Rolling Meadows court judge leaves the bench but not the law
Cook County Judge Hyman Riebman stepped off the bench Friday, but he's not really retiring.
A lawyer for 40 years and a jurist for more than 17, the Prospect Heights resident will work part-time with Grund & Leavitt, which has offices in Oak Brook, Highland Park and Chicago. He will also become Wheeling's prosecutor, pending village board approval.
A judgeship "is one of the hardest jobs to get," he said, "and it's just as hard to leave it."
Assigned to the Rolling Meadows courthouse in 2003, Riebman presided over misdemeanors and felonies. Among the most heartbreaking was the bench trial of a Mount Prospect man whom Riebman found guilty of shaking his infant son to death.
The most contentious was that of Patrick Taylor, whose 2011 conviction for the murder of aspiring Rolling Meadows rap producer Marquis Lovings was overturned last year and his case set for retrial. Taylor became angry during a hearing and slammed his cane onto the defense attorney podium. Riebman remained implacable as deputies restrained Taylor.
The hardest part of stepping down, Riebman said, is leaving his colleagues: sheriff's deputies and probation officers; clerks, court reporters and interpreters; lawyers and fellow judges.
"I'm going to miss these people," he said. "Every day I walk into the courtroom, I learn something from the lawyers, litigants and courtroom personnel."
After years in the criminal division, Riebman reinvented himself when he transferred to domestic relations about six years ago, said Cook County Judge Martin Agran, who has known Riebman since he clerked for Agran in 1977.
"He's got a great reputation," Agran said. "None of us are indispensable, but he's a loss to the bench. I'm sorry to see him go."
Lake Zurich family law attorney Sue Kamman describes Riebman as charismatic and "one of the warmest and funniest people you will ever meet."
"He is incredibly straightforward. When he speaks to parties in a divorce, he's very honest with them," said Kamman, who described Riebman as a quick study who stayed abreast of ever-changing family law statutes.
"He was a student of the law," she said. "He still is."
Riebman's passion for the law was inspired by his uncle, a Cook County judge from the 1950s to the 1970s. After graduating from the Northern Illinois University College of Law in 1978, the Morton Grove native became a Cook County prosecutor. Riebman served until 1981 when his career took an unexpected turn.
"When my dad went into the hospital, he asked Hy if he'd take a leave of absence and cover his cases and Hy did that," said Robin Riebman, his wife of 40 years. "He quit (the state's attorney's office) and jumped into a law practice."
Appointed to the bench, he was sworn in on June 12, 2001, wearing his uncle's robe.
Retired, Riebman will likely be busier than ever.
"He doesn't like sitting around," said Robin, who bought her husband a ukulele hoping it will revive his childhood interest in music but acknowledged she may have to soundproof a room.
His trials behind him, Riebman plans to travel with Robin, play golf, take in Chicago Cub games and Broadway in Chicago matinees and dote on his three grandchildren.
"I'm an expert at changing diapers," he laughed.