden, 62, of Dundee Township.
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A former prosecutor in Kane, Ogle and Carroll counties, Golden helped found the Kane County Child Advocacy Center in 1993 and has been the presiding judge in the county's drug court.
Golden said introducing poetry, writing and other forms of expression has been a good step for drug court, which is an intensive program that is the last chance for addicts to get clean or go to prison. She also recalled that some people were resistant to the formation of a Child Advocacy Center, which established policies and protocols for specially trained investigators to examine allegations of child sexual and physical abuse.
"Back then, believe me, even some police departments didn't want it," she recalled, adding some departments wanted their own detectives to conduct interviews instead of specialists. "Twenty years ago, a lot of people really didn't accept that sexual abuse happened -- except to somebody they didn't know. It's not a 'stranger danger' situation. There was plenty of denial about it."
In 1976, Golden was elected Carroll County state's attorney, marking the first time in the state a woman won a contested election for state's attorney.
"She was definitely a glass ceiling breaker in terms of prosecutors outside of Cook County," 16th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Judith Brawka said.
Brawka noted Golden's penchant for being patient and fair, and for giving people a chance to have a voice through the Child Advocacy Center and drug court.
"She has always shown, throughout her life, a lot of care and concern for the underdog," Brawka said. "Patricia Golden is irreplaceable. We'll miss her."
In Golden's courtroom, chewing gum was prohibited. She said she enacted this rule to encourage respect for the judicial system.
She also was known for having a vase of fresh flowers on the bench at all times. Golden recalled receiving flowers from a prosecutor when she was transferred from Elgin traffic court to divorce court. She brought the flowers to add some color and vibrancy to the new courtroom, which did not have windows.
After numerous comments, she decided to buy flowers and bring them every week.
"It's something that broke the harshness of the courtroom in a way," she said, noting that fellow judges gave her a year's worth of flower bouquet deliveries as a retirement gift.
Golden said she hopes to spend more time with her family and will still be active in speaking at schools and in drug court.
DeKalb County Circuit Court Clerk Maureen Josh recalled that Golden was assigned to DeKalb County for part of her tenure as judge.
"She was wonderful to our court. She treated everyone with respect and dignity," said Josh, adding that Golden was bright, knowledgeable, a good listener, fair and impartial. "Judge Golden is everything you thought a judge should be. She's just a fine jurist and also a fine person.
"She loved being a judge. She just felt that her time being a judge was done. She really felt that in her role as judge she could make a difference, and I believe she did."
Brawka said new courtroom assignments would be out this week, but Judge Marmarie Kostelny has been tapped to be the presiding judge over drug court.