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Details | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

Beyond The Bench with Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis


Beyond the Bench is a new monthly feature to get to know more about judges and justices in the Illinois Courts, beyond their legal duties.

Name: Hon. Mary Jane Theis

Title: Chief Justice

Circuit or Judicial District: Illinois Supreme Court – First District

What is the last book you read? I just finished The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese. It is a powerful story of three generations set in the Kerala region of India. Next on my list is the just released Crook Manifesto by one of my favorite authors, Colson Whitehead.

If you had to start over with a new job, what career field would you choose? My husband John and I love to travel, so my alternate dream job would take me across the globe. But more realistically, I would teach.

Who is your biggest influence in life, either personally or career-related? It is hard to say who most influenced me. I continue to be inspired by the life of Judge Jean Prendergast. She began her legal career as my clerk in the Appellate Court, then joined the Chambers of Supreme Court Justice Mary Ann McMorrow. In private practice she quickly rose to be a superstar appellate lawyer. As a judge, she soon became a leader. And she accomplished all this while raising three children. When the terrible diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia came, Jean handled it with the same grace that marked everything in her life. I keep a picture of Jeanne d’Arc on my desk to remind me of Jean’s courage.

What show are you currently watching? The best recent series is The Diplomat with Keri Russell as a career diplomatic officer suddenly placed in the role of a high-flying ambassador. She is always the smartest person in the room, and usually the most underestimated.