Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride spoke to hundreds of Northern Illinois University law students, faculty and other guests at the Holmes Student Center Oct. 2 as part of the NIU College of Law’s Murer Professionalism Series, focusing on professionalism and ethics.
“Justice Kilbride is a great friend to the NIU College of Law and also has been a great role model for professionalism and ethics in our state,” said Jennifer Rosato, dean of NIU’s College of Law. “A national role model and trendsetter in professionalism, civility and action toward justice, he is the perfect person to come talk to our first year law students about some of the values of professionalism.”
“It’s really a life choice,” Justice Kilbride said about the legal profession. “You’re joining a grand tradition. I say that because lawyers in the history of this country have been among those who’ve pursued the lofty principles of individual dignity, protection from tyranny of the majority, civil rights, justice and fairness.”
The Honorable Chief Justice Kilbride was elected Justice of the Supreme Court for the Third District in 2000 and then elected Chief Justice in 2010 following the retirement of Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald. Prior to his service to the Supreme Court, Kilbride practiced law for 20 years in Rock Island, engaging in the general practice of law including appeals, environmental law, labor law, employment matters, and other general civil and criminal matters. He was later admitted to practice in the United States District Court of Central Illinois and the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
“It’s so important that law students start early getting a sense of the ethical obligations and aspirations of our profession,” continued Rosato. “The Murers started this program a couple years ago in collaboration with the law school to give the students a strong foundation—to really get the students to think about these ethical issues and dilemmas that they’re going to come up against every day in their professional lives.We start it early, so they think about some of the different considerations and the ways to develop their own moral compass as they make their way through law school.”
“We have outstanding ethics professors in the college,” said Cherilyn Murer about the series that bears her name in a 2011 interview. “We thought this format would bring a sense of practicality to us…It has been such a resounding success.”
In addition to being a member of the NIU College of Law’s Board of Visitors, Chief Justice Kilbride is a past board member, past president and past vice-president of the Illinois Township Attorneys Association, a past volunteer lawyer and charter member of the Illinois Pro Bono Center, and a member of the Illinois State Bar and Rock Island County Bar Associations. He has served as volunteer legal advisor for the Community Caring Conference, the charter chairman of the Quad Cities Interfaith Sponsoring committee, volunteer legal advisor to Quad City Harvest, Inc., and a past member of the Rock Island Human Relations Commission.
“I think that having Chief Justice Kilbride here was the perfect way to kick off the second part of the series,” Rosato concluded. “He brought a lot of the values of our profession to our students, and it will have a great impact on them for years to come.”