Judge Judith Brawka is retiring after 25 years on bench
After 12 years in the Kane County Public Defender's office, Judith Brawka threw her hat in the ring to be an associate judge because she thought she could help resolve conflicts.
And now, after 25 years on the bench, the first female chief judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit is retiring.
"I thought I could do a lot for dispute resolution. I was always the peacemaker in my family," Brawka, 61, recalled Thursday during a reception for her and retiring Judge Thomas Mueller at the Kane County Judicial Center attended by attorneys, judges, court and law enforcement personnel.
During her tenure, Brawka did more than resolve disputes. She presided over cases in every court division in the circuit, was part of a plethora of professional organizations and was a change agent during her four years as the circuit's first female chief judge.
Brawka said she was most proud of three changes during her time on the bench: increasing class time from two hours to a full day for inmates at the Kane County Youth Home; helping to develop a foreclosure mediation program; and the circuit's participation in a one-year trial program that uses a Public Safety Assessment to help judges set appropriate bail amounts for people accused of felonies.
Defense attorney Kathleen Colton was first hired as an assistant public defender in 1989 during Brawka's run as the Kane Public Defender. Colton and other attorneys learned by watching Brawka in the courtroom and behind the scenes.
"She was a great teacher. She's such a hard worker. She always reviewed every felony file we had in the office," Colton said. "She would give us suggestions on what to do on certain cases. She's one of the smartest people I've ever met. I'm sad for the system that such a great judge is going to be lost. She set such a high standard."
Susan Clancy Boles, who took over as chief judge in late 2015, praised Brawka for her help during the transition, as well as her service to the community.
"We are going to be losing one of our most committed and dedicated judges," Boles said. "She's always been a champion of citizens of our community and the (legal) system as a whole. All of us would consider her to be a role model and an inspiration."
Katherine Moran, an associate judge since November 2010, said Brawka has been an inspiration and advocate for women in the legal profession. "She was a very intelligent, very fair, thoughtful judge," Moran said. "She has an excellent reputation among her colleagues. She will be missed."
Brawka said she plans to spend more time with her family and husband, Joseph Korso. She said she does not plan to practice law again, but wants to see where she can give more of her time.
"It's been a great run. Almost 37 years," Brawka said. "I'm going to see what other opportunities I can take for volunteering."