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: Rhonda (Randie) Bruno
Title: Associate Judge
Circuit or Judicial District: 19th Circuit Court
What is an unforgettable piece of advice that you have received?
To treat everyone with kindness, respect, dignity, and sensitivity. To remember that everyone is going through some personal struggles which may not be outwardly apparent and to give people grace and space.
Do you have any pets?
I have a black female Cockipoo named Duchess who is a year and a half old. She is a ball of fluff and energy and much beloved by everyone in our neighborhood. I have a number of little girls living on my block and they form her personal fan club.
If you could meet anyone in the world, alive or deceased, who would it be?
Nelson Mandela. He initially worked as a lawyer in Johannesburg and become involved in the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid movement. Everyone is familiar with his 27 year prison sentence, mostly served in solitary confinement in a tiny cinderblock room. Following his release from prison, he became the first President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights abuses. Through out his life he emphasized reconciliation between the different factions in his county. He was a mediator in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial and despite enormous popularity, declined a second presidential term. He was presented with the Nobel Prize, amongst many other honors, and was referred to by his Thembu clan name Madiba and often described as Father of the Nation.
Despite the harshness and length of his prison sentence, he was not bitter but worked to strengthen ties between all people. He was known to be polite and respectful to all, be they friend or foe, leader or worker, and often defended even his political opponents. I think as lawyers we can take so many valuable lessons from this giant of a man. He was not a perfect man, and was criticized often, but he never stopped doing what he felt was right for his county and for all people. We all need to remember to do the right thing even if it is not the popular thing, to turn the other cheek even after we have been treated harshly, and to treat everyone, no matter their station or position in life, as an equal and one deserving of respect.
What advice would you give your younger self?
To not take myself so seriously and to realize, even though it may not seem so at the time, that things do eventually work out as intended. To work hard, but play hard too, realizing mind and body need to be taken care of and cultivated physically as well as emotionally.