At age 60, John “Jack” Elsner, has finally broken down and purchased his first-ever cell phone: It is a necessary accessory for his new job as the chief judge of the 18th Judicial Circuit.
Elsner, a member of the first graduating class from the NIU College of Law in 1978, will be installed in his new post Monday, Dec. 5.
As chief judge, he will be responsible for oversight of all activities in the DuPage County Courthouse. His duties will include assigning cases to judges, managing court reporter obligations, working with probation and court services and dealing with public concerns and questions about the judiciary.
Having spent most of his 32-year career in that courthouse, few are better prepared for the diverse challenges of the job.
“I started working here as a law clerk while I was still in law school at NIU,” says Elsner, who believes his NIU law degree prepared him well for his career.
After graduation, he spent several years working as an assistant state’s attorney (eventually rising to chief of the Civil Division), served as attorney for the Village of Lombard and worked in a private firm (Schirott & Elsner) where much of his work was devoted to federal cases.
In 1991, he was appointed as an associate judge and spent time hearing both criminal and domestic cases. Nine years later he was appointed to fill an unexpired term of a retired circuit judge. He was elected to that position two years later and has successfully held the seat on the bench ever since.
Throughout it all, he has remained close to his NIU classmates, especially fellow judges Tony Iosco (now a member of the NIU Board of Trustees) and John Wasilewski. “The three of us were best friends in law school and remain so today. I talk to them at least once a week and we try to get out for pizza, or whatever, once a month.”
The three are part of the law school’s stellar class of 1978, which has produced 18 judges. In all, the NIU College of Law claims 77 judges amongst its alumni.
“When I get together with fellow judges we always look back on the good old days and recall them fondly,” says Elsner, who regularly attends the school’s Francis X. Riley lecture, annual golf outing and alumni events in DuPage County. He also remains in contact with fraternity brothers he met while completing part of his undergraduate studies at NIU.
Outside of the courtroom, Elsner is an avid bicyclist, commuting by bike from his home in Wheaton during the warmer months of the year.
He and his wife, Rita, who is the village attorney for Schaumburg, have two grown children.