Q: Please submit an essay that explains your legal background, why you are qualified for this position and why you seek this position.
For almost 35 years, I have had the privilege of helping people navigate the complexities of the legal system. I have handled an average of 100 to 150 cases a year.
My experience as a general practitioner has given me a broad base of legal knowledge, as well as business expertise. I have confronted, analyzed and solved problems for people in many areas of law: marriage and family, bankruptcy, criminal prosecution, real estate, death and disability, collections and small business. I have also helped people cope with problems that are insoluble, like an impending prison sentence, or loss of contact with a child.
I have successfully run a small business for 20 years. I have triumphed over adversity and coped with enormous change in my personal life. I appreciate human nature, I understand business and I understand the practical aspects of law as well as its philosophy. I have always believed in giving back to my community, my country and my world.
After college, I worked for a year, traveled for six months and then became a community organizer through the Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA). I experienced poverty personally as I worked with economically disadvantaged people to solve problems in their community, like crime, dangerous traffic conditions and isolation.
I learned not to fear or idealize people of different socioeconomic backgrounds. I learned that people are essentially decent, unique yet very much the same. When I left home in 1977, my older brother gave me the best advice I ever received. He said to me as I was packing the car to travel across the country, "Keep an open mind." That advice has guided me through fifty thousand free initial consultations with people seeking my advice.
I have learned to listen to people and to hear what they really mean and want. An open mind has let me consider conflicting arguments and nuances of thought. On the bench, I will approach each case with an open mind, consider carefully, communicate clearly and rule fairly. One of the motivating factors behind my decision to run for judge is that I am transgender.
By way of gross simplification, when you are transgender, your mental consciousness doesn't match your physical attributes. This made me feel isolated, and gave me an appreciation for what it feels like to be a minority or another marginalized group in society. It gave me a different perspective, one that is more empathetic and compassionate. When I finally decided to make the transition from male to female, I struggled with an adversity that few face.
I transitioned openly in my community. I lost and gained friends and clients. I had to rebuild my business and personal relationships. I faced adversaries and judges in a new identity. I had to dig down deep to find the courage to make the change which I ultimately found by accepting myself. There are only two other openly transgender judges in the nation.
We are a severely under represented minority in the nation's judiciaries. Besides being an expansion of the diversity of the the bench in Cook County, my election will show others who struggle with gender identity conflicts that it is possible to succeed and that even though they feel isolated, that one of their own has attained a respected position. At the same time, I believe that the judiciary will improve just as all American institutions improve through diversity and the expansion of civil rights to all people.
Q: Tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you.
I didn't participate in any kind of physical fitness activity until I was 46 years old. At that point,I joined a gym and started working out six days a week. Soon I was running and ran my first marathon at the age of 56. I ran four more after that. I still run but for shorter distances. About five years ago, I joined a softball team and played baseball for the first time in my life. I have been a baseball fan my whole life but had never played, even as a kid. I look at sports now as being one of the most valuable educational experiences one can have. Both team and individual sports provide access to self knowledge and mental health. I work out at least five times a week now.