Joy Virginia Cunningham attended the City University of New York where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree. She later attended John Marshall Law School in Chicago where she earned a law degree in 1982. Before joining the Illinois Appellate Court, she served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for the Northwestern Memorial System, which includes Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Foundation. Prior to joining Northwestern Memorial in 2000, she served as a Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, where she had a diverse assignment, including jury trials. She is admitted to practice law before the Illinois, New York, Federal and the Federal Trial Bars.
Over the course of her legal career, she served as Associate General Counsel for Loyola University of Chicago and Loyola University Health System, and as a litigator with the law firm of French, Rogers, Kezelis & Kominiarek. She also served as an Assistant Illinois Attorney General and as a Judicial Clerk to Illinois Appellate Justice Glenn Johnson. Ms. Cunningham was elected President ofthe Chicago Bar Association (2004-05), where she became the first African American Woman to lead the nation's largest municipal Bar Association. She has also served on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Bar Foundation, the Center for Conflict Resolution and the Center for Disability and Elder Law, and the Chicago Legal Clinic.
She has authored professional publications and is a member of a number of professional and civic associations, including the American Bar Association, Chicago Bar Association, Cook County Bar Association, Illinois State Bar Association and Women's Bar Association of Illinois. She has been recognized for her volunteer service to several community and civic organizations including the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, the Constitutional Rights Foundation, Chicago Association for the Education of Young Children and the March of Dimes. She is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago and the Chicago Network. In December of 2006, she became a Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court. She and her family live in Chicago.