Fitzgerald named chief justice

Chris Rizo Sep. 9, 2008, 6:00am


Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Fitzgerald is the state's new chief justice, becoming the high court's 115th leader.

Fitzgerald, a Chicago Democrat, will serve as the chief courts officer for a state that is ranked as having one of the worst legal climates in the nation, according to studies by the Pacific Research Institute and the American Tort Reform Association.

He takes over the three-year rotating chief justice position from Justice Bob Thomas, a Republican and former Chicago Bears player.

Before being elected to the state Supreme Court in 2000, Fitzgerald, the 67-year-old son of a circuit court judge, was a former longtime Cook County jurist. Fitzgerald has served as president of the Illinois Judges' Association.

Despite Fitzgerald having a "distinguished record," Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League, said Fitzgerald will have little effect on the state's overall legal landscape.

In an earlier interview, Murnane said that as chief justice Fitzgerald will move to the center chair, but the court will not shift ideologically.

The Illinois Civil Justice League endorsed Fitzgerald in the 2000 Democratic primary and backed him in the general election, when he ran unopposed.

As chief justice, Fitzgerald will set the high court's schedule and oversee the court's administrative functioning.

Currently on the Illinois Supreme Court are four Democrats and three Republicans. Most of the justices hail from Cook County.

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