By Jamey Dunn
Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride will take over as chief justice next month.
The court unanimously chose Kilbride to replace Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald, who is retiring October 25.
“I am exceedingly honored and humbled by my colleagues’ selection of me as chief justice,” Kilbride said in a news release. “I regret deeply that my friend Chief Justice Fitzgerald will not be able to complete his term as chief, but I have learned much from his example of dignity, grace and leadership. I will miss his continued guidance and friendship.”
Kilbride, who was elected in 2000, is taking some fire in his bid to be retained on the court in the November election — in part because of his vote to strike down caps on the amount of money a victim of medical malpractice can be awarded. Kilbride needs the support of 60 percent of those who vote in the Third Judicial District this November to gain another 10-year term on the court. If he is retained, he will remain chief justice until 2013. (For more on Kilbride’s retention bid, see the upcoming October issue of Illinois Issues.)
He is the only member of the court who had not previously served as a judge. Before coming to the bench, he practiced as a legal services attorney for the poor. As a Supreme Court justice, he has worked to encourage lawyers to provide free legal work for those who cannot afford it.
“I really like Justice Tom Kilbride," Gov. Pat Quinn said at a Chicago news conference. “He’s a man of justice. He understands the importance of fairness. … He actually worked for Cesar Chavez, the great labor leader the great leader of many many people. He’s a man with a servant’s heart, Thomas Kilbride. And I know he’s going to do a great job as chief justice.”