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Details | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Justice Sanjay Tailor


In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Illinois Appellate Court Justice Sanjay Tailor shares his thoughts on being the first Asian American presiding judge in Illinois.

As with many who were the “first,” being named the first Asian American presiding judge in Illinois was not so much a personal achievement as it was another breakthrough for Asian American representation and empowerment that began 35 years ago with the vanguard of Asian American judges in Illinois, like Lynne Kawamoto, Kenneth Moy, the late Sandra Otaka, and Rena Marie Van Tine. The significance of the moment may not be apparent to the general public, or even to many judges outside of Cook County, but in Cook County, whose circuit court is one of the largest unified court systems in the nation with approximately 400 judges, it gave the Asian American community a voice in the justice system. As a judge presiding over one of the court’s 17 divisions and districts, I served on the Circuit Court’s Executive Committee, where on occasion I had the opportunity to bring a different perspective to my colleagues when helping to shape court policy. In addition, I had the privilege to serve on the Circuit Court’s Associate Judge Nominating Committee, where we short-listed for consideration by our circuit judges applicants for associate judge, including a number of Asian American applicants. Again, I sometimes had occasion to offer a unique perspective. Most importantly, however, as presiding judge I had the great pleasure and satisfaction to work with a group of diverse, talented and dedicated judges in the County Division to administer and ensure justice. In short, being named presiding judge made the face and voice of justice more whole. This was only made possible through the enduring leadership of Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis and Chief Judge Timothy Evans to make the courts fully representative of the communities they serve, including at their highest levels.