SPRINGFIELD – Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier was installed Monday as Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, becoming the state's 120th chief justice.
He succeeds Justice Rita B. Garman as chief justice. Garman administered the oath of office.
Karmeier, of Nashville, is the second person from Washington County to hold that office. Justice Byron O. House, for whom Karmeier served as a law clerk, was the first.
“Since joining the court in 2004, I have had the privilege of serving under five different chief justices, all of whom have done an outstanding job," Karmeier said in a release issued by the Court. "I will do my very best to live up to the high standard they have set.”
According to the release, Karmeier said he would continue the court’s efforts in expanding access to justice and adopting a statewide system for electronic filing to make resources of the judicial branch more efficient, more effective and more readily available to all who need them.
“We have made great strides in those areas over the past several years and we have done so despite the state’s considerable economic difficulties," Karmeier stated. "Thanks to the outstanding personnel the court has assembled in its Administrative Office and its various boards and commissions, I am confident we will be able to build on that momentum in the years to come.”
Other ongoing initiatives include pretrial detention reform, continued focus on drug and specialty courts and professionalism in the legal community, the release states.
Karmeier is a life-long resident of Washington County, where he attended a one-room grade school. After graduating valedictorian from Okawville Community High School, he attended the University of Illinois, where he received both his undergraduate and law degrees.
He clerked for former Justice House from 1964 to 1968, served as state’s attorney of Washington County from 1968 to 1972, and clerked for U.S. District Court Judge James L. Foreman from 1972 to 1973.
He was engaged in the general practice of law with the firm of Hohlt, House, DeMoss & Johnson from 1964 to 1986. He was resident Circuit Judge of Washington County from 1986 to 2004, when he was elected to the Illinois Supreme Court.
In spite of a $2 million negative attack launched in the final weeks of the election season in 2014, Karmeier was retained by voters in the state's 37 southern-most counties which makes up the Fifth Judicial District.
In addition to his regular judicial duties, Karmeier is the Supreme Court’s liaison to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, the Minimum Continuing Legal Education Board, and the Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases. Since 2013, he has also served as chairperson of the Illinois Courts Commission, the independent body established under the Illinois Constitution to hear and decide cases in which judges are charged with official misconduct. He will leave that post upon assuming his duties as Chief Justice and be succeeded by Justice Anne M. Burke.
Throughout his tenure on the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Karmeier has made frequent appearances before school, civic, and professional organizations to speak about the court’s work. He regularly lectures at continuing legal education programs and contributes articles to the ISBA Bench and Bar Section Council Newsletter. Chief Justice Karmeier was among the recipients of the Illinois Judges Association’s Harold Sullivan Award in 2010 and received the Joseph Bartylak Award from the Lawyer’s Assistance Program in 2015.
In January of 2016, Chicago Lawyer Magazine named him Person of the Year.
Karmeier is a member of the Illinois Judges’ Association, the Washington County, St. Clair County, East St. Louis and Illinois State Bar Associations, and past member of the American Bar Association and the American Judicature Society. He served as a member of the Assembly of the Illinois State Bar Association from 1996 to 2002, and as chair of the ISBA’s Bench and Bar Section Council.
He is a past member of the Southern Illinois American Inn of Court and served as President of the Executive Committee from 2003 to 2007.
As chief justice, he will serve as the chief administrative officer of the statewide judicial system with supervisory authority over the more than 900 judges in the state.
Among other duties, the Chief Justice controls and schedules the Supreme Court's agenda for consideration in conference by the Court during its five formal terms each year, supervises all appointments to Supreme Court committees, serves as chairperson of the Executive Committee of the constitutionally-mandated Illinois Judicial Conference and presents the Court’s annual budget request to the General Assembly.
At his swearing-in ceremony on Monday, speakers included Supreme Court Justices Anne M. Burke, Robert R. Thomas and retired Justice Philip J. Rarick.
Justice Karmeier's brother, Del Karmeier, gave the invocation and the Karmeier grandchildren led the pledge of allegiance.
He and his wife, Mary, have two children and six grandchildren.