I have been a judge for many years, and the Chief Judge of our court since 2019. A title like this one is humbling. We have done our best here in the federal court to respond to current challenges. The court offered a pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic, provides COVID tests to members of the public in the courthouse lobby, and conducts naturalization ceremonies in the courtyard outside our building and in large venues throughout the Northern District of Illinois.
This was all made possible, not by the court alone, but in partnership with local universities, public health organizations and cultural institutions that comprise the community we serve.
In our court, as elsewhere, remote proceedings have offered economies and convenience. We will continue to be sensitive to the value, for the practicing bar and the public, of such proceedings. We also look forward to more in-person hearings and events, and we will maintain protocols to ensure that the public is safe and welcome in the dignity afforded by the federal courthouse.
Leadership is a great challenge in these times, when a global pandemic, deep political divisions, increased violence, and fears about the future seem intractable. Judges and lawyers alone can’t solve these problems — but surely there has never been a time when our profession is so important as it is now.
Our courthouse, and our judicial system, are the site and symbol of the rule of law, a guiding principle in our democracy. We judges do our best to make hard decisions, and we take our roles seriously. But judges can’t do anything completely on our own. That’s why lawyers are so important.
Lawyers and their clients can be agents for change. They lift the curtain to expose corruption, challenge wrongdoing, organize against injustice, and speak up for the voiceless.
Abraham Lincoln, perhaps this nation’s greatest leader, spoke to those who opposed him, and said, “We are not enemies, but friends.” Lincoln hoped for a time when “the mystic chords of memory” would be touched “by the better angels of our nature.”
We in the legal system, we the leaders in 21st century America, must do everything we can to sound those mystic chords. I am proud to be part of a profession that has the tools to make our city and nation, better, stronger, and more just.